Friday, March 18, 2005

Illegal Alien Gets Into Nuclear Plant

3 men used bogus Social Security numbers to work at Crystal River.

By Cory Reiss
Ledger Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other agencies are investigating how at least one illegal immigrant used a false Social Security number to work inside the Crystal River nuclear power plant.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security detained three Mexican citizens at the site Thursday and charged them with entering the country illegally. At least one worked inside the nuclear complex under supervision, a spokesman for the power plant said.

All three men used false Social Security numbers to obtain work through a contractor for Progress Energy, which owns the site north of Tampa that includes one nuclear reactor and four coalfired power generators, according to the company and an immigration spokeswoman.

The incident raised concerns about soft spots in nuclear security that terrorists could exploit.

"Of all the places where an illegal alien should not be, this is like at the top of the list," said Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, a Republican who lives near the plant, which is in her congressional district.

Browne-Waite's 5th Congressional District includes the northern portion of Polk County.

Progress Energy and a spokesman for the NRC said there was never any danger, even if the men were intent on doing harm -- something no one claims.

Workers that were part of a crew doing maintenance and painting were under constant supervision in the nuclear complex and went through standard metal detector and X-ray-screening, they said.

All three men used driver's licenses to enter the facility after an initial computer check of their Social Security numbers failed to alert Progress Energy that they were either fake or stolen, said Rick Kimble, a Progress spokesman in Raleigh, N.C.

Brown-Waite said the arrests show why Congress should pass legislation that would set nationwide standards for issuing driver's licenses. Supporters of the bill, known as the Real ID Act, say it is needed to deter terrorists from obtaining identification relied on by airlines and other industries. The House has passed the bill, but the Senate has not.

Several people involved said agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation also were on the Crystal River site Thursday. State law enforcement has been involved, a company memorandum says. Neither agency would confirm or deny that.

The detained men were employees of Texas-based Brock Specialty Services, which supplies maintenance workers at a variety of facilities around the country.

The immigration spokeswoman said a U.S. attorney in Texas is considering charging the men with crimes related to counterfeit documents they allegedly gave to Brock to prove they could be legally employed.

Brock Specialty Services gave Progress Energy a list of names and Social Security numbers before its work crew arrived at the site, Kimble said. Progress Energy ran those numbers through national law enforcement databases but no red flags popped up, he said.

Kimble said only Social Security numbers that have been flagged with a criminal record or other problem would come back with an alert. A person could use the number of someone who is actually dead and the company wouldn't know it, or the number could be totally false with the same result, he said.

Only one of the three men arrested is known to have entered the nuclear complex. He did some painting in a turbine facility but not near any sensitive nuclear equipment, Kimble said. The other two were detained elsewhere on the property, he said.

Progress faulted Brock Specialty Services, which it says is responsible for checking its employees' identities. Brock issued a statement that said there was no security breach at Crystal River and that it followed all required procedures.

Kimble said Progress Energy, which also does not consider the incident a security breach, has not fired the contractor but expects Brock to cooperate with investigators. The power company says it can't be responsible for the veracity of driver's licenses.

Progress Energy investigated and notified authorities after a union organization sent a letter on Wednesday alleging that seven Brock employees had fraudulent Social Security numbers. Kimble said several of those numbers checked out, however.

The Florida Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council saw the matter as a labor violation, at the very least.

"It's now a basic issue of the safety and security of the surrounding community," said Michael Jeske, treasurer of the council.

Brown-Waite said she would continue to press the issue.

"Obviously the guidelines are not as airtight or as reassuring as we would want them to be," she said.
|

Testimony of the Director of Central Intelligence

The Honorable Porter J. Goss
before the
Senate Armed Services Committee

17 March 2005
(as prepared for delivery)

Members of the Committee, thank you so much for providing me this opportunity to appear before you today.

I hope to accomplish a number of things during this time. I want to briefly share with you my thoughts relative to the threats facing the United States in the coming years. By virtue of the unclassified nature of this setting I will not go into great detail and look forward to more in-depth discussion of the threats with the Committee in closed session. I also want to discuss the broader issues of the capabilities the Intelligence Community requires to face these threats. The capabilities issue is one that fundamentally impacts the way we support policymakers and warfighters.

Challenges and Changes We Face

The war on terrorism has presented the Intelligence Community with challenges unlike any before. We are facing small groups of terrorists and extremist rather than standing armies. They operate out of homes and caves rather than military bases and government entities. They don't wear uniforms, they don't use conventional ordnance, and they don't observe norms and standards of civilized society. And only a few individuals may know the complete plan of a given terrorist plot.

In response we changed the way we gather secrets. Professional interrogation has become a very useful and necessary way to obtain information to save innocent lives, to disrupt terrorist schemes, and to protect our combat forces. The USG had documented success protecting people and capturing terrorists with information. As I have said before, the USG does not engage in or condone torture.

We will continue to be successful and take terrorists and extremists off the battlefield. But these are risky activities and I will be asking the men and women of the CIA to take more risks—justifiable risks—in the days and months to come. I would much rather explain why we did something than why we did nothing. I am asking your support.
Processing What We Collect

The volume and scope of information that the Intelligence Community collects, processes and provides to policymakers and warfighters has grown tremendously. We face several issues here.


First, I believe we have made great strides in improving the information flow between CIA, FBI, DHS, and others, yet we still face challenges. We all understand this and are working hard to improve the information sharing in all directions.

Second, as we continually vet sources of threat information we need to do better at discerning what is a real threat, and what is wishful thinking, and to establish a threshold for devoting analytical and operational resources to track down a lead. Establishing this threshold is also critical to our ability to provide intelligence on options for strategic decisions, and to give the American public an accurate assessment of the threat facing the country.


Third, for all of the successes we have had and advances we have made, serious and unnecessary damage is caused by media leaks. Unauthorized disclosures of classified information threatens the survivability of the sources and methods that we depend on. We have lost opportunity, if not capability, because of irresponsible leaks and we have made it easier for our enemies.

Making Intelligence Actionable

Collecting secrets - and keeping them secret - is only half the battle. Having intelligence that is actionable and is acted upon through clearly defined mechanisms is just as critical. Terrorists started the war on our soil. We have taken the war to them. Sometimes this requires what we euphemistically call a "kinetic" solution on foreign soil. We have to be able to use all of the tools at our disposal and understand the consequences of how we use them. Dealing successfully with dangerous terrorists requires rapid application of the proper capabilities whether the USG is conducting planned strikes or exploiting targets of opportunity.

Developing the Right Cadre

I welcome the President's directive to increase CIA's HUMINT and analytical capabilities by nearly half. The good news is that smart, eager, and talented people are applying for work in record numbers. Recruiting, training, equipping, and retaining the new more diverse workforce will be a growing endeavor. To do so, I want to help establish a National University of Intelligence, not just for the CIA, but for all agencies within the Intelligence Community. This will be one initiative I will bring to the DNI when he gets started. This will help define a new Intelligence Community culture, better coordinate the way we do business across the government, and enhance willing cooperation.

I look forward to the DNI's confirmation and leadership in bringing together the collective efforts of the Intelligence Community. He will be faced with decisions about how information is collected, prepared and delivered to the President and to other senior leaders and customers. I am ready to help the DNI marshal the efforts and resources of the domestic and international operations of IC agencies, not just in the war on terror but in our other necessary global endeavors. As I turn over the DCI Intelligence Community responsibilities, I am confident that the 15 agencies in the Intelligence Community will rally around the DNI and bring their unique abilities to bear on the joint mission of making America safer.

Threat

Now, I turn to specific threats. I will not attempt to cover everything that could go wrong in the year ahead. We must, and do, concentrate our efforts, experience and expertise on matters that are most pressing: defeating terrorism; protecting the Homeland; stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and drugs; and fostering stability, freedom and peace in the most troubled regions of the world.

Terrorism

Mr. Chairman, defeating terrorism will remain our top objective as widely dispersed terrorist networks present real danger to US national security interest at home and abroad.

Our reporting indicates al-Qa'ida is intent on finding ways to circumvent US security enhancements to strike Americans and the Homeland. Their intent, perhaps passion, to harm us for being who we are is just as vital as ever.

Our reporting that al-Qa'ida or another group wants to use chemical, biological, radiological, and/or nuclear weapons cannot be ignored.

The threat from a broader Sunni jihadist movement is broad. We have witnessed this in Madrid, Bali, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and many other places. It is worth noting that other groups in Pakistan, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, East Africa, and Europe, also pose a significant threat to our security.

In Iraq, Zarqawi merged his organization with al-Qa'ida last year seeking to bring about the final victory of his vision of Islam over the "infidels" and "apostates."


Proliferation

Let me start with Libya, a good news story, and one that shows that with the patient perseverance the Intelligence Community can tackle and achieve remarkable things.

In 2004 Tripoli followed through with a range of steps to disarm itself of WMD and ballistic missiles. The US continues to work with Libya to clarify some discrepancies in the declaration, but all in all we are seeing some very helpful cooperation from Tripoli these days.
Looking to North Korea and Iran, we have different issues.

P'yongyang has announced it has a nuclear weapon capability.

Concern remains that Iran could utilize the uranium enrichment technology it is pursuing to achieve a nuclear weapon

Other Areas of Concern

In CHINA, Beijing's military modernization and military buildup are posing new questions for us. Improved Chinese capabilities seemingly threaten US forces in the region. China's recent legislation on secession speaks for itself.

