Skip to comments.Terror Warning Is Said to Lead to New Arrests
Posted on 08/05/2004 12:24:07 AM PDT by conservative in nyc
ASHINGTON, Aug. 4 - The Bush administration said Wednesday that the United States and its allies had begun a campaign to disrupt terrorist operations around the world, including the arrest of a suspected senior member of Al Qaeda in Britain.
The suspected Qaeda operative was among 12 men being questioned by the British authorities after raids prompted in part by the same intelligence information that led the administration to elevate the terror threat level in the United States over the weekend, including detailed reports about buildings housing major financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington. The Qaeda member, referred to as Abu Moussa al-Hindi or Abu Eisa al-Hindi, was of intense interest to the United States, a senior American official said.
A day after senior White House officials said the decision to raise the terror alert level on Sunday had been driven in part by new intelligence beyond the information about specific buildings in the United States, the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, told reporters that "there are some ongoing operations under way'' to disrupt terrorist activity.
On Wednesday night, the New York City Police Department partly lifted restrictions on trucks and vans entering Manhattan, saying the decision was made because of confidence in the new security measures within the city.
In Washington, the senior official said there were "possibly" direct ties between the arrests in Britain and the threats to the buildings in the United States.
The official described the arrests as "part of this web that emanates from Pakistan." The official said, "What you saw in the U.K. was a result in part of information gained" from the arrest last month of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, the Pakistani computer engineer whose capture led the Central Intelligence Agency to computer files detailing the reconnaissance of financial institutions in the United States.
Administration officials signaled that in light of the new information from Pakistan and the second strain of intelligence reporting, they had stepped up their efforts at home and abroad to track down suspected terrorists and guard against the possibility of an attack.
As new information came into the White House over the weekend, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, called her counterparts in countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to request help from their intelligence services, a government official said.
Other officials signaled that there were intensified efforts under way by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine whether there were Qaeda operatives inside the United States. The reports found on Mr. Khan's computer hard drive about the buildings in the United States were written in what one White House official has described as "perfect English," suggesting that the surveillance may have been carried out by or with the help of an American or someone who had spent considerable time in the United States or Britain. (Mr. Kahn himself speaks English and studied in London.)
"What I don't know at this point is how the terrorist operatives, facilitators are reacting to all of this," a senior American intelligence official said. "They should be very nervous, they should be very concerned, because the information that has been put out right now is not the totality of our knowledge. There are activities going on right now in this country and overseas that are capitalizing on the information that has been uncovered."
The Metropolitan Police in London have said only that 13 people were arrested in an antiterrorism operation on Tuesday, that one was released, and that the remaining 12 are still in detention. British officials refused to provide further details, saying the operation was continuing and they did not want to jeopardize the investigation or potential prosecutions.
British news organizations have reported conflicting accounts of whether the arrests stemmed from new intelligence developed after Mr. Khan's arrest. By some accounts, the raids had been planned for weeks, but by others they were related to the new information.
But senior American intelligence officials said at least some of the arrests were tied to information uncovered in Pakistan. One senior American official said the United States was "very interested" in pursuing links between Mr. Khan and people in other countries, including Britain.
Pakistani intelligence officials have said Mr. Khan, a fluent English speaker, spent time in Britain beginning in November 2002, taking a course in human resource management from City University, London, but dropping out after losing interest. Mr. Khan has told interrogators, the officials said, that two of his cousins lived in Britain and had been arrested there in 2000 on suspicion of involvement in terrorism after traveling to Bosnia and Chechnya to join in militant activities.
Information provided by a Pakistani intelligence official also described links between Mr. Khan and e-mail addresses used by correspondents in Nigeria and Turkey.
The White House portrayed itself as moving aggressively to deal with the terrorist threat and was reluctant to spell out details of the intelligence it was acting on after several days in which it had been criticized for not making clear from the beginning that the newly discovered surveillance reports on buildings in the United States dated in some cases from three years ago or more.
Continuing the administration's attempt to head off any public skepticism that it had exaggerated the threat, Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday that the White House's only consideration had been the safety of the American people.
