US aware of possible terrorist suspects
WASHINGTON - John Brennan, President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, said yesterday that federal investigators have information about the people who may be involved in what he said was a specific and credible threat of a terrorist attack against Washington or New York.
Officials were working “round the clock’’ through the weekend to investigate the possible plot, Brennan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.’’
The Department of Homeland Security received “specific, credible but unconfirmed threat information’’ as the anniversary neared, agency spokesman Matt Chandler said last week. Officials said yesterday the investigation would continue even after completion of the Sept. 11 memorial ceremonies.
The threat concerns a possible vehicle-borne attack, sponsored by Al Qaeda, against New York or Washington, according to a different US official who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Brennan declined to comment on whether the reported plot involved a vehicle bomb.
“We do have some information about the nature of the attack that is being reported,’’ Brennan said. “We also have some information about the possible individuals, but I don’t want to get into any operational details. I don’t want to compromise anything that could lead us to individuals who may be part of this plot.’’
Obama met with his national security team Saturday and yesterday to review the intelligence and ensure that US officials were pursuing all leads, Brennan said.
“When this information first came in, he told us very clearly, ‘I want everything to be done to find out whether or not this information from these sources has any credibility to it,’ ’’ Brennan said on “Fox News Sunday.’’ “So we’ve been doing that.’’
“We’ve been working very closely with state and local partners,’’ Brennan said. “Bulletins have gone out. We’ve had a number of individuals who have called in about suspicious vehicles. That is something that we want people to do.’’
Brennan said officials are “looking at travel data, other types of pieces of information, and trying to correlate them against that reporting that has come in.’’
“It’s not confirmed but we are not relaxing at all,’’ he said. “This is a 24/7, round-the-clock effort by all elements of the US counterterrorism community both here in the United States as well as abroad.’’
“We’re continuing to attempt to assess the threat,’’ said Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the FBI’s New York office, in an interview today. “Even after the Sept. 11 anniversary passes, we will continue to try to determine whether people entered the country with the intent to cause harm.’’
Brennan also said the United States is working with officials in Libya to track down Moammar Khadafy’s arsenal.
“We’re working very closely with Libyan authorities in Tripoli and other areas of country so that we can help them to ensure that the weapons that are available in the country do not fall into the hands of terrorists,’’ Brennan said. “There are concerns about man pads, the shoulder fired missiles that could be used against aircraft, and there were a large number of these in the Libyan inventory.’’
In the days before yesterday’s ceremonies, New York officials increased security by blocking traffic in some zones and deploying heavily armed police throughout the city.
Large concrete blocks were placed at lower Manhattan intersections to prevent traffic from getting close to ground zero. Metal barricades lined streets to prevent cars from stopping or parking.