In RUSSIA, the attitudes and actions of the former KGB associates that Putin has placed in positions of authority throughout the Russian government may be critical determinants of the course Putin will pursue in the year ahead.

In the MIDDLE EAST, the election of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, of course, marks a welcome step forward. There, nevertheless, are hurdles ahead as the Palestinian leadership tries to rebuild the Palestinian Authority and to counter terrorist groups that could destabilized the current calm and derail talks.

In SOUTHEAST ASIA, the Philippines is struggling with prolonged radical Islamic and Communist rebellions and the presence of terrorists seeking safe haven and training bases. Thailand is plagued with an increasingly volatile Muslim separatist threat in its southeastern provinces, and the risk of escalation remains.

In AFRICA, chronic instability in countries such as Sudan and Nigeria, and in areas such as the Horn of Africa, will continue to hamper counterterrorism efforts and offer a potential sanctuary for terrorists.

In LATIN AMERICA, the region is entering a major electoral cycle in 2005/2006, when Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela, and now Bolivia will hold presidential elections. Several key countries in the hemisphere are potential flashpoints in 2005, including Venezuela, Haiti, Colombia and Cuba.

Mr. Chairman, Senator Levin - again, thank you for this opportunity. There are an awful lot of sore spots out there. We of course are trying to stay on top of them so we are well informed and can take appropriate action. The help of your committee will be invaluable.

Thank you.
|

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Federal Money Goes to Controversial Muslim Group

AIM
By Sherrie Gossett

While the major media have portrayed the president's faith based initiative as a pay-off to conservative Christians, a controversial Muslim group accused of having an association with an extreme form of Islam has also been getting federal funds. The group, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), considers itself moderate and mainstream but has sponsored conferences in the past that included speakers known for violent anti-Jewish rhetoric.

At the beginning of this month President Bush made headlines across the country when he addressed religious leaders who gathered at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington for the White House-sponsored Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Leadership Conference. Bush announced that his administration had awarded a whopping $2 billion in grants last year to social programs operated by churches, synagogues and mosques. A White House official said this was probably the most money the federal government had given in one year to religious charities.

The major media failed to report, however, that ISNA, which was represented at the conference, is under Senate scrutiny. Members of the Senate Finance Committee called on the Internal Revenue Service to turn over private tax and fund-raising records for major Muslim charities, including ISNA, as part of an investigation into possible links between the charities and terrorist groups.

The Senators cited no evidence of such ties in their December 22, 2003 letter to the IRS. But the committee's Republican chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, and its ranking Democrat, Senator Max Baucus of Montana, said in part: "Many of these groups not only enjoy tax-exempt status, but their reputations as charities and foundations often allows them to escape scrutiny, making it easier to hide and move their funds to other groups and individuals who threaten our national society. This support for the machinery of terrorism not only violates the law and tax regulations, but it violates the trust that citizens have in the large majority of charities."

The Face of ISNA

ISNA describes itself as moderate in outlook but some journalists who have examined the organization contend that it is linked it to Wahhabism, the extreme form of radical Islam that gave rise to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda movement.

Mary Jacoby and Graham Brink, writing in the St. Petersburg Times, describe ISNA as "subsidized by the Saudi government" and the "main clearinghouse for Wahhabism in the U.S." The New York Times has described ISNA as the umbrella organization for 300 Muslim groups and about one-third of the mosques in the United States.

Mohamed El-sanousi, Director, Community Outreach & Communications for ISNA, was invited to and attended the Faith-Based Initiative meeting on March 1. He told AIM his organization has already received two grants in 2003 and 2004 under the faith-based initiative from the Department of Health and Human Services; specifically the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. ISNA does not itself engage in social services, El-sanousi said, but trains others to do so. "We're a community development organization," he said. "We used the grants to train Muslim community leaders in how to apply for grants to do social services."

Sayyid M. Syeed, Secretary General of ISNA, told AIM in a phone interview on March 10 that "For four or five years we've been invited to White House events. We believe all religions have to play a major role in the fight against poverty. Spirituality itself qualifies people to be more compassionate."

AIM contacted the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for comment on the issue, but has received no response. However, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that ISNA received two contracts worth $25,000 each.

In terms of foreign connections, Syeed has said in the past that his group once accepted money from Muslims overseas but had not for the last two or three years. Syeed said he was confident that the only overseas Muslims who sent money to the Islamic Society were people who supported the moderate vision that he said his group represented. ISNA strongly denies any links to terrorism.

Suicide Bombers

However, ISNA previously invited Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to speak at its conferences, even though he is well-known for having created the "theological" justification for suicide bombing that appears on the Hamas website. That justification is titled "Hamas Operations Are Jihad and Those Who [Carry it Out and] Are Killed are Considered Martyrs." Al-Qaradawi has issued numerous justifications of suicide bombings as well as a fatwa directing the "faithful" to kill American soldiers and civilians in Iraq (except for the very few who may have lived there before the war.) ISNA has also sponsored Rashid Ghanushi, the exiled leader of the Islamic Tendency Movement in Tunisia, as a speaker. Ghanushi has referred to Jews as a "cancer" and "Satans."

When questioned about these speakers, Sayeed asked: "Did Al-Qaradawi appear at one of our conferences?" Then he added that may have happened "ten to fifteen years ago -- some time when he was totally a non-entity."

Such controversial figures are now reportedly being denied entry to the U.S. Regarding inflammatory statements made by these individuals, Syeed said that, "We totally disown" them, adding that ISNA does not endorse such statements. He rejected the claim that the invitation of such persons to be honored guests and to speak at conferences had constituted a form of endorsement. Referring to Rashid Ganushi's comments about Jews being a "cancer" and "Satans," he said, "That is his response to defend. People have their own mouth. They can say anything they want."

Media Take Notice

In November 2003, terrorism expert Steve Emerson told WTHR-TV, an NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, "I think ISNA has been an umbrella, also a promoter of groups that have been involved in terrorism." He added, "I am not going to accuse ISNA of being directly involved in terrorism. I will say ISNA has sponsored extremists, racists, people who call for Jihad against the United States."

The NBC report found that about a dozen charities, organizations or individuals under federal scrutiny for possible ties to terrorism are linked in some way to ISNA – ties that sources told NBC have also placed ISNA under the federal microscope.

This NBC affiliate is one of the very few news outlets that have investigated ISNA in detail. The story, which ran at the end of 2003, was prepared by reporter Angie Moreschi, photographer/editor Bill Ditton and producer Gerry Lanosga.

Despite Syeed's attempt to turn the Al-Qaradawi situation into a non-issue, we discovered that ISNA sells his books on their "ISNA Media Store page." On this web page, al-Qaradawi is described as an "outstanding scholar." Al-Qaradawi-penned books for sale by ISNA are:

• Fiqh az-Zakat: A Comparative Study, a 600-page book
• Priorities of Islamic Movement
• Islamic Awakening Between Rejection and Extremism, published by the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) described as "extraordinary work of analysis and advice is highly recommended for students of Islam and activists."
• The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam which "presents the wisdom of Islamic rulings behind everyday issues faced by the contemporary Muslim"
• The Scholar and the Tyrant

Syeed himself appeared at the inaugural conference of the Islamic Universal Heritage Foundation in Kissimmee Florida in December 2003, which I attended. That conference ran into controversy when it was discovered the headliner was to be Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, who, in April 2003, while addressing 2 million followers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, prayed to God to "terminate" the Jews. He called them "the scum of humanity, the rats of the world, prophet killers ... pigs and monkeys," according to reports by the Associated Press and Reuters.

Misunderstanding

Syeed said it was all a mistake and Al-Sudais did not show up at the conference. Meanwhile, the conference proceeded with other suicide bombing supporters, and thirty-two titles of Al-Qaradawi CD's were on sale at the event. (The Orlando Sentinel and Fox Channel 35 all filed reports the first night of the event, entirely missing the controversial figures who appeared the following day. The Los Angeles Times referenced the reasons for the initial controversy but did not report on the controversial figures that did show up.)

Syeed was Director of Academic Outreach (1984-1994) at the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and currently sits on the International Board of the institute which is located in Herndon, Virginia.

But IIIT has itself come under scrutiny On Dec. 11, 1991, Ramadan Shallah, head of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad, (which claimed responsibility for the recent Tel Aviv bombing) was also administrative director for the World Islam and Studies Enterprise (WISE) in Florida. He had written a letter to Dr. Mark Orr, the director of the University of South Florida's International Affairs Center, identifying IIIT as the main financial backer of WISE, according to a 50-count indictment announced by the U.S. Department of Justice on February 20, 2003.

Shallah wrote, "Our largest contributor is the Washington-based International Institute for Islamic Thought. A brochure describing IIIT and its activities is enclosed." WISE offices were searched on Nov. 20, 1995. The affidavit that was used to procure the search warrants described WISE and the Islamic Concern Project (ICP) as front organizations for Islamic Jihad, as reported in a June 23, 2003, Tampa Tribune article written by Michael Fetcher.

In April, 1998, an Immigration and Naturalization Service investigator's affidavit characterized WISE as a "front organization used to raise money and provide support for terrorism against Israel."

No Problem

But Syeed rejected any hint of impropriety in his affiliations and contacts, telling AIM, "You cannot pick up these small things. You will repent when you do these things." He was especially critical of AIM's previous coverage of the Freedom House report on Saudi hate literature being distributed in U.S. mosques, suggesting the Freedom House report painted all mosques with the same brush. (The report focuses on 15 mosques only). The AIM article was entitled "Giving the Saudis a Pass."

