National Security

Authorities Probe 'Credible But Unconfirmed' Threat

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Authorities say a credible, but unconfirmed, terrorism threat has surfaced in the past day. A tip out of Pakistan indicates there could be some plot targeting Washington, D.C. or New York. The threat has not been corroborated


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And Im David Greene.

U.S. authorities had been bracing for some sort of terrorist threat ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And it happened yesterday. A tip coming out of Pakistan indicated there could be some plot targeting Washington, D.C. or New York. NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston joins me on the line.

And, Dina, what are your sources telling you about the threat this morning?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Basically, what we know is that there's either a trusted source in Pakistan or perhaps chatter coming out of Pakistan that indicates that there was some sort of plot in the works, or is a plot in the works. And the details are really sketchy. We just know that D.C. or New York City might be involved.

GREENE: Well, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg apparently took this seriously enough to appear at City Hall last night, along with his police commissioner and an official from the FBI's New York office. I want to give a listen to what he had to say.

Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (New York City): Now the threat, at this moment, has not been corroborated. I want to stress that. It is credible, but it has not been corroborated. But we do live in a world where we must take these threats seriously, and we certainly will.

ROSE: And, Dina, if the Mayor Bloomberg, if other officials are all saying this is credible, but not corroborated, what does that tell us? Help us with the meaning there.

TEMPLE-RASTON: It's really referring to how solid the source is, not necessarily if there's more than one. The way it works in journalism, you try and get a second source. If, for example, they have one source who has ties to the actual plot - say a confidential informant - then that one source would have a different impact than an intercepted phone call or an email.

I mean, in this case, the important aspect is whether they had faith in the information. And they think it's credible information. They have some faith in it. But they don't think it's rock solid. And they don't have the specificity they'd like.

ROSE: And there were some pretty alarming initial reports yesterday, of possible suspects already in stolen rental trucks. Can you update us on that?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. This happens sometimes with these reports. Apparently, there were stolen rental trucks in Kansas City that ended up spinning up into a story about rental trucks actually being used in some sort of terrorism plot. But the FBI said, unequivocally, that these trucks that've been stolen have all been accounted for. And they have said, unequivocally, that there's no connection here to terrorism.

ROSE: And, of course, part of the reason authorities are so worried about all of this is because of the timing, with new information coming out just days before this big anniversary.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's exactly right. I mean, we know from documents found in the bin Laden compound in Pakistan that Osama bin Laden was very keen to get an attack off for sometime around the 10th anniversary. But, honestly, until yesterday, there really wasn't any indication that anything was afoot. I mean, the normal chatter they listen for just wasn't there.

And many U.S. officials think that al-Qaida doesn't have the capacity anymore, to get off an attack, so they were watching their affiliates and expecting, maybe, something coming from one of the smaller groups or a smaller bore attack. So that's why this tip has some resonance.

But it shouldn't be seen, you know, as more than it is. It's a tip that they're in the process of investigating.

ROSE: That's NPR's counterterrorism correspondent, Dina Temple-Raston.

Thank you, Dina.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're very welcome.

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