Some in law enforcement and intelligence question the increased security.



Some in law enforcement and intelligence question the increased security.
COMBINED DISPATCHES
WASHINGTON -- Most of the Al-Qaida surveillance of five financial institutions that led to a new terror alert Sunday was conducted before the attacks Sept. 11, 2001, and authorities are not sure whether the casing of the buildings has continued since then, numerous intelligence and law enforcement officials said Monday.
More than a half-dozen government officials interviewed Monday, who declined to be identified because classified information is involved, said that most, if not all, of the information about the buildings seized by authorities in a raid in Pakistan last week was about 3 years old, and possibly older.
"There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new," said one senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the alert. "Why did we go to this level? ... I still don't know that."
One piece of information on one building, which intelligence officials would not identify, appears to have been updated in a computer file as late as January 2004, according to a senior intelligence official. But officials could not say Monday whether that piece of data was the result of active surveillance by Al-Qaida or came instead from information about the buildings that is publicly available. Several officials also said that much of the information compiled by terrorist operatives about the buildings in Washington, New York and Newark, N.J., was obtained through the Internet or other "open sources" available to the general public, including some floor plans.
Justifying added security
Many administration officials stressed Monday that even 3-year-old intelligence, when coupled with other information about Al-Qaida's plans to attack the United States, justified the massive security response in the three cities. Police and other security teams have been assigned to provide extra protection for the buildings that were under surveillance, identified as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank headquarters in Washington; the New York Stock Exchange and Citicorp building in New York; and the Prudential Financial building in Newark.
Intelligence officials said that the remarkably detailed information about the surveillance -- which included logs of pedestrian traffic and notes on the types of explosives that might work best against each target -- was evaluated in light of general intelligence reports received this summer indicating that Al-Qaida hopes to strike a U.S. target before the November presidential elections.
But the characterization of the age of the intelligence Monday cast a new light on Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's announcement Sunday that the terror threat alert for the financial services sectors in the three cities had been raised. Ridge and other officials stressed Sunday the urgency of acting on the newly obtained information, but on Monday a range of officials made clear how dated much of the intelligence was.
One senior intelligence official said the information is still being evaluated.
Measures taken
Officials sealed off some streets in New York, put financial employees in Washington through extra security checks and added concrete barricades and a heavily armed presence in Newark, N.J., in response to the terrorism alert.
Police said the restrictions would remain in effect today and would be reviewed daily.
"You realize that's the world you live in, and you deal with it," said Kenneth Polcari, a trader at the New York Stock Exchange, one of many weary workers who filtered into the Wall Street building Monday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki rang the opening bell at the stock exchange Monday to show solidarity with workers and visited the Citigroup building with first lady Laura Bush and her twin daughters in the afternoon.
Ridge, Bloomberg, Pataki and New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey were to meet today with financial executives from affected companies to discuss security concerns.
A number of other buildings were mentioned in the seized computer files, but only in vague references, so officials decided not to issue alerts about them, an intelligence official said. They included the Bank of America building in San Francisco; the Nasdaq and American Stock Exchange buildings in New York, as well as two other sites in that city; an undisclosed building in Washington and another in New Jersey.
"We chose not to release it because we decided they weren't anywhere near the same level of danger as the others," the official said.

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