Syeed told me, "You will be hurt, you will be pained by this if you continue to write such things." He closed the conversation with this comment, "I am sorry if I sound harsh. But I stand by every word I said."

While Syeed terms AIM's coverage of Islamic radicalism "scandalous" and "criminal," it is the failure of many in the media to report such issues truthfully that is the real problem. Reporters should not be intimidated from reporting the facts.

Syeed emphasized that ISNA is a mainstream organization and he invited AIM to meet with them at their headquarters and to get involved. "We would be very pleased to host you," he said, indicating individuals from various organizations have offered workshops at their conferences. "We are only getting bigger," he said, "You have to work with us."

The White House already does.
|

U.S. Report Lists Possibilities for Terrorist Attacks and Likely Toll

By ERIC LIPTON
New York times

WASHINGTON, March 15 - The Department of Homeland Security, trying to focus antiterrorism spending better nationwide, has identified a dozen possible strikes it views as most plausible or devastating, including detonation of a nuclear device in a major city, release of sarin nerve agent in office buildings and a truck bombing of a sports arena.

The document, known simply as the National Planning Scenarios, reads more like a doomsday plan, offering estimates of the probable deaths and economic damage caused by each type of attack.

They include blowing up a chlorine tank, killing 17,500 people and injuring more than 100,000; spreading pneumonic plague in the bathrooms of an airport, sports arena and train station, killing 2,500 and sickening 8,000 worldwide; and infecting cattle with foot-and-mouth disease at several sites, costing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. Specific locations are not named because the events could unfold in many major metropolitan or rural areas, the document says.

The agency's objective is not to scare the public, officials said, and they have no credible intelligence that such attacks are planned. The department did not intend to release the document publicly, but a draft of it was inadvertently posted on a Hawaii state government Web site.

By identifying possible attacks and specifying what government agencies should do to prevent, respond to and recover from them, Homeland Security is trying for the first time to define what "prepared" means, officials said.

That will help decide how billions of federal dollars are distributed in the future. Cities like New York that have targets with economic and symbolic value, or places with hazardous facilities like chemical plants could get a bigger share of agency money than before, while less vulnerable communities could receive less.

"We live in a world of finite resources, whether they be personnel or funding," said Matt A. Mayer, acting executive director of the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness at the Homeland Security Department, which is in charge of the effort.

President Bush requested the list of priorities 15 months ago to address a widespread criticism of Homeland Security from members of Congress and antiterrorism experts that it was wasting money by spreading it out instead of focusing on areas or targets at greatest risk. Critics also have faulted the agency for not having a detailed plan on how to eliminate or reduce vulnerabilities.

Michael Chertoff, the new secretary of homeland security, has made it clear that this risk-based planning will be a central theme of his tenure, saying that the nation must do a better job of identifying the greatest threats and then move aggressively to deal with them.

"There's risk everywhere; risk is a part of life," Mr. Chertoff said in testimony before the Senate last week. "I think one thing I've tried to be clear in saying is we will not eliminate every risk."

The goal of the document's planners was not to identify every type of possible terrorist attack. It does not include an airplane hijacking, for example, because "there are well developed and tested response plans" for such an incident. Planners included the threats they considered the most plausible or devastating, and that represented a range of the calamities that communities might need to prepare for, said Marc Short, a department spokesman. "Each scenario generally reflects suspected terrorist capabilities and known tradecraft," the document says.

To ensure that emergency planning is adequate for most possible hazards, three catastrophic natural events are included: an influenza pandemic, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in a major city and a slow-moving Category 5 hurricane hitting a major East Coast city.

The strike possibilities were used to create a comprehensive list of the capabilities and actions necessary to prevent attacks or handle incidents once they happen, like searching for the injured, treating the surge of victims at hospitals, distributing mass quantities of medicine and collecting the dead.
|

Saudi Prince Khaled Al-Faisal Against the Islamist Ideology

By Aluma Dankowitz*

To view this Inquiry & Analysis in HTML, visit http://www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=IA21205

Saudi Prince Khaled Al-Faisal bin Abd Al-'Aziz, governor of the 'Asir province, is one of the most prominent opponents of the Islamist worldview. He is the owner of the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan, which is considered relatively open to all political views. Al-Faisal is also the head of the Arab Thought Foundation, which he founded in 2001 with the goals of raising Arab funds to support Arab culture and of providing a link between intellectuals and decision-makers.(1)

In a number of recent interviews Al-Faisal called upon the Saudi public and rulers "to fight against all the hidden deviant ideas that have infiltrated schools, [university] faculties, homes, and society in general, and to fight against extremism and excess of all forms."(2) He warned against the informal education in Saudi Arabia which incites to violence, and called to initiate reforms so as to avoid their imposition on the country from outside. The following are excerpts from recent interviews with Khaled Al-Faisal:

The Extremist Doctrine Came from Outside Saudi Arabia, But Saudi Society is Receptive to it

In July 2004, Saudi liberal TV moderator Turki Al-Dakhil hosted Khaled Al-Faisal on his weekly program Idhaat on Al-Arabiya TV, which dealt that week with the spread of extremist ideologies in Saudi Arabia. According to Khaled Al-Faisal, "this deviant ideology has begun to spread in the kingdom, in the schools, in the mosques, and everywhere. We now have TV channels which advocate an extremist ideology accusing [other Muslims] of heresy ... in our schools and mosques there are young men, 15-20 years of age, who deliver sermons as though they are senior clerics. At times these young men ... who call themselves missionaries for Islam, even offend the kingdom's senior clerics and attack them."

When asked by Al-Dakhil what has changed in Saudi Arabia in recent years, since Saudi Arabia has always been a conservative religious country, Khaled Al-Faisal answered: "Many things have changed. First of all, the [extremist] ideology didn't exist among us, but came from outside a number of years ago... When it found its way to the Saudi kingdom there were certain people who found it appealing ... and they disseminated it ... there is no doubt that this ideology found fertile ground, since Saudis are religious. I always say that the Saudi's source of strength [his religion] is [also] his weak point ... that is, it is quite easy to deceive a Saudi by means of a religious program or a religious idea... Unfortunately, his good disposition has been exploited in order to propagate this deviant ideology..."

The Informal Educational Program is More Dangerous than the Official Curricula

Al-Dakhil: "The second meeting on national discourse, which took place in Mecca [in December 2003], discussed the relationship between Saudi school curricula and terrorism, to what extent they feed terrorism, and to what extent they spread an extremist atmosphere of one sort or another. Your Honor, as a citizen you studied from these curricula during a long period in your life. Now, as governor of the 'Asir province, do you think that there is a connection between these curricula and the violent ideology spreading in Saudi Arabia?"

Khaled Al-Faisal: "There are some things which I haven't seen myself, but which I have heard have been introduced into the older curricula. These additions were introduced when the jihadist ideology and violent ideas found their way to us from the outside. However, this is not the essential thing; that is to say, it is possible to clean them [out from the curricula] ... the problem now is that [this] ideology is spreading in a different manner, [and not by way of] the written curricula. There is a hidden curriculum and an [officially] published curriculum... There is a phenomenon which has spread in the schools, in the universities, in the institutes and in the faculties, a phenomenon in which the educator or lecturer doesn't teach only from the published curriculum, which is approved by the Ministry [of Education] and by the state... Rather, being with the students in a classroom behind closed doors, or through the fact that he is with them in camps and activities, he transmits his ideas...

"I will give you an example: last summer I heard that in the city of Abha there is a camp I didn't know about... I sent people to go into the camp and to see what is going on there... [when the organizers heard about it, they] quickly relocated the camp overnight, and left... When the people I sent arrived to ask about them and to look for them, they found that the camp was over and that [its organizers] had taken their cars and left. We found documents that they had left behind in the camp's office in their haste. These documents are filled with sketches of bombs, machine guns, and military plans. And this was supposed to be a camp for youth..."

Al-Dakhil: "Do you think this sort [of activity] has done more to foster violence than the school curricula?"

Khaled Al-Faisal: "There is no doubt about it... The school curricula constitute 20% of the issue, but 80% is the hidden curriculum and the way in which these ideas of violence and extremism are inculcated by those who are responsible for the students in the schools, institutes, faculties, and universities."

Government Employees are Helping to Disseminate the Extremist Ideology
Al-Dakhil: "Are you insinuating that are there are people, amongst those who work in official institutions, who allow these ideas to pass and turn a blind eye to them?"

Khaled Al-Faisal: "Indeed, there are people in the government apparatus who pass on these ideas, and there are those who help to disseminate them ... [I am talking about] the spread of [these] ideas in numerous government agencies which are concerned with youth, with the people, or with public education, such as the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Higher Education, [the Department of] Islamic Affairs Dealing with Religious Outreach ... this ideology has spread a lot in the men's and women's charity associations. I think that this ideology exists even in the media institutions, including the Ministry of Culture and Communications."

Al-Dakhil: "Do you think then that those who generate an extremist atmosphere have deeply penetrated Saudi society?"

Khaled Al-Faisal: "There is no doubt that they have deeply penetrated [both] the official and civil realm... There are large civil organizations which allocate funds for charity programs and religious and Islamic programs. As I have said, it is easy to deceive a Saudi by means of religion... One can easily approach a rich man and say to him: give me such and such an amount to build a mosque in Africa, in Asia, or in any Muslim area. You happily give him the funds, certain that he won't deceive you since he is a Muslim, but in fact ... it is possible that these funds are not going to a mosque or to an Islamic project, but to an extremist terrorist plot ... I think this is clear. Anyone who is tuned in to what is going on, who monitors or follows what is going on, can easily see and discern this. These things aren't that clandestine and hidden. In many cases they are open for all to see, but many people in Saudi Arabia prefer to disregard them and don't even want to believe that they exist..."

