Thursday, January 20, 2005

Chinese Nationals Sought By FBI

BOSTON -- The FBI notified law enforcement agencies in Boston Wednesday to be on the lookout for four people described as possible terror suspects who may be headed to the city.

The four suspects have been identified as Zengrong Lin, Wen Quin Zheng, Xiujin Chen and Guozhi Lin.

Sources said that the credibility of the phone call is in question.

An uncorroborated report said that four Chinese nationals who crossed the California/Mexico border were on their way to Boston via New York carrying some sort of explosive material. So far, no threat has been corroborated.

"We have no information at this time that is confirmed by reliable sources. We have information from one single source," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said.

Nowhere in the phone call that was routed to California law enforcement officials and the FBI were the words "nuclear material" or "dirty bomb" used. According to the report, the Chinese nationals were headed to Boston with some sort of material. It was not clear to those trying to sort out the call what type of material the caller talking about.

"Public safety is our first priority. When it comes to public safety, we have always erred on the side of caution," Menino said.

Menino said that he urged public agencies to remain on standby, but encouraged residents to go about their business.

The mayor said that he was first notified about a possible problem at about 10:30 a.m. and he immediately met with his security advisor. Officials have been meeting at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker in Framingham since about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The FBI said it receives these types of calls often and takes precautionary steps when it gets them.

"Basically, what you have here is information that we often get. It's uncorroborated at this time," said FBI Spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz in a statement. "It's been passed on to our law enforcement partners and we're working it aggressively."

"It is important to keep this in context. The situation happens often. It is not uncommon to receive information like this. I can't tell you the information that I get that comes across my desk relative to this region or other regions of the country. It is handled by law enforcement and it is followed up by law enforcement to determine whether or not it is real or whether there is anything to it," Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said.

In a joint statement with FBI Special Agent Kenneth W. Kaiser, U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said the individuals' names do not appear on any terror watch lists.

Gov. Mitt Romney, who traveled to Washington, D.C., for President George W. Bush's inauguration, will return to the state Wednesday night.

"The nature of the threat that has been provided is an uncorroborated, unsubstantiated threat. The source is anonymous, but it is specific in that it mentions a location where individuals will be dropped off -- that location is New York, and it defines a location where missing a threat might be directed, and the location is Boston," Romney said before he left Washington.

The terror threat level in Boston has not been raised.

Meanwhile, a Boston-based criminologist said that it's better that the public has been alerted -- especially when a manhunt is already under way.

"The fact that we're looking for four individuals and we have photographs and names seems to indicate just a little bit more than a public leak," terrorism expert Edith Flynn said.

Flynn said that it's too soon to pass off the possible threat as bogus, especially when you consider the timing -- the eve of the president's inauguration and the reaction of state officials.

"When you put these bits and pieces together -- the MEMA organization, the mayor putting together a news conference on short notice, the governor coming back from D.C., this is why I personally wouldn't discredit what's going on out there," Flynn said.

Boston is better prepared for a crisis than most cities thanks to extensive planning and training for last summer's Democratic National Convention. But Flynn said that's no excuse not to be personally vigilant.

"I don't think we can provide total security in Boston for any and all circumstances," she said.

Anyone with information about the threat or the four suspects is asked to call the FBI at 617-742-5533
|
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?