The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have issued their annual summer holiday "Security Awareness" Bulletin, a six-page document that notes that just last year al Qaeda had identified the July Fourth weekend as ideal for an attack, and urges vigilance, but stresses there is no "specific or credible information" that al Qaeda or its affiliates have any plans to disrupt Independence Day.
"As of February 2010, al Qaeda was contemplating large attacks in the homeland on symbolic dates and specifically identified U.S. Independence Day as a key date," the bulletin says.
"We currently have no specific credible information that any plotting targeting the homeland was developed based on this reporting and are uncertain how widely al Qaeda's interest in timing attacks for symbolic dates has been shared or accepted within the group or among its affiliates and allies," the bulletin says.
This year's bulletin comes two months after Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. While officials have no specific attack plan information, they assume that the death of bin Laden could lead lone wolves to try to increase the symbolic effect of attacks by linking them to "important U.S. holiday, including during the summer holiday season."
The report also notes that large gatherings, such as the hundreds of thousands who congregate to enjoy New York City's annual fireworks display, make "especially attractive targets during the holiday season."
"Such targets offer the opportunity to inflict mass casualties, with the added objectives of causing economic and psychological damage on the United States," the bulletin says.
But the report notes that while symbolic dates such as the Fourth of July figure in al Qaeda's aspirations, the main driver behind past attacks has overwhelmingly been operational readiness.
The report also notes that there is plenty of evidence of the terrorist aspiration to succeed in a high-profile attack inside the United States, regardless of whether it occurs on a holiday.
"Previous examples of this desire include the May 2010 attempted detonation of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in Times Square, the guilty plea in February 2010 to an al Qaeda plot to attack the New York City subway using improvised explosive devices, and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's inclusion of photos of and references to major U.S. cities in their Inspire magazine," the report says.
The intent of the bulletin -- which covers the season from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day is to encourage awareness from public and private sector partners in the security and counterterrorism sectors.
"We continue to operate under the premise that terrorists and lone offenders not yet identified by the Intelligence Community and law enforcement may be operating in the United States and could advance and execute attacks with little or no warning," the bulletin says. "We urge federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners to maintain increased vigilance for indications of preoperational and suspicious activity and to be aware that holidays or major events could influence the timing of any attacks."