[FoRK] Dean gets its right

Owen Byrne owen at permafrost.net
Mon Aug 2 22:40:53 PDT 2004

/“It's hard to know what to make. None of us outside the administration 
have access to the intelligence, which led to this determination. I am 
concerned that every time something happens that's not good for 
President Bush he plays this trump card, which is terrorism. His whole 
campaign is based on the notion that "I can keep you safe, therefore at 
times of difficulty for America stick with me," and then out comes Tom 
Ridge. It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how 
much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both in it.”

/and again he's dismissed as somehow "not mainstream" - I guess that 
means not brainwashed.


          August 3, 2004


    Reports That Led to Terror Alert Were Years Old, Officials Say


WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 -Much of the information that led the authorities to 
raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the 
New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, 
intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported 
that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or 
preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.

But the officials continued to regard the information as significant and 
troubling because the reconnaissance already conducted has provided Al 
Qaeda with the knowledge necessary to carry out attacks against the 
sites in Manhattan, Washington and Newark. They said Al Qaeda had often 
struck years after its operatives began surveillance of an intended target.

Taken together with a separate, more general stream of intelligence, 
which indicates that Al Qaeda intends to strike in the United States 
this year, possibly in New York or Washington, the officials said even 
the dated but highly detailed evidence of surveillance was sufficient to 
prompt the authorities to undertake a global effort to track down the 
unidentified suspects involved in the surveillance operations.

"You could say that the bulk of this information is old, but we know 
that Al Qaeda collects, collects, collects until they're comfortable,'' 
said one senior government official. "Only then do they carry out an 
operation. And there are signs that some of this may have been updated 
or may be more recent.''

Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said 
on Monday in an interview on PBS that surveillance reports, apparently 
collected by Qaeda operatives had been "gathered in 2000 and 2001.'' But 
she added that information may have been updated as recently as January.

The comments of government officials on Monday seemed softer in tone 
than the warning issued the day before. On Sunday, officials were 
circumspect in discussing when the surveillance of the financial 
institutions had occurred, and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge 
cited the quantity of intelligence from "multiple reporting streams'' 
that he said was "alarming in both the amount and specificity of the 

The officials said on Monday that they were still analyzing computer 
records, photos, drawings and other documents, seized last month in 
Pakistan, which showed that Qaeda operatives had conducted extensive 

"What we've uncovered is a collection operation as opposed to the 
launching of an attack," a senior American official said.

Still, the official said the new trove of material, which was being 
sifted for fresh clues, combined with more recent flows of intelligence, 
had demonstrated that Al Qaeda remains active and intent on attacking 
the United States.

The concern about the possibility of an attack was apparent on Monday. 
Armed guards were positioned at the five targets listed by Mr. Ridge: 
the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup buildings in Manhattan, 
the headquarters of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund 
in Washington and Prudential Financial in Newark. The buildings were 
subjected to their highest level of security since the Sept. 11, 2001 
attacks, with barricades, rapid-response teams and bomb-sniffing dogs 
providing rings of protection.

With intelligence reports specifying a possible truck bombing, police 
stopped and searched vehicles in the Wall Street area, while vans and 
trucks were banned from bridges and tunnels entering lower Manhattan.

In Washington, President Bush 
said the alert issued on Sunday reflected "a serious business.'' He said 
at a White House news conference, "We wouldn't be contacting authorities 
at the local level unless something was real.''

Despite the new terror warnings, the stock market gained ground, denting 
expectations that it would drop with the heightened security alert. The 
Dow Jones industrial average was up 39 points.

A sizable part of the information seized in Pakistan described 
reconnaissance carried out before the Sept. 11 attacks, officials said. 
The documents do not indicate who wrote the detailed descriptions of 
security arrangements at the financial buildings or whether the 
surveillance was conducted for a current operation or was part of 
preparations for a plan that was later set aside.

In a briefing on Sunday, a senior intelligence official said that the 
threat to the financial institutions "probably continues even today."

Federal authorities said on Monday that they had uncovered no evidence 
that any of the surveillance activities described in the documents was 
currently under way. They said officials in New Jersey had been mistaken 
in saying on Sunday that some suspects had been found with blueprints 
and may have recently practiced "test runs'' aimed at the Prudential 
building in Newark.

Joseph Billy Jr., the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.'s Newark 
office, said a diagram of the Prudential building had been found in 
Pakistan. "It appears to be from the period around 9/11,'' Mr. Billy 
said. "Now we're trying to see whether it goes forward from there.''

Another counterterrorism official in Washington said that it was not yet 
clear whether the information pointed to a current plot. "We know that 
Al Qaeda routinely cases targets and then puts the plans on a shelf 
without doing anything,'' the official said.

The documents were found after Pakistani authorities acting on 
information supplied by the Central Intelligence Agency arrested 
Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, an engineer who was found to have served as a 
middleman in facilitating Qaeda communications. His capture led the 
C.I.A. to laptop computers, CD-ROM's, and other storage devices that 
contained copies of communications describing the extensive surveillance.

Mr. Khan had been essentially unknown to the United States as recently 
as May, according to information provided by a Pakistani intelligence 
official, who said the C.I.A. had described him to Pakistani authorities 
that month only as a shadowy figure identified by his alias, Abu Talha.

The lack of knowledge about Mr. Khan reflected how hard it has been for 
American authorities to penetrate Al Qaeda. He operated successfully 
without the government learning of his existence even after three years 
of an intensive intelligence war against Qaeda that has emphasized 
efforts to intercept the terror network's communications traffic.

In pursuing the new leads, intelligence and law enforcement authorities 
were working at several different levels, American officials said, in 
trying to make sense of what some described as a "jigsaw puzzle" that 
included first names, aliases, and temporary email addresses but little 
hard identifying material that could lead to suspects in the United 
States or overseas.

The scope of the inquiry ranged from "individuals who were orchestrating 
it from far-off lands to individuals who were in charge of different 
cells, to the actual operating of cells," a senior intelligence official 
said. The priority effort to identify people connected to the 
surveillance of the financial institutions has been under way since 
counterterrorism officials received the new information from Pakistan 
beginning Thursday evening, counterterrorism officials said on Monday.

The information, which officials said was indicative of preparations for 
a possible truck- or car-bomb attack, left significant gaps. It did not 
clearly describe the suspected plot, indicate when an attack was to take 
place nor did it describe the identities of people involved.

As a result, federal and local authorities began an effort to locate 
possible suspects who might have carried out the surveillance. 
Intelligence officers began interviewing Qaeda detainees asking whether 
they knew Mr. Khan or anyone who might have been involved in monitoring 
the targeted buildings and allied foreign intelligence services were 
asked if they had any information about the suspected plot.

At the same time, federal agents and local police began canvassing the 
buildings regarded as likely targets seeking to determine whether anyone 
recalled seeing people who appeared to be conducting surveillance. They 
sought lists of employees to determine whether anyone suspicious might 
have worked at any of the buildings and names of vendors, searching for 
anyone who might have visited the buildings to study security arrangements.

Senior counterterrorism and intelligence officials based in Europe said 
the information targeting the five buildings was developed by Qaeda 
operatives before Sept. 11, 2001. But a senior European counterterrorism 
official cautioned that "some recent information'' indicated that the 
buildings might remain on a list of Qaeda targets.

"Al Qaeda routinely comes up with ways to hit targets for years at a 
time, so it may not mean much that these buildings were first targeted 
more than three years ago,'' the official said.

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