Saturday, May 07, 2005

Q: Does President Bush have a realistic plan for bringing democracy to the Middle East?

By Robert Spencer

No: Insisting that the nations of the Middle East choose between Western-style democracy or the terror state will do more harm than good.

The president believes that democracy can succeed in Iraq, and in the Islamic world in general, because human nature is the same everywhere on earth. "It is presumptuous and insulting," he told the American Enterprise Institute, "to suggest that a whole region of the world -- for the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim -- is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be vastly different. Yet the human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on earth."

One of those good things, according to Bush, is democracy. "In our desire to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the same. In our desire to care for our children and give them a better life, we are the same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror."

Yet, are those really our only choices? Human history is full of regimes that were neither democratic nor terrorist. In the world today there are Muslim regimes that are not democracies or terror states, and their existence points to a third possibility. Many in Saddam's Iraq will want his secular regime to be succeeded by one that more or less conforms to the dictates of Islamic Shariah law. The president is correct that people want to be free from oppression and to seek a better life, but the particularities of what makes for that better life may differ markedly from place to place. As Bush himself notes, human cultures are different.

Bush, however, has nothing but harsh words for those who claim that Middle Eastern culture is so different as to rule out democracy. "There was a time," he reminded his audience at the American Enterprise Institute on Feb. 26, "when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. The nation of Iraq, with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people, is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom."

The post-World War II parallel is gaining wide currency. Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya recently was surprised to find, according to George Packer in the New York Times Magazine, "the chairman of the Iraqi National Congress reading a thick tome on the reconstruction of postwar Germany."

However, warns Packer, "Anyone seeking historical lessons for a democratic Iraq has to face the fact that Germany before Hitler was liberal compared with Iraq before Saddam." And not only that. After all, in postwar Japan the emperor told his subjects that contrary to what they had been taught all their lives, he was not divine. He formally renounced the religious justifications that had fueled the drive to war. In postwar Iraq, will anyone renounce the radical Islam that Saddam skillfully has purveyed to bolster his regime since the Persian Gulf War?

In light of Islam's unique characteristics as a political and social system, as well as an individual faith, the models of Japan and Germany may be less revelatory about the prospects of democracy in a Muslim nation than that of Iraq's neighbor to the North -- Turkey.

Historically, democracy has had a hard time in Muslim countries. Things started off on a bad foot when, in order to establish the first Western-style democracy with a largely Muslim population, Turkey's Mustafa Kemal Ataturk virtually declared war on Islam. Ataturk, an open admirer of the West, looked upon his Muslim homeland and saw a benighted nation held back by its religion. He dealt the entire world of Islam a body blow in 1924 when he abolished the caliphate.

The caliph was the successor of the prophet Muhammad as leader of the Muslim community; the great Islamic empires of the Middle Ages were governed by various caliphs whose names still resonate with Muslims today. Although the caliphate had declined significantly in power and influence by the time Ataturk administered the coup de grace, the caliph was still an enormously important element of the Islamic intellectual and theological landscape. For one thing, most Sunni Muslim legal scholars taught that only the caliph could declare a jihad, a struggle to defend the house of Islam from its enemies. Without a caliph, in the eyes of many Muslims, the Islamic world was left defenseless before its foes.

Osama bin Laden and other radical Muslims trace the oppression of the Muslim world by the West and other ills that the umma, the worldwide Muslim community, is suffering today to the abolishment of the caliphate. The radical British-based Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad laments that "the Muslim umma has never before been in a position where we are divided into over 55 nations each with its own oppressive kufr [infidel] regime ruling above us. There is no doubt therefore that the vital issue for the Muslims today is to establish the Khilafah [caliphate]."

Ataturk extended his war against Islam down to the most minute details of daily life in Turkey. "The civilized world," he declared, "is far ahead of us. We have no choice but to catch up. It is time to stop nonsense, such as 'Should we or should we not wear hats?' We shall adopt hats along with all other works of Western civilization. Uncivilized people are doomed to be trodden under the feet of civilized people." Ataturk labored to establish a strictly secular state with no participation in government from any Muslim group.

The result? The French historian Paul Dumont wrote that Ataturk's reforms created "a shock wave through the country which has not yet died out." Pious Muslim Turks blamed every setback the country suffered on the enforced secularization. According to Ataturk's biographer Andrew Mango, the average Turk believed that "misery was the fruit of impiety, prosperity the reward of obedience to the law of Islam."

Pressure on the regime mounted steadily until by the 1950s Turkish governments started to play up Islamic sentiments in order to maintain their grip on power. The politician Necmettin Erbakan led Islamic opposition to the secular government for more than 30 years, culminating in a year as prime minister in 1996 and 1997, during which then-secretary of state Madeleine Albright wrang her hands about the "drift of Turkey away from secularism." Erbakan was removed by Turkey's military but, in November 2002, Turks again voted Islamists into power. What will come of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's regime remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that if anyone is on the defensive, it is the secularists.

Turkey's experience may be unique, but there is no reason to think that any secular democracy established in an Islamic country will escape pressure from Muslims who want to restore Shariah. None has so far. Even Muslim reformers have recognized that an Islamic democracy would be quite different from the polity designed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The great Muslim thinker Muhammad Rashid Rida (1865-1935), for example, began his career as a disciple of the modernist Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), who attempted to redefine traditional Islamic concepts to make them compatible with secular Western ideas. But after World War I even Rida grew progressively more disenchanted with the West. Ultimately, he insisted that "the affairs of the Islamic state must be conducted within the framework of a constitution that is inspired by the Koran, the Hadith [sayings of the prophet Muhammad] and the experiences of the Rightly Guided Caliphs [the four leaders of the Islamic community after Muhammad]."

This jibes with the assessment of the Tunisian theorist Mohamed Elhachmi Hamdi, author of an intriguing essay entitled "Islam and Liberal Democracy: The Limits of the Western Model." In it, he opines: "The heart of the matter is that no Islamic state can be legitimate in the eyes of its subjects without obeying the main teachings of the Shariah." Rather than looking to Western models, Islamic states should look to their own tradition: "Islam should be the main frame of reference for the constitution and laws of predominantly Muslim countries."

Within that frame of reference freedom means something quite different from what it does in the West. Governments that follow it in whole or in part generally have a poor record on women's rights. Women suffer restrictions that are quite severe in some parts of the Islamic world; in some places they cannot even leave their homes without their husband's permission. Their testimony is disallowed in cases of a sexual nature, even if they are raped.

Shariah law also sets penalties, some of which have become quite notorious: amputation for theft, stoning for adultery. Can this structure be modified? Some countries already follow a modified, modernized version of Shariah law. But all suffer the same pressures that have nearly destroyed Turkish secularism: A sizable number of Muslims regard the Shariah not as a man-made construct but as the eternal law of God. As such, they maintain that such modifications are illegitimate -- as are elections and parliamentary debate. One does not vote on the will of Allah.

