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Climate change is a
greater international enemy than terrorism, Canada's Environment
Minister David Anderson said Feb. 3, 2004. "Current
preoccupation is with terrorism, but in the long term climate
change will outweigh terrorism as an issue for the international
community," he said. U.S. President George Bush has consistently
said terrorism is the top issue facing the world's safety and
security. "Terrorism is very important," said Anderson.
"I don't want to minimize the importance of terrorism, but
over the century or two centuries ahead, climate change is going
to become one of the most, and probably will be the overwhelming
Pentagon Tells Bush: Climate Change Will Destroy Us By Mark Townsend and Paul Harris
Abrupt Climate Change is a
better phrase to use instead of Global Warming
Cooking the Books: U.S. Banks are Giant Casinos by Michael Edward
Running on Empty By Frank Shostak
Greenspans Black Magic by Rep. Ron Paul, MD
Ron Paul on Greenspans Fed by Gary North
It was late 1999 when satellites belonging to the supersecret National Security Agency picked up some alarming chatter in Pakistan and Yemen. The talk was among three men who used only their first names: Nawaf, Khalid, and Salem. Intelligence officials quickly concluded the men were plotting "something nefarious." They launched a global search for the trio but never picked up their trail. It wasn't until Sept. 11, 2001, that the feds figured out what the men had been plotting. Khalid Almihdar and the other men, brothers Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi, turned out to be three of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. Last week, an independent bipartisan commission investigating the attacks revealed a series of failures at virtually every level of the federal security bureaucracies. "There were many opportunities to stop the 9/11 plot," said a commissioner, former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. The commission's revelations are part of a more complex picture that has its origins in the first attack on the World Trade Center, the 1993 truck bombing by radical Islamic fundamentalists. FBI agents ultimately arrested the key people responsible and later penetrated another cell of Islamic radicals planning to blow up New York City landmarks. A decade ago, it took the FBI and the New York Police Department just a few days to catch three key coconspirators in the World Trade Center bombing because they had been shadowing the men responsible for five years. Soon after, an FBI informant unearthed another plot by men with ties to the 1993 blast to blow up New York tunnels and bridges, the United Nations, and the FBI's New York office. In 1997, the FBI questioned and placed under surveillance Wadih el-Hage, Osama bin Laden's personal secretary. But it was only after the fact that agents realized Hage was a key planner of the October 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Hage and bin Laden's security planners scouted the embassy locations; both had ties to the 1993 bombers as well. A review of the major terrorism investigations of the past decade shows that many of the plotters had ties to one another and that federal investigators were repeatedly hanging around in the right investigative neighborhoods watching the right guys. Key intelligence sources directly involved in the embassy bombings gave vital clues that led to that NSA intercept in 1999 of conversations between Almihdar and the Alhazmi brothers. In early January 2000, the three men hooked up with Khallad Bin Attash (aka Walid Attash), the orchestrator of the bombing of the USS Cole nine months later. Attash may have given the men some money to plan the 9/11 attacks--the same attacks that brought investigators full circle back to 1993. The mastermind of 9/11 was a key bin Laden associate, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. His nephew Ramzi Yousef directed the 1993 World Trade Center attack. Mohammed had given Yousef a measly $600 for the plot. After fleeing the United States, Yousef moved to Manila, where he plotted an attempt on Pope John Paul II's life and the bombings of as many as 12 airliners over the Pacific Ocean. Nearly a decade later, using planes as giant fuel-laden bombs, Yousef's uncle, Mohammed, finished what his nephew had started. Federal investigators and intelligence officials had inklings of the links among the terrorists. Between 1995 and 2001, the U.S. government had no fewer than six specific intelligence reports about the possibility of Islamic terrorists' plotting plane crashes into buildings, says commissioner Timothy Roemer, a former Indiana congressman. In July 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration stated in the Federal Register that there was an "increasing threat" to civil aviation from terrorist hijackings. In a slide show prepared for airline executives a year earlier, the FAA warned that Islamic fundamentalists might hijack planes to commit spectacular suicide attacks. "The dots are connected. And they're large. And they're looming," Roemer told federal officials during the commission's public hearings last week.
Only a handful of people
know precisely how much the federal government spends each year
to gather intelligence - and they're not allowed to tell. After a
dubious conclusion that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass
destruction just before the war in Iraq, critics say there should
be more financial accountability for the government's spying.
"With the quality of our intelligence being questioned, the
American people should have a general idea what we're spending on
it," says Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of Defense
in the Reagan administration. Spending for intelligence-gathering,
secret satellite systems, spy operations and other classified
projects is hidden, part of the total but invisible in the budget
books. Nor is it in any of the previous budgets issued by other
presidents. It's top-secret. The secret spending, known only to
those in government with the highest security clearances, is
called the "Black Budget." Each year, it is debated in
the White House, the Pentagon, CIA headquarters and intelligence
committees of Congress, but it is not made public. Watchdog
groups' estimates for the 2004 CIA budget alone are around $40
billion, up from $26.7 billion eight years ago. The 1997 figure
became public after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit forced
CIA Director George Tenet to release it. Another suit is pending
for the 2002 budget. Steven Aftergood, who brought the Freedom of
Information lawsuits on behalf of the Federation of American
Scientists, says he is not seeking line-by-line spending for
specific projects, just a total figure. He notes that billions of
dollars are being spent with accountability only to those
government officials involved in spending it. "Disclosure of
the total will not endanger national security," Aftergood
says. The only mention of the CIA in the main budget book is a
chart on spending for retirement and disability funds for CIA
personnel. In the Defense Department chapter of the 2005 budget
book, under the heading "General Provisions," it says,
"The Secretary of Defense may transfer up to $120 million of
funds available in the Iraq Freedom Fund to carry out the
classified project described in the classified annex accompanying
Public Law 107-206." Spending on classified activities,
fueled by the war on terrorism, is believed to be up
significantly. But those who know aren't talking.
President Bush is ordering three Cabinet departments and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop new procedures to protect the nation's food supply from terror attack. An executive order released Feb. 3, 2004, involved the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, in the response to potentially calamitous agricultural terrorism. The directive calls for creation of systems to contain any outbreaks of plant or animal disease that result from terror attack, and to prevent or cure the diseases themselves. The president ordered the agencies to plan ways to stabilize the food supply and the economy and to help the nation recover after an attack. And he ordered the agencies to help agribusinesses develop plans to protect themselves. The order is part of a process to protect agriculture and food, an economic sector that the government labeled in February 2003 as critical infrastructure, she said. The plan calls on the Agriculture Department to develop a National Veterinary Stockpile that would hold enough animal pharmaceuticals "to appropriately respond to the most damaging animal diseases" within 24 hours of an outbreak. This would include such diseases as foot and mouth, which can spread rapidly and make herds unsalable, and anthrax, which can kill people as well as animals, said Jeremy Stump, USDA's director of homeland security. Mad cow disease probably would not be listed under the program because its long incubation time makes it a poor tool for terrorism, Stump said. The Agriculture Department is working on a national animal identification system that could track infected livestock. The animal ID system set to be phased in for livestock starting in July 2005 would require 48 hours to locate cattle and other animals. Stump said drugs could be made ready at various locations in 24 hours and given to animals once the ID system tells authorities where the animals are. The executive order says USDA also must create a National Plant Disease Recovery System that could respond within a single growing season to "a high-consequence plant disease" with pest control measures or disease-resistant seed. The paper gave as examples soybean rust and wheat smut. Both are fast-spreading fungal diseases that can devastate crops, and neither is a major threat in the United States. Under the new plan, the three departments and EPA, working with the CIA and other government organizations, would look for weak spots in the agriculture and food sectors and develop ways to repair them. This would include heightened screening of foods entering the United States. The government already has enlisted customs officials in the Homeland Security Department to help the Food and Drug Administration inspect shipments. The plan also tells Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to develop a plan within 120 days to encourage "self-protection for agriculture and food enterprises vulnerable to losses due to terrorism." If there is a terror event, the Homeland Security Department would be in overall charge of the agricultural response, Stump said. The directive also lets Homeland Security take charge of a peacetime outbreak of a major disease that threatens widespread risk to human health or the economy, Stump said. The new plan could allow a faster and more coordinated response, he said. Responsibility for food safety is scattered among many agencies, and the initiative "crosses over agencies" so the response to both terror and to nonterror disasters would be comprehensive, Buchan said. Cabinet secretaries still would be responsible for their sections of the overall plans, she said. The initiative could be financed out of $560 million proposed in the administration's fiscal 2005 budget for agriculture and food defense, Buchan said.
The nuclear black market that let Iran, Libya and North Korea acquire weapons technology from Pakistan under the noses of international monitors raises suspicions that terror groups also acquired bomb components or plans experts think. Al-Qaida apparently has shown interest in acquiring nuclear technology. Two Pakistani nuclear scientists were detained in late 2001 after meeting Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan on suspicion of giving away secrets, but they were later released without being charged. The military, which controlled the Pakistan's weapons program, also is known to have elements who sympathize with the Taliban and bin Laden. Pakistan has for years denied spreading nuclear technology and claimed its arsenal was safe from extremists. But strong international pressure after Iranian revelations to the U.N. nuclear watchdog forced Islamabad to begin an investigation of its weapons program in November 2003. It admitted in January 2004 for the first time that scientists had leaked technology. Officials say Abdul Qadeer Khan - the father of Pakistan's nuclear program - has confessed to selling equipment related to centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Libya also received designs for a nuclear bomb from Pakistan that it handed over to U.S. and British intelligence last month, European diplomats say. Khan, however, has denied making a confession, according to the leading Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami. Pakistan itself relied on international black market supplies for the equipment used in its nuclear weapons program that started in the 1970s. "If the black market could transfer technology from Europe to Pakistan in spite of all these sanctions and embargoes, that same black market of smugglers can also pass on materials from this lab to terrorist groups," said A.H. Nayyar, a nuclear physicist and head of the Pakistan Peace Coalition. "The possibility exists and needs to be investigated thoroughly." Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan on Feb. 3, 2004, denied that Pakistani nuclear technology had fallen into terrorist hands. "It's absolutely negative, there is no truth in it," he said. The government also has denied official complicity in giving away technology, but a friend of Khan's said that top army officials, including now-President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, were "aware of everything." White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Bush administration accepted Musharraf's assurances that the Pakistani government was "not involved in any kind of proliferation." Musharraf has said the scientists were given wide latitude to develop the nuclear program and worked in secret even from top officials. That secrecy also has raised fears that nuclear workers may have transferred technology or equipment to terrorists, either for money or ideological sympathy. Experts say centrifuge technology would not be of much use to terror groups, who probably could not set up the vast facilities required to enrich useful quantities of uranium, with hundreds of technicians needed to run thousands of centrifuges. "It's hard enough for countries to do," said Gary Samore, a nonproliferation expert at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. The acquisition of weapons designs, however, would make it far easier for terrorists to make a workable bomb, said David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. And if a terror group was able to obtain highly enriched uranium - anywhere from about 110 to 220 pounds - it could possibly build a bomb similar in design to that used on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II, experts said. Pakistan is estimated to have produced more than 1,540 pounds of highly enriched uranium, but no official figures have ever been released. "It is very important that all the material that has been produced is accounted for to the last gram," said Nayyar. "If it is not done, then the doubt remains." Sultan, the military spokesman, declined to comment on whether Khan's alleged confession mentioned highly enriched uranium and potential leaks of it outside Pakistan. The strongest known link between Pakistani scientists and terrorists were the 2001 arrests Sultan Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood and Abdul Majid, who worked for Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission until retiring in 1999. The commission, together with Khan's lab worked on the nuclear weapons program. Mahmood's son said in December 2002 that his father - a deeply conservative Muslim who sympathized with the Taliban - met bin Laden several times between 2000 and July 2001 and the al-Qaida leader asked how to make nuclear bombs. Mahmood claimed to have rebuffed the request, telling bin Laden "it is not child's play for you to build a nuclear bomb," according to his son, who did not want to be named. The scientists were cleared of all charges and released in December 2001. "Pakistani scientists were active there (in Afghanistan) - we never got to the bottom of it," said Albright, also a former Iraq nuclear weapons inspector. In light of recent news, the years of Pakistani denials ring especially hollow, Albright said, hoping international pressure would finally make Pakistan come clean. "There's a lot of smoke and mirrors that the government is throwing up, but at the same time it's being forced to reveal information," he said.
Despite initial objections, President Bush agreed on Feb. 4, 2004 to extend until July 26, 2004 the deadline for the panel investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to complete its final report, setting the stage for its release at the height of the presidential campaign. The extension was requested by the commission, which wanted the original May 27 deadline pushed back 60 days to complete hundreds of interviews and review millions of documents. If Congress approves the extension, the panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, said it planned to release its public, unclassified final report not later than July 26 and wrap up the rest of its business by August 25, 2004.
President Bush will name Sen. John McCain to a commission that will investigate Iraq intelligence failures, an administration official said Feb. 5, 2004. Bush will formally create the nine-member panel on Feb. 6 with an executive order. The bipartisan commission will be directed to deliver its findings next year, which means they will come in after the November presidential elections. The president had resisted creating a commission but reversed course as political pressure mounted. The commission will have access to the findings of the Iraq Survey Group which is still searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, officials said. The former head of that group, David Kay, has concluded that Iraq did not possess forbidden weapons when the war began and that the United States went to war based on erroneous intelligence. Administration officials say the intelligence commission will look at issues beyond simply weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It also will investigate intelligence more broadly in the war on terror, and the challenge of collecting information on terrorist groups and secretive governments such as those in Iran and North Korea.
An Islamist group, Ansar al-Sunna, with alleged links to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility Feb. 3, 2004 for the deadly twin suicide attacks in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil, according to an Islamist Internet site. In a statement posted on the site, the group said "two of our martyr brothers attacked the two dens of Satan in Arbil" on Feb. 1. "Our joy on Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) was boosted by this attack against the agents of Jews and Christians," the statement said. It was not possible to independently verify the statement. The statement expressed sympathies with the "brothers" of the militant group Ansar al-Islam, which Kurdish political groups have fingered in the attack and which is suspected of links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. "The Sunnis in Iraq and everywhere in the world have understood that the Crusaders cannot enter the provinces of Kirkuk and Niniveh without the help of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party), run by their agents Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, respectively," it said. The statement was dated February 4 and bore the signature of "Abu Abdullah al-Hassan bin Massud, head of the Ansar Al-Sunna army". "The two agents (Talabani and Barzani) have prepared the way for the American army to occupy the two provinces, despite the fall of the atheist Baath regime ... before handing the two provinces to the Crusaders. "That is why we watched for the occasion to avenge the two tyrants, whose hands are stained with the blood of Muslims ... and who coordinated with the Crusaders to strike our Mujahedeen brother group Ansar al-Islam, their women and their children. "So we have hit their main offices," added the statement, entitled The Two Conquests of Arbil, using the same terminology as that of bin Laden in reference to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington. Two bombers detonated vests packed with explosives in the offices of the main Kurdish parties, the PUK and KDP, in Arbil, 350km north of Baghdad. Key officials from parties were among at least 105 people killed as hundreds gathered to celebrate the Muslim Eid holiday. "We advise Muslims not to frequent the places used by these dirty men (Talabani and Barzani). We have (Mujahedeen) brothers, whose number only God knows, and who are devoted to God," warned the group, which has previously published a dozen statements on a website whose address is constantly changed. A television station owned by the PUK said today a Yemeni had been arrested in connection with the Arbil bombings, the deadliest attacks in Iraq since the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime last April 2003. The suspect was seized in a hotel in the northern oil centre of Kirkuk and explosives were found in his possession, the station said.
FBI shut down
investigation into Saudi Terror Cell in Boston ?
Feb. 5, 2004 -- Al Qaida
has again warned of a major strike in the United States. The Al
Qaida warning was relayed via the Tajamu Reform Party of Yemen in
a statement proposing terms of reconciliation with the government
which has been under pressure to cooperate with the United States
in the war on terrorism. "A major strike, a big event will
take place in America soon," the statement said. In its
statement, Al Qaida termed Sanaa as the second most cooperative
partner in the U.S.-led war against the Islamic insurgency
movement. The group said Pakistan was the chief ally of the
United States. On Jan. 24, Yemen acknowledged that it cooperated
with the United States in the assassination of Abu Sinan Ali Al
Harithi, the leading Al Qaida insurgent in Yemen, in December
2002, Middle East Newsline reported. Yemeni Vice President Abbed
Rabbo Mansour said Yemen turned to the CIA for help in tracking
and killing Al Harithi, who was targeted by a Predator unmanned
air vehicle armed with an anti-tank missile. The Tajamu Reform
Party has been regarded as an ally of Osama Bin Laden, whose
family comes from Yemen. "The branch of the organization in
Yemen promised the state as a goodwill gesture that
the initiative will be favoured by Sheik Osama Bin Laden or one
of the senior leaders of the global Al Qaida organization,
through a communique or statement in which the subject will be
referred implicitly or explicitly," a statement released by
the so-called Yemeni branch of Al Qaida and published in Al
Sahwanet, the mouthpiece of the Islamic-oriented opposition
party, said. In its purported statement, Al Qaida offered to
reconcile with Yemen. Bin Laden was said to have offered a deal
to end attacks against Western interests in Yemen in exchange for
allowing insurgents freedom of movement. Yemen has been under
heavy U.S. and Saudi pressure to cooperate in operations against
Al Qaida. Al Qaida, the statement said, wanted Yemen to allow
Islamic insurgents to fight the United States and Israel in such
countries as Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority.
Yemen, however, was said to have rejected the proposal. [In
Kabul, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan predicted that
Bin Laden would be captured in 2004. "Their day has ended
and this year will decisively sound the death knell of their
movements in Afghanistan," Lt. Gen. David Barno said
during a ceremony on Feb. 3.]
