WASHINGTON (AP) — Reports of suspicious activity and vehicles in the nation’s capital are up 60 percent in the wake of an investigation of a terror threat, Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Saturday, and police are checking every report.
For days, counterterrorism officials have been chasing a tip that al-Qaida may have sent three men to the United States to detonate a car bomb. Senior U.S. officials said there’s no evidence that al-Qaida has sneaked any terrorists into the country for a strike coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The officials insisted on anonymity to discuss the investigation.
Police and FBI agents remain on high alert as investigators look for proof of a plot against Washington or New York. By Saturday, there was still no intelligence backing that up and officials continued to question the validity of the initial information.
While such tips are common among intelligence agencies, this one received more attention, and government officials chose to speak publicly about it, because of the connection to the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
Police in the Washington region issued a lookout Saturday for two U-Haul vans that were stolen in Prince George’s County. U-Haul said late Saturday that one of the vans had been recovered. County police said there’s nothing about the situation that leads them to believe they were anything other than stolen vans, but in light of recent terror threats they are taking extra precautions.
Police and airport officials determined that there was nothing harmful about suspicious boxes on a cargo pallet that prompted a four-hour evacuation of several gates at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia near Washington, D.C, according to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman Rob Yingling.
Virginia State Police bomb technicians X-rayed the cargo pallet and a second detection dog sweep determined the boxes were safe, he said. Two outbound flights were delayed because the aircrafts were within the perimeter. Officials are being extra vigilant in light of recent terror threats, and taking all precautions if something out of the ordinary is discovered, Yingling said.
James McJunkin, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s field office in Washington, said Saturday his office was actively following the threat tip and investigating the leads they get.
“We vet these threats routinely,” he said. He would not talk about reports that the threat involved two Americans or people traveling with American documents, but said that American involvement can change an investigation.
“I think that the fact that an individual, if he is involved in a terror threat or terror planning, is a U.S. citizen is concerning
because we don’t expect that from our citizens, but it also provides us with a little bit less visibility on people,” McJunkin
said. “We don’t do surveillance on American citizens short of a criminal investigation and so we’re a little bit blind sometimes about the U.S. citizens that might be involved.”
He urged people to go about their plans and enjoy the weekend.
“Whatever you have plans for it’s a beautiful day. It’s going to be a beautiful weekend,” McJunkin said. “It’s college football
Saturday. Tomorrow is the start of the NFL season. So we expect the public is going to be out enjoying what it means to be an American.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)