- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

E-mails on a computer belonging to an al Qaeda agent in Pakistan show that five American targets, including the New York Stock Exchange and the Washington headquarters of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have been methodically surveyed.

The discovery, which prompted a warning of impending terrorist attacks by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on Sunday, show that al Qaeda retains the long-term ability to plan spectacular attacks.

The other threatened buildings are the Citigroup building in New York and the Prudential Financial building in Newark, N.J.

Chillingly precise intelligence — the most detailed evidence of an al Qaeda plot since the September 11 attacks — also spoke of threats to unspecified targets in Britain, Pakistani officials said.

Intelligence officials in Washington said they were startled at the level of detail in the e-mails, suggesting that al Qaeda had been studying five of the most prominent financial buildings in America since before September 11, 2001.

The information amassed by the plotters “was gathered in 2000 and 2001,” and “it appears that some of it may have been updated as recently as January of this year,” Frances Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said on PBS’ “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.”

But, she added, “you can’t tell from the intelligence itself whether or not those individuals [who amassed it] are still here.”

Among the details investigated by al Qaeda agents were the positions of security cameras, the movement of traffic and what kind of explosives would destroy the target buildings.

The agents checked where they could contact employees in the buildings and pinpointed the locations of police stations, fire stations and hospitals. They even counted the flow of pedestrians outside one of the buildings.

Security in major American cities was noticeably tighter yesterday.

Several streets were closed in Manhattan, and trucks were banned from bridges and tunnels leading to the Wall Street area.

Flanked by his senior aides, a somber-looking President Bush said the new alert was a “serious reminder, a solemn reminder of the threat we continue to face.”

“We are a nation in danger,” he said in an appearance in the White House Rose Garden, where he outlined reforms to American intelligence.

Intelligence agents found plans for new attacks in e-mails on the computer of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian arrested July 25 in Pakistan after a 12-hour gunbattle in the eastern city of Gujrat, said Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

Officials also are getting a wealth of information from a militant computer and communications expert arrested 12 days earlier. The man would send messages using code words to al Qaeda suspects, a Pakistani intelligence official said on the condition of anonymity.

Pakistan intelligence said a man delivering groceries went to the police to give information about unusual foreigners living in Gujrat, an industrial town about 100 miles southeast of Islamabad.

Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat said, “We know that al Qaeda is here. They have their sleeper cells in Pakistan, and we are trying to eliminate them.”

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