Feb. 6, 2004 -- A powerful bomb ripped through a packed Moscow subway train during the morning rush hour, killing at least 39 people and sowing panic in the capital, in an attack President Vladimir Putin blamed on Chechen "terrorists" just weeks before he stands for re-election. "Moscow does not negotiate with terrorists -- it destroys them," Putin said in televised comments after the blast, suspected to be the work of a suicide bomber. A top Chechen rebel leader denied any involvement in the blast. "We insist that we do not employ terrorist methods," Akhmed Zakayev, speaking on behalf of former Chechen president and rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov. News reports said at least 39 people were killed, including one child, and more than 130 were injured in the blast, which occurred at 8:40 am (0540 GMT). The bomb went off on a train as it headed toward the center between two stations in southeast Moscow. It brought one of the lines of the busy subway to a halt until nearly 12 hours later. Putin, who launched the current Russo-Chechen war more than four years ago, expressed condolences to the victims' families and vowed it would not change his policy on Chechnya. "The very fact that after such crimes, people are calling on us to negotiate with Maskhadov, indirectly proves that the people who are making those calls are linking Maskhadov and his bandits with terrorism." "We do not need this indirect confirmation. We know for certain, that Maskhadov and his people are linked to this terror," Putin said in televised remarks. But, in a joint statement, several leading Russian human rights activists criticized Putin for accusing Chechen rebels before an inquiry into the blast had time to give any results. And Chechnya's pro-Russian president Akhmad Kadyrov, while insisting he shared Putin's point of view, also expressed his worry at unspecified inflammatory declarations likely to cause interethnic unrest. "In such a situation, it is essential to be extremely careful and correct and not to make rushed declarations that could spark interethnic dissension," Kadyrov told the ITAR-TASS news agency. Moscow Deputy Prosecutor Vladimir Yudin told Interfax that "according to the information that we currently have, we can say that the blast was set off by a suicide bomber." The bomb had the yield of one kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of TNT, Moscow police spokesman Kirill Mazurin said. Deputy Moscow Mayor Valery Shantsev later said the bomb contained five kilogrammes or 11 pounds of TNT. Shantsev said investigators had not found any shrapnel, which usually fills suicide bombers' explosives, and that the bomb had likely been in an attache case or backpack on the floor of the subway car. It shattered windows throughout the train and left the targeted car a hulk of twisted metal. Bodies still sat side-by-side on the seats, covered in soot. Other bloodstained corpses, their clothes torn, lay along the tracks. A woman identified only as Maria, her face covered in blood, told Russian TV that for a long time after the explosion, passengers were unable to open the door of the subway car. After prying the door open, she said they walked out of the tunnel. Security measures were tightened throughout the Moscow metro, which has more than 160 stations in the megalopolis of some 10 million people, and similar measure were taken in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg, officials said. The Moscow Metro is the world's busiest subway with an average 8.5 million passengers a day, and has long been seen as especially vulnerable to terrorism. Police routinely stop people in the stations who appear to be Chechens or from the North Caucasus area, but crowds make thorough surveillance impossible. The blast comes ahead of the March 14, 2004 presidential elections, during which Putin is widely expected to be re-elected.
A Muslim militant who helped make the bombs that tore through two Bali nightclubs in October 2002 killing 202 people, was sentenced to life in jail by an Indonesian court on Feb. 9, 2004. "The panel of judges declare the defendant, Suranto Abdul Ghoni, is legally and convincingly proven guilty of acts of terror," said presiding judge Made Sudia. The panel of judges also found that Ghoni, also known as Umar and Wayan, took part in the meetings that hatched the worst bombing attack in the world's most populous Muslim nation and possessed illegal firearms. Several of the crimes carry a maximum penalty of death. However, prosecutors only asked for life in jail.
Terrorist groups plan to evade strict airport security by carrying bombs components onto flights and assembling the devices only when they are on the plane, according to a report. Teams of terrorists have carried out at least 12 "dry runs" of the plan quoting unnamed security sources in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. The idea was to test the scheme on flights around the Mediterranean and the Middle East, where security standards are less stringent, before attempting to bring down a transatlantic airliner. The new plan has been recounted by captured Islamic militants and has been corroborated by intercepted communications between terror groups. US authorities have warned that teams of five passengers could carry aboard separate components of a bomb hidden in modified items such as cameras, the paper said.
Pakistan's foreign minister said Feb. 8 (2004) he knew the names of "lots of Europeans" involved in the illicit transfer of secrets to countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons. "Why is there this unhealthy focus on Pakistan? What about others?" Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri told delegates at a security conference in the German city of Munich. "I know the names. I don't want to spill them... names given to us by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), by Iran. There are lots of Europeans involved, but there seems to be a focus on Pakistan," he said. In a televised confession, Pakistan's top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan said Feb. 4 he had acted independently in leaking secrets as head of the country's nuclear program from the 1970s. The next day, the country's military president, Pervez Musharraf, pardoned the man revered as the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, while rebuffing calls for an independent inquiry into the military's role. Many analysts say Khan could not have acted without the knowledge of the military. Kasuri said it was important to stress that the leaks had not been recent and were mainly during Pakistan's early days of nuclear development when few people were aware of the project. "Yes our program was covert. Because it was covert there was a danger of this sort of thing," he said. Khan had been removed when initial intelligence reports indicated smoke even if "fire had not been discovered." Moreover, while Pakistan had not joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it was committed to fulfilling the non-proliferation requirements, Kasuri said. It was, he said, not in Pakistan's interests to share its nuclear secrets with others. Many Pakistanis nevertheless believe Musharraf and top military officers were complicit in the illicit nuclear transfers to Iran, Libya and North Korea. "It is not something that is in our interests... There has to be a motive, but there was none whatsoever," Kasuri said. He also said the uranium enrichment technology which Khan appeared to have provided was only part of the know-how required to make nuclear weapons. "Our nuclear experts tell me you need about 24 different technologies or processes to make nuclear weapons and then to deliver them. Only one of them is the uranium-enrichment process," Kasuri said.
A pan-Arab newspaper said Feb. 8 (2004) that the al Qaeda organization led by Osama bin Laden bought tactical nuclear weapons from Ukraine in 1998 and is storing them in safe places for possible use. There was no independent corroboration of the report, which appeared in the newspaper al-Hayat under an Islamabad dateline and cited sources close to al Qaeda, which the United States blames for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The newspaper said al Qaeda bought the weapons in suitcases in a deal arranged when Ukrainian scientists visited the Afghan city of Kandahar in 1998. The city was then a stronghold of the Taliban movement, which was allied with al Qaeda. Al Qaeda would use the weapons only inside the United States or if the group faced a "crushing blow" which threatened its existence, such as the use of nuclear or chemical weapons against its fighters, the paper quoted its sources as saying. Ukraine inherited nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union but in 1994 it agreed to send 1,900 nuclear warheads to Russia and sign up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, a former Russian National Security Adviser, Alexander Lebed, said that up to 100 portable suitcase-sized bombs were unaccounted for. Moscow has denied such weapons existed. Lebed said each one was equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT and could kill as many as 100,000 people. Al-Hayat did not say how many weapons al Qaeda bought or say who exactly had provided them. But tactical nukes must be maintained regularly by skilled weapons scientists or they will become 'dirty bomb' junk rather quickly.
Terrorist groups have obtained neither nuclear weapons nor know-how from Pakistan, despite a startling proliferation scandal linking a top scientist with Libya, Iran and North Korea, an official said Feb. 9, 2004. "We exclude the possibility," military spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said, when asked if Abdul Qadeer Khan's leaked nuclear technology and hardware could have reached groups like al Qaeda. "It has not come out of our investigations, or any other intelligence agency. There has been no such hint."
President Bush's proposed
homeland security budget shortchanges the nation's first line of
defense against terrorism and either cuts back or eliminates
several other vital security programs, members of a Senate panel
said Feb. 9, 2004. The DHS budget includes a stunning 30 percent
cut, government-wide, for first responders that is the latest
evidence of shortchanging the homeland side of the war against
terrorism, warned Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.
click on February 09, 2004:
Lieberman Hearing Statement on FY 05 Department of Homeland Security Budget
The head of NATO warned Feb. 9, 2004 that security remains fragile in Afghanistan, even in the capital where patrolling peacekeepers are on edge after suicide bombers killed two of their comrades. Alliance diplomats said intelligence reports indicate up to 60 potential suicide bombers may have infiltrated Kabul, which had been relatively tranquil until the two attacks in late January 2004 killed one Canadian and one British soldier. The deposed Taliban regime claimed responsibility for both, and threatened more suicide strikes in Afghan cities a shift in tactics for the insurgents, who have otherwise focused on hit-and-run attacks in the south and east of the country. Production of opium amid concern that al-Qaida and the resurgent Taliban are profiting from the trade the raw material for heroin has boomed in the two years since a U.S.-led offensive ousted the Taliban. U.N. surveys estimate Afghanistan accounted for three quarters of the world's opium last year, bringing in $2.3 billion more than half of the nation's gross domestic product. New surveys suggest even more will be planted this year. Afghan officials have vowed to destroy huge amounts of crops and arrest big smugglers in coming months. But there are doubts about the ability of the Afghan government to take on powerful warlords who control much of the country and are widely believed to fund their private armies with drug money.
A senior aide to the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations committee raised alarm over possible nuclear links between North Korea and Myanmar, the former Burma. Keith Luse, a senior aide to Senator Richard Lugar, warned US policymakers must pay "special attention" to what he said was a growing relationship between the Stalinist state and the military government in Yangon. "What is the construction status of Burma's nuclear reactor?" asked Luse, in a list of seven key areas of concern to Lugar in Asia policy. Luse, part of a US congressional delegation which visited Pyongyang's notorious Yongbyon nuclear plant last month, also asked :"is North Korea providing nuclear technology to the Burma military?" He also questioned whether Pyongyang was selling Scud missiles to or through Myanmar and asked whether China, as it works to end North Korea's nuclear program, is also working to deter nuclear development in Myanmar. Myanmar last year rejected a report that it was receiving missiles and nuclear technology from Pyongyang, saying it did not need such arms as it was "everybody's friend and nobody's all or enemy." The Far Eastern Economic Review had reported that diplomats believed Pyongyang may be supplying or planning to supply Myanmar with new weapons, possibly in exchange for shipments of heroin. The report said Myanmar has also begun negotiating the purchase of surface-to-surface missiles and that North Korean technicians were working at a naval base near Yangon, possibly preparing to install the weapons on Myanmar warships. In January 2002, the Yangon government confirmed it was planning to build a nuclear research reactor to be used "for peaceful purposes" and that it was negotiating with Russia over the facility. The Review said Moscow shelved the project because Yangon could not pay for it.
American officials here have obtained a detailed proposal that they conclude was written by an operative in Iraq to senior leaders of Al Qaeda, asking for help to wage a "sectarian war" in Iraq in the next months. The Americans say they believe that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who has long been under scrutiny by the United States for suspected ties to Al Qaeda, wrote the undated 17-page document. Mr. Zarqawi is believed to be operating here in Iraq. The document was made available to The New York Times on Sunday, with an accompanying translation made by the military. A reporter was allowed to see the Arabic and English versions and to write down large parts of the translation. The memo says extremists are failing to enlist support inside the country, and have been unable to scare the Americans into leaving. It even laments Iraq's lack of mountains in which to take refuge. Yet mounting an attack on Iraq's Shiite majority could rescue the movement, according to the document. The aim, the document contends, is to prompt a counterattack against the Arab Sunni minority. Such a "sectarian war" will rally the Sunni Arabs to the religious extremists, the document argues. It says a war against the Shiites must start soon at "zero hour" before the Americans hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis. That is scheduled for the end of June. The American officials in Baghdad said they were confident the account was credible and said they had independently corroborated Mr. Zarqawi's authorship. If it is authentic, it offers an inside account of the insurgency and its frustrations, and bears out a number of American assumptions about the strength and nature of religious extremists but it also charts out a battle to come. The document would also constitute the strongest evidence to date of contacts between extremists in Iraq and Al Qaeda. But it does not speak to the debate about whether there was a Qaeda presence in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein era, nor is there any mention of a collaboration with Hussein loyalists. Qaeda suspect was arrested in Iraq. Under interrogation, the Americans said, the suspect identified Mr. Zarqawi as the author of the document. The man arrested was carrying it on a CD to Afghanistan, the Americans said, and intended to deliver it to people they described as the "inner circle" of Al Qaeda's leadership. That presumably refers to Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Americans declined to identify the suspect. But the discovery of the disc coincides with the arrest of Hassan Ghul, a Pakistani described by American officials at the time as a courier for the Qaeda network. Mr. Ghul is believed to be the first significant member of that network to have been captured inside Iraq. In the document, the writer indicated that he had directed about 25 suicide bombings inside Iraq. That conforms with an American view that suicide bombings were more likely to be carried out by Iraqi religious extremists and foreigners than by Hussein allies. The letter shows Osama bin Laden has made little headway in recruiting Iraqis for a holy war against America, raising questions about the Bush administration's contention that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror.
A Pakistani scientist's confession that he sold nuclear weapons technology to North Korea was a lie cooked up by the United States to justify an invasion, the communist North said Feb. 10, 2004. In the North's first reaction, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said the United States had fabricated Khan's story to derail the nuclear talks and lay the groundwork for an Iraq-style invasion. "The United States is now hyping the story about the transfer of nuclear technology to the DPRK by a Pakistani scientist in a bid to make the DPRK's enriched uranium program sound plausible," said the spokesman in a statement published by Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency. "This is nothing but a mean and groundless propaganda," the spokesman said, adding Khan's disclosures were such a "sheer lie that the DPRK does not bat an eyelid even a bit." North Korea -- its official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) -- has long denied it has been pursuing an atomic weapons program using highly enriched uranium (HEU), as the United States has alleged. The Korea Herald newspaper said Khan's confessions added to reports the Pakistani scientist had visited North Korea 12 times. The confessions gave the U.S. negotiating team "new ammunition to confront the North Koreans," the English-language daily said. Hwang Jong-yop, North Korea's highest-ranking defector, told the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper in Japan last week that a North Korean official in charge of the country's military industry visited Pakistan in 1996 and reached an agreement to obtain uranium for weapons.
OPEC on Feb. 10, 2004 announced a surprise cut in oil supplies from April, propelling crude prices higher and drawing a caution from the United States that it risked stunting world economic growth. In a strong warning to the cartel, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said any decrease in crude oil output by OPEC producers would be "regrettable," and would effectively be a tax on American consumers. At the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil for March delivery settled trade up $1.04, or 3.2 percent, at $33.87 a barrel.
Al Qaeda is under pressure to strike another "high-value" Western target and may be looking at attacking chemical plants or shooting down planes with surface-to-air missiles, a top German intelligence official said Feb. 10, 2004. "A substantial decline in activities in the next couple of years is highly improbable," Rudolf Adam, deputy head of German's BND foreign intelligence agency, told a security conference in Berlin. "On the contrary, we would feel that pressure is mounting on al Qaeda to reassert its effectiveness and its ability to strike another really big high-value target" in order to remain visible, he said. Adam said air transport remained a potential target, adding: "The next threat that we observe with great concern is the possibilities of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, so called MANPADs." Two such missiles narrowly missed an Israeli airliner taking off from the Kenyan port of Mombasa in November 2002, in an operation attributed to al Qaeda. They have also been used by insurgents in Iraq. Adam said shipping, tourist sites and supply infrastructure such as oil pipelines, power stations, electricity grids and water supplies remained potentially at risk. "We have unspecified hints that plans have been made or are still under way to target the chemical industry and chemical infrastructure," he said, without giving details. Adam also said there was concern that al Qaeda might consider kidnappings -- a tactic it has not previously used -- as a bargaining chip to seek the release of prominent members captured during the U.S.-led war on terror. "We have some disturbing evidence that kidnappings have been planned," he said. Adam said the "first generation" of al Qaeda had been badly weakened in the war on terror, but even the capture or killing of its leader Osama bin Laden would leave behind a second generation of fighters, trained in Afghan camps, and a third generation currently being recruited. "The cancer has already proliferated into innumerable metastases," he said.
U.N. inspectors sifting through Iran's nuclear files have discovered drawings of high-tech equipment that can be used to make weapons-grade uranium a new link to the black market headed by the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, diplomats said Feb. 12, 2004. Beyond adding another piece to the puzzle of who provided what in the clandestine supply chain headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the revelations cast fresh doubt on Iran's commitment to dispelling suspicions it is trying to make atomic arms. But Iran insisted that it was cooperating. The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the designs were of a P-2 centrifuge more advanced than the P-1 model Iran has acknowledged using to enrich uranium for what is says are peaceful purposes. They said preliminary investigations by inspectors working for the International Atomic Energy Agency indicated they matched drawings of equipment found in Libya and supplied by Khan's network. The diplomats said Iran did not volunteer the designs despite pledging last year to replace nearly two decades of secrecy with full openness about all aspects of its nuclear activities. Instead, they said, IAEA inspectors had to dig for them. The diplomats said Iran had not yet formally explained why the advanced centrifuge designs were not voluntarily handed over to the agency. Still, the diplomats emphasized that despite putting into question Iran's pledge to be fully open the find did not advance suspicions that Tehran was trying to make nuclear weapons.
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Feb. 12, 2004, the world could be headed for destruction if it does not stop the spread of widely available atomic weapons technology. Mohamed ElBaradei wrote that nuclear technology, once virtually inaccessible, can now be obtained through "a sophisticated worldwide network able to deliver systems for producing material usable in weapons." Above all ElBaradei echoed President Bush's call in a speech on for states to tighten up the control of their companies' nuclear exports. "I have laid out some ideas and proposals to that end, including the need for additional authority for the IAEA, much more stringent export control system and accelerated efforts toward nuclear disarmament," he said. ElBaradei, the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) director-general, wrote that the world must act quickly because inaction would a create a proliferation disaster. "The supply network will grow, making it easier to acquire nuclear weapon expertise and materials. Eventually, inevitably, terrorists will gain access to such materials and technology, if not actual weapons," he wrote. "If the world does not change course, we risk self-destruction," ElBaradei said. ElBaradei said the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the global pact aimed at stopping the spread of atomic weapons, needed to be revisited and toughened to bring it in line with the demands of the 21st century. He said it should not be possible to withdraw from the NPT, as North Korea did last year, while the tougher inspections in the IAEA's Additional Protocol should be mandatory in all countries. Currently fewer than 40 of the more than 180 NPT signatories have approved the protocol. ElBaradei said the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 40-nation group of countries that work together to prevent the export of peaceful nuclear technology to countries that might want weapons, needed to be transformed into a binding treaty. "The current system relies on a gentlemen's agreement that is not only non-binding, but also limited in its membership: it does not include many countries with growing industrial capacity," he wrote. "And even some members fail to control the exports of companies unaffiliated with government enterprise," he added. ElBaradei called for the production of fissile material for weapons to be halted and enrichment technology restricted. He said people who assist proliferators should be treated as criminals and states should eradicate loopholes that enable sensitive exports to slip past regulators. He also called on the nuclear powers who had signed the NPT -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France -- to move toward disarmament as called for in the pact. In a clear jab at the United States, which plans to forge ahead with research into the so-called mini nukes, ElBaradei said the world must drop the idea that nuclear weapons are fine in the hands of some countries and bad in the hands of others. "We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security -- and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use," he said.
