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ISSUE: #. 36. June 2, 2002


by Bill Weinberg
with David Bloom, Sarah Robbins, and Subuhi Jiwani, Special Correspondents

1. Multiple IDF Incursions in the West Bank
2. IDF Action in the Gaza Strip
3. Fatah Bigs: Stop Attacks inside Green Line
4. Female Suicide Bomber Cops out
5. US: Peace Conference To Be Delayed
6. Settlement Activity Continues under Sharon
7. Settlers Aim to Attract one Thousand Families
8. Israel Starts New Jewish "Neighborhood" In East Jerusalem
9. IBA Chief Bans Use of the Word "Settlements"
10. American Jew to Israel: Repay your Debt
11. Arafat Claimed Jewish Temple was in Nablus--or Was it Samaritans?
12. Yasser Arafat Cheesy Poofs
13. Palestinian Cabinet Blocks Militant's Release

1. Women To Attend Loya Jigra
2. UN: Detentions, Intimidation, Killings Mar Loya Jigra
3. Taliban and Al-Qaeda Regroup in Pakistan, Plan Attacks
4. US Releases 50 Afghan Villagers Taken in Raid, Apologizes
5. US Kills three, Wounds two Afghan Allies
6. Afghan Government: No More Gun Salutes at Weddings
7. Hekmatyar Causes More Trouble
8. Jang: US Searches for Missing Troops

1. India to Launch "Limited War"?
2. Vested Economic Interests Keep Conflict Going
3. Foreigners Urged to Leave India and Pakistan
4. Bhutto: Musharraf Must Go
5. Economist: Musharraf Must Stay
6. Kashmir Violence Continues
7. Musharraf Wants Talks; Vajpayee Says No
8. India: Nukes Unlikely

1. Hard-Line Macedonian Minister Goes Ongepatshket

1. Al-Qaeda Terrorists Fail To Blow Up Brooklyn Bridge
2. CIA's "Threat Matrix" Mostly Garbage
3. ...But Feds Call New Attacks "Inevitable"
4. The Rowley Imbroglio
5. The Phoenix Memo
6. Secret FBI Report Foreshadowed 9-11
7. Anti-Terror Prosecutor: Intelligence Foreshadwed 9-11
8. '99 Report Warned Of 9-11-Type Attacks
9. Agents Accuse: Feds Blocked Probes of Bin Laden Family
10. FBI Chief Admits (Almost): Agency Was Asleep at the Wheel
11. FBI Informant: Agency Ignored My Warnings
12. Newsweek: Bush Policies Abetted 9-11
13. Global Terror Alert Was Called off Before 9-11
14. Dems Seek White House Documents on Terror Attacks
15. Bush Planned Afghanistan Mission on Eve of 9-11
16. Rice Opposes Public Panel to Probe 9-11
17. CIA Failed to Halt Visa Application by 9-11 Hijacker
18. Feds to Lift Limits on Domestic Spying
19. Critics: New Guidelines Erode Constitutional Rights
20. Liberals Cave In
21. Next: Surveillance Zeppelins?
22. Oops, Wrong Mohammed Atta!
23. Islamic Charity Indicted for Perjury
24. Moussaoui's Mom Hires Lawyer
25. Al-Qaeda Diversifying Portfolio?
26. Hezbollah Smuggling Cigs in North Carolina?
27. Congress to Lift Intelligence Budget Limit
28. Witness Against Al-Qaeda Says U.S. Betrayed Him
29. Judge Rules Against Secret Detainments--for Third Time
30. Security Boosted at Nuke Plants


The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) entered several West Bank towns, cities and refugee camps in the search for suspected militants, held to be planning or responsible for attacks on Israeli targets. The IDF took over Bethlehem for four days, ending May 30, and the neighboring villages of Beit Jala and al-Khader. They also pulled out of the Dheisheh refugee camp at the same time. Israeli also sealed off most of Ramallah the same day (BBC, May 30). Also on May 30, the Israelis entered the city of Hebron. Beituna, a suburb of Ramallah, was the object of a quick raid May 29, and Israelis detained a woman in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, suspected of intending to carry out a suicide bombing (AP, May 30). The IDF entered Nablus and the nearby Balata refugee camp on May 31. The Israelis detained hundreds of Palestinian men in Balata, considered a stronghold of the al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades. Those detained included eight wanted men, including Issam abu Bakher, secretary-general of the Fatah movement in Nablus, and two Hamas activists. The IDF announced over loudspeakers that all Palestinian males age 15-45 had to surrender. The men walked thru the streets with their hands above or clasped behind their heads, to an open area near the front of the camp. Israeli soldiers on a house-to-house search moved through the camp, smashing through the walls of houses, a procedure intended to avoid gunfire in the narrow streets and passageways of the camp. Israeli paratroopers opened fire on a vehicle in Nablus that turned out to contain seven Israelis on their way to Joseph's Tomb, a religious shrine in Nablus. Israeli forces also entered the city of Qalqilyah, pulling out after several hours. (Haaretz, May 31) (David Bloom) [top]

IDF troops arrested 23 wanted Palestinians May 31 in the Gush Katif area in the Gaza Strip. The IDF claimed two of the men intended to carry out a terror attack against a Gush Katif settlement. There were exchanges of gunfire between the IDF and Palestians in Gush Katif, and in Rafah in the south of the Strip. (Haaretz, May 31)(David Bloom) [top]

The Fatah Revolutionary Council (FRC) of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement issued a statement May 29 calling for an end to attacks inside the "green line," the 1967 border separating Israel from Palestine: "Military attacks inside the 'green line' (Israel) must stop because they reflect negatively on the image of our national struggle. Resistance to the occupation should be limited within Palestinian land occupied in 1967." The statement came as the result of two weeks of debate within the 130-member FRC, a body second in importance to Fatah's central committee. Party leader Yasser Arafat has condemned attacks inside the "green line" as terrorist. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an unofficial armed group linked to Fatah, has carried out a string of attacks against civilian targets in Israel recently. An unnamed Fatah official said the FRC statement should not been as a rebuke of the Bridages. "I think the ball is in the Israeli court now," he said. "If Israel continues its assassinations of Palestinian activists, it will provoke reactions. And if they go on, it will be impossible to restrain attacks...inside the Israeli cities." (Washington Post, May 29) (David Bloom) [top]

A Palestinian woman who was preparing to blow herself up in a suicide bombing had second thoughts, and decided not to go through with the attack. Thauriya Hamamreh, 25, a devout Muslim, was told by her handlers in the al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades to wear provocative, tight-fitting clothes, and not to cover her hair, so that she might be seen as an Israeli woman: "They wanted me to have my hair loose, wear sun glasses and makeup and tight clothes. I said no because it's against my religion," Hamamreh told Israeli journalists in a prison cell where she has been kept since being arrested on May 20. Hamamreh said she had second thoughts as to the "righteousness" of her proposed attack, and whether she would be accepted as a martyr in heaven, because she took on the operation for personal reasons; the man she wanted to marry rejected her, and she suffered from social isolation. Also, her conscience began to bother her: "I started thinking that I would be killing babies, women and sick people and imagined what it would be like if my family were sitting in a restaurant and someone bombed them," she said. Instead of boarding the bus that was to transport her to the attack, she went to her aunt's house in Tul Karm, where Israeli troops acting on intelligence information arrested her. Four women have been used as suicide bombers by the Brigades since January (see WW3 REPORT #29) Hamamreh has this advice for would-be female suicide bombers: "Women who want to wage Jihad [holy struggle] should start a family and have children," she said. (Reuters, May 30; Jerusalem Post, May 30) (David Bloom) [top]

The regional Middle East peace conference planned for the summer will most likely be delayed until a more comprehensive timetable can be established, possibly in September, US officials said last week. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that once CIA director George Tenet and US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns return from their current missions, the administration will be better equipped to move forward. "When [we] get reports from Mr. Tenet and Ambassador Burns and we consult with a lot of other people we will start to integrate all this information and see what next steps should be taken," Powell said (Haaretz, May 30). Burns outlined a three-track plan for Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on May 30; the plan demands progress to be made on the political track, the reform track, and the security track (Haaretz, June 2). At a May 31 meeting with Burns and an advisor to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Israeli President Ariel Sharon said he would lead the Israeli delegation to the conference, but restated his conditionals for diplomacy--the complete cessation of violence and "the carrying out of comprehensive reforms in Palestinian Authority government establishments"--and opposed US demand that he heed a timetable (Haaretz, June 2). European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who met Israel Foreign Minister Shimon Peres June 2, rejected Sharon's terms: "It has to be clear that (Israel) cannot set conditions regarding reforms that Yasser Arafat has to carry out, because this is a process that takes time." Solana said the international community concedes the conference should be held during the second half of July. Though Syria has announced its objection to the conference altogether, some Middle East would-be delegates are urging its expediency, while others are fearful of rushing plans. "If the basis is agreed, if the principles will be agreed upon, then we can have the conference. July, August, June, we didn't discuss that. The important thing is the preparation," said Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Maher. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who also attended a meeting with Maher and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh June 1, disagreed. "We should act in proper time [so as] not to lose any momentum," he said. An Egyptian official said Mubarak is to present President Bush with a peace plan when the two meet at Camp David next week. The plan calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state, in an area covering 42% of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, early next year. The plan, drafted with assistance from Palestine and Saudi Arabia, will include Palestine's admission to the United Nations, the official said. (Haaretz, June 2) (Sarah Robbins) [top]

In the past few months, the beginnings of 36-40 new settlements are under way, according to Israeli groups that monitor settlements, and a western diplomat. New water towers, electrical generators and mobile homes inhabited by armed Jewish settlers protected by the Israeli army have appeared throughout the West Bank. Israeli government spokesman Ra'anan Gissin says that this new building activity simply expands existing settlements, to accommodate their natural population growth, even though many settlement housing units remain unoccupied: "These may seem like new settlements, but they are not. They are old decisions." Since the 30-year old project of settlement activity began, the settlements have continued grow whether the right or left was in government. Since the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, the number of settlements on the West Bank has remained about the same at 120--with 10 new ones in the Gaza Strip--but they have been expanded with about 70,000 new settlers in that time, according to the B'Tselem human rights group. A recent B'Tselem study said that although the settlements only occupy 1.7% of the West Bank land, they control 42% of West Bank land through municipal boundaries (see B'Tselem for the report, "Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank"), and divide the West Bank through use of Jewish-only bypass roads that allow the settlers to drive to and from Israel without having to drive through Arab areas.

