- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Authorities stepped up security yesterday after receiving what city officials called a credible threat that the New York subway could be the target of a terrorist attack in coming days.

But homeland security authorities in Washington downplayed the threat, saying it was of “doubtful credibility.”

The threat involved the scenario that terrorists would pack a baby stroller with explosives, among other methods, a law-enforcement official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

New York officials responded by mobilizing police officers to begin looking through commuters’ strollers, bags, brief cases and luggage.

Officials with the Washington-area’s Metro system said they had not received any credible threats, and spokeswoman Candace Smith says the system isn’t raising its terror threat level.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the threat originated overseas and was the most specific terrorist threat New York officials had received to date. No one in New York has been arrested or detained, he said.

“We have never had before a specific threat to our subway system,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a press conference, adding that he planned to take the subway home last night. “Its importance was enhanced above the normal level by the detail that was available to us from intelligence sources.”

In Washington, Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke said the agency received a “specific but doubtful threat” to the subway system.

“The intelligence community has concluded this information to be of doubtful credibility,” he said. “We shared this information early on with state and local authorities in New York.”

Mr. Knocke refused to elaborate on why the intelligence was considered doubtful. He said he assumed New York’s public warning was made “out of an abundance of caution.”

A counterterror official, who was briefed about the threat by homeland security officials, said the intelligence was considered doubtful because it did not reflect “on-the-ground, detailed” information.

The official, who also insisted on anonymity, said the intelligence was similar to “what can be found on the Internet and a map of New York City.”

The law-enforcement official in New York said that city officials had known about the threat at least since Monday, but held the information until two or three al Qaeda operatives were arrested in Iraq within the past 24 hours.

Once the arrests were made, officials felt they could go public, the official said.

Authorities are concerned, the official said, that al Qaeda operatives in New York City might be connected to the plot. They have no hard evidence of that, but are investigating.

Some commuters took the threat in stride.

Paul Radtke, 45, of Hoboken, N.J., said he has heard similar warnings before and found it difficult to take them all seriously.

“Unless it’s something dramatic that’s happening, I’ve got to go to work,” Mr. Radtke said after getting off a subway train at Penn Station.

An estimated 4.5 million passengers ride the New York subway on an average weekday. The system has more than 468 subway stations.

New York has been on high alert — or Code Orange — on the nation’s terror threat advisory system. There are no plans to raise its alert level in response to the threat, Mr. Knocke said, nor are authorities considering changing the nationwide elevated threat level, Code Yellow.

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