Osama bin Laden could have a "terrorist navy" of 15 ships and Scotland Yard has warned one could sail up the Thames to attack Parliament. The vessels - capable of carrying lethal chemicals or a dirty bomb - could also ram cruise liners, oil rigs or enter ports on missions of destruction. A private memo sent to police chiefs by the Met's marine unit is headlined: Next Terror Attack Waterborne? Ship insurer Lloyd's of London is said to be helping MI6 and the CIA trace vessels bought by al-Qaeda from a Greek shipping magnate with links to bin Laden. The memo states shipping agents have been asked to help in the search. The report by the Met - which says it obtained its intelligence from maritime agencies - states: "Al-Qaeda has reportedly taken possession of 15 ships, forming what could be described as the first terrorist navy. The ships fly the flags of Yemen and Somalia where they are registered - and are capable of carrying lethal cargoes of chemicals or a dirty bomb." Vessels flying the flags of Senegal, Liberia and the Caribbean island of St Vincent are also under suspicion. The ships are believed to be in the Indian or Pacific oceans. But with 120,000 vessels worldwide, the chance of finding them is slim. Armed police are already routinely patrolling the Thames to protect Parliament, MI6, and other possible targets. The Royal Navy, Special Forces and the Yard's anti-terrorism squad are looking for unusual" shipping movements near Britain's oilfields and oil refineries. US intelligence experts believe an al-Qaeda ship carried explosives used to bomb two US embassies in Africa in 1998. The explosives used in the Bali nightclub were brought in by ship. US officials have captured al-Qaeda's chief of naval operations, Abdulrahim Mohammed Abda Al-Nasheri, who is known as the Prince of the Sea. They believe he masterminded the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden which killed 17 sailors and wounded 40 others. Al-Nasheri plotted an attack on British and US warships in the Gibraltar Straits, but the Moroccan security services prevented the suicide missions by arresting Saudi Arabian al-Qaeda members.
British Airways said Feb. 12, 2004, it was canceling a flight from London to Washington for the fifth time this year due to security fears. The airline, which also scrapped a flight to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, said it was acting on "government advice to cancel those flights for security reasons," while the U.S. authorities cited "specific and credible" information of a threat, based on British intelligence. Britain's Department for Transport said the latest cancelations were made "in the light of information received," and refused to say more about the intelligence. But a British Airline Pilots' Association blamed the security jitters on an overreaction by American officials. British Airways said it was scrapping Feb. 15th's Flight 223 from London's Heathrow Airport to Washington's Dulles International Airport, as well as Feb. 16th's Flight 263 from London to Riyadh. Flight 223 one of BA's three daily services to the U.S. capital was also canceled on Jan. 1 and 2 and again on Feb. 1 and 2. Dennis Murphy, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the United States had "specific and credible" information of a threat to the newly canceled flights, as it had for those canceled earlier this month. "A couple of weeks ago, part of the information was about flights on the 1st and 2nd," Murphy said. "Part of it was about upcoming flights." Murphy said the decision to cancel the latest Washington flight was based on British intelligence, but that U.S. intelligence officials had shared information with them. On Dec. 31, Flight 223 was kept on the tarmac at Dulles for several hours after landing while U.S. authorities questioned passengers and crew. On several occasions, it has been delayed before takeoff from London for hours-long checks on passengers. In August 2003, BA suspended service to Saudi Arabia, where the British government warns of "a continuing threat of terrorism," after authorities broke up a cell that reportedly was plotting an attack on a British plane. Service was restored in September 2003, although a Jan. 3 flight to Riyadh also was canceled. Several Paris-based Air France flights to the United States and a Continental Airlines Glasgow-to-Los Angeles flight also have been canceled in the past few weeks. Air France said that its flights were running normally and there had been no cancelations for security reasons.
A Dubai-based company in
the United Arab Emirates has been cited as the linchpin in the
lucrative nuclear weapons black market that has supplied Iran,
Libya and North Korea. The United States and the International
Atomic Energy Agency have determined that the UAE company served
as the hub for the traffic of nuclear weapons components.
Officials said the company coordinated with a range of nuclear
suppliers for orders from such countries as Iran, Libya and North
Korea. The United States identified the UAE firm as SMB
Computers, a key element in the nuclear weapons black market
operated by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. The company
was found to have served as a clearinghouse for nuclear
components ordered by Iran, Libya and North Korea. Another UAE
company involved in the nuclear black market was Gulf Technical
Industries, which worked closely with SMB's Tahir, Middle East
Newsline reported. The Dubai-based Gulf Technical, founded by
British engineer Peter Griffin, an associate of Khan, contracted
with Malaysia's Scomi Group Berhad for the manufacture of
centrifuge equipment identified as P-2. "Khan and his
associates," a White House fact sheet said, "used a
factory in Malaysia to manufacture key parts for centrifuges, and
purchased other necessary parts through network operatives based
in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Libya, Iran, and North
Korea were customers of the Khan network, and several other
countries expressed an interest in Khan's services." The
company was said to have processed orders for such goods as
uranium hexafluoride used for the centrifuge process that
can produce enriched uranium for nuclear bombs as well as
components and complete centrifuges. The shipments were said to
have been disguised and often relabeled in Dubai to avoid
detection. SMB was operated by a deputy of Khan. Officials said
the deputy, identified as Bukhari Sayed Abu Tahir, a Sri Lankan
native, employed his Dubai company as the front for the nuclear
network that sought to provide up to 1,000 centrifuges to Libya.
Tahir directed the Malaysia facility to produce these parts based
on Pakistani designs, and then ordered the facility to ship the
components to Dubai. Tahir also arranged for parts acquired by
other European procurement agents to transit through Dubai for
shipment to other customers." The nuclear network, which was
said to have been penetrated by the CIA, contained companies and
people from both Western and Third World countries, officials
said. They included Belgium, China, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, the
Netherlands, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka,
Switzerland, the UAE and the United Arab Emirates. Dubai served
as the port of destination for these shipments. Officials said
Tripoli acquired nuclear weapons components manufactured in
Malaysia, shipped and processed in Dubai and then sent to Libya.
In 2002 and 2003, officials said, Gulf Technical maintained a
representative from Dubai to Malaysia to oversee the production
of P-2 for Middle East clients. The P-2, made of maraging steel,
has double the uranium enrichment capacity of the earlier model P-1,
which is composed of aluminum. For its part, the IAEA has
questioned European businessmen suspected of having helped supply
orders from Iran and Libya. They included executives from the
German firm Leybold Heraeus, a leading maker of vacuum technology
and a unit of the Swiss firm Unaxis AG. The agency cited four
former Leybold employees that transferred centrifuge components
to Iran and conducted business with other countries interested in
nuclear technology, such as Saudi Arabia and Syria.
The fight to defeat terrorism is only in its early stages, and nations must step up cooperation if they expect success, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali said Feb. 13, 2004 ahead of an official visit to Washington. Cooperation among nations "needs to be deeper," he said. "This is not only a matter for the United States. They can't do it alone." Tunisia, a moderate Muslim nation, has become a key U.S. ally in the global campaign against terrorism. It also suffered an attack blamed on al-Qaida that killed 21 people in 2002. Ben Ali said he was saddened but not surprised by the Sept. 11 terror attacks against the United States. "It really was foreseeable," he said. "I knew the force, the danger" of al-Qaida. "But America had neglected them."
Police in Mauritania have arrested five suspected members of Afghanistan's Taliban movement, sources close to security forces in this desert West African nation said Feb. 13, 2004. A Tunisian and an Algerian were among those arrested, but the nationalities of the other three have not been determined. Top police officials refused to confirm or deny the arrests, which were first reported in Mauritania's Le Calame weekly. The security sources said the five suspects were foreigners who arrived in Mauritania several weeks ago, settling in the capital, Nouakchott. The city draws a number of foreign Islamists, who arrive on the pretense of studying the Quran and Islamic law. Mauritania, an Islamic republic straddling black and Arab Africa, has a Western-looking government that has cracked down on alleged Muslim extremists since before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. But international security experts allege al-Qaida cells and other Islamic militants are present in the country. Two prominent al-Qaida figures are Mauritanian Mahfoudh Ould Waled, alias Abu Hafs the Mauritanian, a top Osama bin Laden deputy believed hiding in Iran, and Mohamedou Ould Slahi, alleged to have participated in the Sept. 11 attacks and now reported by his family to be in U.S. custody at Guantanamo, Cuba. The United States recently sent a team of security experts to Mauritania to help officials guard their borders against infiltration by alleged terrorists and others.
President Bush agreed to meet privately with the federal commission reviewing the Sept. 11 attacks but declined to testify publicly about what the government could have done to prevent the tragedy. The commission "today requested a private meeting with the President to discuss information relevant to the commission's work. The President has agreed to the request," said White House press secretary Scott McClellan on Feb. 13. 2004. Former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore have indicated a willingness to provide private testimony about government missteps prior to the 2001 attacks. The bipartisan panel faces a May 27 deadline to complete its work but has asked for at least a two-month extension, citing a need to conduct more interviews and analyze documents. Bush last week reversed course and said he favors more time, too, but House Republican leaders remain opposed. Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, the commission's Republican chairman, said the panel will be forced to pare down inquiries into intelligence failures if Congress doesn't give it more time. "There are many paths to follow, including how intelligence was used, where it came from, and what was known by the FBI, CIA and National Security Council," he said. A May 27 deadline would force the panel to put out a report "that we, as commissioners, would feel very frustrated by." Legislation is pending in the House and Senate that would extend the Sept. 11 panel's deadline to Jan. 10, 2005, a date that supporters say will limit the influence of election-year politics. But House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., opposes any extension, citing a need to quickly have the panel's recommendations on how to improve the nation's security. Commissioners have complained that their work has been delayed repeatedly because of disputes with the administration over access to documents and witnesses. Earlier this week, the White House agreed to give the panel greater access to classified intelligence briefings after some commissioners threatened a subpoena. The panel said afterward the material raised new questions that have prompted them to seek additional interviews with officials, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Relatives of Sept. 11 victims said Friday it would be an outrage if the commission had to cut down its intelligence probe. "Anyone who stands in opposition to an extension clearly will have to answer to the American public as to why they felt national security should be compromised, especially in the event of another attack," said Kristen Breitweiser of New Jersey. Her husband Ronald died in the World Trade Center.
An exiled separatist leader accused by Moscow of being a key link in financing rebels in the war-torn Russian republic of Chechnya died Feb. 13, 2004 after a bomb blasted his car, authorities said. Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who was Chechnya's acting president from 1996-97, died en route to a hospital after the explosion in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera reported. His 13-year-old son was critically injured. The two had just left prayers at a mosque in Doha, the capital, when the blast occurred, according to reports from Qatar. Moscow had been seeking extradition of the 51-year-old separatist leader, whom it accused of ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist network. His death came one week after a bomb on the Moscow subway killed 41 people and injured more than 100 in an attack authorities blamed on Chechen separatists. Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, one of the successor agencies to the Soviet-era KGB, quickly denied responsibility for the assassination. Chechens exercised self-rule in their Caucasus republic after defeating Russian troops in a 1994-96 war. Russian forces returned in 1999 and have fought guerrillas since. The killing left participants in the Chechen struggle and observers speculating about who was to blame. Pro-Moscow Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov told the Russian news agency Interfax that Yandarbiyev was among those most at fault for the violence that Chechnya has endured over the past decade. Speaking on Russian state television, Kadyrov suggested that the killing resulted from infighting over money. "They are settling scores with each other," he said. "They cannot decide how to divide the money which is donated by people who think they are donating to help the Chechen people. Yandarbiyev was one such money collector." Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Adlan Magomadov told ITAR-Tass news service that authorities believe Yandarbiyev received money from "extremist organizations" but transferred only a small portion to Chechnya. The portion that the separatist leader did send, he said, went to radical guerrilla leader Shamil Basayev, offending more moderate rivals such as former Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Some observers, however, still suspected Russian intelligence. "There is almost no doubt that Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was destroyed today by Russian secret services," said Vyacheslav Izmailov, an analyst with the Novaya Gazeta newspaper who is one of the nation's leading specialists on Chechnya. "Their position is quite explicable. They cannot admit being involved in blowing up people on the territory of foreign countries." A nationalist poet and children's author, Yandarbiyev became acting president of self-declared independent Chechnya in 1996 after his predecessor was killed by a Russian missile while talking on a satellite telephone. Reports soon after that death described it as an assassination by the Russians using weapons guided to the spot by the phone's signals. Yandarbiyev then headed peace talks between Chechen separatists and former President Boris Yeltsin, which led to a temporary Russian withdrawal and three years of de facto independence. He also was a prominent proponent of radical Islam. Both the UN and the U.S. included him on lists of international terrorists subject to financial and other sanctions. He was believed to have lived in Qatar for at least three years. Russian authorities suspected him of links to the 2002 seizure of a Moscow theater by Chechen rebels. The standoff ended with the deaths of 129 hostages, nearly all from a gas used by security forces that stormed the building, and all 41 captors.
U.S. navy sailors may board thousands of commercial ships in international waters to search for weapons of mass destruction under a landmark pact between the United States and Liberia, the world's No. 2 shipping registry. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher confirmed Feb. 13, 2004 that the United States is seeking similar deals with other nations, but he declined to identify them. The accord - the first of its kind, Boucher said - comes amid fears that terror networks would use ships for attacks, taking advantage of comparatively lax security on the waters after crackdowns in the skies. Liberia, an American-founded West African nation emerging from nearly 15 years of civil war, has held a U.S.-based shipping registry since 1949 and now hosts more than 2,000 foreign vessels. It ranks second only to Panama in total shipping tonnage in U.S. ports, under so-called flags of convenience that offer cheap fees and easy rules. One-third of America's imported oil arrives in the United States on Liberian-flagged tankers. With commercial ships transporting 80 per cent of the world's traded goods, security experts worry that vessels, ports and other links in the maritime economic chain might make tempting targets. A terrorist attack could sink a ship, cripple a port, panic markets and disrupt trade. Ships can also be used to transport weapons or nuclear components for use on land. Without the U.S.-Liberia pact, Liberian-flagged ships carrying suspect materials had to be shown to be breaking international law, or enter U.S. waters, before the United States could act unilaterally, experts say. If the U.S. navy wanted to interdict a ship flying a foreign flag, it had to work through diplomatic channels with the government where the ship is registered - a time-consuming process, they said. The registry said U.S. authorities still must contact it before boarding any vessel. But shipping industry analysts said the United States was already frequently stopping and searching vessels on the high seas at will. "The U.S. navy will continue to board vessels when they want to," Osler said. "But at least in the case of Liberia, they'll be able to do it legally." The United States says the accord is based on similar pacts to block narcotics trafficking. Panama, the top country for flags of convenience, has no such agreement and isn't currently negotiating one, Deputy Foreign Minister Nivia Rossana Castrellon said in Panama City. Even with the deal, the U.S. military doesn't have the manpower to guard all the world's waters, shipping experts said. "If they want to be the policeman of the high seas, they can be," Osler said of the United States. "But even they haven't got the reach."
The cleanup has begun at the former American Media Inc. building, the first target in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people. Crews from Bio-ONE Solutions LLC spent Feb. 14, 2004 setting up decontamination areas in the basement of the tabloid publisher's former headquarters and preparing for more-involved scouting trips on other floors Feb. 15 and throughout the week. More than a dozen people made trips in and out of the building during the preliminary survey, spending about an hour each inside then coming out for decontamination and checks of their vital signs, said Sandra Schuh, a director with Sabre Technical Services LLC. Sabre is half of Bio-ONE, a new decontamination company created with former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's security consulting firm. Bio-ONE will make its headquarters at the building once the cleanup is complete later this year. Once the setup work is complete, teams will focus on shredding documents and destroying files and computer hard drives. They will also take pictures of equipment, furniture and other fixtures left behind inside the building when American Media workers had to evacuate in October 2001. The building was the home of the National Enquirer, Star and Weekly World News tabloids, but American Media sold it last year. The facility has been quarantined since anthrax sickened and killed Sun photo editor Robert Stevens, the first of five Americans to die of anthrax from spore-tainted letters. No arrests have been made. Other buildings that were contaminated with anthrax, including the Hart Senate office building and the Brentwood postal center in Washington, D.C., have been cleaned and reopened. Sabre handled cleanups at those buildings, as well as at a contaminated center in New Jersey.
A former mail trucker in Jacksonville, who maintains a Web site that has included accusations of corruption by the government and the trucking industry, says he has been questioned by FBI agents investigating three incidents in which the toxin ricin was sent through the mail. Daniel S. Somerson, of Jacksonville, a former trucker for Mail Contractors of America Inc. of Little Rock, said he was interviewed extensively by agents with the FBI's terrorism task force in mid-October 2003. That was after the first letter containing a ricin vial surfaced in a mail sorting facility near the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina. At that time, Mail Contractors of America trucks brought mail to the facility. Since then, ricin has been found at a White House mail facility and the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Somerson said task force investigators also have interviewed his wife at her workplace, a Jacksonville, charter school, asking whether her husband might have knowledge about ricin, a lethal toxin made from castor beans. Two agents also extensively questioned a friend of Somerson's, another trucker for the same company, Somerson said. Among the questions asked, Somerson said, was whether the other trucker could account for his whereabouts on the dates when ricin, accompanied by letters signed "Fallen Angel," surfaced, and whether he believed Somerson could have instigated the crimes. A law enforcement source said there is "no live suspect" in the ricin mailings and that agents are interviewing truckers in many locations, some based on tips from girlfriends and wives. The FBI has posted a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the South Carolina case. Somerson said he believes the FBI "is convinced that I am Fallen Angel or that I inspired Fallen Angel" through several Web sites. He denied any involvement in the ricin mailings and compared himself to Richard Jewell, the security guard originally targeted by the FBI in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic bombings case but later cleared. "I did not do it," Somerson said in a telephone interview. "I don't have the technical expertise to do something like that." He said he has been a victim of government harassment for some time because of his Web sites, which have been criticized by industry lawyers and government prosecutors. Last fall, he was found in contempt of court by a federal judge and fined $5,000. Somerson said he believes the ricin crimes are a "hue and cry from truckers who are fed up with an industry" in which the regulators are "in bed" with the regulated. The FBI has suggested the South Carolina ricin letter was more an act of extortion than terrorism, sent by someone in the trucking industry upset by new federal regulations about truckers' work hours that went into effect Jan. 4. The anonymous letters found in the Greenville and White House mailings complained about the regulations, specifically new rules on how long truckers may spend resting in their sleeper cabs. No letter was found with the small amount of ricin discovered Feb. 2, 2004 in the mailroom of Frist's office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Activists say there is deep anger among truckers about the most extensive changes in safety regulations in decades. Some trucking firms, particularly long-distance haulers, have complained about additional costs for new hires and training that will be necessary to bring them in compliance with the more stringent rules. Somerson's main Web site, http://www.TruckingSolutions.com, has attracted a following among some segments of the trucking industry.