Speaking to factory workers and invited supporters at a lawn and garden equipment manufacturer in Lee's Summit, Mo., Mr. Cheney lashed out at those who have implied that the terror alerts were at all politically motivated, specifically citing former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, an unsuccessful candidate this year for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"There has been some commentary from some of our critics - Howard Dean comes to mind - saying somehow this is being hyped for political reasons, that the data we collected here, the casing reports that provided the information on the prospective attacks is old data, i.e., four, five years old," he said. "That just tells me Howard Dean doesn't know anything about how things operate."
Saying that the planning for the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Africa began four to five years before they happened and that the idea of attacking the United States using hijacked airplanes was first brought to Osama bin Laden's attention in 1996, Mr. Cheney said: "These people are deliberate, they are methodical, their time table is their own. If you hit them and push them back, they may retreat for a while, but they will be back and they are absolutely lethal."
The computer hard drives seized in Pakistan yielded comprehensive reports on five buildings: those housing the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup in Manhattan; Prudential's headquarters in Newark, and the headquarters buildings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington. Officials said the computer also had information related to other structures, including a Bank of America building in San Francisco.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Mr. McClellan described Mr. Khan as "an active Al Qaeda operative who we know has ties to other Al Qaeda operatives who are involved in plotting to carry out attacks against the American people."
But it is not clear whether there is any connection between Mr. Khan's possession of the reports on the American buildings and his ties to people in Britain.
Mr. Khan's father, Hayat Noor Khan, works as a purser for Pakistan International Airlines, a position that enabled him to obtain tickets for his son, a Pakistani intelligence official said. Mr. Khan, who speaks English with a British accent, is believed to have traveled to the United States, Germany and other countries in recent years.
Among known Qaeda operatives that Mr. Khan has told Pakistani interrogators that he had met in the past are Khallad bin al-Attash, with whom he said he met in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2003. Mr. Attash, who took part in the planning for the attack in Yemen on the destroyer Cole, is in American custody.
The Pakistani intelligence official said Mr. Khan had also met with Abu Hamza al-Masri, the Egyptian cleric who preached at the Finsbury Park Mosque in Central London and whose extradition is now being sought by the American authorities.
A senior American intelligence official refused to comment on reports of recent communications between Qaeda figures in Pakistan and people in the United States.
U.S. to Keep Reactor Lapses Secret
WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (AP) - The government will no longer disclose security gaps discovered at nuclear power plants, hoping to prevent terrorists from using the information, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Wednesday. The commission announced the change in policy during its first public meeting on power plant security since the Sept. 11 attacks. The change drew condemnation from critics who said it would erode public confidence in the agency.
Patrick E. Tyler reported from London for this article and Jim Rutenberg from Lee's Summit, Mo.
Or maybe the Slimes was exaggerating a little? Nah!
"Within the past several days, the anonymous defense official said, a courier had been intercepted inside Iraq bearing a message from Zarqawi to bin Laden. The official would not reveal the contents of the message or exactly when and where its bearer had been found."
I have a feeling the noose is going to tighten around Al Qaeda again for a little while. We'll be seeing a bunch of arrests as these key arrests this week of the computer geek and the courier lead us to others. With a little bit of luck, we might get Zarqawi or UBL.
If 3 year old intelligence information happens to connect a bunch of dots, more power to those in the know. Seems like the intelligence community is sharing information more effectively among each other now that the Gorelick "wall" has been torn down. I think having this "wall" torn down made this intelligence more specific, because with the fact each agency can now freely pass information back and forth, everyone can piece together the puzzle quickly and effectively.
I am not able to find anything about this guy. Anyone have any info?
Khallad bin al-Attash is better known as Tawfiq Attash Khallad.
A CIA officer once described him as a "major-league killer."
He also is suspected of playing a role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, U.S. intelligence officials have said.
American intelligence officials say he met with two of the hijackers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in January 2000. Those hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, were on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
He was in Afghanistan for much of the planning of the attacks and was believed to have moved to Pakistan by late 2002, officials said.
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