Authorities have disrupted planning by foreign terrorists for an attack on New York City tunnels, two law enforcement officials said Friday.
FBI agents monitoring Internet chat rooms used by extremists learned in recent months of the plot to strike a blow at the city's economy by destroying vital transportation networks, one official said.
Lebanese authorities, acting on a U.S. request, have arrested one of the alleged plotters, identified as Amir Andalousli, the other official said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. A senior Lebanese security official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Andalousli's real name is Assem Hammoud and that the arrest came a month ago.
Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer said, "This is one instance where intelligence was on top of its game and discovered the plot when it was just in the talking phase."
The planning for the tunnel attacks was first reported by the New York Daily News in its Friday editions, the first anniversary of the attacks on the London transportation system that killed 52 people.
The planning was not far along, one U.S. official said, but authorities "take aspirations of that sort seriously."
"At this time we have no indication of any imminent threat to the New York transportation system, or anywhere else in the U.S.," Richard Kolko, Washington-based FBI special agent, said in a statement to Associated Press Radio.
Last month, authorities announced the arrests of seven men in Miami and Atlanta in the early stages of a plot to blow up the Sears Tower and other buildings in the United States. That plan was described by deputy FBI director John Pistole at the time as aspirational, rather than operational.
Republican Rep. Peter King said that federal law enforcement and New York police have been monitoring a plot to attack New York's mass transit system for at least eight months.
"There was nothing imminent, but it was being monitored for long period of time," said King, who said he has received regular intelligence briefings on the alleged plot as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
King said he had been unable to publicly disclose the plot because to do so would risk the investigation.
"This is ongoing, that's why I've said nothing about it until now," King said. "It would have been better if this had not been disclosed."
The Daily News reported that the plotters wanted to blow up the Holland Tunnel, the southernmost link between Manhattan and New Jersey, in the hopes of flooding New York's financial district. The desired effect would be akin to the flooding that ravaged New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the newspaper said.
A government official with knowledge of the investigation said while the alleged plot did focus on New York's transportation system, it did not target the Holland Tunnel. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing, would give no further details about the intended targets.
It is unlikely that any plan to flood the financial district would work because it is above the level of the Hudson River.