THANKS FOR NOTHING: Big Apple kept Hudson in the dark about terror threat
Thanks for the warning - neighbors.
That's the feeling from local law enforcement officials who say their Big Apple colleagues across the Hudson River kept them in the dark when it came to specific threats to PATH trains that came out in July, but were circulating for months.
Several Hudson County officials said they were made aware of "general" threats to transportation in the region later last year, but were "shocked" to learn about the focus on the PATH trains that only came to light last month after newspaper reports forced New York City law enforcement officials to go public. "We were not told in advance, and, frankly, that did not make us very happy," said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio during a Freeholder meeting last month regarding the county's emergency preparedness.
Local officials said that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also learned about the details late - after New York City Police - but also did not share the information, despite the fact that Hudson has as many PATH stops as Manhattan.
The FBI and the Port Authority did not return calls seeking comment, and the New York Police Department offered a "no comment" on the issue. The New Jersey Department of Homeland Security was aware of the details, but didn't share it with Hudson County officials because the threats were thwarted and no longer posed a risk, said spokesman Roger Shatzkin. "We do things on a need-to-know basis," he said.
Eight suspects, including an al-Qaida loyalist arrested in Lebanon, had hoped to pull off the attack on the PATH train in October or November, according to published reports.
New York City law enforcement officials and the FBI, who spearheaded the investigation, were forced to go public with the details only after published reports exposed it. "I was shocked that we didn't know on this side of the pond. Not everyone needs to know this information, but someone should have in order to be prepared," said Jack Byrne, head of the county's Office of Emergency Management.
Jersey City Police Chief Tom Comey said he learned of the threats just hours before the press conference, which is about the same time New Jersey's Department of Homeland Security learned of the threats. "Levels of communication in law enforcement can always be better," said Comey. "We have an outstanding relationship with the Port Authority, and we are in the initial stages of increasing our communication with the NYPD."
New York City - described by one official as "the 800-pound gorilla" - often doesn't do a good job of communicating with its smaller neighbors, officials said. © 2006 The Jersey Journal http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/index.ssf?/base/news-1/1157438149127030.xml&coll=3
Investigators knew about PATH terror plot last year
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
In July, authorities said they defused a plot to detonate a bomb in a PATH commuter train tunnel between Jersey City and Manhattan.
Assem Hammoud, 31, a Lebanese native described as the mastermind of the scheme, was arrested in April and allegedly confessed his role and admitted his allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Two other men were detained overseas and five more, also foreign born, have been identified as suspects, agents said.
"This is a plot that would have involved martyrdom, explosives and certain of the (PATH) tubes that connect New Jersey to Lower Manhattan," said Mark Mershon, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York Division, said in announcing Hammoud's arrest July 7.
Investigators said Hammoud was planning to carry out the attacks in October or November - even though, authorities said, in July he still hadn't acquired explosives or even made travel plans to the U.S.
The FBI reportedly learned about the plot last year by monitoring Internet chat rooms, and had been watching Hammoud ever since. They disclosed the investigation after news reports of his arrest in Lebanon.
After learning of the plot, the FBI reportedly alerted the New York City and Port Authority police departments, which each increased the number of officers on PATH trains. The FBI also alerted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, New Jersey officials, and security agencies in at least six foreign countries.
However, Jersey City and Hudson County authorities said they didn't know about the investigation until the press conference announcing Hammoud's arrest.
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