- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2002

The FBI issued an alert yesterday that "unspecific terrorists" are considering attacks against U.S. financial institutions in the Northeast, particularly banks, as part of a campaign against U.S. financial interests.
While the FBI acknowledged that its information was "unsubstantiated" and that it had not identified any specific plot or targets, it sent warnings "out of an abundance of caution" to law enforcement authorities in Washington, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.
The FBI warning was issued as the world's finance ministers gathered in Washington for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meeting.
The potential threat, according to U.S. intelligence authorities, is believed to be tied to al Qaeda terrorist network.
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, in Pittsburgh to announce arrests in a raid of heroin traffickers, said there was no information about a threat to any specific financial institution but that law enforcement authorities had been asked to report threats or suspicious activities to the FBI.
"Our policy is to share information with appropriate authorities and the American public when we have threat information that merits their attention," he said. "We believe that this information sharing disrupts and prevents terrorist activity."
Mr. Ashcroft said that during the course of the war against terrorism, the Justice Department has developed numerous sources of information, which allows the FBI and others to determine the credibility, corroboration, specificity, imminence and potential consequences of any threats.
"When we believe that disseminating that information will improve public safety and security, we will share it," he said.
In March the government adopted color-coded ratings for the severity of threats. A yellow alert is defined as an "elevated" or "significant" risk of attack. The highest alert is red. Yesterday's alert was placed at the yellow level.
The alert came four days after several D.C. banks closed when the Metropolitan Police received an anonymous bomb threat the previous day from a caller saying a financial center would explode at noon.
The caller said a bomb would be detonated inside an unspecified bank in Washington. The caller said he learned about the threat from an informant and mentioned the type of explosives that would be used.
Later in the day, prosecutors in the Netherlands said a 13-year-old boy was to blame for the bomb threat. Dutch authorities said the teen acknowledged calling D.C. police from his cell phone and making a threat as a prank. D.C. police notified the FBI Washington field office as a precaution.
But many of the city's banks, erring on the side of caution, closed their doors by noon.
The FBI issued its last alert in February, when it warned of a potential terrorist attack by "individuals who may be associated with Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network." The alert went to 18,000 people, warning of a pending attack by more than a dozen men against U.S. targets here or abroad. No attack took place.

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