DHS Letter States Hospitals Are Not Specific Targets of Terrorist Attack
Department of Health Services on Thursday faxed letters to 440 hospitals statewide confirming that "there is no information regarding any specific or defined" terrorist threat against state hospitals, as was reported in an FBI affidavit released Tuesday, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 6/10).
On Sunday, two men -- Hamid Hayat and his father Umer Hayat -- were arrested on charges of lying to FBI officials about alleged involvement with an al Qaeda-run training camp in Pakistan.
A seven-page FBI affidavit released Tuesday said that after failing a lie detector test, Hamid Hayat admitted to spending six months at an al Qaeda-run camp where he trained to "kill Americans." The affidavit also stated that Hamid Hayat told investigators he wanted to carry out attacks in the United States.
According to Tuesday's affidavit, "Potential targets for attack would include hospitals and large food stores."
However on Wednesday, another affidavit was released that removed that statement and other information. FBI officials on Wednesday said the agency "has no information about specific threats to hospitals or food stores."
McGregor Scott, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of California, said the Hayats "were not caught in the process of planning any attack on the United States. We did not find these guys in the middle of a plot or executing an attack" (Berthelsen et al., San Francisco Chronicle, 6/9).
Attorneys for the Hayats said they will use Tuesday's affidavit to challenge the government's terror probe in court Friday. Defense attorney Johnny Griffin, who represents Umer Hayat, said the government had "released information it knew it could not authenticate."
However, Department of Justice spokesperson Bryan Sierra said the information released in Tuesday's affidavit was an "unfortunate oversight due to miscommunication." Federal prosecutors said the confusion stemmed from different versions of the case being circulated between federal offices. Prosecutors submitted Wednesday's affidavit for the trial.
Another federal officer said the information about possible attacks on hospitals or grocery stores was deleted from Wednesday's affidavit because of concerns that the information might "panic the public" (Tempest/Krikorian, Los Angeles Times, 6/10).
DHS' letter also lists "suggested protective measures" to enhance security, many of which have become standard procedure after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
California hospitals also were sent a homeland security bulletin on Thursday reminding them of security measures and precautions to prevent terrorist attacks. The bulletin states that no "specific and credible threat exists of an al Qaeda-associated terrorist attack against hospital facilities." However, the bulletin also states that "U.S. hospitals offer easy public access and would be recognized by terrorist planners as easy, accessible targets" (Sacramento Bee, 6/10).