Al Qaeda Plan Years Old; Believed Updated In 2004

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The surveillance files that triggered the latest terrorism alert were several years old, but had been reviewed and updated by Al Qaeda just months ago, reports the Los Angeles Times. The material corresponds with fresh intelligence that indicates the terrorism network remains intent on launching a major U.S. attack during the presidential election campaign. Despite the elaborate details about five financial institutions in New York; Newark, N.J.; and Washington that are in the files, officials have been unable to learn whether Al Qaeda had agents in this country preparing for attacks.

The disclosure of the surveillance, one FBI official said, had almost certainly scuttled any plan to attack the financial institutions anytime soon. He said Al Qaeda had a history of patiently planning attacks rather than risking that they might fail. “Now they can sit back and wait,” the official said. A senior Homeland Security official said the files disclosed elaborate surveillance of only the five buildings identified by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and cursory information on about a dozen other buildings.

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