Terror plot investigation continues to mushroom

Just what is it we are facing? What kind of threat did authorities uncover when they arrested Zazi and the New York City jihadis?

Unknown at this point. But the some experts are saying that the authorities have uncovered the first genuine al-Qaeda cell since 9/11.

Cam Simpson and Evan Perez of the Wall Street Journal report:

In connection with the Zazi case, federal investigators are combing records on the purchases of chemicals, particularly hydrogen peroxide, that could be used to make bombs. Peroxide-based explosives were used in a deadly attack on London's subway and bus system in July 2005, and al Qaeda's interest in such explosives has been a top concern for the FBI, according to intelligence assessments made public.

Two U.S. officials said key allegations in the case are more reminiscent of the London and other European plots than any other case seen to date in the U.S. "This appears to be different than any of the previous cases because it looks very similar to what we've seen recently in Europe," one of the officials said.

Current and former officials say Mr. Zazi's profile is also a factor leading them toward their conclusion of an al Qaeda link.

"The best chance for success [al Qaeda leaders] have is to get somebody who is not a visitor, so they come in as a permanent resident or citizen, who knows the culture and how to move around, who doesn't have a record, so as not to get picked up in a database," said a former senior U.S. official. Mr. Zazi is a legal permanent resident of the U.S.

Apparently, the bottom line is that this whole case smells differently than any other plot uncovered since 9/11 and resembles al-Qaeda planning for the London attack more than it does anything that has been exposed previously in the US.

Authorities have expanded their dragnet and are now looking for 24 additional suspects in the plot. And with no bomb found, and so many still at large, New York remains on a state of high alert while counter-terrorism officials race to find clues that will uncover the target and the terrorists.