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Impeach Bush

There's no evidence of recent surveillance
The Jersey Journal
By Timothy Williams
Associated Press writer
August 04, 2004

NEW YORK - Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, standing in a midtown Manhattan building targeted by al-Qaida, declared yesterday that the danger of a terrorist strike on financial institutions is real, even if some intelligence is based on old information.

"The casings that we referenced on Sunday were updated as recently as January of this year," Ridge said at the Citigroup Center in midtown Manhattan.

"Al-Qaida often plans well in advance. We also know that they like to update their information before a potential attack, so I don't want anyone to disabuse themselves of the seriousness of this information simply because there's some reports that much of it is dated, (that) it might be two or three years old. This is a resilient organization that does its homework."

Ridge acknowledged, however, that "there's no evidence of recent surveillance" on the five targeted financial institutions.

Citing photographs, drawings and written documents, the government announced Sunday that terrorists had observed Citigroup and the New York Stock Exchange in New York, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank buildings in Washington, and Prudential Financial Inc.'s headquarters in Newark.

Ridge raised the terror threat level for financial institutions in the three cities to orange - high alert, the second highest level on the government's five-point spectrum. New York City has been at orange alert since the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks.

Officials have since acknowledged that the information came largely from a Pakistani computer engineer captured last month and that most of the intelligence was amassed in 2000 and 2001. No timetable for potential attacks was specified.

Asked about the timing of the government's disclosure, Ridge said, "We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security."

Ridge also said the government had no evidence to suggest that the detailed information gleaned by al-Qaida about the buildings had been obtained from operatives who had once worked in the buildings.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday brushed aside the suggestion that the intelligence was outdated and that the city overreacted in enacting new security measures - which include the closure of streets around Grand Central Terminal, the banning of trucks from some bridges and tunnels, and random searches of trucks passing landmarks or traveling on major thoroughfares.

"The only thing you ever know about security measures is when you didn't take enough," Bloomberg said on the "Today" show. "Some of this information is old, but what is clear is it has been updated and more of it became available to the intelligence community on Friday."

Security remained tight at the Citigroup building, where Ridge met privately with Bloomberg, Gov. George Pataki, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and representatives from some of the city's largest financial firms.

Outside the 59-story tower, heavily armed police officers kept a watchful eye as employees lined up to have their bags and ID cards checked before being allowed in the building.

"If this is what it takes to be safe, so be it," said receptionist Linda Sharpe, 27, who had her purse searched before she was allowed into the building.

The police presence remained high yesterday around the other targeted buildings as well. Workers had to make their way past officers with body armor and automatic weapons and were confronted with ID checks and bag searches.

In Newark, the city added concrete barricades at the 24-story Prudential building, where about 1,000 employees work. Sand-filled barriers blocked off the lane in front of Newark Penn Station where buses, taxis and cars had previously been allowed to park while picking up or dropping off passengers.

Officials in Washington said they would block portions of Independence and Constitution avenues.

There's no evidence of recent surveillance and the intelligence is three and four years old. On such flimsy evidence the government and the media pushed the alerts around the clock. God help us from this stupidity.