A National Agency Should Be Established to Fight the Terrorist Ideology

Al-Dakhil: "You pointed out that those with a jihadist ideology ... have deeply penetrated many areas of life, official and social... What do you think should be done in such a dangerous situation...?"

Khaled Al-Faisal: "The situation is dangerous, and we must acknowledge this. Making light of this matter is unacceptable to me... I drew the ministers' attention [to the problem] and I think that the attention of the provinces' governors should also be drawn to it. The princes, myself included, have an important role in paying attention to the spread of this ideology and monitoring its diffusion. The prince is responsible for security, as well as for the security mode of thinking, which is very important, and is no less important than security in the streets. We want security of the mind and the soul as well, security within the family and tranquility among people. Therefore, it is the duty of the province governor to monitor matters such as these: What is going on in the schools? In the hospitals? In the institutes, and even in the orphanages?"

Al-Dakhil: "What do orphanages have to do with a violent extremist ideology?"

Khaled Al-Faisal: "There is a video that is currently circulating in the kingdom...a video of a child who I think is ten years old, or less. He is asked, 'who is your role model,' and he answers, 'Osama Bin Laden.' He is asked, 'what is your nationality,' and he answers, 'Islam.' He is asked as to his homeland, and he answers, 'the world' ... he doesn't know that Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia. He doesn't know that there is a capital and he doesn't know that there is a country called Saudi Arabia ... and this child lives in an orphanage which is under governmental supervision and whose staff are government employees whose salaries are paid by the government... Imagine someone taking advantage of an orphan of this age ... in order to turn him into a human bomb that one day will explode in our streets and in our homes."

In response to the question what can be done to fight the phenomenon, Khaled Al-Faisal answered: "The spread of the extremist ideology cannot be stopped just by the treatment and the initiative of each official [working] alone. There must be a governmental strategy to fight this ideology. I think it is necessary to establish an agency for fighting the terrorist ideology, and not just for the fight against terrorism, [that is] the terrorism in the streets. I think that the government ministries should only supply security personnel ... the Ministry of the Interior should supply the agency with information, but the other members of the agency - ten or more - should be chosen from among specialists ... researchers in the fields of political science, economics, administration, religion, and law...

"[The extremist ideology] is a very large problem that needs to be studied. After studying it, a strategy and a program should be proposed that would obligate all government staff and all official and non-official institutions ... there should be a national offensive against the terrorist ideology, in which the state, the citizens, the official institutions and the civil institutions should participate ... the agency should look for the causes of the spread of this ideology and who is responsible for disseminating it in the country. One shouldn't concentrate only on the question of how it came to us and who brought it; we must look for who is disseminating it inside the country...

"When [the terrorist attacks] started, Saudi society and the Saudi people were shocked that they occurred, and didn't believe that among their sons there were people who were ready to kill and commit suicide at the same time in the streets of Riyadh, Jeddah, Qasim, Khobar, and other cities in the kingdom. Afterwards came the stage of confusion, and the [people] didn't know what to believe. At present I think that the citizens from all corners of the kingdom are united against this violent extremist way of thinking, which accuses [Muslims] of apostasy..."(3)

In an address delivered at the prize ceremony of the Abha national competition in various cultural events, Prince Al-Faisal said that the Saudis would stand united in the fight against terrorism. He said, "More than 60,000 men and women in Saudi Arabia have signed a declaration, which says 'No' to terrorism and destruction... and 'No' to tarnishing the image of Islam through extremism and killings." It should be noted that the prize for best research was won by the Arab News columnist Suraya Al-Shehry and by Dr. 'Ali Fayez Al-Jihani, whose research focused on the causes of terrorism and on ways to tackle it.(4)

Those Claiming to Belong to the Wasatiya Movement Are Inciting the Youth against the Arab Regimes

In a speech given at a cultural conference in the city of Abha, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal spoke about those who portray themselves as belonging to the wasatiya ["the middle path"] Islamic school - and claimed that they are the very ones who in the past disseminated radical ideas, and that, in addition, they are currently inciting against the Arab regimes. According to Khaled Al-Faisal, "the pioneers of the wasatiya movement in Saudi Arabia, who today accuse the traditional [religious] establishment of encouraging violence - meaning by this the Al-Sheikh family and the Al-Saud family - they are the very ones who disseminated the thought of Sayyid Qutb and Al-Mawdudi, and they are among the students of Muhammad Qutb(5)... Today they speak about wasatiya, but they don't mention bin Laden by name when they talk about acts of destruction, and they don't mention Al-Qa'ida by name when they talk about acts of destruction and terrorism.

"Go to the internet sites of those who talk about wasatiya and read the attacks that are published there against the Arab and Islamic regimes and leaderships. Listen to their cassettes which are still wailing away in the schools, the faculties, the vocational schools, and the mosques; listen to what they say and how they describe the Arab rulers. They describe them as tyrants and the Arab governments as dictatorships that must be brought down. They themselves exhort the youth to fight against every government and regime in the Arab and Islamic world...

"We are no longer in the era of slumber as we once were, and things won't return to how they were in the last twenty years. We will not by any means allow this kind of thinking to continue..."(6)

The Arab World Should Initiate Reforms

In an interview on the Al-Arabiya TV program 'Personal Encounter' on the occasion of a December 2004 Arab Thought Foundation conference, titled "The Arabs: Between the Culture of Change and the Change of Culture," Khaled Al-Faisal, who heads the foundation, said: "The topic of change and reform is the topic of the hour in the Arab world. There are those who think that the Arab nation faces two options: either it reforms itself and begins to change, [which would lead] to progress ... or else it puts itself in danger of change being imposed from outside. If change comes from outside, it won't be merely to reform the present situation, but in order to change our culture. Can we agree to that? Will the Arabs agree that change be imposed upon them that will influence their culture, their heritage, their history, and first and foremost their religion? Or do the Arabs possess a culture that allows them to initiate reform of the current situation and to introduce changes... I, of course, believe that the Arabs must initiate reforms from within, put their own house in order by themselves, and develop themselves... We shouldn't close ourselves off to the world, and we shouldn't reject everything [that comes from outside]. We should accept that which is beneficial to us, but [at the same time] we must reject disavowing our identity and faith..."(7)

In answer to interviewer Hasan Al-Fateh's question why there is now a pressing demand for change, Khaled Al-Faisal answered: "International conditions created this situation. It is not only in the Arabs' hands, and not even in the hands of others outside the Arab nation... there are many reasons for this - political, economic, and cultural - but what is clear is that the Arab nation today needs to take the initiative and must not allow initiatives to come only from outside...

"Change always comes in response to demand. It is the nature of life to evolve, and life does not allow stagnation. If you follow history you will see that it is all about development ... in my opinion, civilization is one single human civilization that has arisen on the shoulders of other civilizations. There is no Eastern civilization, Western civilization, Arab civilization, or non-Arab civilization; civilization is human, and every nation established its civilization on the shoulders of the one preceding it. True civilization is human civilization."(8)

Khaled Al-Faisal said similar things at a press conference in Marrakesh on the occasion of the Arab Thought Foundation conference, and went on to say: "We believe in mutual fertilization among civilizations, and not clashes among them ... every science began in one civilization and continued in another. This is true even in the field language - there is no language in which you will not find words or expressions from others. Civilizations complement each other."(9)

In a speech given at a cultural conference in the city of Abha, Khaled Al-Faisal spoke about the two important components of Saudi society - Islam and Arabism - and stated that Islam encourages progress and modernization, and that therefore the country's leadership is determined to stay the course of reform: "The Saudi Arab Kingdom was established and founded on an Islamic basis. Its founding king chose the Qur'an and the Sunna as a constitution and the monotheist credo ['There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is Allah's Prophet'] as a banner. Likewise, he chose the name 'The Saudi Arab Kingdom' ... in doing so he emphasized that Islam and Arabism are not separate things. The Arabs have no honor without Islam, and there is no Islam without the Arabs and the Arabic language. The last of the prophets [Muhammad] was an Arab, the last [revealed] book, the Qur'an, is in Arabic, and as has been made known to us - the language of the people of paradise is Arabic. In Saudi Arabia we should be proud that Allah honored us with two things ... that he included us in the best nation, the Islamic nation, and [placed us] next to his house [the Ka'ba in Mecca] and next to the mosque of his prophet [in Medina]; and that he made us belong to the Arab race, to which the last of the prophets also belonged...

"The country's leadership made a determined resolution to continue in development, modernization, and the introduction of reforms, since it believes that Islam is a religion that is relevant at all times and in all places, and that Islam encourages progress, modernization, advancement, and development. Anyone who stands in the way of modernization and progress is not one of us. If he doesn't think that Islam encourages this path, then he should look for another Islam..."(10)

As in the West - Arab States' Strategies Should Be Determined in Think- Tanks

Referring to the role of the Arab Thought Foundation, Khaled Al-Faisal said: "We don't determine strategy or solutions. We are preparing the arena and the stage for Arab thinkers and intellectuals to voice their opinions on solutions and strategies. I believe that the Arab nation today must listen to the Arab thinkers, intellectuals and academicians, since if we look at the Western countries and Western societies we will see that all the governmental strategies are based on [ideas] that originated with intellectuals and thinkers in think tanks, in universities, in cultural foundations, or even in the media. These ideas crystallized until in the end they became national strategy. I hope that the Arab countries and the Arabs' ruling institutions will henceforth take into account Arab cultural and intellectual initiatives and will adopt them as the core for strategies that they will present to the Arab nation..."