A federal grand jury has subpoenaed work records for nine truck drivers employed by a Little Rock company that transports mail for the U.S. Postal Service, part of an effort to determine who might have delivered the first ricin-packed letter last year to a South Carolina postal processing center. Officials of Mail Contractors of America Inc. say that a subpoena received in late November 2003 sought driver logs and time sheets, cell phone and telephone records, delivery receipts and expenses. Eight of the truckers make deliveries to the facility near the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, where a vial of the toxin was discovered in October, and the other driver is a former employee, said Amy Bunch, a spokeswoman for the firm. The subpoena came about a month after FBI agents visited Mail Contractors of America to review drivers' records at its Jacksonville, Fla., terminal, including those of Daniel S. Somerson, a former employee who has become a truck safety activist, and a trucker friend who still works for the company. FBI terrorism investigators have interviewed both men. Somerson said he is innocent of any involvement in the letters and believes he is being harassed because he has criticized the trucking industry and Mail Contractors of America. In recent weeks, attempts to solve three ricin incidents, including one at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, have evolved into a geographic mystery. In the Greenville case, authorities have speculated that on Oct. 14 or 15, 2003 someone -- possibly a driver -- dropped a package with a vial of ricin enclosed. The package was left near the Greenville-Spartanburg airport. At the time, Mail Contractors of America had the contract for delivering third-class mail to the facility. A second letter addressed to the White House and retrieved from a Bolling Air Force Base mail-sorting facility bore a postmark from Chattanooga, and FBI officials there have been trying to track the mailing. The Greenville and White House mailings were sent by someone using the name "Fallen Angel," who threatens in a letter to use ricin unless changes are made to federal rules governing truckers' hours of service. Authorities say they have found no letter in connection with a small amount of ricin found Feb. 2, 2004 in the Dirksen mailroom used by the staff members of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). The Mail Contractors' subpoena comes as investigators sort through the drivers involved in trucker relay systems that are used to transport mail across the country. A rig packed with cartons of third-class mail might be handed off to several drivers before it reaches its final destination. Mail Contractors of America, which transports more than 90 percent of the nation's third-class mail and has 1,400 employees, most of them truckers, is cooperating with the federal investigation, said board Chairman James R. Malone. In an interview, Malone said the packaging system the company uses for its bulk-mail shipments, combined with high-security measures at the postal facilities, leaves little opportunity for drivers to slip unauthorized mail into their deliveries. "I suppose it's possible," he said, "but I've got to believe it would be a hell of a lot easier to just go to a mailbox and drop it in." The FBI has posted signs offering a $100,000 reward at truck stops and weigh stations along the East Coast. It also has appealed for help on trucker radio shows whose late-night chatter has included discussion of the cases.
FBI agents investigating the 2001 anthrax scare recently interviewed a scientist from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in connection with the deadly mail attacks, according to a document obtained by The Hartford Courant. Investigators wanted to know whether the scientist, whom the newspaper did not name, was responsible for an anonymous letter mailed to the FBI during the anthrax scare that suggested another EPA scientist was a potential terrorist. Federal agents summoned the scientist to their Washington field office last week. The scientist told federal investigators Feb. 18, 2004 that he had nothing to do with the letter, but the document indicated that he might be subjected to a lie-detector test. Anthrax-laced envelopes were mailed in the fall of 2001 to government and news media offices, including those of then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Five people died and 17 others were sickened in those attacks. The anonymous letter was sent Sept. 26, 2001 from a northern Virginia mailbox. It accused Egyptian-born scientist Ayaad Assaad of being a "religious fanatic" with the "means and will" to launch a bioterrorist attack against the United States. Federal investigators have always said the letter had no bearing on their hunt for the anthrax killer. FBI Director Robert Mueller is briefed each week on the progress of the investigation, dubbed "Amerithrax" by the bureau. Assaad's lawyer, Rosemary McDermott, said that Assaad has not been questioned by the FBI since Oct. 3, 2001, when he was shown the letter naming him as a terrorist threat. McDermott said her client was cleared of any suspicion at the end of that interview. Assaad is convinced that anonymous writer is connected to the person who mailed the anthrax letters, and that the warning was intended set him up as a scapegoat. It is unclear whether last week's interview of Assaad's colleague is simply a search for fresh leads in the case or whether the FBI has been quietly hunting for the source of the anonymous letter for years. FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman would not comment on an ongoing investigation.
A Toronto woman who contracted SARS last spring 2003 is suing the city, province and country, arguing that politicians were more worried about the city's image than with stamping out all traces of the deadly outbreak. Andrea Williams, a nurse who says she caught the disease while in hospital as a patient, said Feb. 23, 2004, that she is still suffering the effects of her brush with SARS. "I am trying now to get my life together," she told a Toronto news conference. "I have returned back to work, but I'm still having severe fatigue. I have some memory loss." These few past days I asked myself, why am I going through with this lawsuit. I am a nurse, so I know the great dedication of my nursing colleagues and our doctors. "But I ask myself why people in charge, the politicians, the health-care officials, stopped taking SARS seriously. Why did they stop being careful?" Ms. Williams entered hospital for surgery in May 2003, a few weeks after officials suggested on April 20 that what came to know as SARS 1 - the initial outbreak - was over. Her lawyer, Doug Elliott, said that she was still worried about SARS and wore her own mask to the hospital, only to be mocked by those who thought she was being paranoid. "Once she was put under [anesthesia] for the surgery, they took the mask off, and once she was released onto the floor, the mask was removed," he told CBC Newsworld. "Unfortunately for her, her post-operative floor happened to become the centre of the second SARS outbreak." When told she had caught the infectious disease, Ms. Williams said that she thought she was going to die. "Physically, I could not breathe, my lungs felt as if they were closing. I could not eat. I lost over 30 pounds," said Ms. Williams, who still suffers various symptoms. Calling it "just an estimate," Mr. Elliot said he is suing for $600-million. He admits that no one knows what the final cost will be. At the press conference, Mr. Elliott said that it is "unfortunate" that taxpayers may have to pay for errors handling SARS. But he went on to say that it would be unjust for victims such as Ms. Williams to bear the full brunt. "We went from SARS panic to SARS denial in a matter of days," he said. "And it was that SARS denial that led to needless infections of my client and close to 100 people in the Toronto area. "Mr. Elliot hopes to be in court within weeks and to have the case certified as a class action. That would mean that about 100 other people exposed to SARS after April 20, 2003, could be included.
The Justice Department has
exaggerated its performance in the war on terrorism, interfered
with a major terror prosecution and compromised a confidential
informant, a federal prosecutor has alleged in an extraordinary
lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft. The lawsuit by
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino is the latest twist in
the Bush administration's first major post-Sept. 11 terrorism
prosecution, a Detroit case jeopardized over allegations of
prosecutorial misconduct. Convertino was the lead prosecutor on
the case, in which the government did not provide defense
attorneys a letter alleging that a prosecution witness lied until
long after a trial had ended. In his lawsuit, Convertino says the
Justice Department is retaliating against him because he has
complained frequently and publicly about "the lack of
support and cooperation, lack of effective assistance, lack of
resources and intradepartmental infighting" in terrorism
cases. "These concerns directly related to the ability of
the United States to effectively utilize the criminal justice
system as a component in the `war on terrorism,'" says his
lawsuit filed in federal court. According to the suit, a senior
official in the Justice Department's terrorism and violent crimes
section informed Convertino that news reports concerning the
department's anti-terror efforts were not accurate and that the
"press gives us more credit than we deserve." The
lawsuit alleges "gross mismanagement" in the terrorism
and violent crimes section. Convertino says he complained
repeatedly to the Justice Department in Washington that it placed
"perception" over "reality" to the serious
detriment of the war on terror. He is seeking unspecified damages
under the Privacy Act for harm to his reputation. Justice
Department spokesman Mark Corallo declined to comment. Convertino
came under internal Justice Department investigation last fall
after telling a Senate committee of his concerns. "Whistleblowers
put a lot on the line to protect the public," Sen. Charles
Grassley, R-Iowa, said. "They deserve strong protections
against intimidation, harassment, demotion or even dismissal for
doing the right thing." Regarding the Detroit case which
Convertino handled, the government late last year turned over a
jail inmate's letter to defense lawyers. In it, the inmate
alleged that prosecution witness Youssef Hmimssa had lied. A
lawyer for Convertino has said he believes his client made the
right decision in not disclosing the evidence because it wouldn't
have affected the trial's outcome. Months before the government
turned over the letter, a jury found two defendants guilty of
document fraud and conspiracy to provide material support for
terrorism. One other was found guilty of document fraud but
acquitted of terror charges. And the fourth was acquitted on all
counts. A defense attorney who faced Convertino in the Detroit
case said one section of his lawsuit "seems completely
unfounded." Convertino alleges a lack of resources, but his
resources "appeared to us to be completely unlimited,"
said James Gerometta, one of the court-appointed defense
attorneys in the case. The lawsuit includes excerpts of an e-mail
from another prosecutor in the case that Convertino says "identified
some of the gross mismanagement which was negatively impacting
the ability of the United States to obtain convictions in a major
terrorist case." The e-mail from the other prosecutor shows
he complained at the time that efforts by Justice's terrorism
unit in Washington to "insinuate themselves into this trial
are, nothing more than a self-serving effort to justify the
existence" of the unit. "They have rendered no
assistance and, are in my judgment, adversely impacting on both
trial prep and trial strategy," the e-mail cited in the
lawsuit states. Convertino also accused Justice officials of
intentionally divulging the name of one of his confidential
terrorism informants (CI) to retaliate against him. The leak put
the informant at grave risk, forced him to flee the United States
and "interfered with the ability of the United States to
obtain information from the CI about current and future terrorist
activities," the suit alleges. The prosecutor is being
represented by the National Whistleblower Center, which has
represented FBI agents and other whistleblowers in recent cases
The commander of American-led forces in Afghanistan said Feb. 17, 2004 that the military had adopted new tactics to combat Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the country. The officer, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno of the Army, said that in the past three months, American units down to the level of 40-soldier platoons had been dispatched to live in villages where they can forge ties with tribal elders and glean better information about the location and activities of guerrillas. In the past, he said, American forces typically gathered intelligence about hostile forces, carried out focused raids for several days against those targets, then returned to base to plan and prepare for their next mission. "What we're doing is moving to a more classic counterinsurgency strategy here in Afghanistan," General Barno told reporters at the Pentagon in a videoconference from his headquarters in Kabul, the capital. "That's a fairly significant change in terms of our tactical approach out there on the ground." The approach, he said, will give soldiers "great depth of knowledge, understanding, and much better intelligence access to the local people in those areas by owning, as it were, those chunks of territory." General Barno and other American officials have boasted that Osama bin Laden, the elusive leader of Al Qaeda, will be captured this year. He refused to repeat this assertion, though he said, "We have a very, very high priority in bringing to justice here the leadership of each of the terrorist organizations that we face." General Barno said the new strategy had already paid dividends: Afghan civilians have reported more insurgents' weapons caches in the past month than had been turned in during the past half year. The shift in tactics comes in response to a growing number of attacks against foreign aid workers, Afghan civilians and others associated with the government of President Hamid Karzai, which General Barno said were aimed at disrupting the fitful reconstruction efforts. The new strategy also seeks to complement a renewed effort by the United States, NATO and other allies to expand the number of teams of soldiers and civilians who will fan out beyond Kabul and assist local authorities with security and rebuilding. General Barno said that by the end of this week, 12 of those "provincial reconstruction teams" would be operating. Britain, Italy, Turkey and Norway agreed earlier this month to lead four additional NATO teams by this summer. The teams consist of 60 to 100 people, are tailored to a region's specific needs, and have become the linchpin of the coalition's efforts to rebuild Afghanistan while staving off guerrilla attacks. General Barno said the allies, in concert with the Karzai government, are forming what he called regional development zones, essentially areas that encompass more than one of the provincial teams. More than 13,000 American and other allied troops are operating in Afghanistan alongside a 5,500-member NATO peacekeeping force in and around Kabul. American forces are also trying to integrate 5,700 members of the new Afghan Army and several hundred newly trained Afghan police officers into the security arrangements. General Barno, a West Point graduate who assumed command last October, said cooperation with Pakistani forces on the Afghan border had increased, especially in the past six to eight weeks. American officials say they believe that Mr. Bin Laden is hiding in the mountainous border region. Using a harsh, century-old British method, Pakistani forces have handed local tribal leaders a list of villages suspected of sheltering members of Al Qaeda. If the tribe refuses to hand over the suspects, the Pakistani Army threatens to punish the group as a whole, withdrawing funds or demolishing houses. "That they're confronting the tribal elders and they're holding them accountable for activities in their areas of influence is a major step forward," General Barno said. He said he meets in Pakistan with his counterparts at least once a month, and every four to six weeks he invites Pakistani and Afghan officials to meet at his headquarters to discuss security issues. The general said the group had set up a committee to deal with border issues and another to address military information and coordination. General Barno said American and Pakistani forces were cooperating to create a "hammer and anvil" strategy, in which forces on one side of the border drive Al Qaeda members across the border to troops waiting on the other side, a tactic that will "crush the Al Qaeda elements between the Pakistani and the coalition forces."
Calls in Australia for an independent inquiry into intelligence used to justify war in Iraq intensified after a top spy admitted he was the source of a report saying US claims about Iraq's weapons program were exaggerated. Defence Intelligence Organisation chief Frank Lewincamp told a parliamentary committee Feb. 18, 2004 that he was the unnamed official quoted by the Age newspaper in Melbourne saying the government was warned about the accuracy of US claims. Opposition Leader Mark Latham said he was concerned such sensitive information had been revealed amid "banter" at a university discussion. "It's very concerning, it's quite extraordinary that the head of one of our intelligence agencies would be down at a university seminar talking about this sort of thing," he told Sky News. Latham said Lewincamp's remarks added weight to the call for an independent inquiry into the quality of intelligence used ahead of the Iraq war. "The important thing is to establish the truth, to recognise that the war against terror is very much an intelligence war, we need to get it right," he said. "If mistakes were made either in intelligence advice or government decision making prior to the war on Iraq, we can't afford those mistakes to happen again in the future."
Youth gangs that have terrorized Central America for years are spreading north into Mexico and preying on illegal immigrants in a fresh challenge to the government's war on crime, politicians said on Feb. 16, 2004. Hunted down by new governments in Honduras and Guatemala, members of the feared "Salvatrucha" and "Mara 18" gangs have turned up in recent months in eight Mexican states from Chiapas in the south to Tijuana on the U.S. border, leaving a trail of killings and rape. The gangs, known as "maras," prey on illegal migrants who travel from Central America up through Mexico by hopping cargo trains in the hope of reaching the United States. While crime figures are hard to come by, local legislators say gang-related violence is on the rise. "The southern Mexican border has very few controls, which is why in recent years illegal trafficking in arms, drugs and stolen cars has grown. There is also a rising flow of migrants using Mexico to get to the United States," said left-wing PRD deputy, and former Chiapas governor, Emilio Zebadua. "Migrants fall victim to these gangs who attack them, rape them, rob them and kill them. The cash they have on them to pay traffickers is attractive and they are vulnerable as there is no authority protecting them," he told Reuters. A string of arrests suggests the El Salvador-based Salvatrucha is recruiting in Mexico and becoming entrenched along the southern border. In the past few days, police in Chiapas have arrested some 100 gang leaders, said Zebadua, who believes Central American gangs are setting up bases along the border for arms and drugs trafficking and forced prostitution rings. "This kind of behavior is always a risk for national security and it should be seen as such," Chiapas public security secretary Horacio Schroeder Bejarano told the Mexican daily Reforma. Local governors accuse President Vicente Fox, who has pledged to bust violent crime, of focusing too much on crime in the capital and the U.S. border and turning a blind eye to problems along the southern border. Salvatrucha emerged in Los Angeles in 1969 and is now one of the biggest gangs in Central America.
The global maritime industry, already plagued by organized crime, is increasingly vulnerable to seaborne attack by al Qaeda guerrillas, security experts said Feb. 18, 2004. "We believe al Qaeda and its associates may be planning a maritime 'spectacular'," said Dominick Donald, a senior analyst with Aegis Defense Services, a leading London-based risk and security consultancy. "We think there are enough indications now that al Qaeda would like to do this, is thinking hard about it, and is probably beginning to prepare for it," said Donald, speaking at an oil and transport security conference in London. He said oil and gas tankers and cruise ships were prime targets for al Qaeda -- blamed for the September 11 attacks -- because of their respective economic and "iconic" importance. Donald acknowledged the threat was not new but said it was growing more acute as militant Islamist groups became more adept at sharing information on how to carry out seaborne attacks. "There is no doubt about it: the industry is vulnerable and more attention is focused on it as a likely target," said Chris Austen, formerly a counter-terrorism specialist with Britain's Royal Navy and now managing director of Maritime Underwater Security Consultants. Citing a surge in piracy attacks and ocean crime, he said the building blocks for an attack were already in place, particularly in little-patrolled waters around the Horn of Africa and in Southeast Asia. "Terrorism is imitative; it learns from other terrorists, and from organized crime. If organized criminals are using the maritime environment, terrorists will follow," he said. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the world's top ocean crime watchdog, said last month that piracy attacks jumped 20 percent in 2003 to 445. Violent crime also jumped with 21 seafarers killed, 88 injured and 71 crew or passengers listed as missing. The IMB has said it has not found any evidence linking militant groups to acts of piracy and ocean crime but said the growing lawlessness could help militant groups to gain a foothold. Donald said militant groups could learn how to use a merchant ship as a delivery vessel for a "dirty bomb" by interrogating kidnapped mariners. "Piracy is the perfect mask for maritime terrorism," he said.