Avigail, 10 miles south of Hebron, is one of these new settlement expansions, Avigail, consisting of a cluster of mobile homes, a plastic water cistern, and a partially paved road, is built on land claimed by a Palestinian family. It is now home to Ido Beckerman, an employee of the Israeli government water department who moved to Avigail from another West Bank settlement, and four other adults, as well as two dogs, who are guarded by four soldiers. The Israeli supreme court has ordered the army to dismantle Avigail but it has not complied. Beckerman believes that Avigail can become a thriving community, and it was important to take the land now: "If we don't take this land now, it will be lost to the Arabs," he said. "It doesn't look like much now, but Tel Aviv once looked like this." ( Washington Post, May 31; B'Tselem press release, May 13) (David Bloom) [top]

A group of settlers in the Binyamin area of the West Bank have started a drive to attract 1,000 new families--about 4,500 people--to 32 area settlements by year's end. Presently about 29,000 settlers live in the area. The drive's organizers say the families would move into currently vacant homes, and that no additional building is required. The plan has been criticized by Israeli peace activists and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of Israel's Labor party. (BBC, May 27) (David Bloom) [top]

Israel began construction of a new Jewish settlement "neighborhood" in Arab East Jerusalem June 3. Former Jerusalem police chief Aryeh Amit is in charge of the construction of hundreds of new homes to be located on a site near the southern Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. Although Israel has pledged not build new settlements in the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip, that pledge does not apply to East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed following the 1967 six-day war. Work has begun fencing off the site, which will include "several hundred apartments," and eventually a luxury hotel and a cable car system. Amit said that all required permits had been obtained, but local residents said Arab residents owned part of the site, including an olive grove. One of the residents, attorney Hussein Abeida, said he owned a half-acre of the site, and that Jerusalem officials had told him that the land had been designated a "green zone, meaning off limits to the construction of buildings. The Jerusalem municipality has approved plans for Amit's project. (Haaretz, June 3) [top]

Yosef Barel, the new chief the Israeli Broadcast Authority (IBA), issued an order May 30 banning the use of the word "settlers" on radio and TV broadcasts. Barel told editors to identify people solely by their place of residence, leaving editors confused as to how to distinguish between Arab and Jewish residents of Hebron, for example. It is unclear if the order will be obeyed; on May 31, radio stations were still using the term. Environmental Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, of the Likud, told Barel he should "put an end to the frequent use of the term 'settler'" in the IBA broadcasts. IBA sources believe Barel agreed in order to curry favor with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. (Haaretz, May 31) The Israel Press Association published the following letter in Ma'ariv: "A man who declares total submission to the prime minister's views and sees himself devoid of any professional responsibility towards him is saying that he is in no position to direct a state-public broadcasting authority. There is a tangible danger that under Mr Barel's stewardship the IBA will become a parroting mouthpiece of the government, and nobody will be able to claim then that there had been no writing on the wall." (Maariv, May 29) (David Bloom) [top]

Alec Dubro, an American Jew whose father worked to raise funds for Israel, says that Israel, for the trouble it is causing through its insistence on keeping the settlements in the Occupied Territories intact, should repay what he estimates to be a half a trillion dollars in aid given to Israel over the years, which has subsidized the settlement project. Writing in Haaretz, Dubro says:

"Your insistence on maintaining gated suburban communities in the West Bank and Gaza, and the conflict that flows from this policy, is endangering Jews who live throughout the world. The current spate of attacks in Europe and elsewhere is directly tied to the occupation. I don't need any lectures about the durability of anti-Semitism throughout the world. I've been subject to it and lived with it. But until the last few years, anti-Semitism had grown increasingly marginalized in the developed world. The fight over the West Bank has breathed new life into a moribund, although not dead, ideology.

"From my perspective, Israel is holding the world's Jews hostage to the principle of greater Judea or greater Samaria or whatever you're calling it these days. So that 200,000 Jews can live in defiant comfort in the West Bank, Gaza and Golan, the rest of us see deteriorating relations with our neighbors and an increasing sense of danger.

"As far as I'm concerned, the flawed idealism of Zionism has run up against a wall. Even if I accepted the biblical premise that Jews are entitled to that piece of Levantine real estate--and I don't--the political reality is that you cannot find peace by pursuing your current objectives. And you threaten more than yourselves and your immediate neighbors; you are threatening those of us who contributed so heavily to your existence.

"So I ask you again to have some concern for the world's Jews, for the supporters of Jews, and for peace in general. If you fail to relinquish your semi-military communities, there will be only war and division. And, as you further endanger those of us outside Israel, you risk losing your base of support." (Haaretz, June 2) (David Bloom) [top]

Appearing on Israel's channel one TV on May 14, former US peace negotiator Dennis Ross said that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat "never offered any substantive ideas [for peace], not once" during two weeks of talks at Camp David in the summer of 2000. Ross said the only new idea Arafat offered was that the Second Temple, which the Romans destroyed 2000 years ago, was never in Jerusalem. "He did offer one new idea, which was that that the Temple didn't exist in Jerusalem, that it was in Nablus," Ross said. (Jerusalem Post, May 15)

It is possible Arafat was referring to the temple of the Samaritans, at Mount Gerizim near Nablus. The Samaritans split from the rest of ancient Jewry in the 4th century BCE. They were not deported with the rest of the Jews to Babylonia in 722 BCE. When the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile, they did not allow the Samaritans to assist in the building of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, so the Samaritans built their own at Mt. Gerizim. The Samaritans claim to be descended from the northern tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, and probably mixed in with indigenous Canaanites. The Samaritans were nearly extinct in the early 1900's, after reaching their peak at 1.3 million in the third century CE, but have enjoyed a small revival. Currently there are about 630 Samaritans, divided between Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, and Qiryat Luza, on the foothills of Mount Gerizim. The residents of Holon speak modern Hebrew, and the residents of Qiryat Luza speak Arabic. They use an ancient form of Hebrew as their sacral language, and base their worship solely on the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. They use an archaic Hebrew script abandoned by other Jews long ago. Once a year at Passover, both halves of the group meet at Mount Gerizim to celebrate, where the high priest authorizes the sacrifice of paschal lambs, one per family. This is a practice their Jewish cousins abandoned after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. The high priest is purportedly descended in an unbroken line from Aaron, brother of Moses. High Priest Levi Ben Abisha Ben Pinchas, who died May 23, 2001 at the age of 82, continued a tradition of getting along with the Samaritans' more powerful neighbors, a practice that has allowed the Samaritans to survive through the rule of Judea, Persia, Rome, Byzantium, Arabs and Ottomans, and now the present-day rule of Israelis and Palestinians. He maintained good relations with the governor of Nablus and with Yasser Arafat, who refurbished the Mt Gerizim site. The site attracted tourists to the area to witness the Samaritans' ancient Judaic practices, up until the outbreak of the current Intifada. Levi also blessed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon early in 2001. Israel has had high regard for the Samaritans since President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi adopted their cause in the 1950s. The current high priest, Shalom Ben Amram, was elected to the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) with a large Arab vote (UK Guardian, June 25 2001; Encyclopedia Brittannica, 2002).

