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U.S. officials tell Jewish groups to be vigilant because of Iran tensions

By Carol Cratty, CNN Senior Producer
February 16, 2012 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Napolitano says there is no specific threat, but it bears watching
  • NEW: One Jewish group official says there is no call for panic
  • Officials concerned about attacks on Jewish targets because of Iran tensions

Washington (CNN) -- With tensions between Iran and the West running high, law enforcement officials are concerned Iran or its surrogates could mount attacks against Jewish targets inside the United States -- but there is no specific information that any plots are in the works, according to an intelligence bulletin obtained by CNN.

On February 8, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI sent state and local law enforcement partners a memo titled "No Specific Threat to American Jewish Community, Despite Recent World Events."

"We have no specific information that Iran or its surrogates are targeting Jewish organizations, facilities, or personnel in the United States," the intelligence document says. "Economic sanctions and the threat of military action against the Iranian nuclear program suggest tensions with Iran are likely to continue, and we remain concerned Iran would consider attacks in the United States, given last year's foiled plot to allegedly assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States."

During a budget hearing, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano was asked about the threat posed to the United States by Hezbollah, the terrorist group based in Lebanon that has close connections with Iran.

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"We are constantly monitoring their activities around the world," said Napolitano. "Right now we have no specific or credible threat against any organization or target in the United States, but this is certainly a situation that bears watching."

Napolitano had a 45-minute conference call with Jewish groups on the same day the bulletin was issued, according to Paul Goldenberg with Secure Community Network, an organization that serves as a liaison between DHS and 200 Jewish organizations. Goldenberg said Napolitano told the Jewish leaders there is no threat information against Jewish targets in the United States, but she went over recent world events and urged the groups to be vigilant.

Goldenberg said DHS recently rolled out a version of its See Something, Say Something campaign tailored specifically for the Jewish community.

During her budget hearing, Napolitano confirmed the outreach to Jewish leaders and said DHS remains in constant touch with them.

"There is no call for panic," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Hoenlein said there is heightened concern because of recent world events. "We are working with local communities and law enforcement at local and federal levels to boost security around Jewish institutions and educate the community."

A homeland security official said there has been no change in security posture since the intelligence bulletin was issued.

Other law enforcement officials said initial reporting by another news organization about the existence of the FBI bulletin mentioning a potential threat from Iran were overblown.

The bulletin mentions heightened tensions with Iran, Israel and the United States and "press reporting of Israel's possible intent to attack Iran's nuclear facilities." It says there is a "perception of an increased threat to the Jewish community worldwide from Iran or its surrogates" including Hezbollah, and that an alleged Hezbollah plot was disrupted in Thailand last month involving Israeli or Jewish targets in Asia, though the targets and timing of planned attacks were not clear.

The FBI and DHS routinely issue intelligence memos to update local law enforcement on world events and urge preparedness. The February 8 memo includes an extremely detailed list of suggested protective measures, and a warning for people to vary their daily routines and never post their daily schedules on publicly accessible websites or social media.

CNN's Ross Levitt and Dugald McConnell contributed to this report.

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