The radical Muslim writer Abdul Qader Abdul Aziz explicitly rules out Western political models in lauding the Shariah: "The perfection of the Shariah means that it is not in need for any of the previous abrogated religions [that is, Judaism and Christianity] or any human experiences -- like the man-made laws or any other philosophy. ... [I]n kufr, or disbelief, is the one who claims that the Muslims are in need for the systems of democracy, communism or any other ideology, without which the Muslims lived and applied the rules of Allah in matters that faced them for 14 centuries."

In view of opinions like these, which are widely held within the Islamic world, the question is not so much whether the president's vision is realistic, but whether he can convince the majority of Muslims that it is. Certainly he will find proponents of democracy in Iraq and elsewhere. But the primary opponents of these democrats will not be terrorists, but those who hold that no government has any legitimacy unless it obeys the Shariah. Even if they lose in the short run, they will not disappear as long as there are people who take the Koran and Islamic tradition seriously. And that spells trouble for any genuine democracy.

Spencer is an adjunct fellow with the Free Congress Foundation and author of Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest-Growing Faith. He is working on a new book, Onward Muslim Soldiers: Jihad Then and Now

Terror Suspect Nabbed After Working On NYC Landmark

FBI: Man Was A Painter On George Washington Bridge

NEW YORK (CBS) A routine traffic stop leads to the arrest of a terror watch list suspect in our area. What's more, CBS 2 has learned 39-year-old Sami Ibrahim Isa Ardel Hadi had a valid I.D. to work as a painter on the George Washington Bridge.

Hadi was arrested yesterday afternoon by Bergen County Police, say sources, on Route 46 by Ridgefield Park. He was stopped for tailgating.

When the officer called-in the North Carolina plates of Hadi's car, the Bergen County Police report indicates the officer was told Hadi was on several federal agency terror watch lists, and there was a stop and hold order on him.

The police report also says that Hadi had a valid temporary I.D. to work on the George Washington Bridge. He works for L & L Painting, the subcontractor painting the bridge.

The FBI was called and took Hadi and a second person in the car into custody, though the second person was not on the terror watch list.

L and L Painting is based in Hicksville, says it could not comment because it works for the Port Authority, and the Port Authority says it's been told Hadi is not on a terror watch list.

But the PBA union for Port Authority Police confirmed that a painter on the GWB has indeed been arrested and was on the terror watch list.

The PBA said Hadi was on the list because his visa had expired and authorities could not locate him.

PBA officials added, "What scares us is that workers on the Port Authority's bridges and tunnels have no security background checks.

They say they've complained about this since 9/11.

Egyptian Journalist on Muslim Liberals in the West: "Muslims in Name, Apostates in Fact

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit

The Egyptian journalist Rim Azmi published an attack on Muslim liberals living in Western countries in the April 23, 2005 issue of the official Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, titled: "Muslims in Name, Apostates in Fact," in which she accuses Muslim academics and politicians in the West of using Islam for their own aggrandizement. The following are excerpts from the article:(1)

These People Put Themselves Above the Divine Message

"They aren't Westerners and they have not attained this honor in the eyes of the West, however, the West embraced them, not out of love for them, but rather in order to denigrate Islam. The West found in them that which they have long sought, because they were brought up in the land of Islam and they fully understand how to hurt its people. Since these people found no rest in their own countries, the West welcomed them, opening their arms to them so that they could continue to rain poison arrows down on the true faith [i.e., Islam].

"If we look carefully, we can distinguish these people's different levels on the scale of rebellion. Some of them openly scoff at the Noble Koran; some demand that the Koran be revised; and there are others who get mixed up between worn-out [folk] habits and customs of the Muslims, and the fundamental principles of religion.

"You encounter a long list of those who call themselves Islamic thinkers. These people put themselves above the divine message, and their arrogance deludes them into thinking that they can act as equals with the overpowering miracle of the Koran. Thus, they strongly demand a rereading of the Koran, or what is an even greater crime, they demand that one listen to those who offer a new allegorical interpretation of the religious text. Leading this group of academics are the Egyptian Nasr Hamid Abu-Zayd, who published his book Critique of Religious Discourse and then hurried to the Netherlands, after having encountered a series of problems on account of his publications; and the Algerian Berber Muhammad Arkoun, who lives in France and whose best-known book is Lectures du Coran (Koranic Readings).

"And there are others, less well known, who try to use Islam to aggrandize themselves. Their method is almost always the same: they rely on endless discussions and a maze of disputes that in the end lead nowhere. Their purpose is to invent a version of Islam in accordance with the latest fashions, which will be consistent with the rhythm of contemporary Western civilization.

"Then we come to another degree of arrogance. Their champion needs no introduction; he is Salman Rushdie, who... in 1989 wrote his revolting novel, The Satanic Verses. And following an Iranian fatwa which called for his killing, he began moving secretly in European countries while arrogantly scoffing at the idea of the Koran being revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

"And there is also the Somali woman who was behind the killing of the Dutch director [Van Gogh] whose story we followed at the end of 2004. She is a conservative member of the Dutch parliament of Somali origin named Ayaan Hirshi Ali, and the author of the novel Submission, from which her late friend, the Dutch director Theo Van Gogh, derived the film which offends both Islam and Muslims and which angered the Muslims. A second part of the movie [was planned], if not for the fact that he was killed by a 26-year-old Moroccan immigrant.

"Mimount, who complains to the Dutch [sic, should be Belgian] police that she is being threatened, is playing the same game at which others before her excelled, namely, using insolence [against Islam] in order to gain fame at the expense of Islam, and then rushing to portray herself as a victim of narrow-minded people, having received some threats against her life.

"What occurred in Holland occurred also in a neighboring country which shares the same culture, namely Belgium, when a member of the parliament from Antwerp by the name of Mimount Bousakla began seeking publicity by exploiting the atmosphere of Islamophobia."

(1)Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), April 23, 2005.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Bin Laden aide had ten-strong British network

By Daniel McGrory
London Times

AL-QAEDA’S third-in-command, being interrogated after his capture in Pakistan, was in close contact with ten militants working for him in Britain, according to investigators.
So far Abu Farj al-Libbi has refused to reveal the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and his key accomplices.

His British cell is said to include a radical cleric and a terror suspect awaiting trial but the eight other men are still at large.

Their role was allegedly to carry cash around the world for the network using a number of aliases. Counter-terror officials are not certain of the identity of the eight suspects, who are said to be of Pakistani and North African origin. British officials hope that they will eventually be allowed to question al-Libbi.