*Aluma Dankowitz is Director of MEMRI's Reform Project.

Endnotes:
(1) Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), December 12, 2003. Poems by Khaled Al-Faisal appear on the internet site: www.khaled-alFaisal.com .
(2) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 23, 2004.
(3) Al-Arabiya (UAE), July 15, 2004. www.alarabiya.net/Articlep.aspx?P=5030 (4) Arab News (Saudi Arabia), August 14, 2004.
(5) Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) and Abu Al-'Ala Al-Mawdudi (1903-1979) are two of the most prominent thinkers of the Islamic Awakening movement, under whose rubric is included the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamic scholar Muhammad Qutb, who is Sayyid Qutb's brother, teaches at Umm La-Qura University in Mecca.
(6) Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), July 7, 2004.
(7) Al-Arabiya (UAE), November 30, 2004. www.alarabiya.net/Article.aspx?P=8451 . Khaled Al-Faisal made similar statements in his opening remarks at the conference. See www.metransparent.com , January 13, 2005.
(8) Al-Arabiya (UAE), November 30, 2004.
(9) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 26, 2004.
(10) Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), July 7, 2004.
|

Pirates Seize Gas Tanker in Malacca Straits

By Nancy-Amelia Collins
Jakarta

Pirates briefly seized a chemical tanker in the Malacca Strait, releasing the boat and crew but holding the captain and chief engineer for ransom. The latest act of piracy in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes underscores security concerns for that region.

Around 35 pirates armed with machine guns and rocket launchers seized the Indonesian-owned chemical tanker on Saturday before disembarking with the ship's captain and chief engineer.

The attack took place as the ship was sailing from Kalimantan on Borneo Island for the Indonesian port of Belawan in the Malacca Strait, one the world's busiest sea ways.

Almost all of China and Japan's oil imports and more than a quarter of global trade pass through the Strait, an area plagued by pirates.

Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau, a non-profit shipping association in Malaysia, says the ship was carrying an unknown but highly flammable liquid.

Mr. Choong says the incident was simply a criminal act, not terrorism. He says that on Monday the owners of the vessel are negotiating with the pirates for the release of the captain and engineer.

"At the moment we can safely say that it's a piratical attack, it's not for political gain, but it's for monetary [gain]," said Noel Choong. "But of course a lot of people are also afraid that terrorists may actually learn from the pirates."

Mr. Choong says it is impossible to say who is behind the attack, although the ship's owners blame Indonesia's Aceh separatist group, the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM.

But Mr. Choong says pirates often attack ships in the Strait and blame GAM.

The attack underscores international concerns that terrorists may team up with pirates and launch an attack in the Malacca Strait or block the waterway to disrupt world trade. One particular concern is that terrorists would seize a tanker carrying oil or gas, and then crash it into a port city.

The narrow 960-kilometer Malacca Strait is bordered by Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. Last year, the three nations began coordinated security patrols in the waterway.

Security experts say the type of ship seized Saturday is the perfect size to use as a weapon.

Increased security has made land targets more difficult for terrorists, so some groups are looking for maritime targets. On Friday Malaysia said it would boost security in the Malacca Strait with a 24-hour radar system
|

Senators charges low progress on border security

The Washington Times
www.washingtontimes.com
By Stephen Dinan
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Senators from both parties yesterday challenged the Department of Homeland Security on whether it is moving quickly enough to secure the nation's borders and following through on congressional mandates to better track visitors' comings and goings.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, was dismayed by the acknowlegment that the administration may ask for another delay in requiring new biometric passports from countries whose citizens don't have to obtain visas to visit the United States, calling it "the soft underbelly of our nation's immigration system." Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said the administration hasn't provided any regular updates on progress as Congress mandated.
Meanwhile, one witness told the joint immigration and terrorism subcommittees of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the department's front-line officers are slipping back to old practices that were focused on processing people quickly, rather than on security.
"It was a customer-oriented system before on the front lines. It is becoming, from what I understand, a customer-oriented system again," said Janice L. Kephart, a former September 11 commission staff member who is now a senior consultant at the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Ms. Kephart also questioned whether the structure of the department allowed immigration security enough attention. "Although we're talking a very good talk right now about border security being national security, we have it buried in DHS," she said.
But department officials said they are taking the necessary steps, both in training and technology and in resources at the border.
"My instincts tell me we've never paid more attention to our borders than we pay now," said Thomas J. Walters, assistant commissioner for training and development at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "If we're not there yet, we're on our way."
Elaine Dezenski, acting assistant secretary for border and transportation security policy and planning, said the department is doing its best to have "a balanced process" between protecting the borders and not interfering with commerce and visitors' travel.
Ms. Dezenski said the department's new training program is putting visa security officers out in the field, particularly in places like Saudi Arabia, per Congress' direction. She also said the department has integrated many of the terrorist watch-list databases that used to be controlled by one agency or another and not shared among all law enforcement.
But she couldn't say the agency turf wars have been resolved.
"I think it's gotten better. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say everyone's in perfect harmony," she said.
Ms. Dezenski told the panel the department probably won't make this October's deadline for requiring biometric data on passports from visa-waiver countries, prompting Mrs. Feinstein to warn she may try to block the administration from asking for another extension into 2006.
The visa-waiver program allows citizens of certain countries to visit the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. After September 11, 2001, Congress insisted that visa-waiver countries issue machine-readable passports with biometric information to help ensure the passport holder is who he claims to be, and set an October 2004 deadline for implementation.
The administration won a one-year delay, but now Ms. Dezenski said the department is having trouble choosing and placing the machines to read the new passports, and only two of the 27 countries in the program are on track to issue the passports by the deadline.
In response, Mrs. Feinstein said she had personally stalled until the last minute the last request for an extension, and is prepared to block it again if the administration doesn't work harder to meet the deadline.
"I will do the same thing in this session if it doesn't get done," she said. "I truly believe this is a dominant weakness."
She also asked for a list of countries that are delinquent, and said it may be time to consider eliminating them from the visa-waiver program.
|

Which Privileges for Islam?

by Daniel Pipes
http://www.danielpipes.org/article/2468
http://www.nysun.com/article/10582

Throughout the West, Muslims are making new and assertive demands, and in some cases challenging the very premises of European and North American life. How to respond?

Here is a general rule: Offer full rights – but turn down demands for special privileges.

By way of example, note two current Canadian controversies. The first concerns the establishment of voluntary Shariah (Islamic law) courts in Ontario. This idea is promoted by the usual Islamist groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Canada and the Canadian Islamic Congress. It is most prominently opposed by Muslim women's groups, led by Homa Arjomand, who fear that the Islamic courts, despite their voluntary nature, will be used to repress women's rights.

I oppose any role for Shariah, a medieval body of law, in public life today, but as long as women are truly not coerced (create an ombudsman to ensure this?) and Islamic rulings remain subordinate to Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I see no grounds on which to deny Muslims the right, like other Canadians, to revert to private arbitration.

On the other hand, Muslim demands for an exclusive prayer room at McGill University in Montreal are outrageous and unacceptable. As a secular institution, the university on principle does not provide any religious group with a permanent place of worship on campus. Despite this universal policy, the Muslim Student Association, a part of the Wahhabi lobby, insists on just such a place, even threatening a human rights abuse filing if it is defied. McGill must stand firm.

The key distinction is whether Muslim aspirations fit into an existing framework or not. Where they do, they can be accommodated, such as in the case of:

Schools and universities closing for the Eid al-Adha holidays.
Male employees permitted to wear beards in New Jersey.
The founding of an Islamic cemetery in Tennessee.
Adherents of other minority religions may get a holiday off, wear beards, or dispose of their dead in private burial grounds – so why not Muslims?

In contrast, special privileges for Islam and Muslims are unacceptable, such as:

Setting up a government advisory board uniquely for Muslims in America.
Permitting Muslim-only living quarters or events in America and Great Britain.
Setting aside bathing at a municipal swimming pool for women-only, as in France.
Banning Hindus and Jews from a jury hearing a case about an Islamist in Great Britain.
Changing noise laws to broadcast the adhan, or call to prayer, in Hamtramck, Mich.
Allowing a prisoner the unheard-of right to avoid strip-searches in New York State.
Exploiting taxpayer-funded schools and airwaves to convert non-Muslims in America.
Allowing students in taxpayer-funded schools to use empty classrooms for prayers in New Jersey.
Deeming the "religious vilification" of Islam to be illegal in Australia.
Punishing anti-Islamic views with court-mandated indoctrination by an Islamist in Canada.
Prohibiting families from sending pork or pork by-products to American soldiers serving in Iraq.
Requiring that female American soldiers in Saudi Arabia wear American government-issued abayas, or head-to-foot robes.
Applying the "Rushdie rules" – or letting Muslims shut down criticism of Islam and Muslims.
The dividing line in each instance is whether Muslims accept to fit the existing order or aspire to remake it. Working within the system is fine, taking it over is not. In American terms, Muslims must accept the framework of the Constitution, not overturn it.

This approach implies that Muslim demands must be judged against prior actions and current practice, and not in the abstract. Context is all-important.