The Samaritan position of being between the two communities allows some to see themselves as being a bridge of peace between their quarreling neighbors, though this position can prove perilous. On Nov. 8, 2001, Yousef Sabaka, 55, a member of the West Bank Samaritan community, was driving a car with yellow Israeli plates from his village when Palestinians opened fire. He sought help from an Israeli military outpost on a road that runs by a Jewish settlement, but the soldiers mistook Sabaka as being the source of the gunfire and shot at him as well. Samaritan community member Honi Wasef said the problem rose from the Israeli military having closed the road between the Samaritan village and Nablus after Palestinians had passed through the village to open fire at the Israelis. Wasef said the closure cut the Samaritans off from their businesses and schools in Nablus, forcing them to use the settlers' bypass road. Because the Samaritans use yellow Israeli license plates, Palestinians often fire on their cars. Some Samaritans opt instead to walk to Nablus, a mile away. (AP, Nov 9) (David Bloom) [top]

According to a report in the Jordan Times, Egyptians are now able to enjoy Yasser Arafat Cheese Puffs. The 25-piaster bags of "Abu Ammar" (Arafat's nom de guerre) puffs are festooned with Arafat's picture, and the epithet "Abu Ammar, hero of the struggle." "The more you buy, the more you build," it says on the bag. "Heartbeat by heartbeat, hand by hand, we'll build a new era." Jerusalem Post, May 28) A company spokesman said 3% of the profits from sales of the snack food would go to pay for medical care for Palestinians wounded in the Intifada. (Reuters, May 27)(David Bloom) [top]

The Palestinian cabinet blocked the release of militant leader Ahmed Saadat from jail, despite an order from the Palestinian high court to free him. Saadat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was jailed along with five other militants for his role in the assassination of hard-line Israeli tourism minister Rehavim Ze'evi. The June 3 high court decision found that there was no evidence Saadat had a role in the killing. But makeshift court in Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Ramallah compound found him guilty. As part of a deal to end the siege on the compound, Saadat and the others are jailed in Jericho with Palestinian, British and US guards. The cabinet said it respected the court's decision, but would not release the militant leader "because of Israeli threats." Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would do everything possible to prevent the release of "a person who was involved in murder, who ordered murder and whose organization carries out murders to this day." Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eleizer said the release would free Israel from the deal that forced it to withdraw from Ramallah: "Freeing him would be a violation of the agreement with the Americans and the British and in this case Israel would be free to act in accordance with its security requirements," he said. (BBC, June 3; Haaretz, June 3) [top]


When Afghanistan's traditional Loya Jirga or grand council convenes to elect a two-year ad hoc government on June 10, 160 of the 1,501 delegates are slated to be women, called to give input on the state of their rights (AFP, May 29; June 2). The delegates to the assembly, which has been used for centuries as a means for reaching key decisions on Afghanistan's future, have been elected from regions around the country and will meet on a soccer field of the Afghan Polytechnic Institute in Kabul (AP, May 16). Among the participating women is lawyer Ekleema Shahab, who left Afghanistan in 1996 because of the Taliban's restrictions on working women. "I want to serve my people and see them again leading a normal life after several years of war and destruction," Ekleema said (Dawn, May 28). Representation was gained in part by the efforts of a group of female schoolteachers in the desert town of Ghurian, who walked into a district selection meeting and demanded more seats. "People here are totally isolated, but look at the enthusiasm and the participation," said Abdul Rahimi, a member of the UN-established Loya Jirga Commission. "It's amazing, the Tailban era has disappeared overnight in so many areas." (Far Eastern Economic Review, June 6) However, the decision to include the women, which was made by Islam Katiyar, chief of the forming committee, was not met with universal support (PPI, March 21), and as of May 31, women comprised only 12 of the then-300 delegates elected. Qari Ubaidurahman Qarizada, imam of the largest mosque in Kabul and a theology professor at Kabul University, says that the votes of women should not be counted as equal; he cites the Koran to support his argument. "The view of women has to be heard by others (men) to see whether or not they are rational," he said. "From Islam's point of view, a woman cannot be elected the leader of an Islamic country because women are unintelligent and their election as leader endangers the country." (AFP, May 31) (Sarah Robbins) [top]

The United Nations said May 28 it was "deeply disturbed" at reports of detention and intimidation of participants in the traditional Loya Jigra government selection process in western Herat province. Eight other Aghans associated with the Loya Jigra have been killed across the country in May, according to UN officials, though they stressed they had no directed evidence linking the killings to the Loya Jigra selection process (see WW3 REPORT #35). The UN said that two participants in the process were arrested in Herat, and one was detained. Maj. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, commander of the US-led forces in Afghanistan, said May 28 that the Taliban and al-Qaeda, hiding in western Pakistan, were planning to disrupt the Loya Jigra process with car bombings and suicide attacks. (AP, May 28)(David Bloom) [top]

The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, said in an interview with the New York Times that intelligence indicates much of the senior leadership of the Taliban and al-Qaeda (TAQ) have been driven out of eastern Afghanistan and now base their operations from the Federally Administered Tribal Area of western Pakistan. He also said they have up to 1,000 non-Afghan fighters at their disposal. Intelligence reports say that the TAQ leadership is planning to disrupt the Loya Jigra, the traditional Afghan government selection process to be held this month in Kabul. Car bombs and suicide attacks are expected. "We know that they are there and have a capability to do harm to this country," Hagenbeck said. "Our job is to deny them the freedom of movement and sanctuary." (NYT, May 28)

The current UK Operation Buzzard being conducted in eastern Afghanistan is aimed at preventing the Taliban and al-Qaeda from infiltrating the border to try to disrupt the Loya Jigra. (CNN, May 29) US Special Forces were withdrawn from western Pakistan's South Waziristan Agency because of the anger their presence caused local Pakistani tribesmen (Dawn, May 10). (See WW3 REPORT#33) Hagenbeck expressed concern that the redeployment of Pakistani forces participating in the hunt for TAQ to the border with India could slow the process of rooting out the militants from their mountain hideouts in western Pakistan. (NYT, May 28) (David Bloom) [top]

US forces released 50 Afghan villagers they had detained during a May raid on the village of Bandi Temur, and the body of their village elder, Hajji Berget. US troops had killed Berget and captured 55 men during a raid on a compound looking for Taliban and al-Qaeda officials. Two others were wounded when they shot at US forces, and a three-year old girl died when she ran to escape and fell down a well. Berget, who was 100 years old, was killed in a mosque. A blood-stained blanket and skull fragments were found in the mosque. Two hundred villagers came to Khandahar to demand the release of the 55 detained men, and refused to accept Berget's body until the men were released. Berget's body began to decompose after a few days, and the villagers threatened to withdraw support for the US-backed government if their fellow villagers were not released. At noon May 30, six days after their capture, the men were flown by helicopter to a Khandahar soccer stadium, where the villagers greeted them. The US has kept five detainees, including two sons of Berget. Gen. Peter Pace of the Marines, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the five men remaining in custody were "still of interest to us." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that one of the men was a Taliban official below the senior level. One of the released men, a farmer named Abdullah aged 80 or 90, said a US officer told the villagers before releasing them, "We are sorry to have disturbed you." (NYT, May 31)(David Bloom) [top]

The US has admitted killing three of its Afghan allies and wounding two in a night-time Special Forces raid at a walled compound in the village of Khomar Kalay, near the city of Gardez in Paktia Province. One hundred Special Forces, backed by Afghan troops, were searching the site for Taliban or al-Qaeda militants when they reportedly saw several fighters take up positions, and simultaneously saw 10 or 12 men come running toward them, interpreting it as a flanking maneuver. One soldier saw a fighter aim a rocket-propelled grenade in his unit's direction. The unit's commander gave the order to fire, according to US Central Command spokesman Cmdr. Frank Merriman. "The firefight, which lasted just a few moments, resulted in the deaths of three and the wounding of two," said Cmdr. Merriman. After the firefight, the rest of the supposedly hostile forces surrendered, and they turned out to be pro-government forces from the neighboring province of Logar. A US spokesman in Afghanistan, Colonel Roger King, said "Efforts will be made to place co-ordination measures into effect to prevent similar occurrences in the future." ( BBC, June 1) (David Bloom) [top]

Mohammad Khan Gorbaz, spokesman for the governor of Khost province, has advised Afghans to desist from celebratory gunfire at weddings, after US planes bombed a wedding convoy, injuring four. "These people in the convoy belonged to a wedding party and as part of their Pashtun traditions during celebrations of weddings, they fired in the sky and American planes misunderstood it and bombed them fearing that people on board were Taliban or al Qaeda," Gorbaz told Reuters. On May 16 US planes killed ten people at a wedding slightly to the north of Khost, after the crew of a US helicopter saw gunfire coming from the ground. Coalition forces have dismissed the wedding claim as "rubbish." The Khost goverenor has asked coalition forces to coordinate future attacks with local authorities on the ground. (Reuters, May 24) (David Bloom) [top]

Hardline Islamist Afghan warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is blamed for being behind a foiled plot to topple the Karzai government (see WW3 REPORT #28), has called on the Taliban and al-Qaeda to join him in a Jihad against the US and Britain. "I invite all the believers to be united and to be ready for war to liberate your country from the foreign oppressors," Hekmatyar wrote in a letter circulating in Afghanistan. On May 5, the US tried to liquidate their former ally with a Hellfire anti-tank missile fired from an unmanned CIA Predator drone, but did not succeed (AP May 30)(See WW3 REPORT # 33). In a letter to the Pakistani newspaper Jang, Hekmatyar claimed the US did not succeed in killing anyone from his hard-line Pashtun-dominated Hezb-i-Islami party: "No rockets have hit the areas of our brothers, nor has any important or common person been killed in this attack." (Jang, May 30) The current British-led Operation Buzzard in eastern Afghanistan is in part aimed at rooting out Hekmatyar and Hezb-i-Islami. Former head of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence Agency (ISI) Hamid Gul says that Hekmatyar, a former recipient of both ISI and CIA aid, has sympathy from the ISI and backing from Iran, where he fled after the Taliban's takeover, and from where he was expelled earlier this year. "They should be afraid of Hekmatyar. He is a hard-liner, who has a large following," said Gul, "The point is that if [assassinated Northern Alliance commander] Massood's people are now killing Pashtuns, then obviously Pashtun sentiment will turn against this government and will turn toward a hard-liner Pashtun, and that is Hekmatyar." (AP, May 30) (David Bloom) [top]