Officials say that one of al-Libbi’s couriers unwittingly led the CIA and Pakistani security officials to the Libyan-born mastermind in a town close to the Afghan border. He and four close aides were hiding at a shrine on a hilltop outside Mardan, near Peshawar.

Witnesses described yesterday how armed undercover agents in burkas ambushed al-Libbi on Monday as he rode pillion on a motorcycle through a graveyard. Al-Libbi, who was disguised as a woman, shot at his pursuers.

Bystanders dived for cover as a dozen people — all in black burkas — returned fire. The 42-year-old militant with a $5 million (£2.6 million) price on his head fled to a nearby guesthouse shouting to staff that he was “a jihadi” and pleaded for help.

Amanullah Khan, the deputy superintendent of police in Mardan, said that his officers fired teargas into a room in which al-Libbi barricaded himself but it took 45 minutes before he surrendered.

He emerged after apparently making a number of calls on his mobile phone. “He came out unarmed with his hands in the air and his head slightly bowed,” Mr Khan said. He was hooded and bundled on to a special forces helicopter then flown to an army barracks in Rawalpindi for questioning.

An official said yesterday that al-Libbi had been asked two questions over and over again — “Where is bin Laden?” and “What were your plans?” — but had given no reply.

He is expected to be moved to what have been called “ghost prisons”, run by the United States, where al-Qaeda suspects are interrogated.

Once he had been traced, there was disagreement between the CIA and Pakistani officials on whether to shadow him so that he might lead them to bin Laden.

The authorities in Islamabad were not prepared to risk losing the man blamed for orchestrating two assassination attempts on President Musharraf in 2003 so they went ahead with their ambush. Al-Libbi was easy to pick out because of blotches on his face caused by a virulent skin condition.

Pakistani officials say that they have rounded up more than 20 suspects since his capture, including a former air force technician who escaped a military prison after being sentenced to death for his role in the plots to kill the President.

Al-Libbi is believed to have been in regular contact with bin Laden but used couriers to carry coded handwritten messages.

He was promoted to No 3 in al-Qaeda after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, his mentor and architect of the September 11 attacks, was arrested in Pakistan in September 2003.

A Statement from Jund al-Sham Claiming Responsibility for the Explosions in New York

By SITE Institute

Today, May 5, 2005, Jund al-Sham (Soldiers of Levant) claimed responsibility for the small explosions outside of the British consulate in New York City, claiming that the attack was “the beginning of war inside and outside of America.” No one was hurt in the blast.

Since late March, Jund al-Sham has claimed responsibility for random attacks across the globe, including in Qatarand Lebanon. In addition, the group claimed responsibility for an explosion at a Texasoil refinery.

The group argues that the United States overlooked the Texas refinery explosion, and that more attacks will ensue. “We will not hesitate,” the communiqué states, “to hit the parties and coffee shops, the hotels and the churches, with the help of Allah.”

To complete its task, Jund al-Sham calls for “our cells in Americato start battles in the streets.”

Terror Suspect in Stormy Court Hearing

The prime suspect in an al Qaida-linked plot to strike Jordan with chemical weapons threw his shoes at military judges during a stormy hearing in Amman and told them terror mastermind Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi will “chop off” their heads.

Al-Zarqawi – a Jordanian who is al Qaida’s point man in Iraq – and three other fugitives are being tried in absentia in Jordan’s military court along with nine men in custody, including prime suspect Azmi al-Jayousi. All 13 are accused in what Jordanian officials say was al Qaida’s first chemical attack.

Al-Jayousi disrupted Wednesday’s proceedings in a rage over the killing of four alleged co-conspirators in a gunbattle with police a year ago, detailed by a forensic doctor in court.

The doctor testified the four men died of severe wounds caused by bullets penetrating different vital organs, like the brain, lungs, neck or abdomen.

An angry al-Jayousi took off his slippers and hurled it at the chief judge, Col. Fawaz Buqour. “Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi will chop off your heads and stuff it up your mouths, you God’s enemies,” he then growled, pointing his finger at the three-man tribunal.

Court officials said that al-Jayousi’s action was tantamount to contempt of the court, which is punishable by three years in jail. But instead of handing down punishment, Buqour adjourned for a 10-minute break only to return to a more turbulent defendants.

“The blood of our brothers will not go wasted,” shouted another defendant, Ahmad Samir, at the judges as they reconvened.

“Await death, Obeidat, for you are God’s enemy,” he roared, addressing the military prosecutor, Lt. Col. Mahmoud Obeidat.

Some of the other defendants recited versus from the Koran, Islam’s holy book, or shouted insults at the judges. All nine suspects – sporting beards and standing in the dock – later turned their backs to the bench and knelt in prayer.

Buqour ordered al-Jayousi and two other defendants out of the courtroom in a bid to restore order. But when he failed, he adjourned the hearing to an unspecified date.

Last year, al-Jayousi said in televised confessions his group had plotted a chemical attack in Jordan under instructions from al-Zarqawi, who is blamed for scores of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings of foreigners in neighbouring Iraq.

In an audiotape posted on the internet in May 2004, a man who identified himself as al-Zarqawi acknowledged his group was behind the plot in Jordan but he denied it involved chemical weapons.

The Jordanian plot was uncovered and foiled on April 21, 2004, when the four alleged cell members were killed in a shoot-out with police.

Al-Zarqawi and the other men on trial face charges that include conspiring to commit terrorist attacks, possessing and manufacturing explosive material and affiliation with a banned group identified as Kata’eb al-Tawhid, Arabic for the Battalions of Monotheism – a previously unknown cell said to be linked to al Qaida.

If convicted, 12 of the men – including al-Zarqawi – could be sentenced to death. The 13th man was charged with the lesser crime of assisting two fugitives.

Russian police foil Chechen bomb and poison-gas plot

The Scotsmen


A CHECHEN rebel plot to attack several Russian cities with bombs and poison gas has been foiled, security forces said yesterday, four days before world leaders gather in Moscow for war victory celebrations.

The Federal Security Service said it had discovered both a lorry-bomb and a cache of poisons, allegedly intended for chemical attacks in cities across the North Caucasus and other Russian regions.

The discoveries, both made by chance, highlighted Russia’s anxiety that the high-profile celebrations marking the Soviet Second World War victory over Nazi Germany could be disrupted by Chechen attacks.

Moscow has been flooded with thousands of crack police units to deter possible attacks by Chechen fighters during the 9 May Red Square parade, which will be attended by about 50 world leaders.

The lorry was stopped during a routine search in Chechnya. Inside, police found more than a tonne of explosives packed under a blue tarpaulin and connected to a detonator.

"The lorry was fully prepared for a blast, the only thing left to do was to put a suicide-bomber behind the wheel and turn on the electric detonator," said Major General Ilya Shabalkin, the chief spokesman for the federal forces in the North Caucasus region.