It is thus fine for the Alsace regional council in France to help fund the Grand Mosque of Strasbourg, because the same body also helped pay for renovations to the Strasbourg Cathedral and the city's Grand Synagogue. It is quite another when the City of Boston, Mass. sells land for an Islamic complex at well below the market price, a benefit unheard of for other religious groups in that city.

Western governments and other institutions urgently need to signal Muslims that they must accept being just one religious group of many, and that aspirations to dominate will fail. Toward this end, governments need to enact principled and consistent policies indicating precisely which Muslim privileges are acceptable, and why.
|

Monday, March 14, 2005

Qaeda Ally May Target U.S. Theaters, Schools -Report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's chief ally in Iraq (news - web sites), may be planning attacks on "soft targets" in the United States including movie theaters, restaurants and schools, Time magazine reported on Sunday.

White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley (news - web sites) would not discuss the specific warning, which Time said was circulated among U.S. security agencies last week in a restricted bulletin.

But he said the administration was concerned about reports -- "which we think are very credible" -- that Zarqawi is working more closely with Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al Qaeda organization.

Hadley said movie theaters, restaurants and schools "are the kinds of targets we know that al Qaeda has traditionally been concerned about."

"But we, at this point sitting here, do not have evidence of a specific operation by Zarqawi's organization targeting those kinds of targets. We just don't have that kind of information at this point," Hadley told CNN's "Late Edition."

The warning comes two weeks after President Bush (news - web sites), in a rare public mention of the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said stopping bin Laden from a new attack on U.S. soil was "the greatest challenge of our day."

Time said the bulletin was based on the interrogation of a member of Zarqawi's organization.

It cited Zarqawi's belief that "if an individual has enough money, he can bribe his way into the U.S.," by obtaining a visa to Honduras and then traveling across Mexico and the southern U.S. border.


But the magazine quoted intelligence agencies as saying there is no evidence that Zarqawi's agents have infiltrated the United States.


Bin Laden has eluded U.S. efforts to hunt him down, and he occasionally surfaces in a video or audiotape to show followers he is still alive. U.S. intelligence agencies believe he is hiding in the border region between Afghanistan (news - web sites) and Pakistan.


Zarqawi, blamed for orchestrating insurgent attacks against U.S. forces and Iraqis, has become the most hunted man in Iraq. In December, an audiotape message purportedly from bin Laden formally named Zarqawi as the head of al Qaeda in Iraq.
|

Focus: Britain's secret war on terror

By David Leppard and Richard Woods London Times

As Michael Howard and Tony Blair slugged it out in the Commons last week, hundreds of men and women from the security services were engaged in a covert battle on the streets. How serious is the threat? report

On Friday afternoon, as MPs and peers were locked in a grand parliamentary row over the abstract principles of liberty and justice, the apparatus of Britain’s secret state stood on its second highest level of alert — “severe (general)”.

The alert has remained enforced since November 2003 when an Al-Qaeda car bomb ripped through the front of the British consulate in Istanbul, killing the consul general and more than 25 others.

It means that an attack is expected on the British mainland but there is no specific intelligence to say where and when. Specialist units of the police, military and emergency services must be prepared to react at a moment’s notice.

The front line in this, Britain’s real war on terror, is not in the corridors of the houses of parliament but some 300 metres along the river inside Thames House, the imposing neo-classical headquarters of MI5, the domestic security service.

On Friday — as the government’s proposed measures for dealing with terror suspects ping-ponged between the Lords and the Commons — it was senior officers from the agency’s G branch who were scrambled to deal with the latest perceived threat to the realm: the impending release into the community of 10 Islamic extremists suspected of plotting terrorism.

Logistics were hammered out. Surveillance teams were readied. Officers were briefed. When such operations go into action Eliza Manningham-Buller, director-general of MI5, typically sends a handwritten report, delivered by courier, to the prime minister.

The terror suspects were being released from three locations — Belmarsh and Woodhill prisons, and Broadmoor secure hospital. Surveillance, curfews, tagging, communication intercepts — MI5 had to get them all in place.

Then on Friday evening as police arrived at Broadmoor to supervise the release of a suspect known only as B, he announced that he did not want to leave. Lawyers say that the Algerian — who has been linked to two fundamentalist north African terror groups and who is known to have bought satellite phones while living in Britain — was then forcibly taken to an empty flat where the door had to be broken down by police to gain entry.

Police, immigration officials, interpreters and lawyers were all involved. The suspected terrorist, who it is claimed has suffered a mental breakdown, will now be monitored under strict rules imposed under the government’s new “control orders”.

It is a year since bombs ripped through commuter trains in the Spanish capital of Madrid, killing 190 and injuring more than 1,500, and for those involved in Britain’s secret war on terror it is no ping-pong match.

Ever since the twin towers were brought down in New York by Al-Qaeda 3Å years ago, an army of spooks and special police units have been striving in the shadows to prevent attacks in Britain.

Unknown to the public at large, a series of terrorist court cases involving more than 20 suspects are under way in Britain — but cannot be reported for legal reasons.

Up to 200 other British citizens and foreign nationals suspected of plotting attacks or supporting terrorism are being monitored.

It is a big and growing operation. MI5, which has several hundred officers dedicated to combating terrorism, is recruiting an additional 1,000 staff. The agency has recently set up a network of local branches across Britain to keep a closer eye on regional threats.

The police, too, are heavily involved. In London, Andy Hayman, the new assistant commissioner in charge of counter-terrorism operations at Scotland Yard, has nearly 900 staff in special branch (SO12) and the anti-terrorist branch SO13. More than 1,500 other Special Branch officers operate in regional forces in the West Midlands, Manchester and Scotland.

In the background ranks of analysts at GCHQ, the government’s electronic eavesdropping centre at Cheltenham, are also working round the clock. Their role is to analyse telephone and e-mail intercepts from scores of phones and computers used by terror suspects. Last but by no means least, there are numerous special military and medical units that are constantly training and on stand-by in case a bomber should slip the net.

It is in this already extensive war that Tony Blair won a new weapon last week: the right to impose restrictions on anyone, whether British citizen or not, without a full criminal trial.

To Blair it is a vital move against the terror threat, one that he claimed was “obviously necessary”. To critics it is a step too far, a dangerous slide down the road to a police state. “Legal historians of the future may mark today as the end of the presumption of innocence in English law,” said Shami Chakrabati, director of Liberty, the civil rights group, as the new powers came into being. “Bad law serves neither justice nor security.”

As the political row raged, a grim reminder of the dangers was taking place in Madrid. On Friday a ceremony was held in the Spanish capital to remember those killed and injured in bomb attacks a year ago — a horror that spurred voters to elect a new government only days later.


WITH that atrocity in mind, a secret Whitehall committee comprising MI5 and police is now preparing to send out detailed security advice on how best to defend polling stations against attack in Britain’s forthcoming election, expected on May 5. Security measures include improved CCTV coverage, sweeps of polling booths and police presence on the day.

Such precautions are only prudent. But as the government rams through parliament extraordinary powers after limited consultation, many people are asking: how real is the terrorist threat? Security sources say Manningham-Buller gives short shrift to anyone who asks her how many Islamic terrorists there are in Britain. “Ministers wouldn’t dare to ask Eliza how many terrorists there were stalking the streets. They know that they would get a severe handbagging if they did,” said one security official.

The spooks do not like to play the numbers game because it fails to distinguish between the small band of individuals who pose an imminent danger and the many more who are passive sympathisers, prepared to lend logistical support or to turn a blind eye at some point in the future.

Estimates of the number of young British Muslims who travelled to Al-Qaeda training camps before they were shut down in 2002 vary widely. Senior MI5 officials say that as many as 3,000 might have gone.

Lord Hoffman, one of the law lords who reviewed the cases of suspects detained without trial in Belmarsh, put the figure at 1,000. Blair recently said there were “several hundred” trained Al-Qaeda operatives in Britain, a figure endorsed by the new Metropolitan police commissioner.

Whatever the actual number, the security services have other reasons to believe that the threat of terrorist attack is deadly serious. All terror intelligence is fed into the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, an MI5 unit based at Thames House.

In 2002-03, its first year of operation, the unit received 60,000 individual pieces of intelligence.

“There is plenty of rubbish in there,” said a security source. “But also there are some gems. There are some things that are vital.”

In the past year a series of alleged plots has been uncovered. In March 2004 nearly half a ton of fertiliser, often used to make bombs, was found in a lock-up garage in northwest London. In a separate operation in August police arrested a group of British men with links to Pakistan in a series of raids in London and the Midlands.

Some suspected terror cells are believed to be linked to masterminds in Iraq. One cell, say police, seems to be controlled by Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, the terrorist blamed for many atrocities in Iraq. In addition, MI5 believes that the IRA still poses a threat to mainland Britain.

Suspicion is all very well, but what about hard evidence? Some six terrorist prosecutions are working their way through the courts — but they are proceeding unnoticed because reporting restrictions have been imposed to prevent other defendants being prejudiced in subsequent trials.

The outcome of both current and future cases will be revealed only later this year when a long and complex case, due to start next month, comes to a close.

A total of at least 24 people are on remand awaiting trial or are on trial for alleged terrorism offences. Eleven others — in addition to suspects detained in Belmarsh until last week — are awaiting extradition to face terrorist charges overseas.

One recent case that can be reported is that of Saajid Badat, a former public schoolboy who pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiring to blow up a jet in 2001 using an explosive hidden in his shoe. Badat is an example of the “home-grown” terror threat now facing this country.