The News-Jang is the latest Pakistani newspaper to publish an account of captured US troops held hostage by the Taliban/al-Qaeda (TAQ) in Pakistan. The Frontier Post, NNI, Dawn, and Jang have all written that 18 or more US Special Forces were taken prisoner during Operation Anaconda, and are being held hostage by TAQ, who wish to exchange them for 350 prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Frontier Post and NNI published their accounts at the end of March, shortly after Anaconda ended (see WW3 REPORT #27). Dawn published its account May 10, saying that the US was searching a refugee camp for evidence of the captured troops in the South Waziristan Agency (SWA) of western Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), until anger from local tribesmen forced them to withdraw to Afghanistan (Dawn, May 10) (See WW3REPORT #33). The respected Jang's May 23 article is the most detailed account so far, quoting diplomatic and intelligence sources in Pakistan that confirm the story: "We have been hearing that 20 personnel of the United States commandos are missing and the search in Paktia, Paktika and Khost is actually about them," a diplomatic source told Jang's correspondent. Jang also wrote that "reports about the missing Americans are circulated among intelligence agencies, but official confirmation from the US authorities is yet to come," a senior officer of Pakistan secret services said. In response to the first three articles, but before the Jang article came out, Cmdr. Frank Merriman of US Central Command issued a strong denial to WW3 REPORT. "There is no truth to that," he said. "Totally made up. The news media got it from the Taliban. The Taliban was broadcasting that. This is nothing more than propaganda on the part of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, it's wishful thinking on their part. They've made a number of claims, this just being the most outrageous." When asked if there was any reason the US might be keeping the story quiet, Merriman said, "the US and coalition forces, as soon as they have any kind of casualty, they report it immediately. There's no way to hide that sort of information." (See WW3 REPORT #34). When WW3 REPORT queried Bill Bell, former chief of the US Office for POW/MIA Affairs in Vietnam, on whether it would be possible the US would keep information about missing troops quiet, he wrote back:

"I believe the numbers are implausible because it would be virtually impossible for any US agency to sustain significant losses without some type of acknowldgement by either the government or the relatives of those missing or captured. Perhaps such information could be held initially, but after a matter of days, I believe any attempt to withhold the information from the public would be compromised." (David Bloom) [top]


The Christian Science Monitor quotes Indian military sources as saying that if Pakistan does not halt the cross-border activity of militants into Indian-controlled Kashmir within two weeks, it will launch a limited war. This assault, which is estimated to last ten days, will be aimed at destroying infrastructure used by Islamic militants to infiltrate Kashmir. Ret. Major Gen. Ashok Mehta, an Indian military analyst, said the assault "will be like Kargil [the 1999 war between India and Pakistan]. The military action will be predominantly infantry led and intensively supported by the Air Force." In the Kargil conflict, India decided not to cross the 460-mile Line of Control (LoC). In the scenario for the possible coming conflict, India would attempt to seize Pakistani territory quickly, and destroy the infrastructure of Islamic militants. A senior Indian military official said the battle-field scenario is based on the premise the conflict will not be extensive enough to provoke a nuclear response from Pakistan, and that the international community will work to contain the conflict . (CSM, May 31) (David Bloom) [top]

An article in the July 13, 2001 Christian Science Monitor describes how 12 years of conflict have created vested interests in Kashmir which benfit economically from the conflict and want it to keep it going. "I call it 'Kashmir Incorporated,'" says Amitabh Mattoo, a political scientist at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, an expert on the Kashmir conflict. "There are such large vested interests in keeping this conflict going that even with the highest political will, it will not be easy to bring peace to the ground." Kashmir's judicial system is flooded with hundreds of corruption cases, few of which go to trial, and even fewer that reach conviction. The list of those indicted for kickbacks, bribe-taking, and war profiteering includes some very important names in Kashmiri society, including prominent separatists Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Abdul Ghani Lone, Indian businessman S.K. Jain, and even a few top state bureaucrats and politicians, such as Indian Home Minister L.K. Advani. . [Lone was assassinated May 21; some suspect Geelani was behind the hit (see WW3REPORT# 35)]. Italianate villas and Swiss-style chalets protected by gun turrets have sprouted in the Himalayan foothills in the past decade. Because so few are convicted of financial crimes, money has continued to pour into Kashmir from both India and Pakistan. One economist in Srinigar told the Monitor: "This turmoil has provided people with money, and not just money, but the authority to dictate. When you have that authority, that power, why should you surrender that status?" 54 years of conflict have created a situation in Kashmir which neither state can control. Some of the conflict-related business is due to the extent of corruption in the state, which takes advantage of the illegal cutting of hardwoods, for instance, or it can be of a more lethal variety, e.g. extortion, kidnapping, money-laundering, and trafficking in weapons and explosives. This environment allows Kashmiri militants and foreign mercenaries nearly endless funds to keep fighting a guerrilla war against India. The fact that many of the officials entrusted with controlling the militants are often involved in illegal activities that gain from the continued conflict. "Militancy has become a business," says a senior officer with the Jammu & Kashmir police in Srinagar.

The construction industry in Kashmir is so corrupt, some buildings funded with public money from India don't even get built. The contractors pay off bureaucrats and militants, and walk away with the rest. "Pakistan is not funding the militants, we are funding them ourselves," said one J&K police chief in Srinagar. "If they burn a school down, let it be burned. If they blow up a building, let it stay that way. If you rebuild it, 20% of the money will go to the militants" through corrupt officials, kickbacks, or extortion.

Eight out of ten militants in Kashmir are foreign-born, according to J&K police. Usually these foreigners are Afghans who are promised rewards for every Indian soldier or Kashmiri policemen killed. With funds flowing in from Pakistan and Persian Gulf states to pay these rewards, these foreign mercenaries have a strong interest in perpetuating the conflict. Even if foreign money supplies were cut off, the militants could continue the conflict for several years with money derived from Kashmir itself, including money-laundering, drug production, illegal timber exploitation, and extortion.

In addition, to some extent, most Kashmiris benefit economically from the conflict, from the "olive tourism" of 350,000 Indian soldiers in olive drab uniforms and their families, and the money they spend in Kashmir, on everything from groceries to trinkets reminding them of their Kashmir service. Militant groups also pay villagers for food, shelter and information about troop movements. (CSM,, July 13 2001) (David Bloom) [top]

The UN, US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel are among those either strongly encouraging or ordering their citizens or workers to leave India and Pakistan, with fear of impending nuclear conflict between the two states. The US and Canada had already withdrawn non-essential embassy staff in Pakistan after a March 17 bombing of a church in Islamabad that killed four, including two US citizens (see WW3 REPORT #26). Britain similarly recently withdrew its non-essential embassy staff after bomb threats from al-Qaeda or allied militant groups. (AP, June 1) (David Bloom) [top]

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says that one way to prevent war would be if Pakistan's current leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who deposed civilian rule and imposed a military dictatorship in 1999, resigned. Musharraf, she argues, is too closely aligned with the Islamic militants whose cause he championed to back down in the current standoff with India over Kashmir. Bhutto writes in the UK Guardian May 30:

"The international community made a critical error when it concluded that a military dictator could defuse tension between India and Pakistan or hold back the tidal wave of extremism that is now engulfing the region.

"The tenure of General Pervez Musharraf, the great white hope in the fight against terrorism, has been marked by the rise of extremism, militancy, terrorism and regional tension. He missed the opportunity at Agra in 2000 to sign a confidence-building treaty with New Delhi. He carries the baggage of being the architect of the Kargil conflict that nearly led to an Indo-Pak war in 1999. His 'lone ranger' politics pits him against domestic political forces. Given this history, it's unlikely that he can halt the march to war.

