Breaking: Major terror bust in New York City? Update: Ideology “aligned with Al Qaeda”; Update: WMD concerns
posted at 4:21 pm on September 14, 2009 by Allahpundit
Maybe it’s because I live so close to where it’s going down, but the early details on this one make me uneasy.
New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne confirmed that searches were conducted in the borough of Queens by agents of a joint terrorism task force. He would not discuss the matter further…
Two U.S. intelligence officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly, said the target of any purported attack — or who would carry it out — remained unclear.
Authorities have not found any weapons ready for use — such as a bomb — that would indicate an attack was imminent, they said. Nevertheless, one of the officials called the threat very real and emphasized the urgency of the threat.
They’ve just started briefing “a series of senior lawmakers in Congress.” Is that normal for U.S. intel in an average terror bust — to grab hold of the congressional leadership and get them up to speed ASAP?
Some mighty interesting timing to this, too. Stand by for updates.
Update: One possibility that occurs to me: Was this a plot against Obama? He was in downtown Manhattan today for his speech at Federal Hall and lunch with Bill Clinton.
Update: A few new details from CBS:
WCBS TV’s John Slattery reports the federal search warrant spelled out all manner of possible bomb-making components, including powders, gels, TNT, and fuses…
Building resident Assad Niazi told WCBS, “I don’t know [the other residents]. They are roommates – they go to work in the morning, and at night they come back.”
Update: Ace points to this ABC News video from Friday on counterterrorism in NYC noting that the cops are paying close attention to Iranian-backed Hezbollah agents these days. No surprise, either: If Israel attacks Iran, U.S. intel will expect instant reprisal attacks here from Iranian proxies and will have to move quickly to roll them up. Doesn’t mean that’s related to today’s bust but it’s worth noting.
Update: Schumer tells the AP that the plot was unrelated to Obama’s visit and that nothing was “imminent.” Good luck distinguishing that from the law enforcement claim that the threat was “urgent.”
Update: Not sure if “aligned with Al Qaeda” means jihadist generally or linked to AQ specifically, but here you go:
A senior law enforcement official said authorities had not detected a specific plot or target of any planned attack, but had uncovered a small group of people who espoused a militant ideology aligned with Al Qaeda and whose activities had aroused enough suspicion to obtain warrants for the searches and arrests, which began late Sunday night.
The official said authorities had only a hazy view of the group, its operations and goals, but decided to act fearing that undercover surveillance had failed to detect plans that might be developing.
Update: More bits and pieces. Did they jump too soon?
FBI agents have been monitoring a man from the western part of the U.S. who had recently driven to New York, federal sources said. The man met with several people in Queens, and the activities aroused enough suspicion to obtain warrants for the searches, the sources said.
The man the FBI had been watching has since flown home and is not in custody, the sources said.
Update: No wonder they were briefing congressional leaders.
[A senior official] said some counterterrorism officials were concerned that the individual at the center of the investigation may have had access to, or an interest in acquiring, materials that could be used for a chemical, biological or radiological device. One aspect of the probe involves whether the person had some contact or connections with suspicious individuals overseas, the official said. He stressed that the investigation was still at its earliest stages.
Law-enforcement officials are aware of the person’s whereabouts, but the individual isn’t in custody, according to the senior official. Items taken in the searches were still being processed and sorted through early Monday afternoon, the official said.
Breaking on Hot Air