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Al Qaeda 2.0 Behind Fresh 9/11 Terror Threat?

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Sept. 9: A heavily armed Port Authority police officer stand guard next to the North Pool at the World Trade Center memorial site Friday, in New York. Just days before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. counterterrorism officials are chasing a credible but unconfirmed al-Qaida threat to use a car bomb on bridges or tunnels in New York City or Washington. (AP)

With visible security on subways in Washington D.C. and throughout New York City, officials are taking seriously a joint FBI Homeland Security Intelligence Bulletin, first obtained by Fox News, that states the timing and method of a potential terror plot around the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.

"Al Qaeda possibly planned to carry out attacks...including a possible car bomb attack..."

In New York, for events marking the murder of nearly three thousand Americans a decade ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the intelligence -- even though it came from a single source -- could not be ignored.

“We are taking this threat seriously. Federal, state and local authorities are taking all steps to address it,” she said. Clinton also justified putting single source threat information out there, by suggesting it had a deterrent effect. 

“And of course, making it public, as was done yesterday, is intended to enlist the millions and millions of New Yorkers and Americans to be the eyes and the ears of vigilance."

With the already heavy police presence, investigators are seeking a handful of potential suspects, which may include American citizens or legal permanent residents, such as green card holders.

The bulletin emphasizes this point, that " ...such attacks may involve operatives carrying U.S. documentation."

A leading analyst and co-author of a new report by the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), called “Confronting An Uncertain Threat – the Future of Al Qaeda and Associated Movements,” said it may be another case of Al Qaeda 2.0 – the new generation of American recruits.

“What's particularly troubling is we're seeing these operatives with U.S. documentation not just doing minor tasks like surveillance, “ Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, a senior fellow at CSIS, told Fox News. “But they're taking leadership roles in some of the affiliate organizations, such as Anwar al-Awlaki in the Arabian Peninsula.”

Fox News' specials unit has reported extensively on Awlaki, the first American on the CIA’s kill or capture list, who has become an operational planner for Al Qaeda in Yemen. Fox News was first to confirm that the American-born cleric was the middle man between the underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutullab, who tried to bring down flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 and the bomb maker in Yemen.

U.S. officials confirmed the threat information came from Pakistan and from a source known to the U.S. intelligence community, but not from a telephone intercept. There are strong indicators the threat is linked to Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who took over Al Qaeda after Usama bin Laden's death in May. The Egyptian doctor has long lived in bin Laden's shadow, which may explain the push for a new attack on 9/11.

“Zawahiri has a leadership challenge," Nelson said. He has to prove that the organization of Al Qaeda is bigger than the personality of bin Laden. And he has to solidify his leadership, so obviously conducting an attack on this anniversary would go a long way to doing that."

National Correspondent Catherine Herridge's bestselling book "The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda's American Recruits" was published by Crown on June 21st. Drawing on her reporting for Fox News, it is the first book to investigate Al Qaeda 2.0 and the new generation of digital jihadists. It presents compelling evidence that the cleric, al-Awlaki, was an overlooked key player in 9/11 who double crossed the FBI.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.