Terror probe targets homes in Flushing, Queensby ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO AND ZACHARY R. DOWDY
September 15, 2009
A number of Queens homes were targets in a terrorism probe just a few days after the nation commemorated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, law enforcement authorities said Monday, adding that agents conducted a raid that was part of a continuing investigation.
"The activity in Flushing earlier this morning was related to an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation," said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.
He declined to say where the raid was conducted. An apartment building in a Flushing-Murray Hill neighborhood was the center of police activity last evening, as crowds of onlookers gathered.
Authorities raided two apartment buildings blocks from each other in a working-class residential area. One is a three-story building at 41-16 Parsons Blvd., the other a six-story apartment building at 144-67 41st St.
Residents of the 41st Street apartment building said a man living there was arrested Monday morning. He returned later in the day, they said.
James Margolin, a spokesman for the FBI in New York, acknowledged that "the FBI executed search warrants in Queens in connection with an ongoing investigation."
It was also unclear whom and what the investigation was targeting. But the operation was serious enough to prompt investigators to brief members of Congress on the matter, according to The
Associated Press, citing two unnamed U.S. intelligence officials. Authorities typically brief congressional leaders regarding intelligence investigations.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was among the lawmakers briefed by FBI officials, said he couldn't discuss the case because many of the details were still classified. "There was nothing imminent, and our law enforcement officials are very good now at tracking potentially dangerous actions," Schumer said. "This was preventive."
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) was being briefed last evening.
Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell, said he could not comment on the operation.
Authorities have not found any weapons that would suggest that an attack was imminent, they said. Nevertheless, one official called the threat very real and emphasized its urgency.
Another person, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, said the raids were the result of previous law enforcement surveillance of individuals. The source added that the law enforcement action was unrelated to President Barack Obama's visit Monday to lower Manhattan.
According to the FBI's Web site, the Joint Terrorism Task Force is a collection of small cells of highly trained, locally based investigators, analysts, linguists, SWAT experts and other specialists from dozens of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Working out of 100 cities nationwide, the first Joint Terrorism Task Force was established in New York City in 1980, the Web site said.
In the neighborhood where the raid occurred, residents stood on the sidewalk watching nearly a dozen television news trucks lining the streets.
Salma Suarez, 27, a makeup artist who lives across the street from the building on 41st Street, said she found the street packed with law-enforcement vehicles and 50 to 60 FBI agents about 1:30 a.m. Monday. Residents were told by the agents to go inside because "there was a bomb threat or something," she said.
With Carl MacGowan