"There is one way that war can be prevented, and that is regime change in Islamabad. This would offer the possibility of halting hostilities to permit a new government to make a fresh start. The voices of the international community as well as the Pakistani armed forces are critical: they will determine whether Musharraf resigns to defuse the crisis or clings to power in a show of nuclear brinksmanship." (David Bloom) [top]

The cover headline in the June 1-7 issue of The Economist reads: "The Weakest Link: Why the world needs Pakistan's dictator to survive," above a photo of the mustachio'd general. The lead editorial cites his cooperation in Washington's War on Terrorism and his recent attempts to distance himself from the Islamic militants he once sponsored. Warns The Economist: "A post-Musharraf Pakistan, humiliated by India, might well swing the other way. Osama bin laden would be only too happy to have exchanged a ramshackle haven in Afghanistan for a new one in a friendly, nuclear-armed Pakistan." [top]

Cross-border shelling continued unabated for the 16th straight day along the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Indian from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Two people were killed and 39 wounded in three separate grenade attacks that police in Srinigar, Indian-Kashmir's summer capitol, blamed on Islamic militants originating from Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. The attacks were aimed at police, but most of the victims were civilians. (AFP, June 1) [top]

On his arrival in Almaty, Kazakhstan, for a security conference, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee ruled out talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf over the Kashmir crisis. However, Vajpayee said he would give "serious consideration" to the possibility of talks if there was evidence Musharraf was making good on his promise to stop cross-border infiltration of militants from Pakistan to Indian-ruled Kashmir. Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes, considered a moderate in the Indian government, sought to calm fears, saying, "India will not be impulsive. All we expect of the Musharraf regime is that it desist from supporting terrorism." According to Rueters, there are signs Musharraf is making a sincere effort; sources connected with militants in Kashmir reported, "They [the militants] have been asked, so infiltration has virtually stopped. The instruction was issued a week ago or so." (Reuters, June 2) [top]

Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said in an interview with the International Herald Tribune that the use of nuclear weapons by either India or Pakistan would be unlikely: "I don't agree with the idea that India and Pakistan are so imprudent and excitable that they'll forget what nuclear weapons can do," Fernandes said. "If the western powers and China know how to keep their nuclear capabilities under control, the same holds good for India and Pakistan." Fernandes reiterated that India has pledged never to be the first to use nuclear weapons. We look at our nuclear weapons purely as a deterrent," he said. (Guardian, June 3) (David Bloom) [top]


Hard-line Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski injured four bystanders at a live-fire exercise when he decided to try his hand at firing a grenade launcher, prompting calls for his resignation. The incident occurred at the lakeside resort of Mavrovo during a training exercise for a unit of the Macedonian police known as the Lions, who were used in the conflict against Albanian separatists. Two journalists and two Interior Ministry officials were hurt. Boskovski was described by Lions commander Colonel Boban Utkovski as an experienced grenade-launcher user: "Boskovski has used them before since he is very fond of such kind of weapons," but when he fired the weapon the grenade ricocheted off a rock, injuring the crowd watching the exercise. Utkovski blamed the victims for disregarding police warnings to stay further away from the firing. Boskovski, however, took responsibility for his actions: "I am deeply sorry for the accident," he said. "Such things happen." (BBC, 15 May) But Boskovski was not so sorry that he chose to heed calls for his resignation; he told Macedonian MTV1 on May 23: "Although I feel the pangs of conscience, my official and ministerial obligations in the service of the Republic of Macedonia, which have commenced but are not yet completed, do not give me the right to tender my resignation. I am keeping my intimate feelings to myself." (MTV1, May 23)

The Lions are a source of controversy because they are loyal Boskovski's own hard-line nationalist party, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VRMO-DPMNE). According to Jane's Intelligence Review, Boskovski's critics fear the Lions were formed not just to battle Albanian separatists, but to intimidate his political opponents. (Jane's, Nov. 1) (David Bloom) [top]


Despite a barrage of federal government warnings over Memorial Day weekend about an imminent terrorist attack, New York City's surviving landmarks all remain standing. Official alerts warned of plots to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty or subway lines, but residents were generally skeptical. "If I took them really seriously I'd be underground someplace," said one subway rider (apparently oblivious to the fact that she was already underground). (, May 24)

With security beefed up on the Brooklyn Bridge roadway, officials invoked the threat of al-Qaeda scuba divers launching an underwater attack. But scratching the surface indicated there was little substance to the warnings. "While there is no evidence of operational planning to utilize scuba divers to carry out attacks within the United States, there is a body of information showing the desire to obtain such capability," the FBI said vaguely, also citing "uncorroborated information" of terrorist plans to attack US targets with small planes. (, May 24)

Cross-bridge pedestrians were unfazed by the warnings. "This is the Brooklyn Bridge, it is a perfect day to be on the bridge, and I refuse to change my life," Robin Lister, sitting on a bench on the walkway, told a reporter. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz cancelled a celebration of the bridge's 119th birthday, citing advise from law enforcement--but Mayor Michael Bloomberg contradicted Markowitz and lambasted him for cowardice. "If there was ever a time to hold a ceremony on the Brooklyn Bridge it is when terrorists threaten that structure, not the reverse," Bloomberg said. (NYT, May 30)

This was the second time that al-Qaeda spectacularly failed to blow up a landmark bridge. In November, California Gov. Gray Davis mobilized the National Guard to patrol San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, citing a confidential FBI warning to state police. But the FBI promptly stated that the threat was "not credible." After several days of traffic slowed to a crawl across the Golden Gate by National Guard roadblocks, the alert was called off. (BBC, Nov. 7)

Let's hope the feds' Brooklyn Bridge warnings won't give al-Qaeda any ideas. The bridge is one of the most beautiful structures in the city, and is of mammoth historical importance. Completed in 1883 at a cost of over 20 lives, the Brooklyn Bridge was the first to span the East River, precipitating the 1896 official integration of Brooklyn and Manhattan into a single city. It was also the first bridge to use steel cables, and the longest in the world at the time of completion. (The Epic of New York City by Edward Robb Ellis, Old Town Books, 1966, ch. 28) It's walkway, suspended between neo-Gothic stone arches, is beloved by pedestrians, bicyclists and lovebirds, affording free open-air views of the skyline, river and harbor. In contrast, while the World Trade Center site is forever hallowed ground due to the enormity of the death toll there, most New Yorkers will reluctantly admit that the Twin Towers were a tourist trap, Rockefeller boondoggle to expand the Manhattan financial district, and really fucking ugly. [top]

Federal terror attack warnings apparently originate with a daily "Threat Matrix," prepared for the president by the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC) at Langley, VA. Launched after 9-11, the Matrix is admittedly based mostly on rumor and speculation--and even deliberate al-Qaeda misinformation from unreliable human informants. "The odds are that on any given day nine-tenths will be all walk-in traffic--some people trying to find out how we'll respond," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Senate May 21. "They...try to jerk us around and test us--stress our force in a way." (CSM, May 23) [top]

Walk-in suicide bombers like those who have attacked public places in Israel will hit the US eventually, said FBI Director Robert Mueller. "I think we will see that in the future, I think it's inevitable," Mueller said in response to a question after a speech to a group of local prosecutors meeting in Alexandria, VA. "I wish I could be more optimistic," he said. (Haaretz, May 20)

That same week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Senate committee that terroriists will "inevitably" use weapons of mass destruction against the US. Rumsfeld said the US had to "recognize that terrorist networks have relationships with terrorist states that have weapons of mass destruction, and that they inevitably are going to get their hands on them and they would not hesitate one minute to use them." (BBC, May 21)

"In my opinion, prospects of a future attack against the United States is almost certain," Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We don't know if it's going to be tomorrow or next week or next year." He said it was "not a matter of if, but when." (CNN, May 19) [top]

FBI Director Robert Mueller said he wills order an internal inquiry into complaints by a senior agent in Minneapolis that headquarters repeatedly roadblocked Minneapolis-based agents in who sought to investigate indicted "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui aggressively in the days before 9-11.

The agent, Coleen Rowley, also said in a 13-page letter to the Congressional committee investigating the government's preparedness for the 9-11 attacks that Mueller had misrepresented the Bureau's handling of Moussaoui's case. Moussaoui was arrested on immigration charges three weeks before 9-11, and officials now believe he was to be among the 19 suicide hijackers. Rowley said bureaucrats at headquarters had interfered with the Minneapolis investigation, and had also bungled a warning from an agent in Phoenix who had written that al-Qaeda militants could be using domestic aviation schools to train for terror attacks.

The Phoenix agent, Kenneth Williams, who wrote the memorandum last July, gave testimony before Congress in May supporting the Bureau's position that his memo did not envision 9-11-type attacks. Williams has also said the FBI could not have stopped the attacks, even if his recommendations to scrutinize Arabs at flight schools had led to action. But the testimony failed to reassure the media and critics of the Bureau.

Agents in Minneapolis arrested Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, on Aug. 16, after employees at a flight school had reported that he had paid at least $6,800 in cash for training on a 747 flight simulator. Before Sept. 11, a request from the Minneapolis office for a search warrant to examine his computer and belongings was rejected by headquarters. The Minneapolis agents sought the warrant under Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a law allowing the government carry out searches and surveillance where espionage or terrorism is suspected but no actual evidence of criminal behavior exists. A subsequent request for a criminal search warrant was also reportedly rejected, although the Minneapolis agents did repeatedly question Moussaoui while he was held in an immigration detention center. Only after Sept. 11 did the FBI obtain a warrant to search the computer.

