Obama administration not taking any chance

Osama bin Laden may be dead but, like Banquo's ghost in Macbeth, the decade-long fear-pandemic that he unleashed on the United States has come back to haunt the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Citing specific and “credible although unconfirmed” intelligence received from an informant by the U.S.' main spy agency, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to justify going public with the news on the eve of the anniversary. “We took it seriously. There's also an advantage; by making it public you enlist literally millions of people to be your eyes and your ears.”

Recalling that the attempted attack by Faisal Shahzad, the so-called Times Square bomber, was foiled because “a food vendor saw something suspicious,” Ms. Clinton said she hoped the American public would “be part of ... [a] network of vigilance, where it's not just our law enforcement who are on the tip of the spear.”

Responding to news of the tipoff that two U.S. citizens, possibly of Arab descent, had travelled from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and reached the U.S. last week, senior intelligence officials were quoted as saying that “The ‘chatter' indicated plans to attack Washington DC and New York City on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.”

Since that time the two major East Coast cities have been swamped by patrols of bomb-sniffing dogs in the subway system and vehicle searches by police — all aimed at discovering clues to a possible “vehicle-borne” attack.

Some media reports, quoting intelligence officials, said the informant had approached the CIA with information that the men dispatched to carry out the attacks were following orders from al-Qaeda's new boss, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and that possibly two of the three individuals had U.S. documentation.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, however, suggested that the information on the possible attack this weekend might have been the result of a four-month investigation led by John Brennan, President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser.

Commenting on Mr. Obama's response to the perceived threat, he told journalists that Mr. Obama had asked “the whole team [to] redouble its efforts to follow all the information we get, all the threat information we get, and to take all the necessary precautions.”