In elevating the terrorist threat alert levels for the financial sectors of New York City, Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J., on Sunday, the Department of Homeland Security acted with a specificity that increases its credibility.
Prior changes in the color-coded alert system were devoid of detail, both in terms of the nature of the threats themselves, and exactly what to do about them. The previous alerts left Americans wondering how to respond, and the administration open to charges of issuing alerts for political gain.
This time around, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge noted "unusually specific" information about possible terrorist targets in those cities, including threats against named financial institutions. He even said the terrorists' "preferred method of attack [is] car or truck bombs" and called for individuals to watch out for "unusual patterns or vehicles" and to be alert for unanticipated deliveries or maintenance work.
It was a recent CIA raid in Pakistan that formed the core of the detailed information that included terrorist observations of traffic patterns, guards, cameras, and garages for the targeted buildings. The information was shared Thursday at a daily meeting of the country's intelligence and military officials, and ultimately led to the higher alert level of orange, and the enhanced security measures. …