Less than 24 hours after a failed car bombing in New York City, U.S. officials are reportedly bracing for similar attempts at east coast airports, CNN is reporting.
The Transportation Security Administration on Sunday ramped up security screening at airports along the East Coast after an attempted car bombing a day earlier in New York's Times Square, a Department of Homeland Security official said.
The official told CNN the TSA has begun operations to counter potential car bombs, or "vehicle-born improvised explosive devices," as well as taking measures to prevent other kinds of terrorist acts that might occur in crowded public spaces.
The TSA also is coordinating with Customs and Border Protection to facilitate additional secondary passenger screening on both domestic and international flights, the official said.
Officials in Washington participated in a call with top TSA officials at airports in New York, Boston and Philadelphia to talk about partnering with Customs to identify flights that might need more random screening, the official said.
Meanwhile, New York police officials say the vehicle involved in Saturday night's attempted bombing was carrying gas containers, propane tanks and "non-explosive grade" fertilizer. Bomb experts say the fertilizer would not have detonated, but the gas and propane had the potential to split the vehicle in two, produce a "significant fireball," and inflict human casualties.
The NYPD is also trying to downplay claims that the Pakistani Taliban may have been involved in the attempted bombing. As WNYW-TV reports:
New York City's police commissioner says there's no evidence of a Taliban link to a failed bomb found in an SUV parked in Times Square but said he couldn't rule them out.
According to Fox News, in a 1 minute video allegedly released by the Pakistani Taliban, the group says the attack is revenge for the death of its leader Baitullah Mehsud and the recent killings of the top leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq.
Images of the slain militants are shown as an unidentified voice recites the message. English subtitles are at the bottom of the screen.
According to the AP, an unidentified speaker on the tape also says the attack comes in response to American "interference and terrorism in Muslim Countries, especially in Pakistan."
The claim could not be immediately confirmed and the tape makes no specific reference to the attack nor does it mention that it was a car bomb or that it took place in New York City.
While New York mayor Michael Bloomberg described the bombing attempt as "amatuerish," the failed effort prompted a massive response by local police, state and federal authorities. Earlier this evening, authorities were attempting to contact the owner of the Nissan Pathfinder that contained the bomb. Sources told CNN the vehicle is registered to someone who lives in the Tri-State area. No further details on the vehicle's owner were immediately available.
A retired federal law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the current investigation as a "scramble." Not only are authorities trying to find the culprits behind the failed Times Square bombing, he told In From the Cold, they're also attempting to gauge the scope of the bomb plot. The former official said tonight's conference call involving senior TSA officials suggests that claims of additional attacks "may have some credibility."
However, the source was also skeptical about involvement of the Pakistani Taliban, noting the group has extensive experience in building car bombs and other types of IEDs. "It's hard to believe they would botch a bombing at one of the most lucrative targets in the U.S." he said. On the other hand, the official said the chances of failure would increase if the group was using less experienced operatives, recruited inside the U.S.
The former official also drew parallels between last night's attempted bombing and the recent Fort Hood shooting. "They clearly know who the car is registered to," he said, "but they won't release the name." Same tactic we saw after Fort Hood, where the shooter's name and ethnicity were withheld for several hours after the attack. According to the source, the current information blackout "suggests" the potential suspect or suspects have Middle Eastern ties.
We should learn the accuracy of that prediction by tomorrow.