Newsday: NYPD not easing up on safety precautions

Newsday – by Keith Herbert and Matthew Chayes

The ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 may be over, but NYPD officials said Sunday there was no change in the security precautions enacted in the wake of a tip about a possible terror plot.

The police department ratcheted up security last week in various ways, including increasing patrols and establishing vehicle checkpoints, after counterterrorism officials revealed an unconfirmed but "credible threat" that al-Qaida may have sent up to three men to the United States on a mission to detonate a car bomb in New York City or Washington, D.C., on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

A police spokesman said yesterday that the department won't announce when the separate checkpoints will stop.

John Brennan, President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser, said the terrorism threats remained "specific and credible" in appearances on two Sunday morning talk shows.

The threat was "not confirmed, but the president wants to make sure that we leave no stone unturned," he said.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that federal investigators were unable to develop any new information about a suspect or suspects who might be planning an attack.

"From all accounts, nothing has been found," King said.

Still, the terrorism threat will remain a top priority for counterterrorism officials, he said. "It's not over yet. It could be another day of actively tracking this down. We have to take everything seriously."

In the hours before Sunday's anniversary event at the World Trade Center site, police created a frozen zone around lower Manhattan and the financial district. A large police presence was noticeable throughout the city, said Derek Williams, of Utah, who was in New York for the Sept. 11 anniversary services.

"It's quite impressive," Williams said.

But even as extra police and National Guard soldiers manned Manhattan's train stations and rail centers, federal government officials acknowledged yesterday that they have found no evidence that al-Qaida has succeeded in getting any terrorists into the country for an attack.

At Penn Station Sunday, soldiers with automatic weapons lined the terminal and city police set up several areas where they checked bags. State police and a number of firefighters wearing their dress uniforms were also at the station.

Richard Meir, a tourist from Germany, left Penn Station for sightseeing in Harlem. He noticed the large police presence but said he wasn't surprised, adding "you have to be well-prepared."

Meanwhile, two Chevy vans belonging to WTC contractor Tully Construction that were stolen on Sept. 1 and 2 were recovered Saturday and yesterday at 5:30 p.m., an NYPD official said. There's no evidence to suggest that the thefts were related to the current terrorist threat, the official said.