Although in the end he did not go through with his plan, he illustrates how the danger comes not simply from the obvious “mad mullah” extremists. Al-Qaeda has also recruited well educated, articulate young men who are the products of respectable middle-class homes.

Nor is an attack expected to involve weapons of mass destruction. “The most likely type of attack is going to be a conventional vehicle-borne suicide bombing of the sort we see almost every day in Iraq,” said one security source.

Probable targets, following the bombings in Bali and Madrid, are city centre nightclubs, mainline railway stations and airports. Recent intelligence suggests that Al-Qaeda units have carried out covert reconnaissance at Gatwick and Heathrow and at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent.

The security services are all too well aware that the Spanish authorities suspect Abu Qatada, one of the men released from Belmarsh last week, to be linked to the alleged mastermind of the Madrid bombings.

Qatada, described by a British judge as a “truly dangerous” individual, is reported to have had dealings with Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, a Syrian who allegedly ordered the Madrid bombings. Nasar, for whom America has offered a $5m reward, is said to have been involved with Qatada when he was in Britain in the 1990s. He is now on the run.

Spanish investigators also claim that Qatada is closely linked to Abu Dahdah, another Syrian resident in Spain. Dahdah was arrested on suspicion of recruiting volunteers for Al-Qaeda attacks.


SO the problem is not whether there is a threat, but how best to deal with it.

From the outset the government has bodged and bungled. In the wake of the September 11 attacks it rushed through the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, part of which allowed detention without trial.

But that power applied only to foreigners — not to any UK citizens who happened to be Islamist fanatics planning atrocities. When the law lords declared that power to be discriminatory and disproportionate, the government panicked.

Charles Clarke, who had just become home secretary, announced that he wanted the power to detain anyone, British or foreign, at home without trial and simply on his say-so. From doing too little, the government went to the other extreme.

Politicians, lawyers and civil liberty campaigners were outraged. Michael Howard, the Tory leader, called it a “dreadful measure from a desperate prime minister”.

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: “This bill suspends habeas corpus and the presumption of innocence in British law. These are massive changes.”

As the new bill took shape and passed through parliament, Clarke was forced to make concessions — but he still eventually won the power to impose “control orders”, on “reasonable suspicion”, subject to judicial review within seven days.

To some critics the whole row was misguided because other tough laws already existed that, they say, should be used more vigorously to fight terrorism. The Terrorism Act 2000, for example, made it an offence, among other things, to belong to proscribed organisations such as Al-Qaeda. Even addressing a meeting aimed at helping a terrorist can be an offence punishable by 10 years in prison.

The same act also makes it an offence to collect information “of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”. The penalty: up to 10 years in prison.

It is even an offence “to wear an item of clothing which can give reasonable suspicion indicating membership or support of a proscribed organisation”.

Given those and many other existing powers, Liberty concluded: “We are not sure where the gap in the law is.” Ditching key freedoms such as the presumption of innocence and the right to trial is unnecessary and unacceptable, it claims.

“Past experience of special anti-terror measures is of the temporary becoming permanent and the exceptional becoming routine,” warned Chakrabati.

On Friday, however, as Madrid remembered the victims of last March, few Spaniards had civil liberties at the top of their mind. Pilar Manjon, spokeswoman for the victims and who lost Daniel, her 20-year-old son, in the bombings, warned that many more Al-Qaeda terrorists were on the loose. “How many are there in France, in Great Britain and elsewhere?” she asked.

“An estimated 10,000 went through their training camps. Their model of terrorism is new to us and needs new methods to combat it. For them, everyone else is their enemy. Their minds are sick.”

Investigators in Spain and France do not advocate detention without trial. They follow a system of incarcerating suspects for lengthy periods, often years — but all the while conducting investigations with a view to trial.

An international summit on democracy, terrorism and security held in Madrid last week summed up the need to fight terrorism without compromising freedom.

“Law enforcement agencies need the powers required,” the delegates concluded, “yet they must never sacrifice the principles they are dedicated to defend.”
|

Spain Continues to Uncover Terrorist Plots, Officials Say

By ELAINE SCIOLINO
New York Times

MADRID, March 12 - One year after the worst terrorist attack in Spanish history, the Spanish police continue to uncover and thwart new plots involving Islamic militants, according to senior Spanish intelligence and law enforcement officials.

Despite sweeping measures to improve their ability to investigate potential terrorist threats since the March 11, 2004, bomb attacks that left 191 people dead, the officials estimate that there are hundreds of people scattered in cells around the country committed to attacking centers of power in Spain.


The police have found indications of a cell of Pakistanis that they suspect was planning an attack on a high-profile target in Barcelona. They also found evidence of a cell of North Africans in Madrid that apparently wanted to attack the High Court in the capital, the officials said.

"We have been lucky that our investigations have managed to abort other plots before acts of terrorism took place," Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the justice minister, said in an interview. "That means the threats have not disappeared."

After the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks on the United States and the train bombing in Madrid, European governments have devoted new resources to rooting out a terrorist threat that is not yet fully understood. France, Belgium, Germany and Italy have made dozens of terrorism-related arrests in the past year, and Britain enacted a tough new package of laws on Friday.

Spain has been particularly aggressive about making arrests. Mr. López Aguilar said the government had detained about 1,000 people in terrorism-related cases in the past year, although most have been released.

In the Madrid bombing, Spain is still hunting down at least half a dozen suspects, who are probably outside the country.

"The great majority of the perpetrators are identified, dead or in prison," said a senior intelligence official at the Guardia Civil, or Civil Guard, a police force with military and civilian functions. "But we cannot say that we have all of them. There are questions that remain unclear. The most important is: Who masterminded March 11?"

Of 79 suspects believed to be involved in the Madrid bombings, 24 are in jail and awaiting trial. Seven suspects blew themselves up in a Madrid apartment three weeks after the bombing to avoid capture.

The evidence of a Pakistani cell has emerged since the bombings. Last September, the police arrested 10 Pakistanis suspected of belonging to a support network for Islamic militants. The raid turned up a video showing details of a number of buildings in Barcelona, including the 40-story Mapfre Tower and the 44-story Hotel Arts, the two buildings known as Spain's "twin towers," a senior Spanish intelligence official said.

The police also seized documents and videos calling for an Islamic holy war, several pounds of cocaine and more than $20,000 in cash. The group apparently raised money through drug trafficking, falsifying documents and extortion, the intelligence officials said. They said they had evidence that the cell sent the money to cells in Pakistan that were loyal to Al Qaeda. But no link to the March 11 attacks was found.

The senior intelligence official at the Civil Guard said the group was sending money to the same Islamic militants who killed the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002 in Pakistan.

Fernando Reinares, a special adviser to the Interior Ministry and a terrorism specialist with the Elcano Institute, said, "Apparently they were taking the first steps of what could be plans for committing terrorist actions." Another cell was uncovered last fall, when the police carried out an operation against a group of Algerian and Moroccan radicals who were believed to be planning an attack on Madrid's High Court and perhaps other targets.

Using informers, investigators learned that the plotters had started to try to procure explosives for the operation. Concerned that an attack was imminent, the government decided to close down the cell.

Investigators brought the information to Judge Baltasar Garzón, Spain's highest antiterrorism magistrate, who ordered the arrests of more than 30 people, mostly North Africans, suspected in the plot.

"This particular plot was pretty close," Mr. López Aguilar said. "But it didn't happen."

Investigators are trying to piece together whether there are connections between operatives of Al Qaeda in Spain and the Madrid bombings.
|

Government Report on U.S. Aviation Warns of Security Holes

By ERIC LICHTBLAU
New York Times

WASHINGTON, March 13 - Despite a huge investment in security, the American aviation system remains vulnerable to attack by Al Qaeda and other jihadist terrorist groups, with noncommercial planes and helicopters offering terrorists particularly tempting targets, a confidential government report concludes.

Intelligence indicates that Al Qaeda may have discussed plans to hijack chartered planes, helicopters and other general aviation aircraft for attacks because they are less well-guarded than commercial airliners, according to a previously undisclosed 24-page special assessment on aviation security by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security two weeks ago.

But commercial airliners are also "likely to remain a target and a platform for terrorists," the report says, and members of Al Qaeda appear determined to study and test new American security measures to "uncover weaknesses."

The assessment comes as the Bush administration, with a new intelligence structure and many new counterterrorism leaders in place, is taking stock of terrorists' capabilities and of the country's ability to defend itself.

While Homeland Security and the F.B.I. routinely put out advisories on aviation issues, the special joint assessment is an effort to give a broader picture of the state of knowledge of all issues affecting aviation security, officials said.

The analysis appears to rely on intelligence gathered from sources overseas and elsewhere about Al Qaeda and other jihadist and Islamic-based terrorist groups.

A separate report issued last month by Homeland Security concluded that developing a clear framework for prioritizing possible targets - a task many Democrats say has lagged - is critical because "it is impossible to protect all of the infrastructure sectors equally across the entire United States."

The aviation sector has received the majority of domestic security investments since the Sept. 11 attacks, with more than $12 billion spent on upgrades like devices to detect explosives, armored cockpit doors, federalized air screeners and additional air marshals.

Indeed, some members of Congress and security experts now consider airplanes to be so well fortified that they say it is time to shift resources to other vulnerable sectors, like ports and power plants.

In the area of rail safety, for instance, Democrats are pushing a $1.1 billion plan to plug what they see as glaring vulnerabilities. "This is a disaster waiting to happen," Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, said last week at a Senate hearing marking the one-year anniversary of the deadly train bombings in Madrid.

