WASHINGTON - Two federal anti-terrorism employees have had their security clearances yanked in an investigation into whether they sent e-mails that tipped off friends and family about possible attacks on the New York City subway system, officials said Tuesday.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and about a dozen members of the House Homeland Security committee met privately with NYPD officials to discuss the conflicting signals around a public warning of a threat to the subway system earlier this month.
City officials announced Oct. 6 that that they had ramped up security in the transit network after an overseas informant offered a detailed description of an imminent plot to bomb the system.
Department of Homeland Security officials publicly cast doubt on the credibility of the information, but later began investigating how some federal workers apparently tipped off their own relatives and friends to the threat three days before the public announcement.
"What purpose could have been served by publicly questioning the decision of a local police department, especially one which has an outstanding track record?" said King.
King said it was clear that the NYPD and the FBI were working on the same page while DHS was not.
"It raises very real questions as to why DHS is discounting something at the same time some are sending out private e-mails warning people, and the fact that DHS was still not really a major player in the process," said King.
Lawmakers plan to question DHS intelligence officials tomorrow.
After the New York Daily News published excerpts of some of the e-mails, a Coast Guard employee came forward Friday evening and indicated he may have been involved, said Coast Guard spokesman Jeff Carter.
"The employee's security clearance access was immediately suspended and the Coast Guard is cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security with its ongoing investigation," said Carter, who did not identify the individual.
Federal officials familiar with the DHS probe, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the government has suspended the security clearance of another employee while he is probed over a private warning e-mail.
Officials said that employee was William Ross, a former Coast Guard captain who now works for the Transportation Security Administration. A TSA spokesman referred questions to DHS, which declined to comment, saying the investigation continues.
The e-mails began circulating Oct. 3 - three days before Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced they were putting thousands of extra officers on patrol in the subways in response to the possible plot to bomb the subway using briefcases or baby strollers packed with explosives.