Thursday evening, U.S. officials released information that there is a “specific, credible but unconfirmed” terrorist threat against the United States.
American security forces believe the plot involves three individuals who are capable of using vehicles loaded with explosives to attack either Washington, DC or New York. One of the suspected terrorists, they contend, may be an American citizen. While the information is inconclusive at this time, the suspects might already be operating inside the U.S.
The intelligence was received Wednesday afternoon. Members of Congress were later briefed on Thursday. Read the full CNN report here to learn more:
A senior administration official told: "The president was briefed. He directed that the intelligence community and the administration take all necessary steps to ensure vigilance."
Earlier Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters that intelligence officials had picked up "lots of chatter" on jihadi websites and elsewhere about the impending 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks "and we're taking it all seriously," but nothing yet that warranted issuing a threat advisory.
Nonetheless, the department will be at a heightened level of readiness as the nation commemorates the anniversary, "staffing up" the Federal Air Marshals Service and other agencies, she said.
"We don't have something that would reach that standard (of a credible threat), but we still have lots of chatter out there. And we take every bit of that seriously and are tracking it down," Napolitano said. "In the intel world, there's lots of chatter, and we're taking it all seriously. And should there be something that rises to the level where I have to issue a threat advisory, we will issue a threat advisory."
A federal official told CNN's Mike Ahlers that Napolitano was aware of the threat when she made those remarks.
Napolitano said it is not uncommon to see increased chatter before major events. "We know it's an iconic day to al Qaeda, in part because of what was found at the (Osama bin Laden) compound. So we are preparing accordingly," she said.
"I don't want to give those (details) out because I don't want to tell the bad guys exactly what we're doing," Napolitano said. "But I think it's fair to say that in addition to asking citizens to be vigilant and so forth, that we have ourselves leaned forward and have made sure that we are doing all that we can from the DHS perspective."
One U.S. official told CNN that al Qaeda "has long been focused on commemorative dates for attacks, to include the anniversary of 9/11."
"U.S. counterterrorism entities have been alert for any leads, and for the first time we've received specific and credible -- but unconfirmed -- threat information linked to the 9/11 anniversary," the official said. "Any and all leads related to possible plots are of course being run to ground."
The official said the threat is based on one report. "It has a date and a few details, which makes it specific and credible," said the official, "but that doesn't mean we are going to be attacked. ... It's not necessarily true, however we know there is interest in an attack around 9/11."