Source: New York Times
Abstract: A man who falsely claimed to have a bomb in his bag prompted the authorities to evacuate Pennsylvania Station for more than an hour yesterday, causing delays for travelers across the Northeast and punctuating a tiresome week of increased security in New York City's subway stations.
During a dispute with an Amtrak ticket agent, the man, whom the police identified as Raul Claudio, 43, of the Bronx, placed a bag on a ticket counter and said a bomb was inside, the police said. The threat was unsubstantiated, but caused personnel including National Guardsmen in military fatigues to clear the station just after noon.
"When we were in line, he said he had a bomb in the bag," said a woman who had accompanied Mr. Claudio to the station who would identify herself only as Milagros, 46. She said that Mr. Claudio, who was pulling a suitcase on wheels, had become upset when the ticket agent could not retrieve his reservation.
Mr. Claudio has had repeated run-ins with the law, including convictions for at least two drug offenses, according to Barbara Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office. He was at Penn Station intending to travel to a drug treatment program near Albany, his lawyer and three acquaintances said.
The city's bomb squad determined that there was no bomb in the bag, but Mr. Claudio was arrested and charged with two felonies: making a terroristic threat and falsely reporting an incident, the authorities said. Each count carries a maximum sentence of up to seven years in prison. He was held in $15,000 bail.
At his arraignment at Manhattan criminal court last night, Mr. Claudio was described by the prosecution as having a criminal history that dates back to 1979. His court-appointed lawyer, Joshua A. Benjamin, said his client, whom he described as addicted to crack cocaine, had "a colorful past."
"Mr. Claudio is a not a terrorist, not even almost a terrorist," Mr. Benjamin said, adding that only in a post-9/11 climate would Mr. Claudio's comment result in his arrest.
After the threat, officers shouted for people to evacuate, sending hundreds of luggage-toting travelers outside into the noon sun, but the commotion was met with more indifference than alarm. People clung to the periphery of Penn Station, hardly bothered by the reports of a bomb threat. For many, it was just another day in a new world of heightened vigilance.
The station was reopened at 1:24 p.m., delaying Amtrak trains between New York and Philadelphia from six minutes to slightly more than an hour, a spokeswoman said. Spokesmen for the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit said service to and from Pennsylvania Station was halted for about an hour. Eight New Jersey Transit trains were affected.
It was unclear how many travelers were affected by the delays, but the threat happened during a light travel period, said Dan Stessel, the New Jersey Transit spokesman.
"If it occurred on a weekday rush hour, the impact would have been much greater," he said.
New Jersey Transit passengers whose trains were stopped because of the evacuation were offered a free transfer at Newark to PATH trains bound for Manhattan, he said.
Though the incident yesterday proved to be only a scare, it gave many
people pause. "It doesn't make you feel safe when there is a
possibility that you could be blown up," said Joseph Davide, 22, as he
waited at the Massapequa station of the Long Island Rail Road amid
announcements that train service had been stopped. "But you can't stop
taking the train, either" (New York Times, 2005).
Title: Terror Drill Staged At Rensselaer Train Station
Date: October 2, 2005
Source: Associated Press
Abstract: The Department of Homeland Security sponsored a terror drill in the Capital Region Saturday to ensure residents will be prepared in the case of a terrorist attack. The simulated drill at the Rensselaer train station assumed there had been an explosion on an Amtrak train that wounded dozens and killed at least five.
The test was graded by Homeland Security observers who watched every move local emergency teams made. Rensselaer Police said the Department of Homeland Security will have a full assessment of the drill by next week.
Officials will work out a procedure for action based on participants responses (Associated Press, 2005).
Date: December, 2006
Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (PDF)
Abstract: How would authorities respond if San Francisco International Airport (SFO) were to be contaminated with anthrax, and how long would it take to restore the airport to full usability? An intentional bioterrorist attack at the airport could endanger the health of hundreds of people. Long-term closure of this critical transportation hub during decontamination would have disastrous effects on the regional and national economy.
Recall the events of late 2001
when letters containing anthrax spores contaminated office buildings and postal
facilities in Florida, New York City, Washington, DC, and other locations.
Although some buildings were back in full operation in less than a month,
others took many months to reopen, and one Department of State facility was
closed for three years. With that experience in mind, the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) funded a project to minimize the time a major
transportation facility would be closed following a biological attack.
Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories led the project, in partnership with SFO, to develop response and restoration protocols for such events. The group’s work culminated in January 2006 when 120 officials from local, state, and federal agencies participated in a two-day demonstration at SFO’s old international terminal to test the new procedures. Returning the international terminal and a boarding area at SFO to full operation from a large-scale terrorist incident may have taken up to two years based on other biorestoration activities and the decontamination and restoration methods that were available in 2001. Using the protocols developed by the Livermore–Sandia team reduces that time by at least 50 percent. In fact, the team estimates that the time required would actually be less than six months, depending on the level of planning in place prior to an attack.
