[Vision2020] 08_16-04 USAToday: Non-Arab recruits scout for al-Qaeda

Art Deco aka W. Fox deco at moscow.com
Mon Aug 16 14:01:22 PDT 2004

      Non-Arab recruits scout for al-Qaeda
      By John Diamond and Toni Locy, USA TODAY

      WASHINGTON - Al-Qaeda allies are believed to be scouting U.S. targets, and
the terror organization is using non-Arab recruits to avoid detection, U.S. law
enforcement and intelligence officials say.
      The FBI has counterterrorism investigations in virtually all 56 of its
field offices but has not broken up a known surveillance cell, either because
agents are tailing suspects who have not committed crimes or because they have
descriptions but not identities.

      It is unclear how many al-Qaeda scouts are in the USA. "The FBI has their
eye on or has opened several hundred investigations of people sympathetic to or
supportive of" al-Qaeda, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said. "If we knew
somebody was here as an operative - and we knew who they were or where they
were - they wouldn't be on the street."

      Information about active cells came from Ridge and three intelligence and
law enforcement officials. The three officials wouldn't speak for attribution
because the information they provided is classified. One of the three, a senior
U.S. intelligence official, responded to criticism that the Bush administration
raised the terrorism threat level based on information about surveillance
al-Qaeda did years ago. The official said the cells:

      .Have been in the USA off and on since the early 1990s, and some are still

      .Are focused primarily on states on the coasts, though not exclusively.
They include New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Michigan and California.

      .Operate under deep cover, sometimes hiding their Muslim faith by posing
as Christians.

      .Are isolated from each other and from al-Qaeda members who would carry
out attacks.

      Counterterrorism officials have learned about suspected surveillance by
terrorist sympathizers by intercepting communications, interrogating captives
and exploiting seized documents and computers.

      When a source provides a name, the FBI can keep tabs on the suspect, but
suspects can't be arrested if they don't break any laws. In other cases, the
intelligence describes surveillance operations without naming al-Qaeda's scouts.

      To avoid the intense scrutiny on travelers from certain Middle Eastern
countries, al-Qaeda is believed to be using operatives from Chechnya, Bosnia
and, when possible, Western Europe. Not all are Arab, and not all are men. All
are thought to be Muslim, but a few have pretended to convert to Christianity to
deepen their cover, the senior intelligence official said.

      "There was a legitimate concern right after 9/11 that the face of
international terrorism was basically from the Middle East. We know
differently," Ridge said. "We don't have the luxury of kidding ourselves that
there is an ethnic or racial or country profile."

      Concern about al-Qaeda plans intensified with the arrest in Pakistan last
month of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, a suspected al-Qaeda member. Pakistani
authorities seized his computer and several hundred disks containing reports of
surveillance - most of it conducted before 9/11 - of financial sites in New
York, Newark, N.J., and Washington, D.C. The data led U.S. authorities to raise
the terror alerts in those cities.

      U.S. investigators are pursuing six e-mails sent from Khan's computer to
locations in the USA, according to an FBI official with knowledge of the
investigation surrounding the latest terror alert.

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