U.S. Intelligence Fears Al-Qaeda Plotting to Strike Wall Street

U.S. intelligence officials are informing the heads of some of the country’s most powerful financial entities that Yemeni-based al-Qaeda operatives could be plotting terrorist strikes against Wall Street banks or their top managers, NBC News reported on Tuesday (see GSN, Dec. 21, 2010).

Security sources are emphasizing the danger is not specific and that there “is no indication of a targeted assassination plot” toward any banking leaders. Officials, though, worry that foreign-based extremists have talked about targeting specific individuals.

Intelligence researchers said there is a nonspecific but increasing fear that extremists in Yemen could make another attempt at shipping hidden explosive devices or chemical and biological weapons materials to New York financial institutions. U.S. authorities think extremists operating from Yemen were responsible for the packaged bombs addressed to Chicago-based synagogues in late October. The explosive devices — hidden inside printer cartridges — were intercepted in the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom but officials think they could have been designed to detonate in midflight (see GSN, Nov. 3, 2010).

Al-Qaeda’s official magazine, “Inspire,” in its most recent issue included a mention of attempting to deploy the biological pathogen anthrax in a terror strike, officials said.

Al-Qaeda member Abu Suleiman al-Nasser in a recent blog post exhorted, “Rush my Muslim brothers to targeting financial sites and the program sites of financial institutions, stock markets and money markets.”

Law enforcement officials are advising Wall Street banking firms to improve security protocols inside and surrounding their mail departments and for the handling of packages, particularly those intended for senior firm officials.

Following the September 11 attacks, the New York Police Department significantly enhanced Wall Street security measures. Suspected extremists have been found in the past conducting surveillance of sites including the New York Stock Exchange and the Citicorp Center (Jonathan Dienst, NBC News, Feb. 1).