Al Qaeda aborted subway poison plot because 'it wouldnt have killed enough people' and hindered 'bigger operation'
June 19, 2006
Author: Cyanide plot aborted because it wouldn't be deadly enough
BY MICHAEL MCAULIFF
New York Daily News
WASHINGTON - Al-Qaida decided not to launch a deadly cyanide gas plot in New York's subways because it wouldn't have killed enough people, according to the author whose bombshell book revealed the frightening scheme.
"Al-Qaida's thinking is that a second-wave attack should be more destructive and more disruptive than 9/11," writer Ron Suskind said in an interview with Time magazine. "Why? Because that would create an upward arc of terror. ... That fear and terror is a central goal of the al-Qaida strategy."
News of the 2003 plot to use homemade cyanide bombs, the details of which have been confirmed by the New York Daily News, was first revealed Friday in excerpts from Suskind's book "The One Percent Doctrine."
The plot, purportedly masterminded by al-Qaida's ringleader in Saudi Arabia, Yusuf al-Ayeri, involved planting crude but effective cyanide canisters around the subway system before the start of the Iraq war.
Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wouldn't confirm that al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, called off the attack just 45 days before its execution because it would not be spectacular enough. But Roberts, R-Kan., said the premise that Zawahiri pulled the plug "was correct."
"I think, when any terrorist considers an attack, they also consider the public reaction," Roberts said on CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday.
City and federal officials learned of the plot from an al-Qaida mole dubbed "Ali" and beefed up security around the subways in hopes of heading off the strike, which could have killed hundreds.
The plot "underscores the stupidity" of the Homeland Security Department slashing the city's anti-terror funding by 40 percent, said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, agreed.
"It's just madness that (the Homeland Security Department) cut New York City's funding by 40 percent," said King, who will put department officials on the hot seat before his committee Wednesday.
If Zawahiri did squash the gas attack because it wouldn't be deadly enough, that boosts the argument that federal authorities should not be spreading security dollars around the country in places such as Louisville, Ky., and Omaha, Neb., which saw major hikes in funding. Only in places such as New York and Washington can terrorists hope to raise the ante from Sept. 11, King said.
"Some of these other cities just aren't going to get hit," he said.
When President Bush learned the cyanide plot had been nixed, according to Suskind, Bush said: "This is bad enough. What does calling this off say about what else they're planning? ... What could be the bigger operation Zawahiri didn't want to mess up?"