The House and the Senate are initiating new mail inspection procedures, including the opening of all mail at an off-site location, after the latest discovery of a deadly substance in the postal system. Under new protocols, all letters will be removed from envelopes and then reinserted and resealed after being found safe, House Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood and Chief Administrative Office Jay Eagen said in a letter to House members. The Senate Sergeant at Arms office said similar measures would be adopted on the Senate side. Since 2001, when a letter containing anthrax was sent to the office of then-Senate Majority Tom Daschle, all first class mail to the Capitol is first sent to an off-site inspection center where the corner of the envelope is cut and the envelopes are sterilized through irradiation and tested for toxins. But mail service was again disrupted and Senate office buildings closed Feb. 2, 2004 when the toxin ricin was found in the mailroom of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. "As a practical matter, it is not acceptable to put members and their staff at risk from such threats," Livingood and Eagan wrote. But Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, wrote the two officials, asking them to suspend the new procedures, which he said raised privacy concerns. He also questioned having the testing outsourced to a private corporation. "I believe these new procedures fundamentally damage the integrity of the chain of communication between constituents and members of Congress," Kucinich wrote. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Administration Committee, said he planned to expand an experiment in which mail is scanned before reaching the Capitol and then sent electronically to lawmakers' offices. A dozen House offices have participated in the project since the anthrax scare, and Ney recently said he planned to expand the digital mail program to 25 offices. Livingood and Eagan said that the House has received more than 600,000 pieces of first class mail in that period, and that delivery delays will continue for several months while the new system is implemented.
Letter to Agriculture
Secretary Ann Veneman concerning false or misleading government
reassurances on mad cow disease (HRG Publication #1690)
Chronic Wasting Disease - Canada (Cases Almost Double) From Patricia Doyle, PhD
An Israeli businessman accused of being a middleman in the nuclear black market worked to supply not only Pakistan but also its archrival India, court records indicate. South Africa-based Asher Karni faces felony charges of exporting nuclear bomb triggers to Pakistan. But court files in the case also include e-mail exchanges between Karni and an Indian businessman who was trying secretly to buy material for two Indian rocket factories. "Be careful to avoid any reference to the customer name," warned one message from Karni's Indian contact, Raghavendra "Ragu" Rao of Foretek Marketing (Pvt.) Ltd. The messages offer a rare glimpse into such dealings. Federal prosecutors filed them in court as part of their attempts to persuade a judge to keep Karni behind bars before his trial. After conferring with U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay on Feb. 19, (2004) lawyers for both sides agreed to postpone a bond hearing for Karni. L. Barrett Boss, one of Karni's lawyers, declined comment after the hearing. Karni, 50, has pleaded innocent. Federal agents arrested him on New Year's Day when he arrived in Denver for a ski vacation. Authorities accuse Karni of using front companies and falsified documents to buy nuclear bomb triggers in the United States and ship them to Pakistan. Rao's e-mails from India ask Karni to procure three kinds of high-tech equipment while concealing that they were meant for the two rocket labs. The United States restricts exports of missile-related material to the two organizations, the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center. An August 2002 e-mail from Rao to Karni warns Karni to conceal the final customer of an accelerometer to the LPSC, noting its export is restricted because of its "possibility of being used in guidance systems for missiles." Prosecutors said they found his e-mails while searching a laptop computer and six computer discs Karni had when he was arrested. The court files also include records of other deals Karni made with his contact in Pakistan, Humayun Khan of the company Pakland PME. One involved Khan's urgent request last May for Karni to buy infrared sensors for AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles which Pakistan uses on its F-16 fighter planes for air-to-air combat. While it is unclear whether that deal went through, the request shows Karni must have known Khan had ties to the Pakistani military, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Bratt argued in court documents. Another deal which apparently was completed was Humayun Khan's request for a sophisticated oscilloscope, a measuring device that could be used in nuclear weapons programs. For that deal, the documents indicate, Karni used the same U.S. intermediary he used for the bomb triggers: Giza Technologies Inc. of Secaucus, N.J. In an August e-mail to Giza head Zeki Bilmen, Karni said he had a "new project" for Giza. "It is very important that they will not know it is coming to S.A. (South Africa)," Karni wrote. Karni in May had asked the oscilloscope maker, Tektronix Inc., if he could buy an oscilloscope for Pakistan, but the company told him to ask for a U.S. export license first, court records indicate. There is no indication Karni contacted Tektronix directly again. Bilmen has declined comment. Neither he nor his company have been charged, though Bratt wrote that agents searched Giza's offices in December at the same time South African police raided Karni's offices in Cape Town. The criminal case against Karni centers on his efforts to buy devices called triggered spark gaps from PerkinElmer Optoelectronics of Salem, Mass. The devices can be used in machines to break up kidney stones, but exports are restricted because they also are key to triggering nuclear detonations. A PerkinElmer representative in France rebuffed Karni's efforts to buy spark gaps last spring, saying Karni had to certify they would not be used in nuclear weapons. Khan urged Karni to try harder, writing in an e-mail: "I know it is difficult but that's why we came to know each other." Karni then used Giza as a front to buy 66 spark gaps from PerkinElmer, prosecutors allege. Giza said on shipping documents the spark gaps were destined for a South African hospital, but Karni repackaged them and sent them on to Pakistan, court documents allege. A court filing from Karni's Colorado lawyers includes a letter purportedly from the Pakistani user of the triggers, saying they had been sent to "Agha Khan Foundation University & Hospitals" in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Aga Khan Foundation does not have any hospitals in Sri Lanka, however. Its hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, has only one of the kidney stone treatment machines. PerkinElmer executives told U.S. authorities that even the largest hospital would need only two or three of the triggers for a kidney treatment center, not dozens of them.
A top Malaysian police official said Feb. 21, 2004, that the Sri Lankan businessman who helped Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan build a secret, international network for supplying nuclear material and equipment had committed no crime and was free to leave the country. Malaysian authorities have decided not to arrest Buhary Syed Abu Tahir or confiscate his passport, said police inspector-general Mohamed Bakri Omar in comments carried by the official Malaysian news agency Bernama. Police had earlier interrogated Tahir, a Malaysian resident, as part of a three-month investigation into local activities of Khan's nuclear network. Police released their report, which included extensive details from Tahir about how the Pakistani scientist provided Iran with components for its nuclear program and Libya with enriched uranium and equipment that could be used in developing weapons. "If he wants to leave [the country], I cannot restrict him," Mohamed Bakri said. He added, "The police just investigate and we've done that." But Mohamed Bakri said Malaysian authorities were willing to help make Tahir available to the International Atomic Energy Agency if international investigators wanted to question him. The senior police commander also left open the possibility that Tahir could face legal action in Malaysia from a local company, Scomi Precision Engineering, on the grounds that he had misled the firm when he directed them to manufacture centrifuge parts that could be used in making weapons-grade uranium. These components were later intercepted in Italy on a ship bound for Libya. Tahir had told police investigators that the parts would be used in the petroleum and gas industry, according to the police report.
Several diplomats and analysts said the Libyan and Iranian nuclear programs highlighted the failure of governments either to gather proper intelligence, or if they did have intelligence, to give it to the IAEA. "Remember that it wasn't the CIA or MI6 that uncovered the Iranian enrichment program, it was the NCRI," said a diplomat close to the IAEA, referring to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a coalition of exiled opposition groups that Washington considers a terrorist organization.
The United States and Mexico agreed on Feb. 20, 2004, to tighten security along their border and start sending illegal immigrants caught sneaking across the frontier back home by bus or plane. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Mexican Interior Minister Santiago Creel signed an accord to step up cooperation on border control and start repatriating illegals rather than simply dumping them on the Mexican side of the frontier. With the U.S. presidential election looming, the deal also seeks to stem fears among the U.S. electorate that White House proposals to legalize millions of Hispanic guest workers could prompt tens of thousands more to pour over the border. President Bush is proposing to grant work permits to millions of mainly Latin American immigrants under a three-year visa program which his critics see as an attempt to win Hispanic votes in the upcoming presidential election. The accord proposes deploying more security personnel along the border and starting an information campaign to deter would-be migrants, although details have yet to be worked out. It paves the way for U.S. border patrols to send arrested illegals home rather than simply dumping them in Mexican territory where they can remain stranded or immediately try to cross the border again.
The U.S. Postal Service could be dispatched to deliver antibiotics to people in their mail in the event of a biological attack under a plan being developed by the service and other government officials. The postal service could use its network of more than 170 million addresses to speed the distribution of medication to residential areas in the event of a catastrophic incident. "This is certainly an opportunity in a catastrophic event to assist the folks in the nation... by utilizing a service which is there day in and day out," said Von Roebuck, a spokesman with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security are working with the postal service to coordinate the plan that is still in its infancy. Ironically, it was the mail system that was used in October 2001 to send anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and sickened 13 more. Anthrax, treatable with antibiotics, is often rated the top biological threat facing the United States. Under the tentative plan, antibiotic deliveries most likely would be made directly to the homes of those individuals who were contaminated rather than where the biological agent was found, said Gerry McKiernan, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service. The Postal Service would only be asked to help distribute the medication if other U.S. health services were overloaded in an emergency. "We're a long way from done on this," said McKiernan on Feb. 18, 2004. Participation by post office employees would be voluntary, but already two postal unions have supported the plan, he said.
Japan tightened security at airports, nuclear plants and government facilities Feb. 20, (2004) dispatching armed riot police to guard against possible terror attacks as the country dispatches troops on a humanitarian mission to Iraq. A National Police Agency official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the heightened security but refused to say whether the government had new information about a possible terror strike. He said it was the highest show of security in Japan since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The tougher security also follows a failed attempt to hit the Defense Agency with projectiles earlier in the week and precedes an expected verdict in the trial of a cult leader accused of plotting a 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subways. The security move sent a shiver through global financial markets, knocking the Japanese yen to 10-week lows against the U.S. dollar. The National Police official said riot police armed with automatic rifles will guard Tokyo and Kansai international airports and nuclear power and reprocessing facilities, but he would not disclose how many officers were added. Larger police forces were being mobilized and additional checkpoints set up around the prime minister's residence, the U.S. Embassy, military facilities and national and local assembly buildings, the official said. Security was also strengthened at ports, railway stations and shopping malls. Japan is sending 1,000 air, sea and ground forces for the mission in Iraq, its largest military deployment since World War II. An advance team of 30 soldiers is already in Iraq. Many fear that dispatch could draw terrorist attacks in Japan, and last November an alleged al-Qaida operative threatened to attack Tokyo if it sent troops to Iraq. Japan issued a series of travel advisories and alerts for citizens living abroad late last year. On Feb. 17, 2004 assailants apparently attempted to fire projectiles at Japan's Defense Agency. Two blasts were heard near the Agency, and police later found two projectile launchers. There were no injuries or damage, but local media reported that a leftist group opposed to Japan's Iraqi mission had claimed responsibility. The move also comes ahead of the verdict next Friday in the case of Shoko Asahara, the former leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult that carried out the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subways that killed 12 people. Police earlier this week raided offices of the cult, now named Aleph, concerned it could be planning reprisals if Asahara is convicted. Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty.
Feb. 21, 2004 -- The
Utility Consumers' Action Network said California gas prices
increased to $2.03 per gallon, the highest level of the year.
That is matching the steepest rise the group has seen in eight
years of monitoring pump prices. And the view ahead is worse,
according to several industry experts. Current wholesale prices
which now average $1.60 per gallon typically
translate into retail prices of $2.10 to $2.20 after the addition
of taxes and retailer markups.
An outbreak of bird flu that rattled commodity markets and hit U.S. poultry producers started in a rundown chicken house on a remote southern Texas farm, officials said Feb. 23, 2004. The chicken house's operator, whose name was not disclosed, is the first outbreak of extremely infectious and deadly avian influenza in the United States in 20 years. His 6,600 chickens were gassed during the weekend and his operation locked down while authorities test all poultry flocks within a 10-mile radius of his farm, Mark Michalke, field veterinarian for the Texas Animal Health Commission, told a news conference at the Gonzales County courthouse. The virulent form of flu can wipe out bird flocks, but is not known to be dangerous to humans, he said. There are about 250 active chicken houses in Gonzales County, 130 miles west of Houston, but Michalke said the infected facility was in a cattle ranching region about 1.25 miles from the nearest poultry farm. That means there is less chance of the virus spreading. The producer sold his chickens to poultry markets in Houston that Gonzales County Sheriff Glen Sachtleben said sell live chickens for slaughter on site. Authorities killed some of his infected birds found in the markets, Michalke said. "To our knowledge there are no infected birds in the food chain," he said. Even if there were, they only need to be cooked to keep the virus from passing on to humans, he said. There is little likelihood that the virus found in the Texas birds would infect and sicken humans, but Michalke said the fear is that viruses mutate and become dangerous. A different form of bird flu is blamed for killing 22 people in Asia. Federal officials were monitoring farmworkers in the area for flu-like symptoms. The Gonzales County producer brought six birds to authorities when he noticed some of his flock had respiratory problems like those suffered by humans with the flu, Michalke said. Four tested positive for bird flu, he said. Milder forms of bird flu were found in poultry in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey this month. Russia, the top U.S. poultry buyer, and more than two dozen other nations have banned imports of at least some U.S. poultry since.
? Shocking new details
about the death of Dr. David Kelly emerged today exclusively on
the Alex Jones radio show. Michael Shrimpton, a UK national
security lawyer who was a guest on the show, revealed that
sources within MI5 and MI6 are `furious' that Kelly was murdered.
Shrimpton spoke in depth about the details of Kelly's murder on
17th July 2003, information which has been withheld by the
Government: Accused of cover-up Case for war: An official secret
By Paul Waugh and Kim Sengupta
UK spies bugged UN chief,
claims Short By John Deane
U.N.: UK spying 'illegal' if true
Blair Hit by Annan Spying Claim, U.N. Cries Foul By Mike Peacock
U.S. investigators working for a new government forensic unit have found indications of a global bomb-making network and concluded that bomb builders used the same designs for car bombs in the Mideast, Asia and Africa. And while intelligence analysts have said they believe al Qaeda has been weakened by anti-terrorism campaigns, the bomb investigations suggest that it may still be disseminating bomb-making instructions to militants around the world. The new forensic unit behind the effort to analyze bombs used in attacks is called the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, or Tedac. "Tedac is a multiagency effort to analyze improvised explosive devices," the report quoted Dwight Adams, director of the FBI laboratory as saying. "It gathers and shares intelligence related to the construction of these devices. According to the FBI, which took the lead in the center's creation, almost 90 percent of attacks against Americans over the last five years have involved improvised explosive devices. The unit, based at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, began its work in December 2003. It has drawn on input from a host of intelligence agencies including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The center's experts have begun to compile a data bank of information about the bombs, and in some cases have been able to obtain evidence of who made the bomb through fingerprints or DNA material left behind. The study of the unexploded device built into the shoe of Richard Reid, a British citizen and al Qaeda sympathizer who was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to blow up a passenger jet over the Atlantic Ocean in December, 2001, is a model of how the new center will operate. Investigators found the design of the shoe bomb followed specific instructions in training manuals found by U.S. forces at training camps in Afghanistan. The investigators found evidence such as a hair and fingerprints that prove that others were involved.
The extent of Israel's atomic weapons program is a mystery to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN agency's chief said in an interview broadcast on Feb. 25, 2004. "Unfortunately I can't give a precise opinion about it because we don't do any inspections in Israel," Mohamed ElBaradei told Al Arabiya television when asked about the size of Israel's nuclear weapons program. "I know that it's a developed program, and Israel does not deny that it has nuclear capability, but the size of the program, the extent of its development, really I can't know." Non-proliferation analysts estimate Israel has anywhere from 100 to 200 atomic weapons, but the country has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not confirm or deny having nuclear weapons. However, a new book by Washington Times Pentagon correspondent Rowan Scarborough -- "Rumsfeld's War: The Untold Story of America's Anti-Terrorist Commander" -- suggests that Israel's nuclear arsenal may be more modestly sized. An excerpt published in the Washington Times newspaper cites a classified Pentagon report on future threats into the year 2020. Among other things, the report predicts "Israel would maintain a nuclear arsenal of about 80 warheads."
