By RICHARD ESPOSITO
With Iran allegedly striking out at Israeli citizens and Jewish targets around the world, Israeli and American security officials in the U.S. are on high alert. “We expect it and we are ready,” one senior Israeli official told ABC News.
Israeli officials told ABC News that the level of personal security on high-ranking Embassy officials as well as other, lower profile officials in the U.S. is at its highest in at least five years, a response to what they called “a coordinated series of attacks.” When Israeli officials travel to and from events, ABC News has observed a notable increase in the security presence.
Federal officials told ABC News that there is so far no specific intelligence of any threat to Israeli interests in the U.S. They also noted that in cities like New York and Washington, D.C., “the targets are much harder” than in countries like India, Georgia and Thailand, where Iran has allegedly attacked or attempted to attack in the past two days. But they also added that Iran can be “belligerent.”
Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University in D.C., agreed that the recent incidents in India, Georgia, Thailand and Azerbaijan have “all the hallmarks of a concerted campaign” that could extend to U.S. soil.
“The recent attack on a Saudi official in Washington shows a willingness to attack in the United States,” said Cilluffo. “This could be an indicator of a much broader campaign and it is right to take precautionary measures.”
Those measures include routine sweeps of cars, residences, and consulates around the country, as well as the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
In New York City, where fixed police posts at the Israeli consulate have been a feature for years, additional sweeps of residences and cars are being performed in conjunction with New York City Police Department Bomb Squad members and members of other specialized police units.
“The NYPD adjusts its counterterrorism posture to include information about events overseas,” said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne. “That’s why the public may have noticed increased NYPD presence in recent weeks at Israeli government facilities and synagogues, although there has been no specific threat in New York.”
In Philadelphia, police have issued awareness bulletins asking members of the patrol force to stay vigilant. That city also maintains a permanent presence at Israeli facilities.
In Los Angeles, officials said they have been watching Israeli facilities for weeks now and have stepped up their physical security and intelligence monitoring.