Friday, July 07, 2006

Holland Tunnel Bomb Plot Disrupted

The FBI has uncovered what officials consider a serious plot by jihadists to bomb the Holland Tunnel in hopes of causing a torrent of water to deluge lower Manhattan, the Daily News has learned.

The terrorists sought to drown the Financial District as New Orleans was by Hurricane Katrina, sources said. They also wanted to attack subways and other tunnels.

Counterterrorism officials are alarmed by the "lone wolf" terror plot because they allegedly got a pledge of financial and tactical support from Jordanian associates of top terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi before he was killed in Iraq, a counterterrorism source told The News.

It's not clear, however, if any cash or assistance was delivered.

The News has learned that at the request of U.S. officials, authorities in Beirut arrested one of the alleged conspirators, identified as Amir Andalousli, in recent months. Agents were scrambling yesterday to try to nab other suspects, sources said.

Some folks, like Ron Kuby are latching on to the fact that such a terror plot could not result in the kind of harm that the terrorists imagined - it is simply impossible for the flooding of the Holland Tunnel to cause flooding in Lower Manhattan. This notion is simply irrelevant.

Consider the target. The Holland Tunnel, opened in 1927, is a critical part of the NYC Metro area transportation infrastructure. The destruction of the tunnel in a terrorist attack would mean the loss of life for hundreds of people, and thousands would be injured - especially if occurring during rush hour. The damage would cost billions to repair, and the local economies in both New York and New Jersey would be severely impacted.

The other piece of information that is worrisome is that the terrorists sought out not just the Holland Tunnel, but other tunnels and subways for attacks as well.

In fact, this disrupted plot mirrors the NYC landmark bomb plot attempted by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman's followers to succeed where his 1993 WTC bombers failed. That plot included targeting the UN Headquarters, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the GWB, PATH tunnels, and the Javits federal building, along with assassinations of NY Senator Al D'Amato and Egyptian President Mubarak.

The terrorists would not have to succeed in flooding Lower Manhattan in order to succeed in creating a mass casualty attack, damaging the local economy, and causing billions in damage. Downplaying such threats is a dangerous game, and the terrorists have repeatedly shown themselves willing to attack high profile targets.

CNN is reporting that their sources are informing them that the Holland Tunnel wasn't specifically named in the threat. Interesting. It will be interesting to see how the Daily News handles the news going forward. Other media outlets confirm that there was some kind of plot that US law enforcement disrupted, but the Daily News broke the story and put the Holland Tunnel out there.

The NYT also reports the terror plot discovery and that Sen. Schumer sees this as an instance where law enforcement and intel services were on the ball.

Via Wizbang, apparently the tunnel threat was actually against the PATH system, which connects Lower Manhattan with New Jersey.
Update: According to Fox News Channel, the actual terror target was the NY-NJ Path Train System. The FBI will have a briefing at 1:00pm
One PATH line runs through the WTC complex - and flooding out the tunnel could flood the WTC bathtub, but not cause damage beyond that complex. A second line runs up to Herald Square (34th St.) A map of PATH stations can be found here.

Both Mrs. Lawhawk and I take the PATH system on a regular basis. I am not amused, and am not surprised. After all, terrorists have repeatedly attacked Port Authority assets. Blowing up the tunnels carrying the PATH trains is far more difficult than blowing up the vehicle tunnels - unless they were going to somehow get into the PATH workforce and infiltrate the system that way.

So, since the PATH system has been targeted, I'll reissue my call for PATH to hasten the construction of emergency exits at Christopher Street and 9th Street, which are antique deathtraps should a mass casualty attack occur at either station - there is only a single entry point into each of those two stations. There is a proposal to build the emergency exits, but that apparently still remains in a planning stage.

Others blogging: LaShawn Barber, Confederate Yankee, Blue Crab Boulevard, Gateway Pundit, LGF, Meryl Yourish.

