Counterterrorism officials told The Post last night that new terrorist "chatter," picked up from intercepted phone calls and Internet chat rooms, indicates Islamic fanatics have Wall Street and other financial institutions in their cross hairs as part of a second terror attack inside America.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (search) and other Bush administration officials issued a high-profile warning last week. They said new intelligence information indicated that Osama bin Laden and his top deputies are personally involved in planning an attack inside the United States that could be timed before the November election.
Ridge and U.S. officials say they are not aware of any specific plans.
But law-enforcement officials said a Wall Street attack has been the subject of recent inter-agency discussions between the CIA, the FBI, the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security and other law-enforcement agencies.
Security has been dramatically increased around the New York Stock Exchange and other high-profile financial institutions around the country since the 9/11 attacks as bin Laden himself has made clear several times that an attack on the U.S. economy is a priority.
In an April 29 audio-taped message, someone purporting to be bin Laden said that "after the strike of the New York blessed days, thanks to God, their losses exceed a trillion dollars. Their budgets have been in deficits for the third year in a row."
Terrorism expert Rita Katz said in recent months she has seen an increase in literature on Web sites used by extremists from Al Qaeda leaders urging talking about the need to hit economic targets.
In one message, monitored and translated by Katz's Washington-based organization, the SITE Institute, Al Qaeda leaders gave supporters "practical examples" of what kinds of targets to hit.
They include international corporations and "experts on the economy."
"The goals of hitting these targets are to create a disruption in the stability required for moving the economic sector towards progression," the Al Qaeda message said.
"As a result of the blessed strikes in Madrid, for instance, the entire European economy suffered," it added.