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WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- More details of "credible" terror threat emerged Thursday night of individuals trying to carry out attacks on the United States using truck or car bombs, while President Barack Obama has ordered increased security.
ABC news, quoting intelligence officials, reported at least three individuals -- one believed to be a U.S. citizen -- entered the country in August in an attempt to launch a "vehicle-borne attack against Washington D.C. or New York around the anniversary of 9/11."
The suspected terrorists were believed to be coming from Afghanistan, and traveled through at least one other country, the report said.
It also said U.S. law enforcement agencies are seeking at least two rental trucks nationwide. Those trucks were missing from locations in Kansas City, Missouri. It was not immediately known whether the search was connected to the plot.
White House officials said President Obama was briefed on the matter, and he had ordered federal agencies to boost security.
Word of the threat came earlier in the evening, and authorities were investigating a "specific, credible threat" -- the first received in relation to the 9/11 anniversary.
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From another source
Washington (CNN) -- American spy networks have intercepted communications from an al Qaeda operative in Pakistan indicating plans for a terrorist strike in New York or Washington, according to a senior U.S. official.
The communications come from a source who has provided accurate information in the past, the official said, prompting intelligence officials to sift through communications from other al Qaeda cells.
No other corroborating evidence of an attack has been uncovered, the official added.
But the information indicates the plan -- thought to involve a vehicle-borne explosive device -- is meant to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
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U.S. officials rarely speak on the record about intelligence intercepts. And in the days following the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, U.S. officials indicated al Qaeda had gone to great lengths to avoid having its communications intercepted by the United States.
While the precise nature of communication intercepts is rarely discussed, U.S. officials repeatedly have indicated their comfort with sharing the results of those intercepts.
Intelligence officials also say they have picked up "chatter," or widely divergent communications, from extremists that suggest the newly tapped al Qaeda head, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is in some way involved in the current plot.
Meanwhile, heightened security was visible Friday in New York and Washington as intelligence officials worked to pin down information about the potential threat and federal and local law enforcement fanned out across both cities.
A senior U.S. official said the plot was believed to involve three individuals. It is believed to entail a vehicle bomb, but "we cannot rule out other means," the official said.
At least two of the individuals are believed to be American citizens, a U.S. government source said.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden also weighed in Friday, saying the information was at least in part gleaned from the May raid against bin Laden in Abottabad, Pakistan.
"This is the first ... credible piece of information we've gotten," Biden told NBC's "Today" show. "All hands are on deck."
It is not clear how the bin Laden raid helped authorities connect the dots to the prospect of an anniversary attack, but Biden downplayed the threat of a widely sophisticated plot involving multiple conspirators.
He said the administration's principal concern is a plot from a "lone actor, not some extremely complicated plan like it took to take down the World Trade (Center) towers or the plane in Shanksville (Pennsylvania) or the Pentagon."
He added, "It doesn't mean they couldn't happen, but it's much less likely. The lone actor is the more worrisome thing because there are fewer trails to follow, there are fewer leads to move on."
On Friday morning, police officers stopped and searched box trucks as they approached the George Washington Bridge, which links New Jersey with New York, as well as the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, the Holland Tunnel and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, connecting the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn.
Police also manned checkpoints in Midtown and downtown Manhattan, where they examined vehicles, particularly vans and trucks, for possible bombs.
New York police also are sweeping parking garages for explosives and using digital license plate readers to check for stolen vehicles, Browne said. While security would normally have been raised for the anniversary of 9/11, he added, the vehicle checkpoints were a response to the threat alert.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed state police and asked National Guardsmen to help with security in and around the city -- and at all major transportation hubs -- during the anniversary weekend.
"We already had a great security plan in place, and in an abundance of caution, we're deploying more resources," he told reporters. "We shouldn't allow this threat to diminish the importance of the 9/11 anniversary, because that would be doing just what the terrorists want us to do."
A senior U.S. administration official said Friday that it is the "origin" of the intelligence information that is causing particular concern.
The "working assumption" is that if the plot is genuine, then some people involved in it already have entered the United States, the official said. But he stressed they cannot confirm that has happened.
However, two law enforcement officials told CNN Friday evening that intelligence suggests at least one of the three individuals is already in the United States.
The officials said the intelligence is also the reason for the focus in New York on searching for car and truck bombs.
U.S. officials believe that operatives came out of the tribal Pakistan-Afghanistan border region -- a volatile semi-lawless area that is home to extremist groups -- and that they are part of al Qaeda "central," he said.
The official also noted a possibility that Pakistan-based groups such as Lashkar e-Tayyiba or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan could be involved.
And yet a separate senior law enforcement official involved in briefings about the matter told CNN his best information is that the three people had not yet entered the United States.
A senior White House official said President Barack Obama had been updated about the potential threat after his speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night, and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan briefed him again Friday.
No changes have been made to the president's schedule for Friday or the weekend.
Asadullah Khalid, Afghanistan's minister of borders and tribal affairs, said no recent intelligence suggests a possible attack on the United States.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters Thursday night that while additional police will be deployed around the city, "There's no reason for any of the rest of us to change ... our daily routines."
Another senior federal law enforcement official involved in counterterrorism efforts told CNN that authorities "aren't sure if this is or real or just chatter."
A joint intelligence bulletin issued by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday indicated other methods than a truck or car bomb could be used, including attacks with small arms, homemade explosives and poisons.
Al Qaeda probably would provide its operatives with enough autonomy to select the particular target and method of attack, the bulletin said, and an attack may involve operatives carrying U.S. documentation.
Intelligence officials believe al Qaeda "likely maintained an interest since at least February 2010 in conducting large attacks in the Homeland timed to coincide with symbolic dates, to include the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks," according to the intelligence bulletin.
Bin Laden's death and the "removal" of senior al Qaeda figures since then could add to the organization's desire to stage an attack on a symbolic date such as September 11, the bulletin said.
In Washington, local officials said the city has a robust plan in place and has been on heightened alert since September 1. "I want to urge all of our citizens ... to remain calm and let our law enforcement professionals do their job. At the same time, we ask people to remain vigilant," Mayor Vincent Gray said. "If you see something, say something."
Unattended vehicles around key infrastructure will be towed, Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.
Federal officials said they are taking the threat seriously, while trying to temper the news by saying such threats are commonplace in connection with key dates.
Rep. Peter King, R-New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said specific details were revealed to lawmakers about the threat. "Many agencies are looking at this from every possible angle," he said.
But it is not known yet if the threat is real, he said, adding, "I would tell people now to go about their lives. There's no need to panic."