New York's secret war on terror
Arrests in Iraq over disputed NY bombing plot - operatives would have to be in the US
MIM: Conflicting reports of a terrorism threat from Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement regarding the possibility of an imminent terrorism attack, resulted in a major security operation in the NY subways. The information about the threat came from an Iraqi who had passed most of a polygraph, who is supposed to have told investigators that there were plans to launch a bombing attack on the New York subway usuing a baby carriage or brief case. New York Mayor Bloomberg, who is facing reelection justified the heightened security measures despite law enforcement s public doubts about the credibility of the threat. There were also news reports that there were around 20 suspects and arrests had been made in Iraq in connection with the threats. It stands to reason that the Iraqis who are believed to be behind the plot must have operatives in New York and one article was headlined "Plotter may be in the US".
New York's secret
Spot checks of bags and backpacks at key transit stops are a fact of life now, the most visible sign of this strategy and a direct reaction to the London Underground bombings in July, a carnage carried out by Islamic fundamentalists reared in Britain.
And those who would harm the city have taken notice.
"In certain circles we are concerned about, the implementation of the bag searches in the transit system had been discussed," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, adding only that investigators learned the information through intelligence channels.
The Hydra-like world of violent Islamic extremism has forced the NYPD to adapt accordingly, said Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism Michael Sheehan.
"These radical groups use Islam to recruit and motivate; now we will have a better understanding of the types of ideology that lead to violence and militancy. It comes from a long tradition, and now they're evolving and morphing them into new organizations that are instigating violence. "The ideologies are here in New York," Sheehan said.
So the department is surreptitiously focusing on possible threats lying close at hand but deep below the surface.
In a novel program now underway in a secret Brooklyn warehouse, streetwise cops are schooled in the variations of militant Islamic ideology by a cadre of academics more comfortable in think tanks than on firing ranges.
Daniel Rudder, an Ivy League-educated "intelligence research specialist," conducted his first seminar last week for 15 cops and civilians on "The Evolution of Militant Sunni Ideology." "This is a historical study, of how different ideologies have twisted Islam," Rudder told a class that included young detectives. "It will help in your investigations and interviews ... raise red flags."
Rudder, 28, born and raised in the city, studied religion and anthropology at Columbia University and has a master's in international affairs focusing on international security and the Middle East. He spent time in the Middle East working on Arabic language, particularly Levantine, used in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
He did not foresee taking his degrees to the Police Department.
"I studied religion just because it interested me, how people live and worship," Rudder said. "Later I realized the terrorism angle. I lived in Cambodia and events there got me thinking about it, and my father survived the World Trade Center bombing in 1993."
He's also getting an education.
"The analysts have to understand how the department works, and they also need to get a sense of the streets from the cops," said Counterterrorism Deputy Inspector Michael O'Neil.
Rudder and seven other analysts hired in April have been poring over research and intelligence gleaned from confidential informants, interrogations, surveillance of criminal suspects and the department's terrorism hotline. In effect, they provide cops with an easy-to-understand digest of their research.
Rudder also produced a 135-page report, the backbone of the training program for investigators in the Joint Terrorist Task Force and Intelligence, which explores topics such as transnational Islamic militancy.
He uses it to instruct cops in four four-hour classes. Thirty-five people are taking the course now, and that number will grow substantially.
Sheehan said there have been informal programs instructing cops on Islamic extremism. "But this is graduate level education," he said.
The analysts are the latest facet of the anti-terror strategy, complementing cops who have honed lingustic skills and the investigators of Middle Eastern or Asian descent who work in the cyber unit, penetrating overseas chat rooms to glean references to possible attacks.
The department's evolving anti-terror strategy has taken cops to even more far-flung spots worldwide.
An intelligence bureau lieutenant is involved in the United Nations' investigation of the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri, on Feb. 14, in a huge bomb blast in Beirut. The chief international investigator is expected to present his report to the UN Security Council this month.
Detectives went to the Netherlands four months ago to better understand the Islamic extremist threat there after a radical Muslim murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who had made a movie about the abuse of Muslim women.
"The Dutch were surprised at the amount of extremism below the surface; these groups with very extreme, violent messages really got their concern, and they shared that with us," Sheehan said. Currently, another detective is in a country once part of the Soviet Union, studying investigative techniques.
"Events in the rest of the world drive what we're looking at here," Kelly said. "If a group has done something elsewhere, we ask, 'What is their presence, involvement, influence here?' Maybe it's a group we have been looking at in a lesser way, so that's going to shift.
