Major finance centers
under heavy scrutiny

By WND Staff

One day after U.S. authorities warned they have extraordinarily detailed information about a planned al-Qaida attack, major financial institutions in New York City, Newark, N.J., and Washington, were under heavy security as they opened for business today.

The New York Stock Exchange is one of five financial institutions under heavy security after authorities discovered detailed information about al-Qaida plans.

In Washington, law enforcement agencies are maintaining citywide patrols and inspecting vehicles for explosives around the International Monetary Fund, World Bank buildings and on Capitol Hill.

In Manhattan, some streets were barricaded, and trucks were banned from bridges and tunnels leading to Wall Street.

Along with the international institutions, authorities placed the Citigroup Center building, the New York Stock Exchange and Prudential Financial Inc.’s headquarters in Newark, N.J., under heavy scrutiny.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced yesterday officials have raised the threat assessment to orange, or high, one step below the top level, for financial institutions in the three cities. Elsewhere, the alert remained at yellow, or elevated.

The announcement came after intelligence officials received alarmingly specific information from multiple sources about a planned attack on five specific locations.

Ridge said the analysis suggests the planned method would be a car or truck bomb.

This morning, Ridge encouraged Americans to go about their business.

“We have to go on being America,” he told Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “We can’t button up and be what we’re not.”

John Thain, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, said: “We believe that this is a very, very safe place to work and we intend to keep the place open.”

The primary source of the threat information was the al-Qaida figure captured in Pakistan July 13, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. Described by Pakistani intelligence as a 25-year-old computer engineer, Khan helped operate a secret al-Qaida communications system where information was transferred via coded messages, the New York Times reported.

The recovered evidence shows al-Qaida members have been conducting sophisticated reconnaissance of the financial instutions cited in the warnings for years, a Pakistani intelligence official told the Times.

Senior intelligence officials said the unusually specific information provides a new window into al-Qaida’s methods and communications.

“This, for us, is a potential treasure trove,” said one American official, an intelligence expert, told reporters.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean questioned the timing of the announcement, suggesting the Bush administration is trying to take attention away from the recently concluded Democratic convention.

Dean said the president’s “whole campaign is based on the notion, ‘I can keep you safe.'”

Asked to comment, Ridge told “Good Morning America,” “If he were sitting in my shoes and had analyzed the information … he would not have made that comment, period.”