Still, the new aviation assessment, examining dozens of airline incidents both before and after the Sept. 11 attacks, makes clear that counterterrorism officials still consider the aviation industry to be perhaps the prime target for another major attack because of the spectacular nature of such strikes.

The assessment, which showed that the F.B.I. handled more than 500 criminal investigations involving aircraft in 2003, will likely serve as a guide for considering further security restrictions in general aviation and other areas considered particularly vulnerable, the officials said.

The report, dated Feb. 25, was distributed internally to federal and state counterterrorism and aviation officials, and a copy was obtained by The Times. It warns that security upgrades since the Sept. 11 attacks have "reduced, but not eliminated" the prospect of similar attacks.

"Spectacular terrorist attacks can generate an outpouring of support for the perpetrators from sympathizers and terrorism sponsors with similar agendas," the report said. "The public fear resulting from a terrorist hijacking or aircraft bombing also serves as a powerful motivator for groups seeking to further their causes."

The report detailed particular vulnerabilities in what it called "the largely unregulated" area of general aviation, which includes corporate jets, private planes and other unscheduled aircraft.

"As security measures improve at large commercial airports, terrorists may choose to rent or steal general aviation aircraft housed at small airports with little or no security," the report said.
|

Agents brief Texas lawmen on gang

James Osborne
The Monitor

McALLEN — Local and federal agents from both sides of the border met Thursday to discuss the Mara Salvatrucha, the violent street gang that made headlines last month after the arrest of one of its alleged leaders, who was on the run from a prison sentence in Honduras.

Formed in Los Angeles by Salvadoran refugees in the 1980s, the gang has now established cells across Central America and the United States. The Maras are believed to be involved in drug trafficking and are wanted in connection with numerous murders across the Americas.

"We’re pushing out the borders, letting the officers know that we’re interested in these people and what to look for," said Robert Garza, acting chief patrol agent with the McAllen Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol.

"They’re using a well-known smuggling route in the Rio Grande Valley, which historically has been the most popular route for OTMs (Other Than Mexicans)."

Garza reiterated assurances made by other law enforcement officials that the Maras do not have a presence in the Valley and are simply passing through on their way north.

He also dismissed claims made by U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, that the Maras are helping al-Qaida terrorists sneak across the border.

"We don’t have any evidence of that," Garza said. "But we’re not the only ones looking at this."

The Maras are of particular concern to Mexico, as that country’s problems with the gang have started to escalate beyond its migration between Central America and the

United States.

"They are always moving through the South, but now they’re starting to get closer to the people in the cities," said Fernando Morones, the regional attaché for the Mexican Attorney General.

"They recruit in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Mexico City."

Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, who deal regularly with the Maras, briefed local law enforcement on their patterns and what to look out for in trying to identify gang members, namely the designs of their tattoos. If and when a suspected member is apprehended, police officers are instructed to contact Border Patrol so information can be run against their database.

Garza hopes these efforts will streamline a process that took 12 days to identify Ebner Rivera-Paz, the Honduran gang leader who had given agents an alias not mentioned in their files.

Rivera-Paz was only identified after a guard at East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa, an overflow facility for undocumented immigrants, matched his face with a recently released photo.

"Had we known, this whole process would have started on Feb. 10, not Feb. 22," Garza said.

Rivera Paz’s case has now been moved to Houston, according to Garza. He is expected to stand trial in the coming months on the charge of illegal re-entry, which could land him in federal prison for up to two years. Honduras is petitioning for Rivera Paz’s extradition in connection with the massacre of 28 people last December
|

Canadian Border security lax: former U.S. official

Canadian Press

HALIFAX -- Bureaucrats in Canada and the United States need to move rapidly to improve border security, given the continuing threat of terrorist attacks, a former U.S. security official said Friday.

Maj. Chris Hornbarger, who spoke at a conference in Halifax, was policy director for the U.S. Homeland Security Council, where he planned security measures for the U.S.-Canada border following the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Hornbarger said the bureaucrats working on "smart border" programs -- designed to reduce border slowdowns while tightening security -- have been too cautious.

"It's too slow, it's too little, it's marginal, incremental change," said the U.S. army major, who moved from the Department of Homeland Security last year to become an instructor at West Point military academy in New York.

"We need to move much more aggressively to a shared border management regime that removes barriers internal to the continent."

Hornbarger said it took more than three years to set up a system to pre-clear cargo at the busy Detroit-Windsor border crossing.

"It's over three years since 9-11 ... If we have a major terrorist attack that uses the border as its axis of advance, Americans and Canadians will not understand that."

The Detroit-Windsor crossing is the busiest link between the United States and Canada. More than 15 million vehicles crossed between 2003 and 2004.

But increased security has resulted in backups on both sides of the border.

Hornbarger said he hopes that Michael Chertoff, who was recently appointed secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, will create a positive working relationship with Canadian officials.

He also said it's crucial that the three North American leaders discuss ways to speed up border and port security when they meet in Mexico on March 23.
|

States Say They Know Little About Threats

By LARA JAKES JORDAN
Associated Press Writer

CALVERTON, Md. -- The first call came in midafternoon: State homeland security advisers needed to join a classified briefing about a potential new terror threat. Most states were connected to the U.S. Homeland Security Department by 4:45 p.m.

At 6:30, they were still waiting.

Eventually, state directors were told to leave the Feb. 25 video conference call while Homeland Security and other federal agencies debated how much to reveal about recent al-Qaida intelligence.

State officials say the incident was part of an uphill struggle to share clear and concise terror information with agencies trying to protect Americans in every state.

Homeland Security "is supposed to be the pathway to state and local governments," said Virginia homeland security director George W. Foresman, who was on the call and served as vice chair of a commission that evaluated the nation's readiness for terrorism from 1998 to 2003. "I think they're trying to do the right thing. But here they are, still clamoring for acknowledgment from other federal agencies that they're responsible for doing it."

The department, which merged 22 federal agencies when it opened its doors two years ago, calls itself the "one-stop shop" for state and local officials on homeland security issues. But recent studies indicate a majority of states are only somewhat satisfied with information they receive, and complain of getting mixed signals and conflicting guidance from Homeland Security and other federal agencies.

All 50 states have designated homeland security directors to help coordinate and analyze a daily barrage of intelligence and crime data. Their job titles and daily responsibilities, however, vary from state to state.

In Massachusetts, state officials routinely cross-check the validity of intelligence received from one federal agency -- generally Homeland Security or the FBI -- against another. In Washington state, officials collect intelligence from Homeland Security, the FBI and the military so "you're not dependent on a single source," said Adjutant General Timothy Lowenberg.

And in Maryland, the state's anti-terrorism advisory council of 180 agencies is coordinated by the Justice Department. Maryland's terror intelligence center in suburban Calverton, which opened in 2003, is run by state and local police agencies and the FBI.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey E. Eisenberg, the Maryland advisory council's coordinator, said he works closely with Homeland Security and public health officials to distribute terror information beyond traditional law enforcement channels.

"Part of it is a culture change," Eisenberg said from his office in Baltimore. "How do we all talk to each other without violating trusts? How do we get information out effectively and fast without compromising security? And how do you trust people to make those calls?

"I know that has to change."

Homeland Security officials and state directors generally agree the department has made significant strides in sharing information since 2003.

States and major urban areas obtain real-time threat intelligence through the department's information network, and Homeland Security has equipped states with videoconference technology for biweekly meetings. The department also participates with the FBI on joint terrorism task force investigations.

But the department acknowledges states need more in-depth and detailed threat information.

"It shouldn't only be about, `Here's a little tidbit of information, let's get it out to everybody,'" said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "It should be trying to provide a context within which state and local governments can have a better understanding for their own purposes of the nature of the threat that we face."

Hours after the thwarted Feb. 25 call, Homeland Security issued a classified but vague intelligence bulletin to state directors indicating potential al-Qaida attacks on the United States. Counterterrorism officials later said the intelligence indicated Osama bin Laden was trying to enlist his top operative in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for the attacks.

Homeland Security said the state directors were the first people below the federal level to get the information on official channels. Several state directors, however, said they were told the department released the intelligence after it had already started to seep to local law enforcement agencies or the National Guard.

Jonathan A. Duecker, Pennsylvania's homeland security director, said the teleconference calls and bulletins are mostly "good-faith efforts" to keep states informed. Direct one-on-one calls from Homeland Security, however, put him on alert and "perk me up."

Recent studies by a Homeland Security Advisory Council task force and the National Governors Association indicate states are increasingly frustrated with a daily flood of information from a variety of federal sources. States want one point of contact in Washington for intelligence collection and analysis, followed by "dissemination through a single pipeline," said Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

However, Homeland Security "has not had, in the past, the access to the immediate information and intelligence from all the other agencies," said Romney, who chaired the task force. "And so we have tended to go agency to agency, gathering information through an ad hoc process rather than through a single federal doorway."

But relying on a single agency can be risky. In January, an ultimately bogus FBI tip indicated Chinese nationals described as possible terror suspects were headed to Boston. Homeland Security was not involved in the case, which led to a brief but potent public scare in Massachusetts. Romney said state and federal officials share some blame in the false alarm because "more information than necessary was disseminated."

In Washington state, Lowenberg said simple coordination with its state, local, tribal and private partners might help Homeland Security close the gaps.

"It would enhance national security to do that," he said. "In the earliest days, there was an earnest effort to bring the state homeland security advisers in to collaborate. And now it tends to be much more of a one-directional flow of information -- from the Department of Homeland Security to the states."
|

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?