Security officers are questioning the driver and say they suspect the lorry was to be crashed into a target by a suicide bomber.

A similar tactic was used last summer when the pro-Moscow Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov was killed as he watched a military parade.

The poison plot was also uncovered by chance after security forces overran a rebel base during fighting in Chechnya earlier this week.

Specially made containers containing cynanide-based substances were found hidden in the village, said the Russian security service.

"The use of these strong- acting poisons in small doses in highly populated areas, key installations and in reservoirs could have caused a large number of victims," a government statement said.

Moscow said a group based on the Chechen borders with links to international terrorists was involved in planting the cache, and planned to target southern Russian cities.

Russian officials have long claimed that Chechen forces are part of a wider terror network, receiving aid and volunteers from Middle Eastern volunteers.

There are fears that rebels are seeking revenge for the killing of Aslan Maskhadov, their former president, by Russian special forces earlier this year.

With the war in Chechnya at a stalemate, rebels have increasingly turned to terrorism to spread the war beyond the Caucases. Last summer two airliners were blown up by suicide bombers, and two more bombs were detonated in Moscow.

The killing of more than 300 children by rebels in Beslan last September closed-off any hopes of a peace settlement.

This article:




Itar-Tass news agency

Moscow Times


Chechen Republic Online (unofficial)

Itar-Tass news agency

Russian Consulate General in Edinburgh

Russian Embassy in the USA

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

NPR Sheds light on Federal Intelligence Frustrations

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

There's been a lot of talk about the flow of intelligence information
between federal agencies and local police and breaking down the walls
between them. In the largest cities, police are finding they may be able to
do the intelligence work better themselves. NPR's Laura Sullivan went to see
intelligence gathering New York style.


New York City has the biggest police department in the country. With 50,000
employees, it's almost twice the size of the entire FBI, spread out over
precincts in 76 city neighborhoods. And since 9/11, the department's had
precincts in a few other neighborhoods as well.

Commissioner RAY KELLY (New York City Police): In Tel Aviv, in Lyon, France,
which is where Interpol is located, in London, in Toronto, in Montreal, in
Singapore and in the Dominican Republic.

SULLIVAN: As New York police commissioner, Ray Kelly is turning his
department into a worldwide police force.

Commissioner KELLY: Our world got much smaller after 9/11. Obviously what
happens overseas can very much impact on what happens here in New York City.

SULLIVAN: On a wall in the commissioner's office suite, there are maps of
Afghanistan and Iraq, and a dozen clocks with local time in Paris, Tel Aviv,
Baghdad and other places. For Kelly, taking policing outside New York City
limits is the best way to prevent another attack, even if that means running
up against the FBI. It's not that Kelly thinks the FBI isn't giving him
information. It's just not the information Kelly wants or when he wants it.

Commissioner KELLY: We can't afford to wait months or sometimes years to get
a report on what happened at a particular site. We value the information
that we get from the FBI, from the CIA, but we also want our agents overseas
to ask the New York questions: Is New York involved in any way?

SULLIVAN: To get an answer, Kelly created what he calls the intelligence
division, a sweeping department of 500 officers, linguists and analysts
housed in a secret location in the city. Here in what was once a warehouse,
unsuspecting citizens shop and eat lunch, totally unaware of what's taking
place above them.

Mr. DAVE COHEN (Intelligence Division): Well, the whole point was to sort of
stay below the radar scope.

SULLIVAN: Dave Cohen was the CIA's director of operations under President
Clinton. Commissioner Kelly lured him to New York to run the new division.
Cohen walks to a far corner and stops in front of a nondescript elevator
without a button.

(Soundbite of beep)

SULLIVAN: A key card summons the elevator, which a few seconds later opens
onto a barren white hallway with a single door on the other side. Through
this plain white metal door is the intelligence division, an enormous
expanse of a room with hundreds of cubicles and no walls.

(Soundbite of door closing)

Mr. COHEN: This is our major operational headquarters, so to speak. We have,
you know, a large number of personnel that are following up on leads that
are called in from all over the city.

SULLIVAN: Everyone here is in street clothes. International investigators,
undercover agents, teams of linguists translate Farsi, Arabic and Pashto at
their desks. In this room are some of the most sophisticated computer
systems available, and a team of people surfing the Web in chat rooms for
terrorist information.

Mr. COHEN: I've spent 35 years in the federal agencies, and I think the
federal government has a great deal to learn from, you know, the things
we've done here in the NYPD.

SULLIVAN: In fact, the CIA showed up here to learn how this office managed
to find some highly valuable information on the Web it hadn't seen before.
Cohen says lately with agents undercover all over the city and a ready pool
of linguists in New York, this intelligence division is more likely to be
feeding federal agencies threat information than the other way around. And
that's what has the FBI worried. After spending years trying to centralize
threat information, FBI officials say New York could wind up creating
another autonomous intelligence agency, jeopardizing sensitive ongoing
investigations. But Cohen says the city needs specific information the
bureau can't or won't provide.

Mr. COHEN: We're outpacing their willingness to share that fine-grained
stuff, so it's a learning process. You know, you fight, they catch up, you
advance, have another fight, but as long as you're always moving forward,
that's the key.

SULLIVAN: Moving forward for New York means taking the intelligence they're
gathering and putting it to use every day in the city with or without the

Unidentified Man #1: Here we go.

(Soundbite of police siren)

SULLIVAN: At least three times a day, New York's intelligence division sends
100 officers to swarm a specific location that their information suggests
could be a target. It's called a surge. On this day, that location is 65th
and Broadway. Inspector Vincent DeMarino gathers a group of captains in a
large police RV for a briefing.

Inspector VINCE DeMARINO (New York City Police): You guys have all done this
before, and I'm glad that, you know, we're getting some familiar faces now.
I think most of the captains' ranks have done this all at least once, which
is great. People are getting...

SULLIVAN: Officers will spend the next five or six hours fanning out into
the neighborhood, the shops and the subway, asking questions and looking for
anything suspicious.

Insp. DeMARINO: All right. Counterterrorism crime. Why are we out here? It's
part of our everyday counterterrorism strategy. OK?

SULLIVAN: As the officers spread out, Inspector DeMarino and Sergeant Robert
Brady head down into the subway at 72nd and Broadway.

(Soundbite of subway trains)

Sergeant ROBERT BRADY (New York City Police): And, you know, the rush hour
in Manhattan in the course of a half-hour, an hour of doing this, literally
thousands and thousands of people will see us, which, you know, can't be a
bad thing.

SULLIVAN: Acting on the intelligence division's information, the officers
are looking for anything suspicious.

Insp. DeMARINO: And there are cops lined up from one end of the platform to
the other, so that as each train pulls in, each car, each door almost, will
have a cop stepping in and out.