Hours after Moussaoui's arrest last August, Minnesota agents were told by an informant that he believed it was "acceptable to kill civilians who harm Muslims," and that he approved of Muslims who died as "martyrs," federal documents indicate. The informant, Hussein al-Attas, has not been implicated in the attacks but is being held as a material witness in the Moussaoui case. Attas, a Yemeni citizen who had driven Moussaoui from Oklahoma, where they were attending flight school, to a second flight school in Minnesota, said Moussaoui held strong anti-American views and had suggested he might be willing to act on his beliefs. "He did indicate that Moussaoui does not like anyone who is not a Muslim, and advised that he has stated that he would work in any way possible to make the lives of nonbelievers more difficult," Attas told investigators, according to a classified summary of the interviews reviewed by The New York Times. (NYT, May 24)

Rowley's explosive May 21 letter to Mueller is excerpted in the June 3 issue of Time magazine: "The Minneapolis agents who responded to the call about Moussaoui...identified him as a terrorist threat from a very early point, [but] even after the attacks [a supervisor at FBI headquarters] was attempting to block the search of [his] computer, characterizing the World Trade Center attacks as a mere coincidence... I know I shouldn't be flippant about this, but jokes were made that the key FBI HQ personnel had to be spies or moles...who were actually working for Osmama bin Laden to have so undercut Minneapolis' effort... I have deep concerns that a delicate and subtle shading/skewing of facts by you and others at the highest level of FBI management has occurred and is occurring... I think your statements demonstrate a rush to judgement to protect the FBI at all costs."

Moussaoui's computer, finally searched hours after 9-11 attacks, was found to include detailed information on crop-dusting and jetliners, as well as the names of associates in Singapore and elsewhere. The Washington Post also claims that CIA officials had learned from "FBI agents in the filed" of efforts to secure the FISA warrant. (WP, May 23)

While the 1978 FISA was intended to correct the government abuses of the Watergate era, critics contend it extended government surveillance powers by granting agents the right to secret searches and wiretaps where no "probable cause" of criminal activity exists. FISA restrictions on government snooping were further loosened by the PATRIOT Act, passed in the wake of 9-11. (See WW3 REPORT #6) But papers such as the right-wing Washington Times (editorials, June 3-9) say the Rowley imbroglio indicates that remaining snooping restraints must be lifted and the US must get over "the anti-CIA hysteria of the 1970s." [top]

The notorious Phoenix memo written by FBI Special Agent Kenneth J. Williams, is entitled "Zakaria Mustapha Soubra; IT-OTHER (Islamic Army of the Caucasus)." The "synopsis," reviewed by Richard Behar of, reads: "Usama bin Laden and Al-Muhjiroun supporters attending civil aviation universities/colleges in Arizona." Soubra, the memo says, was a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ. Behar cites a Los Angeles Times report that he was questioned by FBI agents in 2000, "after he was observed at a shooting range with another Muslim, who was a veteran of Islamic jihads in the Balkans and the Middle East." Behar protests that "No charges were brought against him, and he is currently a senior at Embry-Riddle." The Islamic Army of the Caucasus, is based in Chechnya and was headed by the recently-assassinated Amir Khattab, who is suspected of ties to Osama bin Laden. (See WW3 REPORT #33) According to the Williams memo, the probe of Soubra was opened April 17, 2000. Williams warned in the July 10, 2002 memo of a possible "effort by Usama bin Laden to send students to the US to attend civil aviation universities and colleges."

Writes Behar: "FBI officials apparently didn't do much with the Phoenix memo. It was sent to roughly a dozen FBI officials, none of whom apparently sent it to the agency's acting director. FBI Director Mueller, who took over in early September, before the attacks, concedes that the agency didn't act aggressively on the memo. Among other lapses, it never shared the memo with the CIA, which only learned of its existence a few weeks ago. So the question is: Had senior FBI officials, the CIA, and the Bush Administration seen the Phoenix memo, could they have stitched together enough clues to prevent the terror attacks? That's something that may take months of hearings and investigation to answer. But the first step is clear: The memo should be released immediately, names blacked-out if necessary, so we can all learn what Agent Williams knew." (, May 22)

The New York Times reports that among the two FBI counter-terrorism chiefs who received the Phoenix memo was none other than John O'Neill--then the top counter-terrorist officer in the FBI's New York City office, and the FBI's leading expert on Osama bin Laden. Frustrated with what he called official roadblocks of his investigations into Osama bin Laden, O'Neill resigned from the FBI and took a job as security chief at the World Trade Center, and was killed on Sept. 11 (See WW3 REPORT #s 2 & 13) (NYT, May21) [top]

A secret internal FBI report warned in the months before 9-11 that the Bureau was unprepared to respond to terrorist threats from Middle Eastern groups like Al Qaeda, senior government officials told the New York Times. The report found virtually every major FBI field office understaffed in countering the terrorist threat. The document, known as the Director's Report on Terrorism, reportedly proposed spending increases to address the problem. But the Bureau failed to win an increase in the Justice Department spending request submitted shortly before 9-11. On Sept. 10, Attorney General John Ashcroft rejected a proposed $58 million increase in financing for the Bureau's counter-terrorism programs. But a Justice Department official told the Times that the report was not provided to Ashcroft's budget staff. (NYT, May 31) [top]

The Bush administration's top anti-terrorism prosecutor said the US had ample evidence that a devastating terrorist attack on US soil was likely long before September 11. Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff cited nearly a decade's worth of hints that foreign terrorists were targeting the US, though he stopped short of saying there was specific information that could have prevented the attacks. "As of September 10th, each of us knew everything we needed to know to tell us there was a possibility of what happened on September 11th," Chertoff said during a commencement speech to Seton Hall Law School graduates. Among the warning signs cited by Chertoff: the 1993 bombing of the WTC, a mid-'90s plan in which an Islamic radical was convicted of plotting to blow up New York landmarks and assassinate the pope, a death sentence pronounced on Americans by Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s, and the thwarted millennium bombing plot at Los Angeles International Airport."We knew the World Trade Center was a target," said Chertoff, who was the US attorney for New Jersey when the WTC was attacked in 1993. "We knew an airplane could be used as a weapon." (AP, June 1) [top]

Two years before 9-11, an analysis prepared for US intelligence warned that Osama bin Laden's terrorists could hijack an airliner and fly it into government buildings like the Pentagon. "Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House," the September 1999 report said. The Bush administration has asserted that no one in government had envisioned a suicide hijacking before it happened. The September 1999 report, "Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why?" described suicide hijacking as one of several retaliatory attacks al-Qaeda might seek for the 1998 US air-strike against bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan. The report was written by the Federal Research Division, an arm of the Library of Congress that provides research for federal agencies. Bush administration officials have repeatedly said no one in government had imagined such an attack. "I don't think anybody could have predicted that ...they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said May 16. (AP, May 17) [top]

FBI and Pentagon intelligence officials say they were blocked for political reasons from carrying out full investigations into members of the bin Laden family in the US before the 9-11 terrorist attacks. FBI documents shown on BBC Newsnight and obtained by the UK Guardian show that agents had sought to investigate two of Osama bin Laden's relatives in Washington and a Muslim organization, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), with which they believed were linked. The FBI file--marked "secret" and coded 199, which means a case involving national security--records that a file had been opened on Abdullah bin Laden "because of his relationship with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth--a suspected terrorist organization." WAMY members deny any link to terrorist activities, and WAMY has not been placed on the list of terrorist organizations whose assets are being frozen. Abdullah, who lived with his brother Omar in Falls Church, a DC suburb in Virginia, was the US director of WAMY, whose offices were in a nearby basement.

But the FBI files were closed in 1996--apparently before any conclusions could be reached on either the bin Laden brothers or the WAMY. Intelligence sources in Washington told the Guardian June 2: "There were always constraints on investigating the Saudis." They said the restrictions became worse after the Bush administration took over. The intelligence agencies were told to "back off" from investigations involving members of the bin Laden family, the Saudi royals, and possible Saudi links to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Pakistan. "There were particular investigations that were effectively killed."

The head of the Saudi-based WAMY's London office, Nouredine Miladi, said the charity was totally against bin Laden's violent methods. "We seek social change through education and cooperation, not force." He said Abdullah bin Laden had ceased to run WAMY's US operation a year ago. ( [top]

FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged for the first time that the 9-11 attacks might have been preventable if Bureau officials had responded differently to all the information that was available. "I cannot say for sure that there wasn't a possibility we could have come across some lead that would have led us to the hijackers," Mueller told reporters after listing several missed opportunities to discern a pattern of terrorist planning before Sept. 11. He also said that while there was no specific warning, "that doesn't mean that there weren't red flags out there, that there weren't dots that should have been connected to the extent possible." Mueller said he was ordering formation of an Office of Intelligence to better coordinate information. Over 400 new analysts will be added to the Bureau, both in the field offices and the Washington headquarters, including 25 officers on loan from the Central Intelligence Agency. "In essence, we need a different approach that puts prevention above all else," he said. "We have to develop the ability to look around the corner." (NYT, May 30)

CNN reported further comments in a Q-&-A session with reporter. "Putting all the pieces together over a period of time, who is to say?" Mueller responded to one reporter. Pressed further, the director said, "I can't say for sure that there wasn't a possibility that we would have come across some leads that would have led us to the hijackers.... As I said before, it's not totally impossible that perhaps we would have gotten lucky, but the main point is we have to do better job in the future." Mueller said. He also added, "I don't think we blew anything," but acknowledged, "There were signals out there we should have picked up on." (CNN, May 30) [top]

A paid FBI informant told ABC News May 23 that three years before 9-11, he began providing the Bureau with information about a young Saudi who later flew a hijacked passenger plane into the Pentagon. The informant, Aukai Collins, said he worked for the FBI for four years in Phoenix, monitoring the Arab and Muslim communities there. Hani Hanjour was the hijacker Collins claimed to have told the FBI about while Hanjour was in flight training in Phoenix. The FBI issued an "emphatic denial" to ABC that Collins had told the agency anything about Hanjour, though FBI sources acknowledged that Collins had worked for them. [top]

A May 27 Newsweek expose on how the Bush administration dropped the ball on Osama bin laden before 9-11 reveals that:

*Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, upon taking office, suspended Predator drone tracking of Osama bin Laden, "among other actions."

