Group Keen On 9/11 Style Attacks
If recent intelligence
is correct, airliners remain a target for terrorist plotters. A top
U.S. intelligence official told Reuters that Al Qaeda has deployed
operatives to hijack planes and fly them into targets in an echo of
the Sept. 11 attacks.
The official says the terrorist group is also looking at
derailing trains possibly carrying hazardous material. Robert
Hutchings, chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which
reports to the CIA director, did not give details of the plots but
provided the most recent public outline from an intelligence
official of the Al Qaeda threat.
The network, blamed for the Sept 11, 2001, attacks that killed
3,000 people, seeks targets that would strike a blow to the U.S.
economy, Hutchings said in a Jan. 14 speech to the International
Security Management Association in Arizona, the text of which was
posted on Feb. 4 on the NIC's Web site.
"Soft targets, including the U.S. stock market, banks, major
companies, and tall buildings are a primary focus of active Al
Qaeda planning," he said. Those targets are seen as easier to hit
than U.S. government buildings and major infrastructure, which have
higher security, Hutchings said. U.S. authorities have found
several examples of Al Qaeda adjusting its tactics to circumvent
increased airline security, Hutchings said, without providing
"Although we have disrupted several airline plots, we have not
eliminated the threat to airplanes," he said. "There are still Al
Qaeda operatives who we believe have been deployed to hijack planes
and fly them into key targets." Recent flight cancellations --
particularly for British Airways -- points to some recent
intelligence filtering into the airline industry, as the United
States continues to beef up security at airports and on
U.S. authorities have succeeded in disrupting the network,
Hutchings said. "We have disrupted scores of plots at home and
abroad -- plots that were audacious in terms of the numbers of
attacks under consideration and their global scope," he said.