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A new book claims that Al Qaeda was 45 days away from attacking the NYC subway system with cyanide gas, but then, for an unknown reason, decided not to. Um, phew? The One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind is being excerpted in Time magazine this week, and yesterday, Time teased the excerpt with a "web exclusive" (Ali is an Al Qaeda operative/nformant to the U.S.; Ayeri is "Yusuf al Ayeri, "bin Laden's top operative on the Arabian peninsula"; Zawahiri is Ayman Zawahiri, Bin Laden's deputy):

Ali revealed that Ayeri had visited Ayman Zawahiri in January 2003, to inform him of a plot to attack the New York City subway system using cyanide gas. Several mubtakkars were to be placed in subway cars and other strategic locations. This was not simply a proposal; the plot was well under way. In fact, zero-hour was only 45 days away. But then, for reasons still debated by U.S. intelligence officials, Zawahiri called off the attack. "Ali did not know the precise explanation why. He just knew that Zawahiri had called them off."

Yesterday, the NYPD told the media, "We were aware of the plot and took the appropriate precautions," but didn't elaborate further. The NY Times has a quote from an official briefed at the time of the supposed threat:

"This is a simple cyanide thing, two chemicals mixed together, and it releases cyanide gas," he said. "They'd be lucky if they killed everybody on one car — you can do that with a 9-millimeter pistol." He added, "None of it has been confirmed in three years, who these guys were, whether they in fact had a weapon, or whether they were able to put together a weapon, whether that weapon has been defined and what it would cause or whether they were even in New York."

The chemicals would have been put in beer cans and the like, which makes us wonder if the MTA has heavier-duty Roomba type cleaners to sweep the subway cars. Remember when Mayor Bloomberg freaked out the city about a possible terror threat, right before mayoral debates? And do we thank Zawahiri for calling things off?

Here is Time's excerpt of The One Percent Doctrine.

Photograph of people leaving a 7 train platform by Travis Ruse