NYC on edge; no credible threat to Chicago

September 9, 2011 (CHICAGO)

A threat alert from the FBI and Homeland Security, obtained by the ABC7 I-Team, warns against "attacks inside the United States...targeting major U.S. cities" including "New York and Washington." A "possible car bomb attack," according to the intelligence document sent to local police, intended to "cause panic and disarray among first responders" and "attacks with small arms, homemade explosive devices and poisons."

As a result of the threats, a sharpened police presence in New York is being repeated in Washington DC, Chicago and Los Angeles. One New York bridge shut down Friday evening because of a suspicious package.

"There are scores of people that are together scrubbing through mounds of data looking for potential leads for individuals," said James McJunkin, assistant director in charge, FBI Washington field office.

A hunt is on for three suspected terrorists who may have flown into the U.S. from Pakistan via Dubai in August.

The secret location near Washington is Homeland Security's national targeting center, where analysts work an electronic puzzle looking over every flight record from overseas to the U.S. last month.

"Some people are not going home tonight. Some people are not going home tomorrow night. I think this will run around the clock -- until they either take them down or this has washed out," said John Miller, former intelligence analyst.

"They can't afford to ignore any lead at this point. They know what's at stake," said Jack Cloonan, former FBI counterterrorism agent.

What they don't know is precisely when or where or even if the al-Qaida agents will strike.

"We don't have the smoking gun, but we do have talk about using a car bomb," said Vice President Joe Biden.

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, New Yorkers seem content with the police state of protection, while some who lost loved ones the attacks would like to see more.

"I have to be here for my husband. I just hope...we need better protection," Leonore Raimondi, who lost her husband on 9/11, said.

President Barack Obama and former president George Bush will attend a ceremony Sunday to dedicate the 9/11 memorial in Lower Manhattan.

Since 2001, New York has sucessfully intercepted 13 13 serious terrorist threats.

No specific threat to Chicago, but city beefs up security

Although emergency management officials say there is is no credible terror threat to Chicago, the city is on alert. Officials are asking everyone to pay attention to their surroundings and report any suspicious activity.

Security is more visible for the public eye. Unlike New York, where police are now on 12-hour shifts, Chicago police are maintaining regular shifts. But the latest threat oes not extend to Chicago as best as intelligence sources know.

"We are every bit as much on alert as New York or Washington DC. We have chosen not to make as much of a visible presence, although you will see an increase of law enforcement officers especially around transportation hubs and some of the larger events this weekend," said Gary Schenkel, OEMC director.

Nonetheless, there is a heightened state of alert here on this anniversary date. Records seized after the killing of Osama Bin Laden did include mentions of Chicago and a non-specific desire to seize on the anniversary of 9/11.

"This is the home of the president of the United States, and we cannot take it for granted because we haven't been identified in the latest intelligence report that we would not be an option," said Schenkel.

The latest threat intelligence was delivered to Chicago officials inside what's called the fusion center at police headquarters, where they have secure lines linking multiple cities and multiple agencies.

The heightened awareness is in play at the CTA's operations center. Most of what's visible there can also be patched into the city's 911 center, which is the mother ship to Chicago's ever-growing, vast network of surveillance cameras.

But cameras only do so much. It is the network of human eyes and the constant plea for vigilance the law enforcement depends on.

"Now you're looking at people with sometimes suspicious feelings and we should be that way, but that to me is a result of the situation. It's natural," said David Ransburg.

"One of the biggest issues is everybody is looking at their iPhones or their electronic gadgets, and they're not paying attention to world around them," said Amanda Ferguson, CTA rider.

"If you see anything that's not right, call the proper authorities," said Anwar Bhimani.

In New York, this anniversary and new intelligence have produced a much greater police presence, vehicle check-points, and more aggressive towing of illegally parked cars. Towing is always operable in Chicago, but the decision here is to handle this anniversary in lower profile fashion than on the East Coast.

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