A new DHS assignment for
Livermore is to develop protocols for responding to and cleaning up a large
outdoor area contaminated by a bioagent. Researchers already know that sunlight
will naturally degrade many biological pathogens. Also, when some bioagent
particles hit soil, they stay there, so re-aerosolization is less of a problem.
Still, planning for such an attack is new territory. Says Raber, “At this point,
no one has experience with wide-area urban decontamination.” The Laboratory is also developing a
site-specific biological restoration plan for Grand Central Station in New York
City, where Livermore’s Autonomous Pathogen Detection System has been
tested. (See S&TR, October 2004, pp. 4–5.) A major subway station
offers yet another set of challenges because it is part of a web of tunnels,
staircases, and large semi-contained areas. “We look forward to continuing our
involvement with major transportation facilities,” says Carlsen. “They are a
key to our nation’s economic vitality and the well-being of our citizens” (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 2006).
Title: Penn Station [Terror] Drill
Date: August 26, 2007
Source: Office of Emergency Management
Abstract: The New York City Office of Emergency Management conducted the Penn Station Full-Scale Exercise to test the City’s response to an explosion in Pennsylvania Station. The exercise allowed the City to evaluate agency procedures as first responders coordinated actions, made critical decisions, and applied the City’s assets to save lives and protect the public following a possible terrorist incident.
The scenario: At 12:01 a.m. a strobe light, acting the part of a fire, pulsed through the dining car of a Washington D.C. bound train in the act of boarding. Amtrak security immediately notified first response agencies to the imagined fire, explosion, and injuries. Minutes later, sirens screamed through midtown as 400 emergency responders converged on Penn Station.
The exercise: The exercise tested three distinct phases of the City’s response. In phase one, firefighters wielding axes and halligans — multi-purpose tools designed to quickly force open locked doors — rushed into Penn Station to extinguish the fire. One group evacuated mock victims while another stretched a hose from one of Penn Station’s emergency standpipes.
In the second phase, police investigators entered the blackened dining car and discovered mannequins playing the part of injured victims. One mannequin, seated in the corner and covered in soot, stood out from the rest. His plaid shirt was ripped in the center revealing a wired, tactical vest underneath. He was also missing his arms and head. Responders identified him as the bomber and swept the rest of the car for threats. A second possible bomb discovered moments later forced all personnel to evacuate to a safe distance.
The final phase of the exercise tested the City’s fatality management and evidence collection procedures. First responders from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) established a command post and collected samples from each victim to create a database. In a real mass fatality incident, OCME could identify victims by cross-referencing these DNA samples with samples contributed by friends and family of missing people.
In spite of the stop and go nature of the exercise, players established an incident command post, implemented life safety operations, created a multi-agency safety/security zone, and conducted fatality management operations faster than controllers expected.
Title: Exclusive: NY Rail Plot Details Based On 'Reliable' FBI Source
Date: November 26, 2008
Source: ABC News
Law enforcement officials tell ABCNews.com, the plot involved a "Madrid-like attack," a reference to the synchronized bombing of the commuter rail system in Spain in March 2004 that killed 191 people.
A terror suspect arrested in Pakistan by the FBI in recent days provided authorities with details of a bomb plot against the Long Island Rail Road and other information that led to series of high level intelligence and law enforcement conference calls over the past 24 hour and the issuing of a bulletin warning of an unspecified holiday attack on the New York City region's commuter rail system, ABC News has learned.
The suspect - according to some reports the arrest took place in Pakistan - recently met with Al Qaeda leaders and was able to provide authorities with significant detail as to how the plotters would have carried out an attack if their plans had gotten beyond the so-called "aspirational" stage.
Authorities had no evidence to substantiate the suspect's charges and there is no evidence of any active plot, multiple officials said.
The suspect is believed to have in the past resided in Suffolk County, Long Island. The island is a 7.5 million population peninsula that contains two boroughs of New York City - Brooklyn and Queens - as well as two suburban counties - Nassau and Suffolk, which have more than 1.4 million residents.
Federal and regional authorities are deploying additional assets throughout the North East transportation corridor today, officials said, following a 1 p.m. conference call.
Assets under consideration for including in the beefed up law enforcement presence included a new cadre of federal air marshals that will be deployed alongside Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officers in Penn Station, Grand Central Station and other locations throughout the rail corridor.
Regional and federal authorities held the first in their series of conference calls on the threat yesterday evening. Today's call members included Kip Hawley, the head of TSA, Deputy Chief Jim Waters, the New York City Police Dept. Chief in charge of the Joint NYPD-FBI Counter Terror Task force, and high level officials from the federal government.
Dept. of Homeland Security, the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, as well as representatives of New York's suburban Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau Counties, and members of various railroad police agencies.
