While motorists and pedestrians grumbled about terror-check gridlock in New York and Washington, the government is no closer to understanding some important details about possible plots against American financial institutions, intelligence and law enforcement officials acknowledged to the Associated Press. Investigators are poring over the trove of documents and photographs that led to this week’s urgent warnings from the Homeland Security Department. But intelligence agencies have been unable to reach a consensus on whether the unusually detailed documents recovered in Pakistan reflect a defunct terror plot or one that might have been successfully interrupted.
Some of the information seized about the surveillance of five financial buildings in New York, Washington and Newark, N.J., was as much as four years old. But the Bush administration maintains it was essential to alert the public as soon as it was found because al-Qaida planning sometimes precedes actual attacks by as much as five years. The administration denied any suggestion that raising the terror alert in New York and Washington so quickly after the Democratic convention was politically motivated. “We don’t do politics in the Department of Homeland Security,” Ridge said.