The United States has raised to “high” its security alert level for major financial institutions in the New York and Washington areas. Tom Ridge, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said “unusually specific” intelligence information suggests that Al-Qaeda attacks may occur at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund headquarters in Washington, or at the New York Stock Exchange or several other financial institutions in or close to New York.
More than half a dozen government officials interviewed yesterday, who declined to be identified because classified information is involved, said that most, if not all, of the information about the buildings seized by authorities in a raid in Pakistan last week was about three years old, and possibly older.
“There is nothing right now that we’re hearing that is new,” said one senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the alert. “Why did we go to this level? . . . I still don’t know that.”
The characterization of the age of the intelligence yesterday cast a new light on Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s announcement Sunday that the terrorism threat alert for the financial services sectors in the three cities had been raised. Ridge and other officials stressed Sunday the urgency of acting on the newly obtained information, but yesterday a range of officials made clear how dated much of the intelligence was.
At a news conference announcing his proposed intelligence reforms, Bush said the alert shows “there’s an enemy which hates what we stand for.”
“It’s serious business,” Bush said. “I mean, we wouldn’t be, you know, contacting authorities at the local level unless something was real.”