Al Qaeda terrorists planned to hijacked jetliners from Honolulu International Airport and crash them into warships, nuclear submarines, and other military targets located in Pearl Harbor, according to an article in today’s Washington Times. The article, citing government officials familiar with intelligence reports issued in the last two weeks, said the reports were part of the reason the nation’s Homeland Security Threat Level was raised to orange (indicating a “high risk of terrorist attacks) on Feb. 7.
That same day, Gov. Linda Lingle had announced that Hawaii would not raise its threat level, leaving it two steps below orange, based on local intelligence and because of concerns over public anxiety and costs.
Pearl Harbor is home to 30 Navy and Coast Guard warships (including 18 nuclear submarines), five destroyers and two frigates, the Times reported. The paper quotes two unnamed defense officials, who reportedly said targets also included military refueling tankers, transports, and nearby Hickam Air Force Base.
The officials reportedly said Pearl Harbor was targeted because of its openness. The Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor killed thousands and catapulted the U.S. into World War II, and was the historical event most often compared to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington D.C.
The Times article noted: “Intelligence reports last month indicated that the Islamist terror group wants to carry out a major attack to rival the September 11 strikes on the Pentagon and World Trade Center… The major attack is suspected by the CIA to be al Qaeda’s first attack using deadly chemical, biological or radiological weapons.”
The piece also noted Saturday’s capture of senior Al Qaeda planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan. His arrest could disrupt some operations, the Times noted, but could also lead to the nation’s alert status being raised again.