New York takes steps to thwart terrorism strike

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the city is heightening security in response to information about a credible but so far unconfirmed threat of a specific attack planned to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorism.

Speaking at the same press conference Thursday night, police commissioner Ray Kelly said the extra security measures would include vehicle checkpoints around New York City, bag checks at the subway, and teams equipped with bomb-sniffing dogs and radiation-monitoring equipment posted around the city. He said police were especially focusing their attention on tunnels, bridges and other major infrastructure, as well as landmarks, government buildings, and houses of worship.

Kelly said there would also be more police on duty in the next several days, which they will accomplish by extending shifts by four hours,

Mayor Bloomberg said New Yorkers should continue to be vigilant and report anything suspicious or apparently dangerous to the proper authorities. But the mayor said despite the threat, New Yorkers should continue their lives as usual. He said he expected to take the subway to work Friday morning feeling just as safe as he had Thursday morning.

U.S. officials said Thursday they had discovered information about the credible threat suggesting it may focus on Washington, D.C., or New York City. Officials say they suspect three individuals, one a U.S. citizen, entered the U.S. in August intending to attack with a bomb-laden vehicle.

The White House said President Barack Obama was updated on the threat information throughout the day. A White House official told reporters the government had already “significantly enhanced” security and readiness efforts in advance of the Sept. 11 anniversary, but the President Thursday called on counterterrorism authorities to redouble their efforts to protect the U.S. from any attacks.

Officials say the threat is unconfirmed and that they are continuing to investigate. They say they are considering whether to brief local police about what to look for and whether to make the information public. The government is also considering whether to raise the country’s terrorist alert level.

Earlier Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said intelligence officials have lately picked up more chatter on terrorist websites. She said the U.S. is taking all of the talk seriously.

Earlier this week, the United States raised the alert level at its domestic military bases as a precaution.

Meanwhile, the U.S. says terrorists are now struggling to secure steady financing.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a symposium in Washington Thursday that al-Qaida can “no longer rely on a thick Rolodex and a simple bank transfer.”

Geithner said that the struggle to secure cash is the result of ongoing U.S. and international efforts to identify terror donors and hit them with sanctions. He also said that the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has also hurt the group’s fundraising efforts.

The Treasury Department chief says al-Qaida’s current financial struggles contrast greatly with the terror group’s financial standing 10 years ago, when it carried out attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. Still, he warned the terror group is resilient and will continue to find ways to access money.

Obama’s top anti-terror advisor also addressed the symposium. John Brennan said even though “virtually every major al-Qaida affiliate has lost its key leader or operational commander,” the terror group continues to plot against the U.S.

Separately, the former cochairman of the bipartisan 9-11 commission told U.S. lawmakers Thursday the country is still not as secure or as safe as it should be.

Former congressman Lee Hamilton told the House of Representative’s Homeland Security Committee the country’s various anti-terror agencies still suffer from a lack of unified leadership. He called for additional improvement in sharing critical intelligence across anti-terror agencies.

The very first secretary of Homeland Security also appeared before the House panel. Former secretary Tom Ridge cautioned that no matter how hard anti-terror officials work, another attack is likely.

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