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Monday, August 02, 2004

Bloomberg.com: Aug. 2 (Bloomberg) -- The New York Stock Exchange, Citigroup Inc., the International Monetary Fund and two other financial institutions in the New York area and Washington opened this morning under intensified security after the U.S. government said al-Qaeda was planning terrorism attacks.

Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge said at a news conference in Washington yesterday that the government had gathered "new and unusually specific information about where al- Qaeda would like to attack."

The specificity of the intelligence, which Ridge described as "alarming," indicated that the terrorism organization intended to use car or truck bombs to attack financial organizations that symbolize U.S. international strength. Ridge said other targets included Prudential Financial Inc.'s headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, and the World Bank building, two blocks from the White House in Washington.

"This is not the usual chatter," said Ridge, 58, explaining the information was more detailed than what has led the government to increase terrorism threat levels in the past.

Four senior U.S. intelligence officials, who spoke to reporters on the condition their names not be used, said information that prompted the warnings was collected in the past 1 1/2 days.

Information Described

The officials said al-Qaeda loyalists in the U.S. since before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have researched security personnel and equipment at each of the five locations, gathered information on potential escape routes and determined what type of vehicle would make the best bomb and where its placement would do the most damage, the officials said.

One official said the information was chilling in its scope, detail and breadth.

The elevated threat level for the financial institutions was spurred by the recent arrest of a Pakistani computer engineer who may have been involved in al-Qaeda communication efforts, the New York Times reported, without indicating where it got the information. He was arrested in Pakistan, the paper said. U.S. intelligence officials also were examining new documents that amount to "a potential treasure trove," the newspaper reported.

Ridge said the warning and public announcement "will allow us to increase protection in and around those buildings that require it, and also raise awareness."

Increased Security

The New York Stock Exchange "will continue to be open for business on our normal schedule," Chief Executive John Thain said in an e-mailed statement. Thain and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, greeted exchange members as they arrive for work today. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will ring the opening bell today "as a symbol of his ongoing support" for the exchange, Thain said.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, 62, said he was putting police teams clad in body armor and equipped with M-16 assault rifles on the streets and officers would search vehicles. The police force already was preparing for the Republican National Convention in Manhattan later this month.

Newark police put metal fences around the Prudential building and blocked off two streets.

FENCES! Oh horrors! Would that be a "Berlin fence" or an "Apartheid fence"?

Maybe the peaceniks in Newark will tear it down, like they try to do in Israel. It's a violation of human rights, you know, to inconvenience terrorists. The UN will never stand for this!

Markers show the vote by members of the United Nations
during their general assembly about Israel's West Bank barrier,
in New York, July 20, 2004. REUTERS/Chip East

UPDATE: The "Stop The Wall Tour" is scheduled to be in St. Louis, Iowa City, Cedar Falls IA, Iowa Falls IA and Minneapolis/St.Paul this week. I'll be watching to see if they divert their protests to Newark to include the Evil Fence around the Prudential Building, and will keep you posted.