American investigators were given the first name and telephone number of one of the Sept. 11 hijackers two and a half years before the attacks on New York and Washington, but the United States appears to have failed to pursue the lead aggressively, American and German officials say. The information the earliest known signal that the United States received about any of the hijackers has now become an important element of an independent commission's investigation into the events of Sept. 11, 2001, officials said Feb. 23, 2004. It is considered particularly significant because it may have represented a missed opportunity for American officials to penetrate the Qaeda terror cell in Germany that was at the heart of the plot. And it came roughly 16 months before the hijacker showed up at flight schools in the United States. In March 1999, German intelligence officials gave the Central Intelligence Agency the first name and telephone number of Marwan al-Shehhi, and asked the Americans to track him. The name and phone number in the United Arab Emirates had been obtained by the Germans by monitoring the telephone of Mohamed Heidar Zammar, an Islamic militant in Hamburg who was closely linked to the important Qaeda plotters who ultimately mastermined the Sept. 11 attacks, German officials said. After the Germans passed the information on to the C.I.A., they did not hear from the Americans about the matter until after Sept. 11, a senior German intelligence official said. "There was no response" at the time, the official said. After receiving the tip, the C.I.A. decided that "Marwan" was probably an associate of Osama bin Laden, but never tracked him down, American officials say. The Germans considered the information on Mr. Shehhi particularly valuable, and the commission is keenly interested in why it apparently did not lead to greater scrutiny of him. The information concerning Mr. Shehhi, the man who took over the controls of United Airlines Flight 175, which flew into the south tower of the World Trade Center, came months earlier than well-documented tips about other hijackers, including two who were discovered to have attended a meeting of militants in Malaysia in January 2000. The independent commission investigating the attacks has received information on the 1999 Shehhi tip, and is actively investigating the issue, said Philip Zelikow, executive director of the commission. American intelligence officials and others involved with the matter say they are uncertain whether Mr. Shehhi's phone was ever monitored. An American official said: "The Germans did give us the name `Marwan' and a phone number, but we were unable to come up with anything. It was an unlisted phone number in the U.A.E., which he was known to use." The incident is of particular importance because Mr. Shehhi was a crucial member of the Qaeda cell in Hamburg at the heart of the Sept. 11 plot. Close surveillance of Mr. Shehhi in 1999 might have led investigators to other plot leaders, including Mohammed Atta, who was Mr. Shehhi's roommate. A native of the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Shehhi moved to Germany in 1996 and was almost inseparable from Mr. Atta in their time there. Both men attended the wedding of a fellow Muslim at a radical mosque in Hamburg in October 1999 an event considered an important gathering for the Sept. 11 hijacking teams just as the plotting was getting under way. American and European authorities say that Mr. Shehhi was actively involved in the planning and logistics of the Sept. 11 plot. "The Hamburg cell is very important" to the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Zelikow said. The intelligence on Mr. Shehhi "is an issue that's obviously of importance to us, and we're investigating it," he added. Asked whether American intelligence officials gave sufficient attention to the information about Mr. Shehhi, Mr. Zelikow said, "We haven't reached any conclusions." The joint Congressional inquiry that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks was told about the matter by the C.I.A., but only a small part of the information was declassified and made public in the panel's final report in December 2002, several officials said. The public report mentioned only that the C.I.A. had received Mr. Shehhi's first name, but made no mention that the agency had also obtained his telephone number. Officials involved with the work of the joint Congressional investigation made it clear that the publication of a more complete version of the story was the subject of a declassification dispute with the C.I.A. A former official involved with the Congressional inquiry acknowledged that having a telephone number for one of the hijackers was far more significant than simply having a first name. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the C.I.A., F.B.I. and other government agencies have been heavily criticized for failing to put together fragmentary pieces of information they received from a wide array of sources in order to predict or prevent the terrorist plot. The joint Congressional panel that investigated the attacks concluded that American authorities "missed opportunities to disrupt the Sept. 11 plot by denying entry to or detaining would-be hijackers; to at least try to unravel the plot through surveillance and other investigative work within the United States; and finally, to generate a heightened state of alert and thus harden the homeland against attack." Until now, the most highly scrutinized failure has related to the C.I.A.'s handling of information about a meeting of extremists in Malaysia in January 2000 that involved two of the men who would become hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi. Although the C.I.A. identified the two men as suspected extremists, the agency did not request that they be placed on the government's watch lists to keep them out of the United States until late August 2001. By that time, they were both already in the country. In addition, while the two men lived in San Diego, their landlord was an F.B.I. informant, but the bureau did not learn of their terrorist links from the informant. But unlike the leads to Mr. Midhar and Mr. Alhazmi in San Diego, the earlier information about Mr. Shehhi could have taken investigators to the core of the Qaeda cell at a time when the plot was probably in its formative stages. According to testimony in Germany in December in a criminal case related to the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Shehhi was one of only four members of the Hamburg cell who knew about the attacks beforehand. Mr. Shehhi and Mr. Atta traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 to train at a Qaeda camp with several other Sept. 11 plotters. And after returning to Germany, Mr. Shehhi made an ominous reference to the World Trade Center to a Hamburg librarian, saying: "There will be thousands of dead. You will all think of me," German authorities said. Soon after, Mr. Shehhi, Mr. Atta and another plotter, Ziad al-Jarrah, began e-mailing several dozen American flight schools from Germany to inquire about enrollment, and they arrived in the United States later in 2000 to begin flight training.
The Goldeneye 100 craft, developed by Aurora Flight Sciences is powered by a ducted-fan engine consisting of a rotor located within the protective cylinder. This provides the vertical thrust needed to lift it off the ground and keep it hovering over one spot. But the aircraft's wings can also swivel and, by increasing the engine's power and adjusting the wings, it can be made to flip over on to its side and fly horizontally. The craft can be controlled from the ground but is also designed to fly autonomously. These pilotless aircraft have been used by the US for military scouting and attack missions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan according to AFS. Aurora Flight Sciences plans to have fully developed the vehicle by the end of 2004. A miniature version of the aircraft, the Goldeneye 50, is currently being designed. This will be about a tenth of the size of Goldeneye 100.
Pakistani tribesmen in the rugged semi-autonomous region bordering Afghanistan have handed over dozens of people suspected of sheltering Al-Qaeda militants, a government official said. Threatened by the prospect of a large-scale Pakistan military offensive to seize the suspects, tribal elders bowed to pressure and presented authorities with the Al-Qaeda sympathisers. "About 60 percent of those linked to al-Qaeda or working as facilitators have been handed over to the local authorities," the official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP. The official did not say how many suspects had been detained but security sources said earlier said authorities were looking for some 90 people accused of offering shelter to al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives in the mountainous South Waziristan area along the eastern Afghan border. Afghan officials suspect that tribesmen in South Waziristan provide sanctuary to militants involved in attacks against the US-led coalition and Afghan forces in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika. The tribal elders handed over the accused over the past few days following a February 20, 2004 deadline given by the government last week. The government earlier deployed thousands of troops for an operation into the area if tribal elders failed to hand over the suspects and those protecting them.
The top-secret US commando team that spearheaded the capture of Saddam Hussein is heading for Afghanistan in the latest sign that the hunt for Osama bin Laden is coming to a head. Battle-hardened units from Task Force 121 are being shifted as intelligence reports increase on the possible whereabouts of the terrorist leader, according to an article in the Washington Times by a reporter known for his access to the special forces. American forces are mounting a parallel spring offensive on the Afghan side of the frontier, aiming to create what Lt Gen David Barno, the US commander in Afghanistan, described last week as "a hammer and anvil" effect to trap terrorist fugitives between the two armies. Pathan tribal elders have been given an ultimatum to hand over Taliban and al-Qa'eda fighters and America has been publicising its offers of large rewards for the capture of bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and other al-Qa'eda leaders. Defence sources concede that specific intelligence about bin Laden's whereabouts might prompt a special forces raid across the Pakistani border. Task Force 121 combines navy Seals and commandos of the army Delta Force, an elite group modelled on the SAS, as well as CIA paramilitaries. Taking Bin Laden alive may prove the greatest challenge of all. Taliban fighters in Pakistan recently told Newsweek magazine that mines and high explosives are laid around each hiding place adopted by "the Sheikh", not only for protection but also to ensure that he can be "martyred" quickly, and his body destroyed.
Pakistan indicated that it will hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States if he is caught on its soil. The comment from Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri followed a British newspaper report that bin Laden, the head of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, was cornered in a remote part of northern Pakistan. Kasuri said that an amnesty offered by President Pervez Musharraf, where foreigners surrendering in Pakistan will not be handed over to any power, would not apply to bin Laden. If "somebody had committed a crime against the United States that is separate issue", he said. Britain's Sunday Express newspaper quoted a US intelligence source as saying bin Laden was "boxed in" in an area 16 kilometres square "north of the town of Khanozai and the city of Quetta".
Feb. 28, 2004 -- Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat has voiced optimism that Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden would be caught, in an interview published in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Interrogations of Al-Qaeda militants had revealed that bin Laden was most likely hiding in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said, expressing concern that the most-wanted terror suspect continued to benefit from "security havens in Afghanistan". He said the US-led coalition leading operations against remaining Taliban militants and hunting for bin Laden should "extend their deployment out to the furthest corner of Afghanistan". Hayat said Karachi had "penetrated the communication network" of Al-Qaeda and understood the structure, projects and financing of the organization. Some 650 suspected terrorists have been arrested in Pakistan since the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, 500 of them foreigners who were delivered into US custody, according to the minister's estimates. The Pakistani military arrested two dozen people this week, including some unidentified foreigners in operations in the tribal areas that lie along the border with Afghanistan.
Federal Reserve Chairman
Alan Greenspan on Feb. 24, 2004, urged Congress to rein in Fannie
Mae and Freddie Mac, warning that unchecked growth in the housing
finance giants will likely threaten the U.S.
financial system. "Most of the concerns
associated with systemic risks flow from the size of the balance
sheets that these GSEs (government-sponsored enterprises)
maintain," Greenspan told the Senate Banking Committee.
"GSEs need to be limited in the issuance of GSE debt and in
the purchase of assets, both mortgages and non-mortgages, that
they hold," he added, implying the size of their holdings
and the need to keep growing made them vulnerable. He also called
for clarity in the government's backing for the companies --
which are shareholder-owned but congressionally chartered --
saying the current ambiguity had the potential to cause a "very
serious" financial problem. Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's
debt is not backed by the government. But advantages through
their charters, including multibillion-dollar emergency credit
lines, foster a perception the government would rescue them if
necessary. Greenspan's testimony comes as Congress works to
create a new regulator for the two mortgage finance giants and 12
Federal Home Loan Banks, after problems including an accounting
scandal at Freddie Mac. He noted the two companies "collectively
dominate the financing of residential housing in the United
States" and stand behind more than $4 trillion of mortgages.
He said "the most crucial issue" for lawmakers as they
assess how to tighten their regulation is the potential threat
they pose for economic stability.
Canada's army, navy and air force are facing a funding shortfall of up to half a billion dollars, defence sources told the National Post, and the military is recommending drastic measures to make up the difference, including closing some of the largest bases in the country. The federal government is stalling the release of internal documents that outline the looming financial crisis, but military sources said the reports indicate that in the fiscal year beginning on April 1, the air force expects to be $150-million short of funds needed to fulfill its commitments, the navy will be $150-million shy of its needs and the army will be as much as $200-million short. The figures were submitted to General Ray Henault, the Chief of Defence Staff, last month by the heads of the land staff, the maritime staff and the air staff in anticipation of this year's defence budget. The military sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the reports foresee a situation so dire that they recommend curtailing operations, dry-docking ships and mothballing vehicles or aircraft and closing at least four Canadian Forces bases. Unless additional funding is awarded by the government, the air force is suggesting closing bases at Goose Bay, Nfld., Bagotville, Que., North Bay and Winnipeg, the sources said. Further, the air force report says that unless its fleet of ageing CC-130 Hercules transport planes is replaced or modernized, the main transport base at Trenton should be closed within 10 years. "There won't be enough Hercs flying by then to justify keeping that base open," one air force source said. The navy predicts it will not be able to live up to treaty obligations to NATO and other alliances and cannot carry out enough patrols of Canadian waters to comply with agreements with other government departments such as Immigration Canada or Fisheries and Oceans. "We will not be able to meet our domestic defence obligations," one naval officer said. The army is said to be in the worst financial state of all three branches of the Canadian Forces. "Everyone knows that the army's broke and has been for a couple of years," said one military source familiar with the reports. Colonel Howard Marsh, a former senior army staff officer now working as an analyst for the Conference of Defence Associations, said he was not surprised by the size of the shortfall. "This is a look forward ... at what they need in order to keep the army going," he said. "Nobody has ever seen a bankrupt military in a developed country.... This year I predict we will see that in Canada." Col. Marsh said the military is saddled with ageing bases and increasingly dilapidated buildings that are fast reaching the point of collapse. "What they've been doing, year in and year out ... is not replace or repair those buildings, or buy new equipment," he said. "The average age of the equipment in the Canadian Forces is over 20 years and it hasn't been well-maintained." The Liberal government reduced defence spending by 23% and cut the number of regular military personnel to approximately 60,000 from 80,000 between 1993 and 2000. There were 120,000 people in the Canadian military in 1958. In 2003, the defence budget was increased $800-million to $12.7-billion, the single largest increase since the Liberals came to power. But that still left the total below that of 1991, when the Mulroney Conservatives committed troops to the Gulf War and the defence budget stood at $12.8-billion. Jay Hill, the Conservative defence critic, said the reports outline the result of more than a decade of Liberal cuts to the Canadian Forces. "They shouldn't even be in this position," he said. "They shouldn't be having to look for nickel and dime savings when the government is blowing hundreds of millions on sponsorship programs." Mr. Hill called on the government to make the three reports available immediately. "This flies in the face of this Prime Minister's stated commitment to being open and transparent," he said. The Department of National Defence has refused to make public the annual reports, known as command impact assessments. Defence officials this week turned down a request by the National Post and the influential defence publication Jane's Defence Weekly to see the reports under access to information legislation. Judith Mooney, the director of access to information for the Department of National Defence, said the reports will not be made public for another three to five weeks because they are considered "draft" documents. "I exercised my discretion to withhold the documents until the [Defence] Department's business-planning process is complete, at which time they will be released," she said. Ms. Mooney could not say when exactly the reports would be released, but indicated they would be available by the end of March. Although that would delay them until after the release of the federal budget, which is expected on March 23, she said David Pratt, the Defence Minister, was not involved in the decision to withhold the reports until then. Mr. Pratt did not reply to repeated requests for comment on the reports. In previous years, the assessments have been made public. This year's reports paint a picture even more bleak than last year's, which said the military would be unable to sustain itself without additional resources or a reduced workload. They were the basis for a story last year in Jane's Defence Weekly, the prestigious London-based magazine, which caused a furor in Canadian and NATO defence circles. Under the headline "Running on Empty," the story said the army, navy and air force did not receive the money they needed. The article said the navy asked for an additional $50-million to bridge the funding gap, but received only $6.7-million. The air force expected a $104-million shortfall but received about $7-million. The army had a larger gap between what was expected of it and the funding available, and received $85-million in extra money. Major-General Terry Hearn, the chief of finance for the Canadian Forces, acknowledged the military has had "issues" with funding over the past four years. But he said the department is implementing a long-term plan to stabilize its finances. "We'll become sustainable over the next couple of years," he said. "We have long-term strategies to deal with these issues ... [but] we're not going to solve them next year." Peter Stoffer, a New Democrat MP whose Nova Scotia riding includes a large military base, called the government's refusal to release the reports "very suspicious." "If anyone out there honestly believes that access to information will be any easier under this government, they are fooling themselves," he said. "They say one thing and do another."
CIA Director George Tenet told lawmakers that terrorist organizations have tried to recruit airline pilots and avoid the tighter security at airports in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. "On aircraft plots alone, we have uncovered new plans to recruit pilots and to evade new security measures in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe," Tenet said at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on national security threats. Tenet warned that al-Qaeda remains committed to launching devastating assaults on US interests. "Even catastrophic attacks on the scale of September 11 remain within Al-Qaeda's reach," he said. "Make no mistake, these plots are etched abroad, but they target US soil and that of our allies."
February 24, 2004 --
Current and Projected National Security Threats to the United
Hundreds of Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships launched an operation against suspected Al-Qaeda fighters in the northwestern tribal region bordering Afghanistan, the military said. The operation was aimed at foreign militants, believed to be mainly Uzbeks as well as some Chechens, in an area of the semi-autonomous tribal agency of South Waziristan, some 300 kilometres (180 miles) southwest of Islamabad. "The new operation targets Zarkai area where suspected foreign terrorists are hiding," a senior security official said Feb. 24, 2004, asking to remain anonymous. The official did not say how many militants were hiding in the mountainous region, but the operation began after tribal leaders on Feb. 23 handed over dozens of people accused of sheltering Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. The Pakistani military said in a statement the operation was launched after the militants ignored a February 20 deadline to surrender and the government received a tip-off about militant positions. The US military last week said it would launch an operation on the Afghan side of the border in a "hammer and anvil" operation with the Pakistanis to trap the militants. But it was unclear if a US offensive was underway. A dozen helicopters circled the territory before the troops went into action, said the official, who said the operation was proceeding smoothly and that so far the troops had not met resistance. Afghan officials suspect that tribesmen in South Waziristan provide sanctuary to militants involved in attacks against the US-led coalition and Afghan forces in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika. The latest operation is centred on an area some 13 kilometres (eight miles) from the town of Wana, near the Afghan border, the official said. Pakistani officials have strongly denied a British newspaper report that the location of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been pinpointed, and say the current operation is part of a step-by-step drive against Al-Qaeda. "There is no intelligence information regarding the whereabouts of Mr bin Laden," the official said. "What we hope to catch in this operation is Al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects living in our territory." Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri also rejected suggestions the concentration of troops in the tribal areas was linked to bin Laden. "The operation has been launched on the basis of specific intelligence information that some suspected foreign terrorists are hiding in the territory," he said. The operation comes two weeks after the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief George Tenet visited Pakistan for talks on efforts by Pakistan to track down Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders along the porous border with Afghanistan. South Waziristan is long believed to be a sanctuary of Taliban and al-Qaeda fugitives who fled Afghanistan in late 2001 when US-led forcees launched their campaign against terrorism. Tens of thousands of Pakistani troops have been deployed along the 1,600-kilometer (1,000-mile) border for the last two years and Islamabad says it has arrested more than 500 al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf last week warned foreign militants hiding in the tribal belt to surrender or face the consequences. Pakistani troops shot dead eight al-Qaeda suspects and arrested 18 others in a major operation launched in South Waziristan in October 2003.
Wanted al-Qaeda terror network chief Osama bin Laden and his top aide, Ayman al-Zawahri, have moved out of Pakistan and are believed to have crossed the mountainous border back into Afghanistan. Citing unnamed US officials, the network said they believed the two al-Qaeda leaders have slipped across the mountainous border and re-entered Afghanistan, ABC news reported. The report added that the homes of suspected al-Qaeda supporters in the border area had been set on fire amid numerous arrests.
