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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

New York Times > New Qaeda Activity Is Said to Be Major Factor in Alert

August 4, 2004
By DOUGLAS JEHL and RICHARD W. STEVENSON
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 - Senior government officials said Tuesday that new intelligence pointing to a current threat of a terrorist attack on financial targets in New York and possibly in Washington - not just information about surveillance of specific buildings over the years - was a major factor in the decision over the weekend to raise the terrorism alert level.

The officials said the separate stream of intelligence, which they had not previously disclosed, reached the White House only late last week and was part of a flow that the officials said had prompted them to act urgently in the last few days.

The officials disclosed the information a day after the Bush administration acknowledged for the first time that much of the surveillance activity cited this weekend by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to justify the latest, specific warnings had been at least three years old. At the same time, the White House offered a vigorous defense of its decision to heighten the alert in Manhattan, Newark and Washington, with officials saying there was still good reason for alarm.

"I think it's wrong and plain irresponsible to suggest that it was based on old information,'' Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said of the heightened warning as President Bush traveled to Dallas on a campaign swing.

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