NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Federal and local counterterrorism officials are on high alert after a new threat from al-Qaeda about a pre-election terrorist attack.
U.S. intelligence alerted Joint Terrorism Task Forces that al-Qeada could be planning attacks in three states on Monday, sources told CBS News.
An FBI source said al-Qaeda is pressuring followers to regain relevance on the world stage, CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported.
The FBI and the NYPD said Friday that they are assessing the credibility of the threat. As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, officials said the intelligence points to possible attacks in New York, Texas or Virginia.
The threats are vague and no specific targets have been provided, but authorities are taking the threat seriously and ramping up security.
In a statement, the NYPD said it was aware of the information, but said it “lacks specificity.”
“We have been working with the FBI through the Joint Terrorism Task Force and our Counterterrorism and Intelligence Bureaus,” the statement said. “In every case, we take any intelligence reports regarding New York City seriously.”
With the TCS New York Marathon coming up on Sunday, and with both presidential candidates set to be in New York on election night, the NYPD counterterrorism forces were already set for long hours as it was.
“Besides overall vigilance is we’re just going to unite Sunday, Monday and Tuesday into a constant pattern of increased NYPD presence,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Plans are in place to have NYPD counterterrorism units — officers with long guns, bomb-detecting equipment, and radiation-detecting equipment. What the NYPD calls the full counterterrorism overlay will be on the streets and ready for action.
“You will see a lot of uniformed personnel out,” de Blasio said.
As 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported, the mayor said the level of the threat is unknown.
“So far we have unclear credibility and a lack of specificity simultaneously,” he said.
De Blasio said he has known about the threat for several days.
Federal, state and city law enforcement officials are taking no chances as they try to nail down the intelligence from al-Qaeda.
“The clear point about this again, very vague information we’ve received is we’ve received it, and now everyone is on high alert and ready to prevent anything from happening,” de Blasio said.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said officers will be doing everything they can.
“We have a tremendous number of resources out on the street, so people in New York should feel safe,” O’Neill said.
The FBI said in a statement that it will “continue to work closely with law enforcement and intelligence community partners to identify and disrupt any potential threat to public safety.”
The agency said they share and assess intelligence on a daily basis with federal, state and local counterparts.
The timing of the news came as no surprise to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported.
“What they really want to do is disrupt the democracy of this country,” he said. “Election Day – the exercise of that democracy; the high holiday of that democracy – of course it’s going to present a topic; a target for them, and of course, we’re going to be ready.”
Officials have been quick to point out that American elections are a favorite time for terrorists to attack. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 took place on the day of a New York City primary, and even the threat of an attack could be a distraction to voters.
According to CBS News, local police were warned earlier this week of “polling places” being seen as “attractive targets” for “lone wolf”-type attacks by individuals motivated by violent extremist ideologies, sovereign citizen or other extremist activity.
De Blasio noted that security around election night headquarters for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could make it difficult to get around Tuesday night. Sources said a pattern of frozen zones and closures will be announced Monday.