A top al Qaeda leader warned President Bush in an audiotape broadcast on Feb. 24, 2004, to prepare for more attacks on the United States. In the tape aired by Al Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri said: "Bush, strengthen your defenses and your security measures for the Muslim nation which sent you the legion of New York and Washington has determined to send you legion after legion seeking death and paradise." Zawahri, Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, also appeared to single out France in its league of enemies, accusing Paris of displaying "Crusader hatred" toward Islam by banning Muslim headscarves from state classrooms. By turning on France in a separate audiotape broadcast on Dubai-based Al Arabiya television, Zawahri -- identifiable by his voice and rhetorical style -- went beyond now familiar tirades against the United States, Britain, Gulf Arab states and other supporters of last year's U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. "France is the country of freedom which defends freedom to show the body and to be immoral and depraved. In France you're free to show yourself but not to dress modestly," he said in reference to the headscarf ban newly approved by parliament. "This is a new sign of the Crusader hatred which Westerners harbor against Muslims while they boast of freedom, democracy and human rights," said the voice on the tape. The recordings aired on the two Arab television stations sounded like previous messages attributed to the Egyptian Zawahri, regarded as bin Laden's deputy and thought to be hiding with him somewhere near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. A CIA technical analysis determined that the two audiotapes were "probably" authentic, a CIA official said. In the Al Jazeera tape, Zawahri said Bush had lied in last month's State of the Union address when he asserted that most of al Qaeda had been crushed and that U.S. troops were spreading freedom and democracy. "Bush alleged that his troops have spread freedom in the world, that Iraq had achieved democracy thanks to his coalition forces, that his government has crushed more than two-thirds of al Qaeda and that...Afghanistan is secure," he said. "The leader of the most powerful country on earth is not embarrassed to say these deceptions and lies. It's gotten to the stage that he can ridicule his listeners to this degree." By focusing on the French headscarf ban, it appeared to be seizing on a fresh opportunity to promote that agenda and drive a wedge between Islam and the West. Along with France, the tape attacked Muslim countries which have made moves to secularize their societies along Western lines. "This is a campaign planned by the Crusader Zionists with their agents in Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia and other Islamic countries," Zawahri said. His use of "Zionists" referred to supporters of Israel. He said the French veil ban, which was also accompanied by bans on shows of Christian and Jewish faith in state schools, was part of a series of attacks on Muslims. He also cited Israel's treatment of Palestinians, the U.S. occupation of Iraq and detention of Muslims in Guantanamo Bay, where foreign terrorism suspects are held by Washington: "America has given itself the right to kill or detain anyone anywhere and to deport anyone to anywhere for any period, without anyone daring to ask why, who, where or until when." "Atomic weapons are banned for everyone except Israel," he added, referring to U.S. ally Israel's presumed weapons arsenal.
Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Feb. 25, 2004, a new Joint Intelligence Coordinating Council for local, state, federal, and international law enforcement personnel to collect and analyze intelligence on terrorists. "It's not just what's easiest to collect," Ashcroft told reporters. "We need to make sure we collect what we have a need for." Creation of the new council is the latest in a series of moves by the Bush administration to collect intelligence, analysis and information-sharing since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. President Bush last year set up the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, a joint FBI-CIA entity that brings together, analyzes and disseminates terrorism intelligence for the U.S. government. The FBI also last year launched the Terrorist Screening Center to combine terror watch lists now scattered among multiple federal agencies. Critics say all these moves toward coordination and integration are still slow in coming. Running the new Justice council will be Maureen Baginski, the FBI's top intelligence official and before that was a veteran official at the National Security Agency. The council chairmanship will rotate among the various Justice law enforcement agencies. Ashcroft said law enforcement has a unique ability to gather intelligence because it can prosecute people and threaten them with prison. Giving law enforcement agents unified marching orders could help exploit what he called "a mother lode of intelligence" that can be gleaned from criminal defendants and suspects.
In a blow to the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has told the White House and fellow Republicans that he will not bring up legislation to extend its May 27 deadline, officials said on Feb. 25, 2004. The speaker's spokesman, John Feehery, said Hastert told the White House and members of the House Republican conference that "it's a bad idea to extend the commission and ... that we're not going to bring any legislation up." The commission wants a 60-day extension through July 26 to complete its final report on the attacks. Hastert cast serious doubt on its prospects for passage in the Republican-controlled House. "He thinks the (commission's) report is overdue and we need to get the recommendations as soon as possible. He is also concerned it will become a political football if this thing is extended and it is released in the middle of the presidential campaign," Feehery said. The commission says it needs the extra 60 days to complete hundreds of interviews and review millions of documents. It issued a public appeal to Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to reconsider their opposition to meeting with the full panel. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice has also refused to testify publicly on the grounds she is a presidential adviser and not a Senate-confirmed Cabinet officer. Bush and Cheney have only agreed to meet privately with commission chairman Thomas Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton, rather than with the full, 10-member panel. In contrast, former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore have agreed to meet privately with all members of the commission, the panel said. The panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, says it wants to question Rice and other presidential advisers about what the government knew about potential terrorist threats in the months leading up the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The White House defended Rice's decision not to testify publicly, saying it was in accordance with the practices of previous administrations. Administration officials including Rice said there was no advance indication that terrorists were planning suicide airline hijackings. But the White House revealed later that Bush had received a briefing one month before the attacks warning of the possibility of a plot to hijack airplanes. So far, CIA Director George Tenet, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell have agreed to testify publicly, according to the commission. Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, and defense secretary, William Cohen, are also scheduled to testify. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush was still discussing the time and format of the meetings. Bush has said he did not think his public testimony was necessary. Relatives of Sept. 11 victims say they are particularly interested in Rice's testimony. They cited her May 2002 comments that the administration had no prior indication that terrorists were considering suicide hijackings, even though reports later showed that intelligence officials had considered the possibility. "I can't understand why these elected officials, particularly the president and vice president, aren't willing to come before the American public and testify," said Kristen Breitweiser of New Jersey, whose husband, Ronald, died in the World Trade Center. "That raises a concern they're hiding something." Former Republican Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey, the commission chairman, has said the panel will be forced to pare down inquiries into intelligence failures if Congress doesn't act soon to give it more time.
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have placed strict limits on the private interviews they will grant to the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that they will meet only with the panel's top two officials and that Mr. Bush will submit to only a single hour of questioning, commission members said Feb. 25, 2004. The commission, which has 10 members and is bipartisan, said in a statement that it had also been informed by the White House that Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, had rejected its request that she testify in public about the intelligence reports that reached her desk before the Sept. 11 attacks. Democratic members of the panel said the administration's moves raised new questions about its willingness to cooperate with the commission, which is investigating intelligence and law enforcement blunders in the months and years before the 2001 attacks. The White House initially opposed creating the panel. Republican Congressional leaders have criticized the investigation's pace. Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said he would not support and might block any legislation that extended the life of the panel, which is scheduled to complete its work in May. The commission called on Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney to reconsider their decision against meeting with all 10 members of the panel. "President Bush and Vice President Cheney have agreed to meet privately with the chair and vice chair but prefer not to meet with all members," the statement said, referring to the chairman, Thomas H. Kean, a Republican and former governor of New Jersey; and vice chairman, Lee H. Hamilton, a Democrat and former House member from Indiana. "We hope the president and the vice president will reconsider." The panel said it was "disappointed" by Ms. Rice's decision not to testify at a public hearing, adding, "We believe the nation would be well served by the contribution she can make to public understanding of the intelligence and policy issues being examined by the commission." Ms. Rice has submitted to several hours of questioning at a private session. Her spokesman, Sean McCormack, said the decision against public testimony was made at the recommendation of administration lawyers who warned of separation-of-powers issues. "Based on law and practice, White House staff members have not testified before legislative bodies," Mr. McCormack said, "and this is considered a legislative body." The commission's statement suggested that the panel had received promises of greater cooperation from former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, who have agreed to meet in private with all members. Ms. Rice's predecessor, Samuel R. Berger, is scheduled to testify in public next month.
Feb. 28, 2004 -- Frustrated by Bush administration restrictions, a former senator said he might quit the special commission investigating the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Ex-Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), now president of New York's New School University, told the Daily News that resigning is "on my list of possibilities" because the administration continues to block the full panel's access to top intelligence officials and materials. "I am no longer ... feeling comfortable that I'm going to be able to read and process what I need in order to participate in writing a report about how it was that 19 men defeated every single defensive system the U.S. put up to kill 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11," said Kerrey. The commission said yesterday that President Bush and Vice President Cheney would meet privately with only the panel's two chairmen - although former President Bill Clinton and his vice president, Al Gore, said they would meet with all 10 members. The White House recently allowed only three commissioners and their staff director to read secret CIA briefings on Al Qaeda given to Bush and Clinton before the 2001 attacks.
An office overseen by the central intelligence director now plays the key role of analyzing threats to the United States, even though the Department of Homeland Security was opened a year ago for that very reason. Lawmakers are asking pointed questions about who's in charge, amid worries that the overlap and confusion that plagued intelligence efforts before Sept. 11, 2001, could recur. Homeland's inspector general warned in December 2003 that a principal objective in creating Homeland's intelligence division to centralize analysis and information about threats to the United States may be duplicated or trumped by other organizations, including the increasingly prominent Terrorist Threat Integration Center, overseen by Central Intelligence Director George Tenet. The threat center's director John Brennan, who reports to Tenet, said, however, that his center is filling a need spotted by the Bush administration to protect U.S. interests at home and abroad, pulling expertise from the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security and elsewhere. Congressional sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they were surprised when, just before President Bush's 2003 State of the Union, they learned that Bush planned to announce another intelligence analysis center under Tenet's umbrella. Lawmakers in recent weeks have repeatedly grilled administration officials about which agency is responsible for what. In December, Homeland's inspector general cautioned that two groups, including the terrorist threat center, either "overlap with, duplicate or even trump" the department's responsibilty for centralizing terrorist threat information. "Ensuring that DHS has access to the intelligence that it needs to prevent and/or respond to terrorist threats is, under such circumstances, an even harder challenge than it would otherwise be," the report said. Brennan, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and other officials insist, however, that the system is working. Asked at a hearing Feb. 25 about duplication, Ridge replied: "Some people call it duplication, others call it competitive analysis." He said diverse opinions help the process. Brennan says his shop is the lead analysis operation, culling information from various sources, including Homeland, to create threat reports for policy makers. Ridge and other officials can ask for more, or use the information to determine the nation's color-coded threat level or recommend air marshals. Critics note that Homeland lacks resource and hasn't hired all the employees Congress has funded. "It's a joke," said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief who still maintains contacts in the intelligence community. "What do you gain by having a DHS intelligence shop?" Privately, even some in U.S. law enforcement and intelligence circles have quietly called Homeland's analysts inexperienced and reactionary. Internationally, a senior French official, speaking on condition of anonymity recently, said that while the French have had a good working relationship with the FBI and CIA, Homeland officials are far less experienced and sometimes appear overly cautious. The official said the department's reflex is to "open the umbrella" at the hint of rain. Brennan, though, insists Homeland did a "superlative job" handling aviation threats over Christmas. But some allies may still be getting used to dealing with new players, he acknowledges. "People are probably out of their comfort zones in some of these areas," Brennan said. "But DHS has some very important responsibilities."
House Speaker Dennis Hastert agreed Feb. 27, 2003 to give the independent panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks more time to finish its work, clearing the way for Congress to formally approve a two-month extension. He did so only after pressure from the Senate. Under a compromise, the panel is to get another 60 days to work on its report and 30 extra days to wrap up its work.
Pakistan warned the United States 14 years ago that it might give nuclear technology to Iran, but the administration of President Bush's father did little to follow up, former Pentagon officials say. Word of the 1990 threat from Pakistan's top general apparently was not passed along to the Clinton administration when it took office three years later, according to interviews by The Associated Press. Declassified documents and former officials say U.S. officials knew since at least 1983 about Pakistan's extensive underground supply network for its nuclear weapons program, which first tested nuclear explosives in 1998. Former officials say Washington had other murky clues about Pakistani help to Iran and strong suspicions of the North Korea link by the late 1990s. The Reagan administration had looked the other way on Pakistan's nuclear program, said Stephen P. Cohen, a State Department expert on the region from 1985 to 1987. Back then, Washington used Pakistan as a conduit for sending weapons and money to guerrillas fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. "They were covering up our involvement in Afghanistan, pretending we played no role in Afghanistan, so they expected us to cover up their role in procuring a weapons system they saw as vital to their survival," said Cohen, now with the Brookings Institution think tank.
The terrorism investigation code-named Mont Blanc began almost by accident in April 2002, when authorities intercepted a cellphone call that lasted less than a minute and involved not a single word of conversation. Investigators, suspicious that the call was a signal between terrorists, followed the trail first to one terror suspect, then to others, and eventually to terror cells on three continents. What tied them together was a computer chip smaller than a fingernail. But before the investigation wound down in recent weeks, its global net caught dozens of suspected Qaeda members and disrupted at least three planned attacks in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, according to counterterrorism and intelligence officials in Europe and the United States. The investigation helped narrow the search for one of the most wanted men in the world, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is accused of being the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to three intelligence officials based in Europe. American authorities arrested Mr. Mohammed in Pakistan last March. For two years, investigators now say, they were able to track the conversations and movements of several Qaeda leaders and dozens of operatives after determining that the suspects favored a particular brand of cellphone chip. The chips carry prepaid minutes and allow phone use around the world. Investigators said they believed that the chips, made by Swisscom of Switzerland, were popular with terrorists because they could buy the chips without giving their names. "They thought these phones protected their anonymity, but they didn't," said a senior intelligence official based in Europe. Even without personal information, the authorities were able to conduct routine monitoring of phone conversations. A half dozen senior officials in the United States and Europe agreed to talk in detail about the previously undisclosed investigation because, they said, it was completed. They also said they had strong indications that terror suspects, alert to the phones' vulnerability, had largely abandoned them for important communications and instead were using e-mail, Internet phone calls and hand-delivered messages. "This was one of the most effective tools we had to locate Al Qaeda," said a senior counterterrorism official in Europe. "The perception of anonymity may have lulled them into a false sense of security. We now believe that Al Qaeda has figured out that we were monitoring them through these phones." The officials called the operation one of the most successful investigations since Sept. 11, 2001, and an example of unusual cooperation between agencies in different countries. Led by the Swiss, the investigation involved agents from more than a dozen countries, including the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Britain and Italy. Cellphones have played a major role in the constant jousting between terrorists and intelligence agencies. Each success by investigators seems to drive terrorists either to more advanced or to more primitive communications. During the American bombing of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in December 2001, American authorities reported hearing Osama bin Laden speaking to his associates on a satellite phone. Since then, Mr. bin Laden has communicated with handwritten messages delivered by trusted couriers, officials said. In 2002 the German authorities broke up a cell after monitoring calls by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has been linked by some top American officials to Al Qaeda, in which he could be heard ordering attacks on Jewish targets in Germany. Since then, investigators say, Mr. Zarqawi has been more cautious. Officials say that on the rare occasion when operatives still use mobile phones, they keep the calls brief and use code words. Some Qaeda lieutenants used cellphones only to arrange a conversation on a more secure telephone. It was one such brief cellphone call that set off the Mont Blanc investigation. The call was placed on April 11, 2002, by Christian Ganczarski, a 36-year-old Polish-born German Muslim whom the German authorities suspected was a member of Al Qaeda. From Germany, Mr. Ganczarski called Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, said to be Al Qaeda's military commander, who was running operations at the time from a safe house in Karachi, Pakistan, according to two officials involved in the investigation. The two men did not speak during the call, counterterrorism officials said. Instead, the call was intended to alert Mr. Mohammed of a Qaeda suicide bombing mission at a synagogue in Tunisia, which took place that day, according to two senior officials. The attack killed 21 people, mostly German tourists. Through electronic surveillance, the German authorities traced the call to Mr. Mohammed's Swisscom cellphone, but at first they did not know it belonged to him. Two weeks after the Tunisian bombing, the German police searched Mr. Ganczarski's house and found a log of his many numbers, including one in Pakistan that was eventually traced to Mr. Mohammed. The German police had been monitoring Mr. Ganczarski because he had been seen in the company of militants at a mosque in Duisburg, and last June the French police arrested him in Paris. Mr. Mohammed's cellphone number, and many others, were given to the Swiss authorities for further investigation. By checking Swisscom's records, Swiss officials discovered that many other Qaeda suspects used the Swisscom chips, known as Subscriber Identity Module cards, which allow phones to connect to cellular networks. For months the Swiss, working closely with counterparts in the United States and Pakistan, used this information in an effort to track Mr. Mohammed's movements inside Pakistan. By monitoring the cellphone traffic, they were able to get a fix on Mr. Mohammed, but the investigators did not know his specific location, officials said. Once Swiss agents had established that Mr. Mohammed was in Karachi, the American and Pakistani security services took over the hunt with the aid of technology at the United States National Security Agency, said two senior European intelligence officials. But it took months for them to actually find Mr. Mohammed "because he wasn't always using that phone," an official said. "He had many, many other phones." Mr. Mohammed was a victim of his own sloppiness, said a senior European intelligence official. He was meticulous about changing cellphones, but apparently he kept using the same SIM card. In the end, the authorities were led directly to Mr. Mohammed by a C.I.A. spy, the director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, said in a speech last month. A senior American intelligence official said this week that the capture of Mr. Mohammed "was entirely the result of excellent human operations." When Swiss and other European officials heard that American agents had captured Mr. Mohammed last March, "we opened a big bottle of Champagne," a senior intelligence official said. Among Mr. Mohammed's belongings, the authorities seized computers, cellphones and a personal phone book that contained hundreds of numbers. Tracing those numbers led investigators to as many as 6,000 phone numbers, which amounted to a virtual road map of Al Qaeda's operations, officials said. The authorities noticed that many of Mr. Mohammed's communications were with operatives in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Last April, using the phone numbers, officials in Jakarta broke up a terror cell connected to Mr. Mohammed, officials said. After the suicide bombings of three housing compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 12, the Saudi authorities used the phone numbers to track down two "live sleeper cells." Some members were killed in shootouts with the authorities; others were arrested. Meanwhile, the Swiss had used Mr. Mohammed's phone list to begin monitoring the communications and activities of nearly two dozen of his associates. "Huge resources were devoted to this," a senior official said. "Many countries were constantly doing surveillance, monitoring the chatter." Investigators were particularly alarmed by one call they overheard last June. The message: "The big guy is coming. He will be here soon." An official familiar with the calls said, "We did not know who he was, but there was a lot of chatter." Whoever "the big guy" was, the authorities had his number. A Swisscom chip was in the phone. "Then we waited and waited, and we were increasingly anxious and worried because we didn't know who it was or what he had intended to do," an official said. But in July, the man believed to be "the big guy," Abdullah Oweis, who was born in Saudi Arabia, was arrested in Qatar. "He is one of those people able to move within Western societies and to help the mujahedeen, who have lesser experience," an official said. "He was at the very center of the Al Qaeda hierarchy. He was a major facilitator." In January, the operation led to the arrests of eight people accused of being members of a Qaeda logistical cell in Switzerland. Some are suspected of helping with the suicide bombings of the housing compounds in Riyadh, which killed 35 people, including 8 Americans. Later, European authorities discovered that Mr. Mohammed had contacted a company in Geneva that sells Swisscom phone cards. Investigators said he ordered the cards in bulk. The Mont Blanc inquiry has wound down, although investigators are still monitoring the communications of a few people. Christian Neuhaus, a spokesman for Swisscom, confirmed that the company had cooperated with the inquiry, but declined to comment. Last year, Switzerland's legislature passed a law making it illegal to purchase cellphone chips without providing personal information, following testimony from a Swiss federal prosecutor, Claude Nicati, that the Swisscom cards had become popular with Qaeda operatives. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2004. One senior official said the authorities were grateful that Qaeda members were so loyal to Swisscom. Another official agreed: "They'd switch phones but use the same cards. The people were stupid enough to use the same cards all of the time. It was a very good thing for us."
