The NYPD counterterrorism command is approaching the upcoming Passover holiday with its guard up, although there are no specific threats against the city or its Jewish population, officials said Tuesday.
At a special pre-Passover briefing at police headquarters, NYPD intelligence officials told Jewish community leaders that last year's Boston bombing and other events show that people inspired by al-Qaida are capable of operating under law enforcement's radar.
Often the conspiracy is limited to the individuals involved, which makes it extra challenging for Western intelligence agencies to learn of impending attacks, said John Miller, the NYPD's deputy commissioner for intelligence.
Passover runs from April 14 to April 22 this year.
"We have no credible specific intelligence as the holiday season approaches upon us, that there isn't any specific threat to New York or this [Jewish] community," noted Miller. "That being said, no credible specific intelligence, as we learned from Boston and Times Square, doesn't mean that there isn't a threat. New York is always a target and always will be."
The latter reference by Miller was to the May 2010 attempt by Faisal Shahzad to explode an improvised car bomb in Times Square. The bomb failed to detonate, and Shahzad was captured, convicted of terrorism charges and sent to prison.
Earlier in the briefing, Rebecca U. Weiner, the NYPD's director of intelligence analysis, spelled out how jihadists have polished their media game and have been appealing to Westerners through many social media platforms, as well as magazines such as Inspire.
"Al-Qaida's message to Westerners is readily available," Weiner said.
Weiner pointed out that the NYPD will be involved in security efforts for the upcoming trial in federal court in Manhattan of Abu Hamza al-Masri, a Muslim cleric who is accused of terror activity that includes attempting to set up a training camp for militants in the United States.
"His upcoming trial is a major priority in the next few weeks," Weiner said.