The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued an advisory this week to law enforcement officials on potential terrorist attacks in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago around Sept. 11 using fuel tanker trucks. Yesterday, the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) downplayed the credibility of the threat in a bulletin to the trucking industry and others in the highway community.
“On Tuesday August 9th the FBI issued a threat report to members of law enforcement that warned of an imminent Al Qaida plot to use fuel trucks as vehicle borne improvised explosive devices in an effort to cause mass casualties,” stated a release from Highway Watch, which is a part of the DHS involved with the highway community. “The report went on to specifically name New York, Chicago and Los Angeles as planned targets.
“DHS officials are in the process of clarifying the credibility and reliability of the report and anticipate a significant downgrade of threat as initially reported,” the statement continued. “DHS anticipates releasing an update regarding this matter in the immediate future. The DHS further states although this type of threat is always possible, it is not likely at this time. If you have been contacted in reference to this alert or have directly received the alert itself, please disregard the contents and inform members of law enforcement in your area that the FBI has reduced the threat level of their alert.”
According to Highway Watch, only one advisory was sent from DHS to the trucking community.
“The community wasn’t informed on anything except through us,” John Willard, Highway Watch spokesman told Fleet Owner. “In some states, local law enforcement agencies may have contacted trucking associations. But no official threat was ever disseminated to the trucking industry as a whole until yesterday.”
It is not DHS’s policy to warn the highway community of unconfirmed threats, Willard said. “We verify all the credibility before we send them out to our people. We’re telling people that no response is necessary because this threat has not been validated yet.”
“We’re a little confused,” Cliff Harvison, president of the National Tank Truck Carriers Assn. told Fleet Owner. “This is not to say that you typically ignore the possibility of such a scenario. The scenario that was envisioned [in the bulletin] is one that officials had always considered as a hijacking threat. But in terms of the imminence of the threat and the naming of the cities, that’s based on low credibility.
“The conclusion is that probably someone at the FBI wishes that the original report hadn’t gone out,” Harvison added.
Still, the tank truck industry continues to be prepared for the threat of a hijacking, Harvison said. “There are a number of government regulations in the books addressing this for two years. Each and every one of our members has to have their own security plans.”