An official at the Department of Homeland Security tells CBS News correspondent Bob Orr that “no evidence has surfaced through intelligence to substantiate the threat” last week against the New York City subway system.
“All intelligence agencies agree there is no evidence to support the original information,” the official said.
There have published reports that the original tip was some kind of hoax. However, officials CBS News talked to will not speculate on the motives of the informant who originally passed on the threat – and they are not using the word “hoax.”
As they explain things, it’s possible the informant may have believed the information to be true or may have misconstrued something he overheard. In any case, the information just doesn’t hold up.
Meanwhile, New York police said Monday they would slowly begin scaling back security on the subways to what it was before the threat was reported last week.
“We’re going to slowly reduce our coverage to what it was pre-Oct. 6,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. He stressed that police will continue random bag searches in the subways that began in response to the bombings on the London transit system.
Officials were still investigating claims by an informant that al Qaeda operatives in Iraq were plotting to attack New York’s subways using baby strollers packed with remote-controlled explosives. The reported threat said the attacks could occur as early as last Friday.
Authorities said the interrogation of three suspects arrested by U.S. forces in Iraq has so far produced no information to corroborate a possible threat.
John Miller, an assistant FBI director and the agency’s chief spokesman, said federal authorities agreed with the New York police department’s assessment that any risk had subsided. Miller said the operation in Iraq “would have served to neutralize any threat that may or may not have existed.”
The suspects in custody in Iraq denied they planned to coordinate with operatives who were already in the city to carry out an attack, said two law enforcement officials. The men passed polygraph tests, the officials added.
“The people supposedly standing by in New York probably were never there,” one of the officials said; both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation had not been completed.
Still, city officials stood by their decision to heighten subway security, saying the initial tip had come from an informant with a reputation for reliability and was too specific to ignore.
“We did precisely the right thing,” Kelly said. “We had no choice but to respond the way we did.”