Law-enforcement officials across the country have discovered major infant-formula theft rings with ties to people in Middle Eastern countries. The federal Justice Department lists the "theft, adulteration and resale of infant formula" as an illicit source of money for terrorists.
The government has begun a criminal investigation into whether records may have been falsified in the nation's first and only case of mad cow disease, the Agriculture Department's inspector general said Mar. 3, 2004. In a separate investigation, the General Accounting Office is checking the feed industry's compliance with a Food and Drug Administration's rule aimed at keeping the infectious protein blamed for the disease out of cattle feed. The criminal investigation is moving alongside a non-criminal review of the Agriculture Department's response to the mad cow case, the department's inspector general, Phyllis Fong, told a House subcommittee. Fong said the criminal investigation focuses on whether the infected Holstein cow truly was a ``downer'' animal unable to stand or walk when it was slaughtered Dec. 9 in Moses Lake, Wash. The department initially said the cow was a downer, and that was why it was tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. Downers have a higher risk of the brain-wasting disease. But men who saw the cow at Vern's Moses Lake Meat Co. just before it was slaughtered recall it being on its feet. One of the plant's owners, Tom Ellestad, said the cow got up after the inspecting veterinarian had seen it lying down and had classified it as a downer. Department officials conceded last month that the cow might have gotten back up. The investigation is in its first weeks, with officials gathering documents and interviewing witnesses, Fong told the House Appropriations Committee's agriculture subcommittee. She would not talk about possible targets in the investigation nor specify who is being interviewed. ``We haven't determined anything so far,'' she said. Ellestad could not immediately be reached. His wife, Marla, said officials have been visiting the slaughterhouse constantly and asking questions since the mad cow case surfaced. ``There have been too many different people (and) they don't tell me anything,'' she said, adding that she has no knowledge of any criminal investigation or falsification of papers. The GAO, a watchdog agency for Congress, is checking FDA's claims of near-total compliance with a ban aimed at keeping the protein that causes mad cow from being transmitted through animal feed, said Larry Dyckman, who is heading the congressional investigation. The GAO auditors also are looking at how the FDA and Agriculture Department have handled meat recalls, including the one triggered by the mad cow case, Dyckman said. But he said they were not looking into the downer issue. The recall in the mad cow case eventually grew to 38,000 pounds of hamburger that could have been mixed with meat from infected Holstein as it moved through packinghouses and wholesalers to grocery stores and restaurants in six Western states.
The United States is scaling up its military presence in Africa as concern mounts over terrorist threats on the continent, the deputy head of American forces in Europe said Feb. 27, 2004. Africa is a growing strategic interest to the United States because of its terror links and its oil, which is seen as a possible alternative to Middle East fuel. The general said there were specific terrorist threats in Africa at the moment, which he declined to characterize. But the United States is also convinced there will be more threats in the future. "Nothing is really immune, particularly areas that traditionally have weak government or an inability to control their territory," Wald said. The al-Qaida terror network has already staged deadly attacks in East Africa, bombing U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and a Kenyan hotel in 2002. Western military and security officials also worry about possible terrorist activity along ancient Sahara trading routes linking Arab and African nations. They suspect terror groups have already set up training camps in the remote deserts of Mali and Niger. Of particular concern is the Algeria-based Salafist Group for Call and Combat, which allegedly has ties to al-Qaida. The group was blamed in the kidnapping of 32 European tourists in the Sahara last year. The United States is helping train and equip four Sahara nations Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad to better guard their porous borders against terrorists, arms and other trafficking. There are also agreements to conduct exercises and training in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, Wald said. Further south, the United States wants to protect oil supplies in the Gulf of Guinea, where it gets 15 percent of its oil. There is also concern that Africa's major humanitarian crises could develop into security threats for the United States and Europe.
of Fire Fighters Gives Bush Failing Grade on Anniv. of Dept. of
The United States remains
vulnerable to infiltration by known criminals and terrorists
because of chronic delays in making millions of FBI fingerprints
available to the Border Patrol, Justice Department investigators
reported Mar. 2 , 2004. It probably will take at least four more
years for the FBI and Border Patrol systems to be combined in a
way that would allow for a quick, automated check of fingerprints
for the roughly 1 million illegal immigrants who are caught each
year, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine found.
That means thousands who could be prosecuted for crimes or
detained as security risks will be simply returned to their home
countries, free to try to re-enter the United States, the report
found. "We believe this continues the significant risk that
aliens who should be detained ... instead will be released
because Border Patrol agents will not learn of their significant
criminal or deportation history," Fine said in the report.
The steep increases in U.S.
defense budgets under President George W. Bush have largely
failed to strengthen the nation's security since the 9/11
attacks, and the proposed $230 billion fiscal year 2005 budget is
no exception, according to a task force of nine national-security
Impact of Proposed FY 2005
Budget on State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Programs
The US Southern Command's number two, General Rod Bishop, warned that Latin America is vulnerable to terrorism and deteriorating security, with concerns that it could impact on US stability. Bishop said extremist Islamic groups were being financed in some areas of Colombia, on Venezuela's Margarita island, and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, as well as on the triple border between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.
Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez Frias is warning the United States government that he will
cut oil supplies if the Bush 2 administration makes any further
move against his government by trying to invade Venezuela or to
impose a trade blockade. "If Mr. Bush is possessed with the
madness of trying to blockade Venezuela ... or worse, for the
Americans to attempt to invade Venezuela in response to the
desperate whining of his lackeys ... not a drop of petroleum with
come to them from Venezuela."
Scientists will soon have
to follow new guidelines if they're doing government-funded
research that potentially could be used to create biological
weapons. The government said March 4, 2004 it is creating a
National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, with members who
are specialists in areas such as science and national security
that will recommend how to conduct biomedical research in a way
that minimizes the chances of nefarious misuse. The board will
advise all federal agencies that fund life-sciences research.
A big reward and hundreds of tips haven't led to an arrest of the arsonist responsible for up to 35 fires around the nation's capital that have killed one person and injured 10. The fires, which began a year ago, have shaken residents in parts of the area that in the past 2 1/2 years has seen a terrorist attack, anthrax letters and sniper shootings. "It's a very scary situation," District of Columbia Councilman Vincent Orange said. Several of the fires have occurred in his ward, and constituents have expressed concerns at community meetings. "I tell them the arsonist has a pattern of doing this between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., and so we need to be vigilant and have a dog or something that can make noise," Orange said. Since a telephone tip line was established last July, more than 500 calls and e-mails offering information have been received. A sketch of a possible suspect began circulating last month, prompting 150 new tips but no arrests. Profilers say the suspect is likely to be angry or troubled. Studies of serial arsonists have found them to be skilled liars capable of being charming, manipulative and cunning. They also are quick to blame others for problems in their personal or professional lives. "Somebody out there knows this person, and they know that they are out those times of night or early morning when the fires are occurring," said Victor Stagnero, lead arson investigator for the Prince George's County, Md., Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. Since March 8, 2003 there have been 18 fires in Washington and 17 in areas that border the city, mainly Prince George's County. An 86-year-old woman was killed in one of the blazes. The last two fires considered similar enough in nature to be added to the list were Feb. 6 in Fairfax, Va., and Feb. 14 in Silver Spring, Md. Nearly a dozen residents of homes that have been damaged declined to discuss the fires, although some acknowledged they are concerned that no arrests have been made. Authorities are advising people to remain alert, keep their porch lights on at night, and consider installing motion-activated lighting on their property. "We certainly need people to be vigilant if we're going to catch this guy," Washington Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said. Solving an arson is not easy. According to FBI statistics, only 16 percent of arson investigations end in arrests. To spur tips, a $35,000 reward has been established for information leading to the arrest of a suspect for the Washington-area fires. Washington-area firefighters have gone door to door in some neighborhoods where the fires have occurred, distributing sketches and urging residents and business owners to be alert for anything suspicious. "Someone's going to recognize the profile information and the sketch we've put out, and be able to help us lock this person up," Stagnero said.
A convicted cigarette
smuggler contributed $14,000 to a group of Lackawanna men who
attended an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan in 2001,
prosecutors said March 4, 2004. The government said the money
from Aref Ahmed helped pay the way for five of the so-called
Lackawanna Six, each of whom pleaded guilty late last year to
providing material support to a known terrorist organization.
"As we understand it, it got five of the guys at least to
Pakistan," assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Bruce said.
Despite the government's public statements, no criminal charges
were immediately filed. An investigation was continuing. Ahmed's
alleged connection to the Lackawanna men was revealed following
his conviction in U.S. District Court on a charge of conspiring
to commit money laundering. Ahmed was one of five people found
guilty in a cigarette smuggling case that put millions of cartons
of untaxed cigarettes on the black market in Michigan and New
York. In seeking to have Ahmed held without bail, Bruce revealed
Ahmed's alleged involvement with the Lackawanna Six, but little
was said about why. "He's not known to be a friend or
relative of any of them," said Bruce, who noted Ahmed lives
in Niagara Falls, about 20 miles north of Lackawanna, where the
six Yemeni-American al-Qaida trainees lived. Defense attorney
Paul Cambria said Ahmed denies the allegations and accused the
prosecutor of "grandstanding." "If the federal
government thought there was some real substance to these claims,
they would have charged him long ago," Cambria told The
Buffalo News. Bruce said that when Ahmed learned that some of the
Lackawanna Six did not complete their terrorist training, he
tried to get his money back from "a main al-Qaida recruiter."
The prosecutor added that the money made from the cigarette
smuggling was not directly connected to the money allegedly
contributed by Ahmed. The government has said for several months
that is actively seeking those who helped, financially or
otherwise, the Lackawanna Six on their journey in the months
before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. As part of their plea
deals, the six have agreed to cooperate in the investigation. A $5
million reward for a seventh Lackawanna man who attended the camp
but never returned to the United States afterward was offered
last year. Yemeni security officials have said that Jaber Elbaneh
was being held there.
Lawyer Visits 'Dirty Bomb'
Suspect By Michael Powell
Jailed Hamburg 911 Plotter
Wins Retrial In Appeal By Sabine Siebold
El Motassadeq is serving a 15-year prison sentence after a Hamburg court convicted him in February 2003 of giving logistical support to the Hamburg-based al-Qaida cell that included Sept. 11 suicide hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah. His lawyers had asked the appeals court for acquittal or a retrial, alleging el Motassadeq was wrongly convicted because the United States refused to allow court testimony by Ramzi Binalshibh, thought to be the Hamburg cell's key contact with al-Qaida. The U.S. Justice Department has told the Hamburg court that Binalshibh is "not available." The German government refused to turn over transcripts of his interrogations, saying they had been provided by the United States for intelligence purposes only. "Without this key witness, the rest of the evidence is not sufficient for a conviction," defense attorney Josef Graessle-Muenscher said. El Motassadeq's lawyers also argued that al-Qaida hatched the Sept. 11 plot in Afghanistan and the hijackers trained to fly in the United States, so Atta's group did not constitute a German-based terrorist organization under laws in force at the time.
Security forces arrested two senior Al-Qaeda members -- a Yemeni and an Egyptian -- in an intensive hunt for Islamic extremists in the remote mountains of southern Abyan province. Egyptian Sayyed Imam Sherif, an influential member of Al-Qaeda, was arrested March 3, 2004 in the Lawder area. The announcement of Sherif's arrest followed one earlier in the day that security forces had netted top Al-Qaeda leader Abdul Rauf Nassib in the same operation. "Sayyed Imam Sherif is also wanted by Egyptian police," the official said, adding that "he was the number one in Egypt's Islamic Jihad, and succeeded by Ayman al-Zawahiri," currently Al-Qaeda's number two. The two men were captured at the same time, he said, after security forces backed by helicopters and armoured vehicles were deployed in the area where they surrounded "about a dozen" suspected Islamic extremists. "Sayyed Imam Sherif, alias 'Doctor Fadhel', gave up the Islamic Jihad leadership to Ayman al-Zawahiri in 1991, on the heels of dissidence within the movement, to devote himself to publishing religious studies", said another official. Sherif and Nassib were among 12 Islamists arrested, a security official meanwhile said, adding that the two men were hiding with "dozens of other suspects" in the mountainous Jebel Thira region, which is difficult to access and lies above the town of Lawdar. The local authorities have refused to identify the 10 other suspects arrested or give details about the organisations they belong to. Islamist sources named Nassib as one of the most senior Al-Qaeda officials in the Arabian peninsular republic, and the sole survivor of a missile attack launched from a US drone aircraft that killed six suspected Al-Qaeda members in Maarib province of eastern Yemen on November 3, 2002. Among the dead from the CIA-planned raid was Qaed Salem Sunian al-Harthi, suspected of organising a suicide bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in the southern port city of Aden that killed 17 American sailors in October 2000. Security forces backed by helicopters, tanks and armoured vehicles were deployed in Abyan where they surrounded a hideout of a large number of suspected Islamic extremists. They were alerted after the Islamists, from Yemen, Algeria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, had gathered in the Lawder region, 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of Sanaa and 150 kilometres (90 miles) northeast of Aden. The fugitives were facing a 48-hour ultimatum "to surrender unconditionally or face a military assault", according to the main Yemeni opposition party, Al-Islah. "They are outlaws, and include more than five armed men who between them seized 45 million riyals (250,000 dollars) after attacking a local accountant," a local official said. The Islamist party's website (www.alsahwa-yemen.net ) said two men had surrendered overnight out of 150-200 people under siege at the hideout. Nassib was also wanted for aiding 10 men escape from jail at Aden where they had been detained over the bombing of the USS Cole, the website said. Among those who broke out, local authorities said, was Jamal Badawi, another of the main perpetrators of the suicide attack. An official in Sanaa told AFP that two members of Yemen's Islamic Jihad had been arrested after a shoot-out in Abyan, while police were searching for three escaped gunmen. Yemen's Islamic Jihad is suspected of links with Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror network. In November, President Ali Abdullah Saleh freed or pardoned several dozen men suspected of Al-Qaeda links, including Khaled Abdennabi, who had turned himself in and heads both the Jihad group and the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army. Yemen, the ancestral homeland of bin Laden, has been under pressure from Washington since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States to crack down on Al-Qaeda militants.
March 4, 2004 -- The FBI
is warning that terrorists could potentially use pens filled with
cartridges of poison as weapons, according to an FBI bulletin. A
pen gun is a small-caliber, single shot weapon that resembles a
fountain pen. In its weekly bulletin to law enforcement agencies
throughout the country, the FBI said that bullet cavities of pen
guns could be filled with poisonous chemicals or biological
toxins, including cyanide, mercury, arsenic and ricin. The FBI
noted, by way of background, that Indian authorities in December
2003 seized a pen gun during a raid on a suspected Islamic
separatist's home in Kashmir, India. Police also found 25
suspected chemical cartridges. An officer became lightheaded
after breaking open a cartridge. "Pen guns are not new
weapons; however, if the cartridges found in the Indian seizure
were contaminated, that would indicate a new method of operation,"
the FBI said. Since early 2001, several incidents involving pen
guns have been reported overseas, according to the FBI. To
describe a few:
On June 18, 2003, Saudi Arabian border guards seized 10 pen guns from Yemini nationals.
In January 2003, French police searching locations used by an arrested French Algerian baggage handler found a number of pen guns.
The bureau points out that pen guns can be easily concealed to evade detection at security checkpoints. "Except for its heavier weight, which is evident only when held, a pen gun closely resembles a standard fountain pen. There are no outward markings to indicate the pen is a firearm," the FBI said. "Furthermore, one type of pen gun has a tiny ink reservoir within the tip, so it will write if the operative is challenged. In a standard X-ray device, an unloaded pen gun may appear as a normal pen." The FBI said a watch placed on top of a pen gun could obstruct the weapon when going through an X-ray. "Therefore, pens should be separated from other items in screening bins to ensure a clear X-ray image," the agency stated. Pen guns are readily available in the United States and have recently become available in Europe, the Balkans, Middle East and South Asia, the FBI said.
Concealed Weapon Gun That
Looks Like a Pen Cleared by ATF as Typical Pistol By Dean
Yemenia Plane Hijacking
Attempt and the Mysteries of Pen Guns & Fake IDs!
January 22, 2001
The Sana'a Appeal Court upheld in its Saturday session the 15-year prison sentence against
Yemenia hijacker Jaber Ali Sater. The Court Judge Abdul Farwan said that during the
appeal sessions it was found that Sater committed the crime of hijacking and jeopardizing the
lives of 91 passengers on board. The hijacker was also fined $72, 610 as compensation to
Yemenia Airlines as well as the expenses for the medical treatment of Eng. Adli Al-Baghdadi
who was injured in his arm by a bullet fired from the pen gun of Sater. The court also
confirmed the confiscation of the fake ID and the pen gun.
The judge asked the hijacker if he wanted to disprove this verdict or not. He was very much
confused and asked the judge what it meant to invalidate the verdict and the benefit of that.
But he said that he has the right to disprove the verdict at the Supreme Court which most of
the time approves the verdict of the appeal court.
Sater attempted hijacking the Yemenia plane on its flight to Taiz. Among the 91 passengers
was the American ambassador, Barbara Bodine and other diplomats. The crew was able to
foil the hijacking attempt at Djibouti airport where the hijacker was disarmed and given to the
airport police. None of the passengers were hurt.
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Page revised March 5, 2004