As the holiday season approaches, recent intelligence has counterterrorism officials increasingly concerned about a possible attack against soft targets, such as shopping malls.
“As recently as two weeks ago, the intelligence community was telling the Homeland Security Department that this felt a lot like the summer of 2001,” said Roger Cressey, a former counterterrorism official with the National Security Council. “[We’re] seeing lots of data, lots of information coming together that paints a very disturbing picture.”
Lacking specifics, Homeland Security officials say that there is no plan to raise the national threat level unless they receive more concrete information.
It is far from certain, but if the al Qaeda terrorist network does hit the United States, some officials continue to expect the attack will be much bigger than recent strikes overseas.
“The terror movement will always reserve the biggest and the most spectacular attacks for the U.S. and for U.S. interests,” said M.J. Gohel of the Asia-Pacific Institute in London.
At least one senior U.S. official stressed there is usually increased threat information including Web site activity before and during several key holidays. The problem is separating the legitimate intelligence from the rest.
There were several warnings of possible attacks in the U.S. in October, but those never panned out. Also, officials say the terror movement is more scattered and harder to track.
“Each of these groups are autonomous with their own leadership, with their own funding, their own personnel,” Gohel said. “And they have their own plots, as it were. But they’re all bonded together by a common ideology.”
Also, an al Qaeda video # which appeared this week on a Web site affiliated with the terrorist network # shows the two planes hitting the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, that sources in Washington said was videotaped from an angle they had not seen before.
According to CNN’s translation of the tape, the video is a tribute to Abdul Ilah, identified as “one of the fighters of jihad” who was killed by Saudi special forces on Nov. 26 in his Saudi hometown of Hay al-Suaydi.
FBI officials only said they were aware of the video. It is not clear how al Qaeda obtained the Sept. 11 video.
The speaker on the video says Ilah fought against U.S. forces and their “collaborators” in Kandahar, Afghanistan, before heading to neighboring Pakistan.
Ilah was taken prisoner by U.S. “secret police” in an unidentified Arab country, according to the narrator.
“What was his crime? That he fought against the Christians,” the speaker said.
The video shows al Qaeda training camps inside the Saudi kingdom, while praising Ilah’s actions.