Of course, many will seize on this to say that there is no real terror threat. I hope they’re right, but I still see too much evidence to the contrary. And there is no doubt that the officials who point out that years have gone by between planning and attacks are right. Remember: there were eight years between the first attempt on the WTC in 1993 and the successful one in 2001. From the New York Times, with thanks to Al-Canine:
WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 -Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.
But the officials continued to regard the information as significant and troubling because the reconnaissance already conducted has provided Al Qaeda with the knowledge necessary to carry out attacks against the sites in Manhattan, Washington and Newark. They said Al Qaeda had often struck years after its operatives began surveillance of an intended target.
Taken together with a separate, more general stream of intelligence, which indicates that Al Qaeda intends to strike in the United States this year, possibly in New York or Washington, the officials said even the dated but highly detailed evidence of surveillance was sufficient to prompt the authorities to undertake a global effort to track down the unidentified suspects involved in the surveillance operations.
“You could say that the bulk of this information is old, but we know that Al Qaeda collects, collects, collects until they’re comfortable,” said one senior government official. “Only then do they carry out an operation. And there are signs that some of this may have been updated or may be more recent.”
Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said on Monday in an interview on PBS that surveillance reports, apparently collected by Qaeda operatives had been “gathered in 2000 and 2001.” But she added that information may have been updated as recently as January.
The comments of government officials on Monday seemed softer in tone than the warning issued the day before. On Sunday, officials were circumspect in discussing when the surveillance of the financial institutions had occurred, and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge cited the quantity of intelligence from “multiple reporting streams” that he said was “alarming in both the amount and specificity of the information.”
The officials said on Monday that they were still analyzing computer records, photos, drawings and other documents, seized last month in Pakistan, which showed that Qaeda operatives had conducted extensive reconnaissance.