- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 8, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his police chief insisted yesterday they did the right thing by going public with a terrorist threat to bomb the New York subway, brushing aside suggestions from Washington that they overreacted to information of dubious credibility.

While the mayor and federal officials weighed the threat’s severity, the investigation into the purported plot advanced as a third suspect was arrested in Iraq and authorities looked into whether a fourth person took part in the scheme.

A law-enforcement official in New York, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the tightening of security was prompted by an informant’s report of a plot to attack the subway system with bombs hidden in bags and possibly baby strollers.

“If I’m going to make a mistake, you can rest assured it is on the side of being cautious,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

The dispute came as thousands of extra police officers poured into the city’s subway system, pulling commuters out of rush-hour crowds and rifling through their bags or briefcases in a crackdown that was announced late Thursday afternoon and continued yesterday.

Authorities briefly closed part of Penn Station yesterday after a discarded soda bottle filled with a green liquid was found during morning rush hour. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said it was a type of drain-cleaner and not a threat.

The city’s announcement of the purported plot — and the warning to New Yorkers to keep their eyes open for anything suspicious — led to jostling between city officials and homeland security officials in Washington, who downplayed the threat.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle said yesterday: “The specified intelligence was checked out through the intelligence agencies. They looked at all the information and couldn’t put a credible factor on it.”

But Mr. Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly vigorously defended their decision to go public.

“We did exactly the right thing,” the police commissioner said.

The mayor’s chief spokesman said the city had been working closely with the FBI and characterized the disagreement as a dispute within the federal government.

“When different federal agencies have different interpretations of the intelligence, the mayor doesn’t have the luxury of knowing which one is right,” Ed Skyler said. “He has to make a decision that provides the maximum level of protection to the people of New York.”

A Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by the Associated Press said the attack reportedly was scheduled to take place around Oct. 9, with terrorists using timed or remote-controlled explosives hidden in briefcases, suitcases or in or under strollers.

The memo said the department had received information indicating the attack might be carried out by “a team of terrorist operatives, some of whom may travel or who may be in the New York City area.”

In Iraq, meanwhile, authorities seized a third suspect yesterday and investigated whether a fourth man had traveled to New York as part of the purported plot, according to the law-enforcement official.

The official said the man’s trip to New York was described by an informant who had spent time in Afghanistan and proved reliable in past investigations. But the official added that authorities had not confirmed whether the fourth man even exists.

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