(Soundbite of announcement)

Unidentified Man #2: Attention, ladies and gentlemen. This train will be
held in the station temporarily for the police to make an inspection of the

Insp. DeMARINO: If anybody is riding these trains--I'm not saying it's
happening--but if anyone was sent out on a mission to come here and ride
these trains and go back and report on what they see, we want their report
to include that there were cops all over the place.

SULLIVAN: It takes the officers less than a minute to inspect each car. New
York's been paying extra attention to its subways since the Madrid train
bombings last year.

(Soundbite of subway trains)

SULLIVAN: Immediately after that bombing, and without consultation, New York
sent its own intelligence team to Madrid. The FBI was furious. FBI Assistant
Director Louis Quijos calls incidents like Madrid a stumble in an otherwise
good relationship. He says talk of competition between the two is overblown.

Mr. LOUIS QUIJOS (FBI Assistant Director): We deal with New York PD and the
larger agencies every day of the year, 24/7, and you're going to have those
stumbles, so probably won't be the last time you hear Commissioner Kelly or
maybe even another chief or police superintendent say that maybe they didn't
get something they needed at the time they needed it, but it's not because
we're not trying.

SULLIVAN: But Bo Dietl, a former New York police detective and friend of
Commissioner Ray Kelly, sees the situation in less diplomatic terms.

Mr. BO DIETL (Former Detective): New York City is my home. This is Ray
Kelly's home. This is the New York City Police Department. We want to
protect our home. We are a target, and Ray and the boys are going out there
and they're trying to protect this city the best they can, and tough bananas
to the FBI if they don't like it.

SULLIVAN: And New York officials say in Madrid they got what they went for,
detailed information about how al-Qaeda puts together a subway bombing, and
any tension it created hasn't stopped them from traveling to Moscow, Turkey
and Bali to investigate bombings there as well.

John Cutter recently left as deputy chief in charge of the intelligence
division. He says one-on-one FBI agents and police officers work well
together, but with the stakes so high in New York, Cutter says Commissioner
Kelly won't back down.

Mr. JOHN CUTTER (Former Deputy Chief, Intelligence Division): It's actually
a very bold move on his part to stick to his guns and say, `Look, I know
we're the police department and we deal with crime, but terrorism is just a
higher level of crime, and we have to know about it. If it's in our midst, I
need somebody to investigate it,' that answers to him, and that would be the
intelligence division.

SULLIVAN: In the meantime, the FBI may just have to get used to what New
York has started. Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix and a handful of other
cities have all come to visit, asking how they, too, can have their own
intelligence divisions.

Qaeda eyed chemical hit on U.S. base in Spain-paper

Source: Reuters

MADRID, May 3 (Reuters) - An al Qaeda cell based in France planned a chemical attack on a U.S. naval base in Rota, Spain, newspaper ABC reported on Tuesday.

Algerian Said Arif, extradited to France from Syria last year, has admitted his cell was plotting a chemical attack on the southern Spanish base controlled by the United States since 1953, the Spanish daily reported.

However, authorities did not know how they were going to carry out the attack, ABC said.

No one at Spain's Interior Ministry was available to comment on the report, which did not cite sources.

The paper said Arif was considered a lieutenant of Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq.

Zarqawi himself was accused of planning a chemical attack last year in his native Jordan, which authorities thwarted.

Arif was extradited to France last June from Syria, where he had fled after escaping French police raids in December 2002, the Spanish daily said.

He was linked to a group of suspected Islamists arrested in Barcelona in January 2003, the paper said. The government said at the time those suspected al Qaeda members were planning a chemical attack.

Al-Zarqawi's U.S. agent?

Intelligence officials say search is on for an an American citizen with al-Qaida connections who is also aligned with the insurgency leader

WASHINGTON -- Counterterrorism officials are trying to learn the identity of an apparently important aide to Iraq's most violent insurgent leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is referred to only as "The American" in a laptop computer belonging to Zarqawi that was seized by U.S. troops in February.

The Pentagon disclosed this week that American special forces almost captured Zarqawi near the city of Ramadi on Feb. 20, but came away instead with a valuable consolation prize - his laptop. In it they found a trove of intelligence, which intelligence officials are still analyzing.

"They [intelligence analysts] still don't know who he ['the American'] is," said a counterterrorism source who has been briefed about the contents of the computer's hard drive. "Zarqawi kept him compartmented from the rest of his organization. Some think he might be around in Mexico or some place."

But a U.S. intelligence official said he thinks "the American" may already be in U.S. custody. He said that a senior associate of Zarqawi, who holds dual Jordanian and U.S. citizenship, was arrested by U.S. troops inside Iraq late last year. "If it's this man already in the bag, then there's no need to panic," the official said.

The senior associate's seizure was confirmed earlier this month by the Pentagon's deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs, Matthew Waxman. Neither Waxman nor other defense officials would provide the man's name, but they said he was born in Kuwait of Jordanian parents, is a naturalized U.S. citizen and has lived in America for about 20 years.

The counterterrorism source, a former top CIA official, said that the laptop also revealed that Zarqawi is actively recruiting most of his suicide bombers from Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

"He was doing that in Europe, within the Muslim communities, but the European countries are now watching closely," he said. "There are hundreds and hundreds of Saudis who are trying to be recruited for suicide missions. The Saudis are trying to stop them, but they can't get them all. And Zarqawi's got his people now in Yemen recruiting

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Dutch reaping what they have sown

The radicalisation of Muslims in the Netherlands continues and is now reaching out to young people of Turkish origin. Despite a series of arrests, the possibility of terrorist attacks cannot be ruled out, and it will take several more years before the AIVD – the Dutch secret service - reaches something near full strength. These are just some of the conclusions of the AIVD’s annual report for 2004, presented at the end of last week to the parliament in The Hague.

The head of the intelligence and security service, Sybrand van Hulst, refrained from using the kind of pessimistic words he uttered just a year before: ‘those fighting terrorism are not winning. There is not even a prospect of winning.’ But the message contained in the report on 2004 - the year in which filmmaker and writer Theo van Gogh was murdered - makes sombre reading nonetheless.

Ongoing radicalisation
Although the arrests of main suspect Mohammed Bouyeri and other members of what has been dubbed the ‘Hofstad’ group - which followed Mr Van Gogh’s death - removed part of the potential threat to the country, the process of radicalisation among Muslim youth in the Netherlands continues unabated. Developments abroad, in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya, play a role in that radicalisation, but paradoxically the very successes of the authorities, including the AIVD, have also contributed to a dramatic shift in attitude among some young Muslims.

New heroes
The AIVD report identifies 16-25 year olds as the main risk, with some in that age group having come to regard Mohammed Bouyeri and Samir Azzouz as heroes. Another development, identified by the AIVD for the first time, is the transfer of radical Islamic ideas to a small number of young people of Turkish descent.