Still others blogging: Hot Air - who provides a link to the Fox News story.

Fox News also reports that while there are no direct al Qaeda links, there were some financial links between associates of Zarqawi and those involved in the plot here.
U.S. officials are not confirming any Al Qaeda link, although the New York Daily News, which reported that the attack was to focus on the Holland Tunnel, said the would-be terrorists allegedly had a pledge of financial and tactical support from Jordanian associates of top terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi before he was killed in Iraq.
Wouldn't it be nice to know whether we could trace those terrorists' financial dealings around the world?AJ Strata speculates whether the NYT leak of the SWIFT program jeopardized the investigation into this plot. I'd wager that it did. So does the American Spectator. These terrorists need money to make their attacks happen, and if the SWIFT program was compromised, those terrorists just got a break - courtesy of the NYT.

CNN's latest version of their story provides that a Lebanese official notes that the Holland Tunnel and a bridge were targeted by the jihadis.

Ranting Profs' Cori Dauber notes that Peter King claims to have known of this investigation for months but couldn't use it to prod the feds for more DHS funding for counter terror programs. Well, there's a good reason to keep quiet about such things - so to make sure that we can nab every one of the terrorists involved in the plot, but thanks to the NYT, that appears to have been short circuited.

Others blogging: Expose the Left, Stop the ACLU, Below the Beltway, and Outside the Beltway.

Once again, this whole story revolves around leaks of information about the ongoing war effort. Was this leaked in response to the fact that one of the surveillance measures - the SWIFT program - was outed by the NYT, and the continuing investigation was thwarted? Good question. No clear answers.

What we do know is that one Amir al-Andalousi was arrested by Lebanese authorities for plotting a terror attack in NYC. He has links to Zarqawi and al Qaeda.

Flopping Aces notes with some irony the fact that Schumer has suddenly realized the benefit of listening in on terrorist communications and infiltrating terrorist hangouts online. Also, he notes that the FBI pretty much directly links this plot to al Qaeda.

Also blogging: Blogs for War, Vital Perspective, Hugh Hewitt, Rob Port, and The Real Ugly American.

Point Five adds a bit of levity to the matter.

Seems that some folks are still not quite getting it. Glenn Greenwald, that would be you. You, and the other like minded folks you run with, think that the fact that the FBI uncovered a plot to blow up PATH, subways, and tunnels around NYC in its infancy isn't quite the threat that the right side of the 'sphere is making it out to be. Sorry, but that's a serious misreading of history. And that's not getting into the little spat between you and Charles for misreading his post.

The 1993 WTC bombers didn't just seek to blow up the WTC killing thousands. Their spiritual leader, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman exhorted his minions to jihad and to destroy NYC area landmarks. It was on the discovery of that plot that Rahman and others were arrested - and Rahman is serving life in prison for the conspiracy to plan and commit those attacks. Even his lawyer, Lynne Stewart, is going to be doing hard time, because she was passing secrets between Rahman and his followers in violation of a gag order.

Today's bomb plot mirrors the NYC landmarks attacks - which is what I noted in my initial posting. And this attack planning mirrors the 9/11 attacks in many ways, including using as many as 20 suicide bombers to blow up in and around the system.
The specific target was the PATH commuter trains that run in a tunnel under the Hudson River into New York City.

“This is a plot that would have involved martyrdom, explosives and certain of the tubes that connect New Jersey with lower Manhattan,” said Mark Mershon, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI New York Field Office. “We’re not discussing the modality behind, beyond that.”

But law enforcement officials say the plotters had already accessed detailed blueprints and drawings of the PATH tunnels, available on the internet.

And like the London bombers, the plan was to load backpacks with explosives.

All 15 to 20 bombers were to board one car and detonate when the train was under the river, according to officials.

“There’s no question that they are vulnerable. With the right amount of explosives, the tunnel could be compromised,” said Gerry Hauer, former Director of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management and now an ABC News consultant.
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