Friday, July 07, 2006

Holland Tunnel plot

The New York Daily News broke this story today. There are some details in this story that should be explained further when possible, please refer to my comments throughout.:
The FBI has uncovered what officials consider a serious plot by jihadists to bomb the Holland Tunnel in hopes of causing a torrent of water to deluge lower Manhattan, the Daily News has learned.

The terrorists sought to drown the Financial District as New Orleans was by Hurricane Katrina, sources said. They also wanted to attack subways and other tunnels.

Counterterrorism officials are alarmed by the "lone wolf" terror plot because they allegedly got a pledge of financial and tactical support from Jordanian associates of top terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi before he was killed in Iraq, a counterterrorism source told The News.
"Lone wolf"?
It's not clear, however, if any cash or assistance was delivered.

The News has learned that at the request of U.S. officials, authorities in Beirut arrested one of the alleged conspirators, identified as Amir Andalousli, in recent months. Agents were scrambling yesterday to try to nab other suspects, sources said.

They didn't indicate how many people were the target of the international dragnet but said they were scattered all over the world.

"This is an ongoing operation," one source said.


The plotters wanted to detonate a massive amount of explosives inside the Holland Tunnel to blast a hole that would destroy the tunnel, everyone in it, and send a devastating flood shooting through the streets of lower Manhattan.

It is assumed by officials the thugs would try to use vehicles packed with explosives.

Sources said that New York City officials believed the plan could conceivably work with enough explosives placed in the middle of the tunnel, which runs underneath the river bed, a source said.

But others doubted the plot was feasible.

"You are talking major, major explosives and knowledge of blast effect to make this happen," said another senior counterterrorism source.

Besides bedrock, the tunnel is protected by concrete and cast-iron steel.

Experts also said that even if the tunnel cracked, the Financial District would not be flooded because it is above the level of the river.

The FBI discovered the plot by monitoring Internet chat rooms, where the aspiring terrorists discussed striking the U.S. economy, rather than causing mass casualties, a source said.

"They're hell-bent on destroying the economy in the U.S.," a counterterrorism source said.

Al Qaeda founder Bin Laden has often urged his followers to "bleed" America financially.
This is true. But, it's not UBL's top priority.
The Lebanese government had been expected to release a statement about Andalousli's arrest but was asked by the U.S. to hold off while operations to disrupt the plot continued, sources said.

Sources contrasted the chat room jihadists to the seven wanna-be Al Qaeda cell members arrested in a poor area of Miami by the FBI last week, who appeared to have no capability of carrying out plots they hatched to bomb FBI offices in several cities including New York.

"This is more advanced than the Miami Seven," said one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
That comment is very interesting as well. For more on why this plan would not have worked, please refer to this other Daily News story.

CNN's account adds a little more:
FBI Assistant Director Mark Mershon said the plan was "what we believe was the real deal," a scheme involving al Qaeda members on three continents.


The only suspect formally charged is a 31-year-old Lebanese man who has confessed to being the ringleader and has claimed to be an al Qaeda member loyal to Osama bin Laden, Mershon said.

The scheme was in the planning stages but was about to move into the execution phase with an attack set for October or November, Mershon said.

Without naming a tunnel, the FBI official said the target was one of the tubes under the Hudson River connecting New Jersey and Manhattan.


Mershon expressed anger about the leak to the Daily News, saying whoever did so exhibited "unprofessional behavior" and was "clearly someone who doesn't understand the fragility of international relations."

U.S. officials worked closely with Lebanese authorities and other foreign law enforcement and intelligence partners to uncover the terror network, according to a joint statement from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

"We've had a number of uncomfortable questions and some upsetment with these foreign intelligence services that had been working with us," Mershon said. FBI officials have been "working to shore up those relationships" in the wake of the premature disclosure, he said.
I can understand there would be a great deal of frustration for the Lebanese if they were asked to not release a statement and then this was leaked to the U.S. press. The Daily News concludes this story with a "kicker" about the cut back in anti-terror funding for New York City. Moreover, one of the reasons for that reduction was the classification of potential targets as "merely" infrastructure instead of landmarks. But, I digress into the speculative.

This plot has been labeled serious, and it certainly is. But it does not have the level of forethought we have come to expect from the monsters in al Qaeda. That may be a result of our attacks on their hierarchy. But as of right now the links to al Qaeda are from the claims of the one named detainee and some contacts with Zarqawi's ring.

More information, no doubt, will emerge in the next few days.

Lastly, I'm troubled by an A.D. at FBI using "upsetment".


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