U.S. Places Financial Centers in N.Y., N.J. and D.C. on High Terror Alert

August 2, 2004

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced that the government has “specific credible information” causing it to raise to the terrorism threat level to Code Orange for the financial services sector in New York City, Northern New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

“As of now, this is what we know: reports indicate that al Qaida is targeting several specific buildings, including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in D.C.; Prudential Financial in Northern New Jersey; and Citigroup buildings and the New York Stock Exchange in New York,” Ridge said.

Ridge said that actions to “further strengthen” security around these buildings are already underway. he also said the department is concerned about targets beyond these and is working to get more information.

The issuing of the threat level for these specific locations is the first time Homeland Security has used its alert system in such a targeted fashon. In the past, it has issued more generlaized alerts. The orange level alert brings security measures to their second-highest level around the cited locations.

“This will allow us to increase protection in and around those buildings that require it and also raise awareness for employees, residents, customers and visitors. We know from experience that increased physical protection and added vigilance from citizens can thwart a terrorist attack. And that is our goal,” Ridge added.

Compared to previous threat reporting, these intelligence reports have provided a level of detail that is very specific, according to Ridge. “The quality of this intelligence, based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen and is alarming in both the amount and specificity of the information,” he said.

ABC News, citing anonymous sources, reported that al-Qaida planned to send terrorists across the Mexican border into the United States, and that suicide attacks were being planned, possibly using trucks.

The network said attacks may be planned between now and Election Day. The Republican convention begins in New York on Aug. 30.

A woman with a South African passport was arrested near the U.S.-Mexico border last week when she tried to board a flight to New York with about $7,000 in cash, officials told The Associated Press.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told The New York Times for Sunday editions that the warning to bolster security came after talks Friday night and Saturday between Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Pasquale Damuro, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York office.

Officials at Prudential Financial’s Newark facilities, which were named as one of several businesses that may be a potential target for terrorism, said it was business as usual today and this week, when it is expected to announce second quarter results..

“Based on the information provided by that (Homeland Security) agency, we have taken the steps necessary to ensure the safety of our employees and customers. Working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies, we have decided to open our offices for business,” the company said in a statement.

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