WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House has called an urgent multi-agency meeting for Thursday to discuss a potential new al Qaeda threat on U.S. soil, ABC News reported on Tuesday.
Top intelligence and law enforcement officials have been told to meet in the White House Situation Room to report on steps to minimize or counter the threat and what steps are being taken to tighten security at government buildings, ABC said.
The meeting would be one of a number convened in light of new intelligence and information learned from the recent failed car bomb attempts in London, ABC reported, citing a senior U.S. administration official.
The unnamed official told ABC the level of concern of a new attack in the United States was now higher than it had been in some time.
A White House spokeswoman confirmed that after the attempted attacks in the United Kingdom, the U.S. government convened meetings to discuss the situation but added there was no credible evidence of an imminent threat.
“Counter-terrorism officials regularly meet, that is not unusual. We are taking all threats seriously and working to ensure we can keep the terrorists from striking at innocent people,” White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said in an e-mail.
Law enforcement officials said the botched bombings in London provided clues about possible tactics, ABC reported.
Two car bombs were found in London and a fuel-packed jeep was rammed into Glasgow Airport in Scotland two weeks ago. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said both plots were associated with al Qaeda.
ABC News cited senior U.S. intelligence officials as saying that new information suggests a small al Qaeda cell was on its way to the United States or may already be in the country.
Separately, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board his “gut feeling” is that the United States faces an increased risk of attack this summer.
Chertoff said his assessment was based on past patterns of terrorists in Europe, intelligence he did not disclose and recent al Qaeda statements, the Tribune reported.
“Summertime seems to be appealing to them. ... We worry that they are rebuilding their activities,” Chertoff told the newspaper.
Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has spoken out regularly in audio-taped messages in recent months. In the latest recording, posted on the Internet on Tuesday, the Egyptian cleric threatened more attacks on Britain.