Federal and local officials increased security in Washington, D.C., and New York City on Friday in response to a possible Al Qaeda plot to set off a car bomb in one of those two cities around the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Officials called the threat, which became public on Thursday, specific and credible but unconfirmed.
(More from GlobalPost: Terror threat for 9/11 10th anniversary called "credible")
U.S. intelligence officials were tipped off to the possible attack by an informant in Afghanistan or Pakistan, the New York Times reports.
According to the New York Times:
The informant said two American citizens of Arab ancestry had left Afghanistan, traveled through one or other countries and reached the United States as recently as last week.
The officials said they had only a vague physical description of the two men — one described as 5 feet tall, the other 5-foot-8 — and a first name for one of them that is common in the Middle East. The tipster also described a third conspirator, but he appeared to have traveled to Europe.
“All this information is very, very sketchy,” one of the law enforcement officials said.
In Washington, D.C., bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the subway system, unattended cars parked in unusual locations were targeted for towing and officers were put on 12-hour shifts, the Washington Post reports.
In New York, officers toting assault rifles patrolled train and subway stations and police checked vehicles at bridges and tunnels, swept parking garages for bombs and towed illegally parked cars.
“The thing we are all most worried about is what they call a ‘lone ranger,’ a lone actor, not some extremely complicated plan like it took to take down the World Trade towers,” Vice President Biden said on a morning news show, Fox News reports.
In spite of the vigorous response to the threat, officials urged city residents to go about their business as normal.
Terrance W. Gainer, the Senate’s sergeant at arms and a member of the board of the U.S. Capitol Police, told senators, aides and others in an e-mail that “there is no reason to change the way we each conduct our daily business,” the Washington Post reports. “Frankly, the threat is not unexpected considering what has been learned in the past few months,” he wrote. “The whiff of a threat to attack U.S. interests on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has been floated.”
“We have threats all the time,” especially around big sporting events, religious holidays and commemorations such as the 10th anniversary of 9/11,” New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said on WOR radio on Friday. “And each time the NYPD, with the FBI, we increase our security, which obviously we have done for this.” Bloomberg rode the subway to work as usual.
The White House said Friday that President Barack Obama has no plans to change his scheduled trips to Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the Washington Post. Former President George W. Bush also planned to attend the day’s ceremony at Ground Zero.