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02 August 2004

Details Provided on Raised Threat Level for Financial Sectors

Homeland Security Report, August 1: Code Orange

Calling the new information "chilling" in scope, senior U.S. intelligence officials provided more details on the intelligence that led the Department of Homeland Security to raise the threat level for the financial-service sectors of New York City, northern New Jersey, and Washington to "Code Orange" (high risk of terrorist attacks).

The officials, speaking on background August 1, said the "specific and credible" information regarding al-Qaida's plans to attack the United States included materials showing:

-- security procedures at specific buildings;

-- the types of security personnel at different posts and whether or not they are armed;

-- the presence of security officers at various times of day and the kind of uniforms they wear;

-- the number of employees in buildings, as well as traffic and pedestrian patterns and the different types of shops, businesses and other facilities nearby;

-- nearby locations where one could obtain different points of reconnaissance in order to get full information on the targets; and

-- information regarding potential escape routes for perpetrators of attacks.

Other specific material, they said, discussed suitable bombing materials for different buildings and provided information on the structure of their underground parking facilities -- including the degree of entrance incline -- and configuration of parking lots. Details also were provided on good places to go to meet employees and where to go to acquire additional information.

A senior official said it gave him the same feeling "one would have if one found out that somebody broke into your house ... looking for ways to attack you."

"Today's news," an official said, "is both a cause for concern as well as clear evidence of success in the war against terrorism" noting that even though the government frequently uncovers such material while investigating an attack that has occurred, this time the information was obtained before any attacks took place.

They called the latest intelligence "pieces of a jigsaw puzzle" that are bringing al-Qaida into clearer focus for the law enforcement agencies and said the indications were that "this has been a very long standing effort on the part of al-Qaida, dating from before 9/11" and built upon since.

Although refusing to give details of where the information came from, they did say it was fresh and the result of cooperation between intelligence and law enforcement within the United States and among other nations. "In addition to what is publicly characterized as chatter," one official explained, "we have a whole, a growing wealth of information -- whether it be from human sources, technical sources, but also documentary sources ..."

When asked if it was possible the recently obtained information was old, an official responded, "We acquire over the course of time information that dates sometimes pre-9/11, sometimes post-9/11, but I think what we've seen over the course of time indicates that al-Qaida remains focused on the United States, the brass ring, and what we have seen of late does nothing to tell us otherwise."

The intelligence, they said, is still developing with additional information "likely to come into our hands in the next few hours and days and weeks" and would be shared with appropriate local law enforcement communities.

Americans must keep in mind, they added, that "protection and response are local issues" and that "the American people, in fact, have to pull together on this one [vigilance against terrorist attacks] to secure our nation."