"It reinforces what we've been doing all along. We've always been concerned about the homegrown movement," Kelly said.
Kelly cites the Herald Square plot case as "a classic homegrown case of individuals with no direct ties to international organizations that we know of, motivated by world events, rhetoric, to the extent they decide to take matters into own hands."
The case unfolded last year, shortly before the Republican National Convention in Madison Square Garden, when Shahawar Siraj and James El Shafay were charged with conspiring to attack the busy subway station with bombs hidden in backpacks.
Siraj's lawyer has said the police informant entrapped his client by fueling his rage over abuses against Muslims like the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.
But David Cohen, deputy commissioner of the intelligence bureau, said the two suspects were groomed for terror in an Islamic bookstore - "an environment of concern."
He advocates a careful study of potential domestic threats. "You can't just rummage around like a clod," Cohen said. "You have to understand these subtleties and nuances so you know what to react to."
To that end, investigators look for changes and shifts in militant rhetoric.
Investigators are concerned about what Cohen calls the "ideological detonator," the person who incites followers to murder.
Most terrorist cells have some sort of ideological guide, Sheehan said. The 1993 World Trade Center bombers, for example, followed blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman.
Still, some of the anti-terror strategy has little to do with worldwide politics.
In the Nexus program, it's unglamorous, old-fashioned detective work that counts. Three teams of detectives each visit 15 locations a day. They include potential targets like hotels and businesses such as chemical supply companies that could be resources for terrorists.
New York has been targeted four times by terrorists, and it remains a symbolic and ideological bull's-eye, Kelly said. But he is not resigned to the inevitability of another attack.
"This fight will be going on for generations, and we have to continue to refine it, to add to it, to change our tactics, learn from many sources," he said. "We've done okay, but how do we judge that? Well, we haven't had an event here, and that's really the bottom line, that's how you can judge your success or failure."
Tight security in New York, plotter may be in US
By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Yorkers went about their business under tightened security on Sunday, the day federal officials said the subway system might be attacked, as investigators sought a possible plotter in the United States.
Ridership on the subway was running at about normal levels for a holiday weekend. Columbus Day, a federal holiday, will be celebrated on Monday.
Throughout the city, stepped-up security measures that began on Thursday continued, with armed troops in fatigues patrolling transit hubs including Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal and the Port Authority bus station.
Asked on "Fox News Sunday" whether a suspected plotter had made it into the country, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, "That's certainly part of the investigation, yes."
Members of the city's elite Atlas anti-terrorism unit rode the subways bringing thousands of fans to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx where the baseball team faced possible playoff elimination.
"There's more cops watching," said Brian Beseira one of the expected 55,000 fans at game. "I think about it but I try not to worry. There's more cops, more alert, in case something does happen. You feel a little safer."
"We're going to come to Yankee Stadium," said another fan, Gary Holz. "This is what it's all about, the playoffs and the Yanks. You can't stop us from coming together and congregating."
Uniformed police officers were in evidence at even smaller subway stations in neighbourhoods outside Manhattan, occasionally stopping riders to check backpacks or packages.
Police officials said that reports of suspicious packages had more than doubled in the past few days, with more than 200 such calls since Friday. No dangerous items have been found.
HIGH SECURITY CONTINUES MONDAY
Kelly said New York would remain on heightened alert until U.S. intelligence authorities in Iraq could pin down the credibility of the current threat. Beefed-up subway security would be in force again on Monday, Kelly told CNN, and the situation would be monitored "on an hourly basis."
Carol Charest, who was visiting from Massachusetts with several family members, said they were initially hesitant about riding the subway but ended up doing just that, "and it was fine." She said the visible police presence was reassuring.
Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have differed with federal officials over the credibility of the threat, which was based on an uncorroborated claim to Iraqi authorities that prompted raids by American and Iraqi forces and resulted in two suspects being taken into custody in Iraq.
A third was being sought, and the New York Times reported that he had been detained, also in Iraq.
The federal bulletin noted that authorities "have doubts about the credibility of the threat" but passed it along "to provide increased awareness out of an abundance of caution."
Bloomberg said he had become increasingly convinced over the last few days that the threat was real and that he preferred to err on the side of caution.
"If you waited to make sure all of your information was accurate, you'd only find out after the event had taken place," he told WNBC television on Sunday. The mayor, who is facing re-election next month, continued over the weekend to urge New Yorkers and visitors to "go about our business."
One subway rider who gave his name as Billy took Bloomberg's message to heart, saying he was unconcerned. "I'm more worried about the Yankees," he said.