By BRIAN ROSS (@brianross) , RHONDA SCHWARTZ, RICHARD ESPOSITO, PIERRE THOMAS (@PierreTABC) , JASON RYAN (@JasonRyanABC) and MATTHEW COLE Sept. 8, 2011 (ABCNEWS.com)
U.S. authorities are scrambling to sort through information that the CIA developed in the past 24 hours indicating that at least three individuals entered the U.S. in August by air with the intent to launch a vehicle-borne attack against Washington, D.C. or New York around the anniversary of 9/11, according to intelligence officials.
One of the intelligence and law enforcement officials that ABC News spoke to said that one of the individuals may be a U.S. citizen and a second official said that possibly two of the individuals may have had U.S. documentation -- whether green cards or passports was unclear.
As news of the information became public, authorities began weighing whether to raise the national threat level.
The suspected terrorists are believed to have embarked on their journey to the U.S. from Afghanistan or Pakistan, according to two senior officials. One official said the route may have taken them through at least one other country, possibly Iran. Another news organization reported that they embarked from "the Pakistan area."
The information on the plot was "very specific " said one official, adding " It seems like the information has been worked for a while." A second and third official confirmed the specifics of the possible plot added that a declassified bulletin is expected to be issued shortly.
Multiple sources say that federal authorities will send a bulletin to law enforcement tonight. The threat, one official told ABC News, is credible. Now authorities are making every effort to confirm it and to hunt down any plotters.
Federal officials say they have a specific, credible -- although still unconfirmed -- threat involving a possible al Qaeda plot aimed for the anniversary of September llth.Initially, one of those officials added that at least two rental trucks -- one from Penske and one from Budget -- were being sought nationwide. Those trucks have since been recovered and appear to have had no connection to the plotters.
The threat information was obtained recently and originated from overseas sources -- Pakistan, according to one official.
According to a White House official, "The President was briefed on this specific threat information this morning and has been updated on it throughout the day. The United States government has already significantly enhanced its security posture in advance of the 9/11 anniversary to protect the country against possible terrorist threats. Nevertheless, the President directed the counterterrorism community to redouble its efforts in response to this credible but unconfirmed information."
In a statement, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler said, "As we know from the intelligence gathered from the Osama bin Laden raid, al Qaeda has shown an interest in important dates and anniversaries, such as 9/11. In this instance, it's accurate that there is specific, credible but unconfirmed threat information."
"As we always do before important dates like the anniversary of 9/11, we will undoubtedly get more reporting in the coming days," said Chandler. "Sometimes this reporting is credible and warrants intense focus, other times it lacks credibility and is highly unlikely to be reflective of real plots underway. Regardless, we take all threat reporting seriously, and we have taken, and will continue to take all steps necessary to mitigate any threats that arise. We continue to ask the American people to remain vigilant as we head into the weekend."