Sybrand van Hulst told Radio Netherlands that he remains pessimistic:

“The threat of radical Islamic terrorism has grown in recent years, and continues to do so, both at home and abroad. In addition to that, we are also dealing with small, local networks of Muslim youths.”

While the phenomenon of local networks has received a great deal of media attention recently, the AIVD warns against losing sight of the international aspect of the potential terrorist threat to the Netherlands. The annual report states that ‘in 2004, the AIVD carried out investigations into a number of internationally operating cells which were also active inside the Netherlands.’ The investigations apparently revealed that these cells maintain a wide range of international contacts and involve extensive foreign travel:

“So far, it has not been established that these cells are being directly controlled from a higher level, but there is certainly evidence pointing in that direction.”

Controlled from above
At the presentation, Mr van Hulst refused to provide details on the number of cells involved or about their being managed from a higher level, nor did he comment on activities undertaken by his service which may have prevented potential attacks.

He did, however, make it clear that the AIVD is fully conscious that radical Muslims know they’re being monitored:

“That has sharpened their awareness of their own security, so we need to proceed creatively. I assure you that we are doing precisely that.”

Cat and mouse
This game of cat and mouse with potential terrorists was made that much trickier for the AIVD during the course of 2004 because the killing of Theo van Gogh resulted in a great deal of information about the service appearing in official government reports. Mr Van Hulst commented: ‘That was a political necessity, but the growing disclosure of secret information and the service’s working methods is not making it easy.’

The annual report also shows that the task of combating terrorism is taking place at the expense of other activities, including counter-espionage and the active acquisition of information from abroad. The latter is, according to the report, now taking place on the basis of what is know as a ‘vari-focus model’: the main focus of attention is directed at the most important issues and countries, with other issues being dealt with more superficially.

Growing bigger
Over the coming years the AIVD is to be expanded considerably, from around 1000 staff at present to, as Mr van Hulst explained, ‘somewhere between 1400 and 1500 in the year 2007-2008.’ He added that it takes an average of three to four years for an AIVD staff member ‘to get to grips with the things that have to be done.’ On that basis, it’s possible to conclude that the full effect of the increase in capacity will not be felt for some time

Monday, May 02, 2005

Indonesia Faces Rising Tide of Militant Islam
By Brent Hurd

Islam spread to Southeast Asia through Arab merchants around the 14th century. Local people converted gradually, mixing their worship of sea deities and Allah. For centuries, Muslims remained a minority on many of the islands that make up today's Indonesia. Scholars say this distinctive history helped shape the nation's moderate, tolerant brand of Islam.

Tourism on the island of Bali -- which accounts for more than half of the local economy -- was decimated after the 2002 bombings.
Despite Indonesia's predominantly moderate beliefs, fringe militant groups have been embedded in the archipelago nation for decades, often inciting small-scale religious violence. But a terrorist attack 2.5 years ago on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people brought a new dimension to the country's Islamic movements.

Indonesia blames the militant Islamic group Jemaah Islamiyah or J.I., for the Bali attack and a series of bombings in Jakarta in 2003 and last year.

Leonard Sebastion, a Senior Fellow at Singapore's Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, is an expert on Jemaah Islamiyah. “Most of the people who gravitate toward militancy do not come from traditional Islamic families. These people come from poor farming communities in Java.

These are impressionable young minds that are courted by religious leaders with an agenda. Most of them are dropouts from the secondary schools. They are looking for someone to put an arm around their shoulder.”

Leonard Sebastion says men like Abu Bakar Bashir, a Muslim cleric considered to be the spiritual leader of J.I., provide such support to young Indonesians. Bashir was recently found guilty of complicity in the Bali bombings and sentenced to 30 months in jail. Bashir, who calls himself a simple preacher, denies any connection to the bombing.

Leonard Sebastian says Bashir's gentle charisma and Islamic alternative to what many perceive as Abu Bakar Bashir a corrupt and unjust government appeal to young recruits. “They gravitate to the kind of narrow, depiction of Islam that is adopted by Abu Bakar Bashir that is the answer to their problems and an answer to the way of improving conditions in the country. In a sense they are misled.”

Many of the men convicted in the Bali and Jakarta terrorist attacks studied at Bashir's Islamic boarding school on the island of Java. Jemaah Islamiyah, whose name means "Islamic community," aims to establish an Islamic super state across Southeast Asia, from Malaysia to the southern Philippines. The Indonesian government says the group has links to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.

Sidney Jones is Southeast Asia Project Director for the risk analysis think-tank, International Crisis Group. She says the roots of radical Islam in Indonesia can be traced back to a movement called Darul Islam, which began as an armed insurgency in the late 1940s. Its goal -- to create an Islamic state of Indonesia. “Jemaah Islamiyah and virtually all other jihadist organizations are in some ways the children of the Darul Islam movement. For example, we find a number of leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah whose fathers were in Darul Islam.”

Most Jemaah Islamiyah members come from Java, the crowded island considered to be the center of Indonesia's economic and political power. It is also home to more than half of Indonesia's 240 million citizens. Sidney Jones says it also has been a focal point of the Darul Islam movement. ”You have to understand the dynamics of the Darul Islam rebellion, if you are going to have any idea of how Jemaah Islamiyah is likely to change. Even if you arrested every single member of the leadership structure, you would not eradicate this network. It has survived 55 years. One of the biggest mistakes is to see Jemaah Islamiyah as a static organization that will be exactly what it was like in October 2002 when it bombed Bali.

Ms. Jones says despite a government crackdown that has led to numerous arrests, Jemaah Islamiyah survives as a loose network of small, nearly anonymous cells throughout Southeast Asia.

Edward Masters, a former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, says there is a growing sense among Indonesians of being Muslim. “You can see that by Islamic dress. In the 1960s you would rarely see a headscarf, now it is very common. There is also a much greater identification among Indonesians with international Islamic causes.”

Ambassador Masters adds that Jemaah Islamiyah and other radical groups have been able to reach new recruits by building on the perception that fellow Muslims are being targeted by the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Religious violence has plagued Indonesia's Maluku islands, where fighting between Muslims and Christians has claimed more than 6,000 lives since 1999. That's why Sidney Jones of International Crisis Group says the sense of international Muslim solidarity shouldn't be overblown. “There is a real concern that the war in Iraq is going to intensify bombings and terrorist attacks in Indonesia. In fact, what is much more important is to prevent any of these communal outbreaks from erupting again in Indonesia because that is what stirs the pot in a very dangerous way.”

