FBI Warns of Possible "Spectacular" Al-Qaida Attack
The warning came in a National Infrastructure Protection Center memo to the nation’s law enforcement officials. It said renewed concern about an attack stemmed from intelligence reporting, “a resurgence of al-Qaida operational activity,” and the release of an audiotape last week purportedly from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
“In selecting its next targets, sources suggest Al-Qaida may favor spectacular attacks that meet several criteria: high symbolic value, mass casualties, severe damage to the U.S. economy, and maximum psychological trauma,” the bulletin says. “The highest priority targets remain within the aviation, petroleum, and nuclear sectors as well as significant national landmarks.”
Although it warns of a large-scale attack, the FBI bulletin also says al-Qaida could instead rely on “conventional explosives and low-technology platforms, such as truck bombs” in its operations.
“Sources also suggest that small-scale terrorist operations against softer targets would be easier for sleeper cells already in the U.S. to carry out and would minimize the need to communicate with central leadership, lowering the risks of detection,” the bulletin says.
Speaking to reporters Friday, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the warnings contained no new information, but she urged Americans to remain vigilant.
“The American people are in many ways the first line of defense,” Rice said. “The warnings that have gone out recently really are a summary of intelligence, not a new warning.”
In recent weeks, the FBI issued warnings about possible attacks on U.S. railroads and on the energy industry. The bureau has also warned of a general threat during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began Wednesday and ends Dec. 5.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the lack of intelligence of specific times, dates, locations, or methods of attack kept the threat level at code yellow, the middle of a five-scale system. Still, he added, “We continue to be at high levels of alert, we continue to take additional precautions.”