FBI downplays terror threat warning for malls

By Jeff Coen
Tribune staff reporter

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — FBI officials said there is no credible or specific warning that Los Angeles is under threat of terrorism activity over the holiday shopping season after the bureau today circulated a notice on shopping malls being targeted.

The FBI communication to law enforcement agencies indicated Al Qaeda could be planning attacks on U.S. shopping malls over the holidays, including those in Los Angeles and Chicago. The communication did not mention specific malls.

Officials noted that similar warnings have been circulated around the holidays in recent years. After the communication was sent today, officials said there was no information that the threat was credible.

"This document was intended for law enforcement and intelligence community partners for situational awareness," the FBI said in a statement. "In the post-9/11 era, sharing information is our top priority. Al-Qa'ida messaging has clearly stated they intend to attack the U.S. or its interests; however, there is no information to state this is a credible threat. We remind people to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity to authorities."

In Chicago, FBI spokeswoman Cynthia Yates said the public should simply remain aware. The threat "was based on uncorroborated information," she said.

FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko, the bureau's spokesman in Washington, noted that portions of the intelligence information report had appeared in the media.

"Out of abundance of caution, and for any number of other reasons, raw intelligence is regularly shared within the intelligence and law enforcement communities—even when the value of the information is unknown," Kolko said in a statement.

Copyright 2007 The Chicago Tribune

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