Some terrorist experts say Jemaah Islamiyah's infrastructure is in tact and still lethal. Singapore warns that the group may strike again soon. Meanwhile, many Indonesian analysts say better governance and more moderate Islamic movements may eventually marginalize groups like Jemaah Islamiyah

UK Police step up security against al-Qa'eda election day attack

By David Bamber and Andrew Alderson
Police are to launch the biggest security operation ever for a British election in an attempt to prevent Islamic extremists from undertaking a terrorist attack this week.

Senior officers are convinced that Osama bin Laden and groups linked to al-Qa'eda are still trying to launch a "spectacular" terrorist attack to destabilise the country in the run-up to the poll on Thursday, despite 100 arrests over the past year.

MI5, the security service, and Scotland Yard believe that the Houses of Parliament, polling stations and senior politicians casting their votes in their constituencies are the biggest targets for terrorists.

Security analysts also believe that Islamic terrorists have been scouting railway lines in an attempt to conduct bombing attacks similar to those in Spain last year, atrocities that are widely believed to have influenced the election result. Terrorists left 190 dead and 1,800 injured when they detonated 10 bombs in Madrid during the morning rush hour.

The leaders of the three main parties and senior Labour politicians, including John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, and Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, will receive armed guards this week and protection officers' leave has been postponed.

Hundreds of extra security measures are being brought in up and down the country in an attempt to prevent terrorism. For example, a London taxi company which has the contract to drive pundits and guests to and from BBC Television Centre in West London has agreed a signal with the corporation's security staff which they will give if they are being held at gunpoint or if anything else is wrong.

There will be sweeps for explosives and extra closed circuit television at schools, church halls and other buildings which are being used as temporary polling stations. Advice on minimising the threat has been drawn up by the National Security Advice Centre, an MI5 unit set up last April to examine ways to protect key buildings from attack.

Terrorists suspects arrested by Scotland Yard and other police forces during the past year have claimed that al-Qa'eda is planning a terror campaign. Detectives are convinced that they have disrupted the threat, but they fear that operatives are still at large. A senior detective in the Metropolitan Police said: "We hope and pray that we have disrupted the plot and that nothing will occur.

"There is no doubt that al-Qa'eda were planning a major atrocity to link in with the general election, but we have, hopefully, arrested so many of them that it will now not take place.

"However, we must warn everyone to stay on a heightened sense of awareness over the next week, as it would be a great coup for al-Qa'eda to strike now. There are undoubtedly still dangerous men at large in Britain."

Scotland Yard suspects that al-Qa'eda has long intended to carry out an outrage shortly before election day, possibly a poisoning campaign which would make the public fearful to venture out to vote.

The Telegraph revealed two weeks ago that al-Qa'eda-trained operatives planned a poison attack on the busy Heathrow Express rail link between the airport and Paddington in West London that would have been "our September 11".

A plot to bring death and terror to the country was disclosed after Kamel Bourgass, 32, an Islamic extremist from Algeria, was convicted at the Old Bailey and jailed for 17 years.

Senior Whitehall officials said that Bourgass and his associates intended to put ricin, a poison, on hand rails and in lavatories on the trains.

Operatives linked to the convicted terrorist are still thought to be at large in Britain. Many are - like Bourgass - thought to be failed asylum seekers who have been allowed to disappear into the community.

One senior security official said: "We know that they are out there and it is just a matter of time before something occurs. The eyes of the world will be on Britain next week so it is a frightening time."

Congress all talk, little action in securing toxic materials against attack

By Carl Prine

WASHINGTON -- The fight against terrorism might face its toughest obstacle not in the mountains of Afghanistan but on Capitol Hill, where a bitter political dispute continues over how best to shore up decades of shoddy security at America's chemical plants, rail yards and seaports.

A coalition of Republicans and Democrats has coalesced around three key concerns:

Mandating regulations geared to fortifying more than 14,000 chemical plants nationwide against attack.

Upgrading security for the 10 million tons of deadly gases shipped over rails.

Protecting whistleblowers at agencies monitoring America's critical infrastructure from retaliation for speaking out about threats to health and safety.
Congressional hearings last week spotlighted what experts say is lax security at the potentially most catastrophic caches of industrial chemicals four years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Legislators are worried that terrorists will attempt to rupture vats, railcars or ships holding chemicals and explosives that, if released, could kill, injure or displace thousands of Americans.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, there is a "real and credible danger" to chemical facilities and the shippers of their toxic materials. CIA operatives have relayed specific warnings about potential attacks against chemical plants since 9/11.

The chemical danger

On Wednesday, President Bush's former deputy homeland security adviser, Richard Falkenrath, told the Senate Government Affairs Committee that the time had come for the federal government to deliver meaningful legislation to protect chemical plants.

"When you look at all of the different targets for a potential attack in the United States, and you ask yourself which ones present the greatest possibility of mass casualties and are the least well-secured at the present time, one target set flies off the page. And that's chemicals," said Falkenrath, who last year joined the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.

"This is an absolutely inescapable conclusion. It's one that was very apparent to me in my official capacity, and it remains apparent to me now as a private citizen."

Pointing to a series of investigations by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2002 and with CBS' "60 Minutes" in 2003, U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, D-New Jersey, told the committee that media reports on the inability of private industry to create even the most rudimentary defense against intrusion were "unacceptable."

"Lives are at stake," Corzine said. "We wouldn't tolerate this kind of site security oversight at nuclear power plants. And the public knows this."

The Trib tried to ask Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff how he intended to remedy America's chemical plant, rail and port security problems, but he jogged away from reporters after a Friday address to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. His guards told journalists they weren't allowed to ask questions.

During his speech, Chertoff spoke generally about the need to "take a risk-based approach to the decisions we make, and to look at the consequences, the vulnerabilities and threats." Congress provided Homeland Security with $45 billion to make America safe from terrorist attack last year.

A costly project

Corzine has proposed legislation that would stiffen security at facilities storing catastrophic amounts of chemicals and would ask plants to remove some particularly hazardous gases or explosives from vats close to population centers or consider adding technologies that would quickly contain a toxic plume.

Large chemical manufacturers, however, have balked at Corzine's bill because they believe it would place burdensome regulations on the $350 billion industry, killing jobs and delaying efforts to "harden" sites now from terrorist attack.

Corzine and Falkenrath have praised more than 200 major manufacturers - members of the American Chemistry Council and Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association -- for their $3 billion investment in stringing barbed wire, hiring guards, assessing their vulnerabilities and working with their suppliers and customers to safeguard toxic chemicals. But these voluntary efforts represent only about 7 percent of the nation's chemical facilities, and both Republicans and Democrats want to revamp security for every plant.

They favor a different piece of legislation championed by U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, which would "endorse" plans already developed by the major chemical manufacturers and make their voluntary efforts mandatory for the rest of the nation.

The specter of a terrorist attack against a chemical facility outside the umbrella of the 2,400 plants operated by the industry's giants, however, has triggered unprecedented calls by the industry itself for increased federal oversight.