Authorities including the New York City Police, MTA, and New York State Dept of Homeland Security said that because traditionally heavy holiday police deployments had already been anticipated, they were able to quickly move to shift deployments, increase them in some areas, and adjust their response to the preceived threat.
Following the public release of the warning by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, officials in Washington made efforts to dampen public concern.
"There is nothing concrete to suggest this plot ever went beyond the
aspirational or talking stage," said a U.S. official familiar with the
intelligence that led to the warning.
Law enforcement officials told ABCNews.com the information was based on an FBI source who has proved "reliable and knowledgeable in the past."
Officials told ABCNews.com unspecified new information in the last 48 hours led to the public warning "out of an abundance of caution."
Congressman Peter King (R-NY), the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, told the Associated Press "authorities have very real specifics as to who it is and where the conversation took place and who conducted it."
The FBI's source reportedly told agents of an al Qaeda-connected group's desire to place bombs or suicide bombers inside the first and last Long Island Rail Road commuter cars and detonate them as the train entered Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, also used by the Washington-New York-Boston Amtrak system and the New York City subway.
Senior FBI officials said their source said the group began its discussions "in late September."
The officials confirmed the nature of the plot and said that FBI agents worked through the night Monday to shape the language of a memo sent to local law enforcement.
"Transit passengers in larger metropolitan areas like New York may see an increased security presence in the coming days. This includes uniformed and plain clothed behavior detection officers, federal air marshals, canine teams, and security inspectors," said Russ Knocke, a Department of Homeland Security Spokesman. He said there were no plans to raise the current threat level.
New York City Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne said in a statement: "The New York City Police Department is aware of an unsubstantiated report indicating that Al Qaeda terrorists discussed targeting mass transit in New York City and vicinity. We have no information indicating that these discussions advanced beyond the aspirational stage, but in an abundance of caution, the NYPD has deployed additional resources in the mass transit system. It is not uncommon for the department to receive threat information and to adjust our resources accordingly."
FBI and New York counter-terrorism officials involved in assessing the threat said they hardly viewed the warning as a "routine matter."
"We are coordinating and communicating with the region's transit and security agencies to provide seamless operations during this exceptionally busy time," said Michael Balboni, the NY State Deputy Secretary for Public Safety. "This is a continuation of ongoing operations that have been in place for some time, with different patrolling mechanisms to ensure the safety of mass transit."
The FBI warning was made public on the morning of the busiest travel
day in the country. Many New York commuters leave their city jobs early
on Thanksgiving eve (ABC News, 2008).
Title: Ground Zero Emergency Drill Staged In NYC
Date: May 17, 2009
Source: CBC News
Abstract: Hundreds of emergency employees took part in a disaster drill Sunday morning at the site in lower Manhattan where the two World Trade Center towers were struck by passenger jets and destroyed nearly eight years ago.
Officials simulated a mock explosion in a commuter train tunnel linking New York City to New Jersey.
Police and fire truck sirens sounded above ground, while emergency workers kept streets in the city's financial district closed to vehicle traffic and pedestrians. Officials also suspended PATH rail service during the drill.
About 150 volunteers pretended to be victims of the explosion.
The mock emergency involved over 800 police officers, firefighters and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials.
It was the largest disaster drill since the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the twin towers, which killed more than 2,700 people (CBC News, 2011).
Title: Feds: Long Island Man Gave Al-Qaeda Info On City Subways, LIRR
Date: July 22, 2009
Source: NY Daily News
Abstract: An American man charged with giving al-Qaida information on the New York transit system and attacking a U.S. military base in Afghanistan has been a secret witness in the fight against terror both here and overseas, authorities revealed Wednesday.
His identity had been kept secret since his indictment late last year. Court papers show he pleaded guilty in January in a sealed courtroom in Brooklyn and remains in U.S. custody in New York.
Federal prosecutors refused to discuss Vinas’ background Wednesday, and no court appearances were scheduled. But a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the case, said Vinas provided critical information that led to a security alert about the New York City subway system last year.
Authorities issued an alert around Thanksgiving last year saying the FBI had received a “plausible but unsubstantiated” report that al-Qaida terrorists in late September may have discussed attacking the subway system around the holidays. The origin of that report, the official said, was Vinas.
The official described Vinas as a militant convert who was captured last year in Pakistan.
Prosecutors charged Vinas in a rocket attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan in September 2008. Court papers allege he also gave “expert advice and assistance ... on the New York transit system and Long Island Railroad.”
For five months last year, Vinas received “military-style training” from al-Qaida, according to court papers.
Also, a defense attorney in a terrorism case in Belgium said prosecutors there traveled to New York earlier this year to interview Vinas. The lawyer, Christophe Marchand, said Vinas had provided a statement against the French and Belgium defendants charged with going to Pakistan to volunteer to fight with al-Qaida.
