10/15/07 TRENTON NJ Counterterrorism officials in New Jersey say they've quietly been cracking down on potential threats without public knowledge, taking aim at an Al Qaeda connection.
Between the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge, chemical plants, and its many ports, the Garden State has many vulnerable targets for terrorists. On Monday the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark revealed it has been cracking down on some of Osama bin Laden's associates in northern New Jersey, deporting them or disrupting their activities.
"Investigations of Al Qaeda like activities in the state are not a surprise. We know they do go on all the time," said Richard Canas, New Jersey's Homeland Security Director.
Passaic County Prosecutor James Avigiliano sits on the executive committee of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, also known as the JTTF.
"You cannot protect something 100 percent, but we are vulnerable if we didn't intercept certain things. But that's the function of the JTTF and intelligence -- to get a line on these things before they happen," Avigiliano said.
Avigiliano can't discuss any specific cases, but said federal authorities have kept a close eye on northern New Jersey.
"You know at least four of the bombers who were involved in September 11 came through and had ties in Paterson," he said.
While Homeland Security Officials stress they have no information of an imminent attack in New Jersey, however, they say protecting is the state's mass transit system is their number one priority.
"The congestion of industry within northern New Jersey, it makes us to be probably the number one risk area in the country," Canas said.
Canas said his Homeland Security office receives dozens of tips everyday and forwards them to the FBI. Counterterrorism officials add they're primarily concerned with so-called "homegrown terrorism," which mostly spreads through the Internet and at colleges.
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