"We need legislation," said American Chemistry Council spokeswoman Kate McGloon after the hearings. "We can't set a nationwide standard. That's the role of government. But we've done a very good job doing everything we can on this issue, and it's rewarding to see so many in Congress and Homeland Security pointing out what we've accomplished."

Party moderates are brokering a compromise on the legislation, working closely with centrist Democrats such as Corzine and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to create laws that balance security and jobs.

"Based on the testimony we received today, it appears that federal legislation is needed to better secure our nation's chemical facilities, and to better prepare in case of a successful terrorist attack," said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who chaired the Wednesday hearings.

An attempt by Inhofe and other senators last year to reach compromise with House leaders on a chemical bill died in committee. A measure similar to Corzine's drafted by U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, failed last week in committee.

The rail problem

A tougher problem is America's vast rail network. On any given day, 82 tankers of chlorine gas and other lethal airborne toxics move along the nation's tracks, according to the Federal Rail Administration. Congress wants to know how security can be improved.

In February, arguing that Homeland Security had failed to safeguard rail shipments of deadly gases adequately, the Washington, D.C., council banned the cargo from city limits. A study commissioned by the city council found that one ruptured chlorine tank car could injure or kill 100,000 residents in a half-hour.

A federal court recently upheld the rerouting of hazardous materials, but rail owners have appealed, saying diverting these shipments over longer distances or onto highways hikes the risk of accidents or crashes and shifts the threat of terrorism to other communities, such as Pittsburgh.

"It doesn't help security. It shifts the risk from one area to another, and it does nothing to address security. You would be moving from well-maintained, high density rail lines to ones that are not as well-equipped to handle this material," said spokesman Tom White of the Association of American Railroads.

"You're increasing the distance that these chemicals must move, and that's bad from a safety standpoint. And what happens if other cities adopt these laws? You get to the point where you have a patchwork of regulations, and you've made it impossible to ship chemicals vital to American industry by rail. How does that help public safety?"

But environmentalists who helped draft the Washington, D.C., law believe their ban will hold and similar initiatives will spread to other cities.

"No one gave us a chance on the rail security legislation, but we won on that," said Greenpeace legislative director Rick Hind, a key architect of the law. "It will be the same with chemical plant security, eventually.

"Look, it took 10 years to get the Clean Air Act. But George W. Bush's father did the right thing and signed it into law. It's a bit more outrageous that it's taken this long after 9/11 on such an important issue."

"Unfortunately, I have to think back to Bhopal," Hind said, referring to the 1984 gas leak at an Indian pesticide plant that killed 3,800 people. "It took Bhopal to get legislation that started addressing safety issues for communities living next to chemical plants. Hopefully, it won't take another disaster to get a law that will make these same communities safe from terrorists."

Sunday, May 01, 2005

With eyes wide shut to terror

The Washington Times

By Diana West
It's amazing what's possible if you close your eyes. An American television news organization — such as ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN or MSNBC — can close its eyes and accept videotape procured by Al-Jazeera in concert with terrorists who kill and maim American soldiers. A Hollywood director, such as Sydney Pollack, can close his eyes and pretend that terrorism is a plot device and the United Nations is an honest broker. Leaps of morality and boundaries of logic may be hurdled simply by turning a blind eye to facts.
To what end? Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Dorrance C. Smith connects the bloody dots between terrorists who assist Al-Jazeera in obtaining film footage that appears on the evening news in America. Among other pointed questions, he asks: "Do the U.S. networks know the terms of the relationship that Al-Jazeera has with the terrorists? Do they want to know?"
To date, the answer is a morally reprehensible no. But see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys aren't the best role models for journalists. Then again, maybe this very numbness to facts is in fact a culture-wide phenomenon that our news media merely reflect.
Take Mr. Pollack's new movie on international terrorism, "The Interpreter." Stepping back from even the outermost brink of reality, it switched the source of terrorism from a fictional Middle Eastern country to a fictional African country. "We didn't want to encumber the film in politics in any way," Kevin Misher, the movie's producer, told the Wall Street Journal. Politics? How about encumbering the film with a little history or maybe a few current events?
But fantasy-land is where Hollywood lives these days. The world burns and Steven Spielberg remakes the sci-fi chestnut "The War of the Worlds." The producers of last summer's "The Manchurian Candidate" drop an Osama bin Laden-like character for being too "Tom Clancy." Meanwhile, Mr. Clancy's "Sum of All Fears" was also too "Tom Clancy," so the 2002 movie replaced the Islamic terror cell of the 1991 book with some generic old Nazis.
Then there's "The Great New Wonderful," the first movie set in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. But, as reports, "The completed script never mentions Bush, terrorists, Michael Moore, Fox News, or even September 11." Don't look for Afghanistan, the hunt for Osama bin Laden or the fall of the Taliban, either. Why not? As director Danny Leiner put it, "I just wasn't interested in anything didactic." Didactic? What is "didactic" about our cataclysmic national experience? A potentially significant industry revels in its own irrelevance.
Of course, it gets worse. The New York Daily News reports that actress Maggie Gyllenhaal credits "Wonderful" with dealing "with September 11 in such a subtle, open way that I think it allows it to be more complicated than just, Oh, look at these poor New Yorkers and how hard it was for them. " She continues: "I think America has done reprehensible things and is responsible in some way and so I think the delicacy ... allows that to sort of creep in." Creep is right. Good thing "delicacy" is never, ever "didactic" or "encumbered by politics."
Then there's "24." This is the Fox television series semi-notorious for having performed public penance — in the form of a PSA featuring star and co-producer Keifer Sutherland — because it dared to depict minimally identifiable Muslim characters carrying out terrorist activities against American civilians. Early on, the show even featured an exchange of "Allahu Akbar" between two terrorists — mumbled, yes, but a first — just as though the First Amendment applied to television writers setting a story in the era of Islamic terrororism.
But following a no doubt friendly visit from the Council on American Islamic Relations, lo and behold, the Fox show found what you might call "delicacy." Suddenly, the program's circumspectly Islamic gang included a full complement of white, ex-military men, all with the inexplicable urge to shoot down Air Force One. In a recent episode, Marwan, the Muslim terror kingpin the show was originally "encumbered" with, videotaped a statement explaining why he was shooting a nuclear warhead at an American city. He did so standing before a flag covered in Arabic writing — daring for these politically correct times — but without once mentioning Allah, infidels, Islam or paradise. In other words, after all these years of Koranic communiques from assorted Islamic terror networks, Marwan's big moment fell PC-flat. This doesn't mean, though, that "24" isn't the topically bravest show around.
Still, what were the producers afraid of? When networks, movies and television deny the facts of jihad terror, they whitewash killers. Why?

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