- Associated Press - Saturday, September 10, 2011

Reports of suspicious activity and vehicles in the nation’s capital are up 60 percent in the wake of a report of a new terror threat, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Saturday, and police are checking every tip.

Government officials say al Qaeda may have sent American terrorists or men carrying U.S. travel documents to launch an attack on Washington or New York to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9/11. One U.S. official says al Qaeda dispatched three men, at least two of whom could be U.S. citizens, to detonate a car bomb or, failing that, cause as much destruction as possible. But U.S. intelligence officials say they have no evidence there is anyone inside the United States tied to the plot.

James McJunkin, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s field office in Washington, said Saturday his office was actively following the threat and investigating leads they get.

“We vet these threats routinely,” he said.

He would not talk about reports that the threat involved two Americans or people traveling with American documents, but said that American involvement can change an investigation.

“I think that the fact that an individual, if he is involved in a terror threat or terror planning, is a U.S. citizen is concerning because we don’t expect that from our citizens, but it also provides us with a little bit less visibility on people,” McJunkin said. “We don’t do surveillance on American citizens short of a criminal investigation and so we’re a little bit blind sometimes about the U.S. citizens that might be involved.”

He urged people to go about their plans and enjoy the weekend.

“Whatever you have plans for it’s a beautiful day. It’s going to be a beautiful weekend,” Mr. McJunkin said.

“It’s college football Saturday. Tomorrow is the start of the NFL season. So we expect the public is going to be out enjoying what it means to be an American.”

• Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier, Eileen Sullivan and Matt Apuzzo contributed to this report.

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