FBI issues terrorism alert to American corporations

WASHINGTON — The FBI has warned security personnel at major U.S. corporations to be on alert for terrorism attacks in the United States.

The move comes in response to recent threats by the Islamic militant group Hamas to attack Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide.

Hamas has accused Israel of murdering Hamas bomb-maker Mohiyedine Sharif. Israel has denied any role, and the Palestinian Authority has blamed the killing on rival Hamas factions.

It is unclear why the alert, issued Saturday and not made public, was sent to U.S. corporations rather than other organizations.

Although Jewish organizations did not receive the advisory, officials at several leading organizations said they had been in contact with government security agencies about the threats.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said an assessment was made not to place Jewish organizations on a high level of alert.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said, "We were made aware of the alert."

The FBI said in the advisory that it was "unaware of any specific threats" related to Hamas.

Foxman said the communication was part of the FBI's efforts to "expand their circle of alertness."

But terrorism expert Steven Emerson said the warning was far from routine. "They would not send out a letter like this if there was not concern," Emerson said.

The advisory that the FBI National Security Division issued was intended for corporate security professionals who asked to receive national security advisories.

The advisory, which the FBI did not wish distributed to the media, was obtained by JTA. It states:

"To date, Hamas has not conducted a terrorist act outside of Israel, the Gaza Strip, or the West Bank."

However, it continues, "FBI investigations have revealed the presence of Hamas members and sympathizers in the United States.

"Although the FBI is unaware of any specific threats in connection with this threat, Hamas' belief that the Israeli government was responsible for the death of Al-Sharif may heighten the potential for retaliation by groups or sympathizers here in the United States."

Emerson said the advisory "indicates that not only has Hamas escalated its threats but that Hamas is in active contact with its infrastructure in the U.S."