Marchand denied his client was a terrorist or knew Vinas. “He never talked about meeting an American — never,” the lawyer said.
Vinas’ attorney, Len Kamdang, wouldn’t comment, other than requesting “the public withhold judgment in this case until all of the facts become available.”
A woman who answered a family phone number found in public records said she was the Vinas’ mother and had not seen her son since he moved out 10 years ago at age 18.
“He’s a stranger to me,” she said before hanging up without giving her name.
There was no answer at the door at a family address, a two-story home with a manicured lawn and landscaping on a cul-de-sac in Patchogue, about 55 miles east of Manhattan.
Abstract: The possibility that the New York subway system could be the next target of a terrorist attack has lead to a new acceptance of suspicious package alerts, bomb-sniffing dogs and cameras trained on commuters and passengers.
Since the terrorist attack that brought down New York’s World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, subways have been targeted for attacks multiple times. Mass transit lines in Madrid, London, Moscow and, this spring, Minsk, Belarus, have all seen attacks in the last decade, according to MyFoxNY.com.
New York Police Department officers with heavy body armor and high-powered rifles and police commanders carrying smart phone-size radiation detectors have become commonplace.
Authorities said that a serious attack on New York's 24 hour subway system, which has more than 400 stations, could cripple the city in worse ways than the 2001 attack. The system is the largest in the United States, with more than 800 miles of track. Last year, it carried more than 5.2 million passengers on an average weekday, more than double the number that pass through U.S. airports every year.
“It's really a potentially very vulnerable environment — one that you can't totally protect," William Bratton, a security firm executive who was chief of the New York City transit police, said, MyFoxNY.com reports. "That's the reality of it. It's a unique challenge."
So far, no one has pulled off such an attack in New York City, but there have been a number of scares. In 2010, a homegrown al-Qaeda operative, Najibullah Zazi, pleaded guilty to plotting a rush hour suicide attack. In 2004, the NYPD foiled a bomb plot at Manhattan’s Herald Square subway station.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelley said that the NYPD is going to extraordinary lengths to make its presence known in the subways in order to give terrorists something to think about.
The new counterterror arsenal includes more than 30 dogs trained to smell for explosives, silent alarms and motion detectors to prevent tampering with ventilation systems, and a vast number of security cameras with live feeds.Random bag searches, once challenged as a civil rights violation, are conducted tens of thousands of times every year with barely a complaint made against them, MyFoxNY.com reports. The department has also started using high-tech detection devices to screen riders for peroxides or nitrates common in homemade explosive (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: NYPD Prepares Bioattack Contingency For New Year’s Eve
Date: December 29, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: The New York Police Department will utilize biological and radiation detection devices in Times Square this year to guard against a terrorist attack on New Year’s Eve.
In addition to the detection devices, decontamination facilities will also be set up, backpacks will not be allowed, garages will be search and surveillance operations will be conducted.
“It will be a full fledged deployment of our resources,” Commissioner Ray Kelly told MyFOXNY.com. “We assume New York is the number one target and we’ve assumed that since January 2002. There are no guarantees. We are doing more than any other city to keep us safe from a terrorist attack, but there are no guarantees. We live in a dangerous world.”
The NYPD refers to its suite of protections, which also includes a massive police presence and officers scanning the crowds, as a counterterrorism overlay.
Little has been done to adjust to any terrorist threats following the recent attempted terrorist attack of a U.S. airplane in Detroit. The NYPD has said that its security plan is comprehensive and did not need to be changed.
There are no known or published biological threats against the city at this time, but the security measures that are in place are being called the most sophisticated safeguards against biological and chemical weapons since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
Hundreds of thousands of revelers are expected to take
part in Manhattan’s New Year’s Eve festivities, Times Square Alliance’s web
site estimates, making it a prime target for a biological based attack (Bio
Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: Mystery Illness At LeRoy High School Spreads To 15 Students
Date: January 26, 2012
Source: Huffington Post
Abstract: The mystery illness that hit 12 girls at LeRoy High School in upstate New York -- which was recently diagnosed by a local doctor as conversion disorder -- has now spread to more teens at the school. The New York State Health Department confirms to local NBC affiliate WGRZ that they have seen 15 cases of students exhibiting the same Tourettes-like symptoms, including one boy.
The 12 girls who were initially exhibiting strange Tourette's-like tics and uncontrollable verbal outbursts several months ago, as well as three more students, are thought to have a particular type of conversion disorder known as mass psychogenic illness, an ailment in which psychological stress is expressed physically. School officials told TODAY that environmental factors in the school building or surrounding areas are not to blame, and the cause of the outbreak remains uncertain.
To get a second opinion on their diagnosis, students may elect to travel to the National Institute of Health facilities in Bethesda, Maryland for further testing. The testing will be free of charge, and will involve a physical examination as well as possible clinical neurophysiological testing.