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Plausible, Uncorroborated (Vulnerable?)

“Plausible but Uncorroborated” is the way the newest revealed threat by al Qaeda against the New York City subway system is being described by authorities.

Despite the economic downturn and concerns that “Black Friday” (the day after Thanksgiving) will show paltry retail sales, it is the Holiday Season once again, and throngs of people will crowd the streets of New York City. While various threats and countermeasures have occurred in the past, in light of the multiple hits against Mumbai, it might be unwise to dismiss this one, even as “officials” are trying to downplay it.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Wednesday downplayed the seriousness of the plot, describing it as "plausible but uncorroborated information." The threat was not connected to the carnage in India, which took place after the possible plot was reported.

The new report about the New York City subway comes as an intelligence bulletin was sent about a September intercept in which al Qaeda cells “may have discussed” attacks against the city subway system. It is important however, that intelligence analysts are referring to this threat as "aspirational and not operational."

While it is not an affirmative solution to this threat, last week it was announced that New York City opened a new Counterterrorism center in the financial district. This $100 million project is focused in the financial district and is intended to monitor data from radiological and biological threat sensors around Manhattan and on/in its tunnels and bridges.

Although there is no firm evidence that al Qaeda or any clones have acted upon the threat, an increased police presence in New York City will be apparent this weekend.

DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said: "Neither FBI nor DHS has any specific information to confirm that this plot has developed beyond aspirational planning." The nation's terrorist-threat level was not increased in response to the plot.

It is, no doubt, as pointed out by the new articles, that this is a vague and uncorroborated threat with no indication that any terrorist cell is carrying out any plan. At the same time, both Washington DC and Los Angeles have tightened security.

What truly worries me is a recent unclassified but not for distribution report emphasizing that al Qaeda would continue to pursue major explosive attacks against well known and visible targets with well trained and security aware operatives. The report further warned that if al Qaeda decided to pursue a campaign of multiple and frequent attacks on "softer targets," the implications on homeland security would be significant. Another observation was that the continued hardening of security at some targets could cause a shift in strategy toward the softer targets. The possible use of homemade explosives and IEDs was also discussed as a possibility.

The visible presence of NYPD armed with M-16’s is expected for the foreseeable future. Happily, my kids are traveling above ground this weekend.

2 Comments

Aren't the terrorists undermining their own cause by targeting mass transit? If their goal is to get us out of their backyard in the Middle East, then, not to give them any ideas, it would make more sense for them to target freeways and SUV factories. This would drive Americans to mass transit, since the freeways would be too dangerous (more than they are already, anyway); it would cut commuting by personal automobile and SUV, and thereby cut our oil consumption and dependence on Middle East oil. The terrorist should be supporting mass transit in America, not bombing it.

I guess the terrorists are idiots.

The terrorists' goals include mass casualty and high visibility events.

If your comment is meant seriously, I disagree. The terrorists are decidely not "idiots."

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