*National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice at the very least dissembled when she claimed last week that there were no existing studies as of Sept. 11 predicting a 9-11-type attack. "While Bush may have a point in saying he heard no specific threat, other aspects of the administration's story weren't holding up" by week's end, Newsweek writes.

*Rice claimed that George Bush had not read--or, more specifically "doesn't recall reading"--memos he was responsible for reading. Newsweek observes that "the buck seems to be stopping nowhere."

*Attorney General John Ashcroft shut down FBI wiretaps of al-Qaeda-related suspects in the 1998 African embassy bombing investigation.

*Ashcroft, despite Senate testimony to the contrary, turned his back on counter-terrorism over the months before 9/11. "Ashcroft didn't want to hear about it," says a former senior law-enforcement official.

*Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld vetoed a request to divert $800 million from space-based missile defense to counter-terrorism. [top]

On June 22, 2001, the Pentagon's Central and European Commands imposed "Force Protection Condition Delta," the highest anti-terrorist alert. The next day the State Department ordered all diplomatic posts to convene emergency action committees. The CIA said the most probable targets included the US Embassy in Rome, the Genoa summit of the Group of Eight leaders in July, and the Vatican--a threat that prompted Bush to change the venue of his meeting with Pope John Paul II to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome. CIA Director George Tenet had written an intelligence summary for national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on June 28: "It is highly likely that a significant al Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks." By late summer, one senior political appointee said, Tenet had "repeated this so often that people got tired of hearing it." On July 5, the White House summoned officials of a dozen federal agencies to the Situation Room. "Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon," the government's top counter-terrorism official, Richard Clarke, told the assembled group, according to two of those present. The group included representatives from the FAA, Coast Guard, FBI, Secret Service and INS. Clarke, US National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism, directed every counter-terrorist office to cancel vacations, defer non-vital travel and place domestic rapid-response teams on alert. But by the time Bush received his intelligence briefing at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., on Aug. 6, warning of an imminent domestic hijacking terror operation, the government had called off the alert. (WP, May 17) [top]

Democratic lawmakers are insisting the White House turn over the Phoenix memo and other top-secret documents prepared for President Bush that indicated al-Qaeda was seeking to hijack US airplanes. Bush officials acknowledged for the first time May 16 that the president was briefed about a possible hijacking plot in early August while he vacationed at his Texas ranch. "Why did it take eight months for us to receive this information? And what specific actions were taken by the White House in response?" Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), said. "I'm not going to jump to any conclusions, but it's hard to understand why the information was not released." (AP, May 17) [top]

The White House acknowledged May 17 that it was preparing to enact a $200-million covert military program to aid anti-Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan last summer. The proposal, known as a National Security Presidential Directive, was finalized Sept. 10 and was awaiting President Bush's approval when the next day's terrorist attacks occurred. (LAT, May 18) [top]

The Bush administration does not support a public commission to investigate the intelligence failures leading up to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, fearing that such disclosure of information could harm the War on Terrorism, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said. In an interview with CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer" May 19, Rice said the Senate and House intelligence committees, which already are investigating what went wrong, are the "proper venue." "In the context of this ongoing war, it is extremely important to protect the sources and the methods and the information so that we can try and disrupt further attacks," she said. "The problem is that this is an act that is not finished. It is ongoing. We are still fighting a war on terrorism." Calls for a probe by a panel of outside experts, similar to the Warren Commission that investigated the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, gathered steam with the revelation that President Bush received a CIA briefing Aug. 6 that said al-Qaeda operatives might be preparing a hijack operation in the US. [top]

The CIA knew of probable terrorist links about one of the 9-11 hijackers, and could have used that knowledge to prevent him from renewing his visa to enter the US prior to the attacks, a senior administration official said yesterday. It had been previously reported that the CIA knew Khalid Almihdhar, who was on Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, had attended a January 2000 meeting of suspected terrorists in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The CIA now acknowledges that Almihdhar went from Kuala Lumpur to the US in January 2000, left in June 2000, and was outside the US when the agency learned of his comings and goings. Frequent re-entry into the United States is a factor that causes authorities to take a second look at a visa applicant. Almihdhar's re-entries should have put him on the watch list and prevented him from getting a new visa in June 2001. "At best, we could have prevented his return," the senior official said. (WP, June 3) [top]

In the wake of the Rowley imbroglio, Attorney General John Ashcroft decided to relax restrictions on FBI domestic spying, announcing a broad loosening of the guidelines that restrict the surveillance of religious and political organizations. "We are turning the ship 180 degrees from prosecution of crimes as our main focus to the prevention of terrorist acts," a senior Justice Department official said. "We want to make sure that we do everything possible to stop the terrorists before they can kill innocent Americans, everything within the bounds of the Constitution and federal law." But officials at the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the new guidelines, calling them another step by the Bush administration to roll back civil-liberties protections in the name of counter-terrorism. "These new guidelines say to the American people that you no longer have to be doing something wrong in order to get that FBI knock at your door," said Laura Murphy, director of the national ACLU office. "The government is rewarding failure. It seems when the FBI fails, the response by the Bush administration is to give the bureau new powers, as opposed to seriously look at why the intelligence and law enforcement failures occurred."

The new strategy emphasizes cyber-snooping, with the FBI to contract commercial "data-mining services" from firms that collect, organize and analyze marketing and demographic information from the Internet. Guidelines limiting domestic surveillance were imposed in the 1970's after the disclosures about COINTELPRO, a program that monitored antiwar and civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr. Under the new guidelines, field offices will no longer have to await approval for investigations from headquarters, but can conduct investigations for up to a year before being reviewed by senior officials. Additionally, under the new guidelines, the bureau will be able to send undercover agents to infiltrate groups that gather at places like mosques or churches without "probable cause" of criminal activity--although these investigations will need Justice Department approval. (NYT, May 30)

The FBI is also asking telecommunications companies to alter their network infrastructure to make it easier for law enforcement to install telephone taps. The request is said to cover both land-based and wireless networks. The FBI s also beefing up its own cyber-snoop technology. The Bureau's "Carnivore" electronic "sniffer" system will be enhanced by the addition of "Magic Lantern" software allowing agents to insert a virus in a target's computer and obtain electronic keys to encrypted files. (Jane's Intelligence Review, June 1) [top]

"Our philosophy today is not to wait and sift through the rubble following a terrorist attack," Attorney General John Ashcroft told a news conference on the Justice Department's new direction. "The guidelines emphasize that the FBI must not be deprived of using all lawful authorized methods in investigations, consistent with the pursue and prevent terrorist actions."

But critics said the new guidelines were indeed eroding constitutional rights. "The administration's continued defiance of constitutional safeguards seems to have no end in sight," complained Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Said Shaker Elsayed, secretary general of the Muslim American Society: "It only serves the purpose of heightening the scare in the society and the paranoia against Muslims." "Apparently, Attorney General Ashcroft wants to get the FBI back in the business of spying on religious and political organizations," said Margaret Ratner, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. "That alone would be unconstitutional, but history suggests the FBI won't stop at passive information gathering."

Said James X. Dempsey, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology: "They are using the terrorism crisis as a cover for a wide range of changes, some of which have nothing to do with terrorism," predicting that the power to mine commercial data will be used in drug, child pornography, stock fraud, gambling and "every other type of investigation the FBI does." Nicholas Graham, a spokesman for America Online, said, "If law enforcement asks for our cooperation, we absolutely do cooperate with them in a criminal investigation. We have always been careful to strike a careful, reasonable and appropriate balance between protecting our members' privacy and their safety while working with law enforcement." (CBS News, May 31) [top]

Of course, there is no shortage of self-flagellating "liberal" propagandists for the new police state. Writes New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof in a May 31 piece entitled "Liberal Reality Check":

"As we gather around FBI headquarters sharpening our machetes and watching the buzzards circle overhead, let's be frank: There's a whiff of hypocrisy in the air. One reason aggressive agents were restrained as they tried to go after Zacarias Moussaoui is that liberals like myself--and the news media caldron in which I toil and trouble--have regularly excoriated law enforcement authorities for taking shortcuts and engaging in racial profiling. As long as we're pointing fingers, we should peer into the mirror.

"The timidity of bureau headquarters is indefensible. But it reflected not just myopic careerism but also an environment (that we who care about civil liberties helped create) in which officials were afraid of being assailed as insensitive storm troopers.

