Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked New Yorkers to be vigilant but go about their business Friday despite a credible but unconfirmed terror threat to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks involving New York or Washington.
“You can’t leave security to a handful of young men and women overseas who are fighting and giving their lives," Bloomberg said during his weekly WOR radio appearance. "We are part of it as well. We’re part of it in terms of ‘If you see something, say something.’ There a lot more civilians out there than there are law enforcement officials.”
A credible but unconfirmed threat that al-Qaida was planning to use a car bomb to target bridges or tunnels in New York City or Washington to coincide with the anniversary was the first tip of an "active plot" around that date, officials said.
Bloomberg told reporters late Thursday night that multiple sources had not confirmed the threat stream but that "we live in a world where we must take these threats credibly."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about the threat in a speech on U.S. counter-terrorism efforts at John Jay College of Criminal Justice Friday. "This should not surprise us," she said. "It's a continuing reminder of the stakes in our struggle against violent extremism, no matter who propagates, no matter where it comes from, no matter who its targets might be."
Intelligence gathered from the Osama bin Laden raid showed the al-Qaida is interested in important dates and anniversaries, such as 9/11, said Janice Fedarcyk, FBI New York field office Assistant Director in Charge. She added the intelligence community would likely get more reporting on the threat in coming days.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Thursday that the NYPD — already on heightened alert because of the approaching September 11 anniversary — would increase focus on bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure, such as landmarks and government buildings.
Personnel work shifts would be extended by four hours, increasing the size of the NYPD patrols, and transit, CT, highway and traffic bureaus by a third, he said.
There will also be an increased number of critical response vehicles and New Yorkers can expect more bag inspections on subways, more bomb dogs on patrol and towing of illegally parked cars, Kelly said.
None of the officials gave any specifics on the threat.
In a statement, Governor Andrew Cuomo told New Yorkers to be aware but cautioned against overreacting.
"All New Yorkers should be cautious and aware as we prepare to commemorate the 9/11 anniversary," he said. "However, there is no reason to panic or allow our spirit of freedom to be dampened as we get ready to celebrate the opening of the Ground Zero site this weekend."
President Barack Obama was briefed on the threat information Thursday morning and directed the counter-terrorism community to redouble its efforts in response to the credible but unconfirmed information, a White House official said.
Bloomberg said he spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about the threat, as well as MTA Executive Director Jay Walder.
"There were very, very specific facts that were made known in this threat," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told CNN. "I would tell people right now to go about their lives. There's no need to panic. We don't know if this threat is real yet. It's being tracked down."
With reporting from Daniel Tucker and the Associated Press