"So it's time for civil libertarians to examine themselves with the same rigor with which we are prone to examine others. The bottom line is that Mr. Moussaoui was thrown in jail - thank God - not because there was evidence he had committed a crime but because he was a young Arab man who behaved suspiciously and fit our stereotypes about terrorists." [top]

Two major defense contractors are pitching the Pentagon on using a fleet of zeppelins in the new "homeland security" mission. Military planners envision the unmanned airships as high-altitude radar platforms keeping watch for anything trying to penetrate US airspace. "What Sept. 11 proved is the ability of a group of people being able to outwit a sophisticated country by using unconventional methods," said Nick Cook, a London-based aerospace consultant for Jane's Defense Weekly. "You can put as much into an SDI [Strategic Defense Initiative] Star Wars-type thing as you want and a cruise missile would sneak under, but an airship could plug the gap." The zeppelins would provide the same view as radar planes, but could be kept aloft for months at a time. Two of the companies developing dirigibles are Boeing, in a partnership with Germany's CargoLifter AG, and Lockheed Martin's subsidiary Goodyear Aerospace. They say they have airships ready to be built should the government need them. The Pentagon's North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) has asked for funding to build a prototype high-altitude airship, with the idea of stationing 10 ships to cover all the continental borders of the United States, said NORAD's Maj. Ed Thomas. (AP, May 31) [top]

Days before Sept. 11, Mohamed Atta visited the Big Apple for a weekend with his new bride--taking in a Broadway play, fine French food and an evening of jazz near Times Square. "But," wrote the New York Post May 29, "this Mohamed Atta was not the hijacker who crashed a jumbo jet into the World Trade Center. The New York City visitor was a soft-spoken kidney specialist from Maryland whose horrible case of mistaken identity has led to months of harassment and ethnic profiling. Within days of the World Trade Center attacks, the renowned doctor received threatening calls, as well as a visit from FBI agents tracking his credit-card slips from the Helmsley Hotel and the 'Les Miserable' box office. Even now, nine months later, Atta and his wife, Sophie, are embarrassed by his now-infamous name, especially when they travel or use credit cards. They were horrified when it was erroneously reported that the terror-attack leader was casing the Twin Towers days before Sept. 11--even after the FBI concluded it was just the kidney doctor, who had planned to take his wife to Windows on the World for dinner in the north tower."

Atta, an Egyptian native and respected gene specialist at Johns Hopkins University Hospital who spent his three-year residency at Manhattan's Cabrini Medical Center. told the Post: "New York is the best place in the world, the best city in the entire world, and I have traveled all my life ."

The FBI arrived at that Attas' home on Sept. 13, shortly after they'd arrived back there from New York. Their lives have still not gone back to normal. "You never know how much you use your name on a daily basis until something like this happens," said Mohammed's wife Sophie. "People say, 'Oh, my God.'" [top]

An Islamic charity and its leader were charged in a federal perjury indictment accusing them of lying when they denied being linked to Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network. Prosecutors filed the perjury charges against Benevolence International Foundation of suburban Palos Hills, IL, and its chief executive, Enaam Arnaout, in a criminal complaint on April 30. Under law, the prosecutors were required to obtain a formal indictment within 30 days or drop the charges. Federal agents raided Benevolence headquarters on Dec. 14, carting away loads of documents and freezing the charity's assets. Benevolence filed suit in US District Court in Chicago, asking return of its documents and release of its assets. In sworn statements, the group denied that it supported terrorism of any kind. Prosecutors say a March 19 raid on Benevolence offices in Bosnia produced correspondence between Arnaout and bin Laden, as well as a photograph of bin Laden and the other shows Arnaout. The government says a photo of Arnaout also found there was taken in the same place at the same time. (CBS News, May 29) [top]

The mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in connection with the 9-11 attacks, has hired a California civil rights lawyer to persuade her son to abandon his plans to represent himself at his trial. Moussaoui's mom, Aicha el-Wafi, of Narbonne, France, has retained Randall B. Hamud, an Arab-American attorney. "She wants him not to represent himself," Hamud said. "It's a one-way ticket to the death chamber." Moussaoui has insisted on dismissing his court-appointed lawyers and told the court he was praying for the destruction of the United States. He asked for a Muslim lawyer of his choice to advise him, but Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of US District Court in Alexandria, VA, said she would not rule on the request until Moussaoui submits to a psychiatric examination--which he refuses to do. (See WW3 REPORT #31) (AP, May 29) [top]

Facing global efforts to freeze their bank accounts, al-Qaeda operatives may be turning to trade in gold, diamonds and gems to finance their terror network, a UN monitoring group claims in a new report. The report, by , also warns that weapons continue to pour into Taliban and al-Qaeda coffers in Afghanistan, and urges countries to furnish a list of arms dealers operating on Afghanistan's borders. This conclusion is based on continuing attacks on US-led forces in Afghanistan by Taliban/al-Qaeda fighters who "can no longer rely exclusively on stockpiles stored in caves and other places, since much of it has been seized or destroyed over the past six months." With 144 countries vowing to block funds linked to terrorist groups, $103.8 million in assets have been frozen between September and March, the report states--with around half this sum linked to al-Qaeda. But the report states that this is a drop in the bucket compared to the up to $1 trillion laundered globally each year. (NYT, May 22) [top]

Two men standing trial on charges of running a cigarette-smuggling operation in North Carolina are believed to have been funneling profits to the Lebanese Hezbollah organization. Mohammed Hammoud, 28, is charged under a 1996 anti-terrorism law with providing material support to Hezbollah. Conviction could bring up to 10 years in prison. He also is charged with money laundering, cigarette smuggling, immigration fraud and racketeering--and could face life in prison. His brother, Chawki Hammoud, faces lesser charges of immigration fraud, cigarette smuggling, money laundering and racketeering. (AP, May 19) [top]

Congress is moving to dramatically increase spending on intelligence, with new money slated for hiring additional CIA personnel, modernizing the National Security Agency and enhancing satellite surveillance. The intelligence budget is not publicly released. But the Senate Intelligence Committee has approved President Bush's budget request for fiscal 2003, which will increase the total amount spent by the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies to nearly $35 billion, congressional and administration sources said, representing an increase of $2 billion to $3 billion over this year. Meanwhile, the Pentagon informed Congress that the Afghanistan campaign has cost $17 billion since it began in October. (WP, May 14) [top]

Assam al-Ridi, an Egyptian-American pilot, has been cooperating with US authorities in the prosecution of al-Qaeda suspects since long before 9-11. Early last year, his testimony was crucial in convicting Osama bin Laden's former personal secretary, Wadih el-Hage, for conspiring in the 1998 plot to bomb two US embassies in Africa, in which more than 200 people died. At the trial, al-Ridi testified that he had bought a surplus US military jet for Osama bin Laden in 1992 and then flew the plane to Sudan, where bin Laden ran businesses while building his al-Qaeda network. Al-Ridi, who was never part of al-Qaeda and was not charged with a crime, said he viewed his involvement with bin Laden as a business deal, and that he never saw any sign of the terror to come. But while the Justice Department offered to protect him from reprisals by Egypt, al-Ridi said he was detained, kicked and held incommunicado for 24 hours during a trip to Cairo last May to see his parents. When the FBI sought his help again after 9-11, he was fired by a Middle Eastern airline that suddenly viewed him as a security risk. Now, unable to find work in aviation, al-Ridi is living off his nearly exhausted savings with his wife and five children in a rented house near Dallas. "I am at the end of my rope," he said. (NYT, June 3) [top]

On May 30 judge John W. Bissel of US District Court in Newark rejected closed deportation hearings of post-9-11 detainees, stating that disclosure of detainees' information did not jeopardize the Justice Department's terrorism investigations. Not persuaded by the Justice Department's defense, he said any categorical closing of deportation hearings was not "an acceptable means of avoiding a compromise of the government's investigation." Some hearings could be closed, Bissel said, on a case-by-case basis if the government thought they might disclose sensitive information (NYT, May 30)

This is the third time that a district court judge has ruled against the government over its desire to withhold information about post-9-11 detainees for "national security" reasons. On April 12 judge Arthur N. D'Italia ruled in New Jersey's Hudson County Superior Court that the government release the names of all the detainees who are being held in Hudson and Passaic County Jails (Bergen Record, April 19). On April 3, judge Nancy G. Edmunds of the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled that the government bar on public and press access to deportation hearings was unconstitutional (Detroit News, April 19). All three cases are now before appeals courts.

Bissel heard the suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the New Jersey Law Journal, and the North Jersey Media Group, which owns the Herald News of West Paterson and other papers. Deporation hearings, which are supposed to open to the public, were closed off from the public, the press and detainees' families on orders of the nation's chief immigration judge on Sept. 21. Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union made the following statement about Bissel's ruling: "What the decision does not permit the government to do is categorically close down every immigration hearing from beginning to end, without specific evidence in an individual case of why it must be secret." (Subuhi Jiwani) [top]

The Bush administration has tightened security at US nuclear power plants based on documents and information obtained from al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, a White House spokesman said. "As the president said earlier this year, we know that al Qaeda has been gathering information and looking at nuclear facilities and other critical infrastructure as potential targets," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the Office of Homeland Security. "Because of that, we have strengthened security at those facilities." He declined to comment on a report in the Washington Times May 13 about terrorists targeting the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant or other nuclear facilities in Pennsylvania. The Washington Times also claimed intelligence officials said reports from captured al-Qaeda operations chief Abu Zubaydah indicated that two al-Qaeda operatives were working secretly within the US to obtain nuclear material for use in a radiological bomb attack. (Washington Times, May 14) [top]


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