A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|return of 'war on terror' can only help Bush|
|06/12/02 at 00:48:26|
Dramatic return of 'war on terror' can only help Bush
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
12 June 2002
The arrest of the alleged al-Qa'ida associate and would-be "dirty bomber" Abdullah al-Muhajir may raise as many questions as it answers. But whatever the threat he posed to America's national security, the political benefits to the Bush administration from his capture are clear.
For a start, the lurid return of al-Qa'ida to the headlines poses a tactical dilemma for the Democrats as the two parties jockey for position ahead of this autumn's mid-term elections, where control of both Senate and House is on a razor's edge.
Once again the "war against terror," in one of its most frightening manifestations, dominates the Washington agenda. Once again the Democrats will think twice before anything which can be construed as criticism of the Administration – and once again the country is likely to close ranks behind a president whose approval rating even now tops 70 per cent, nine months after the attacks of 11 September.
Some do publicly wonder about the paucity of information divulged – according to the the CBS television network yesterday, those same anonymous "US officials" who provided much of the background information immediately after news of Mr Mujahir's arrest are now backing away from the initial claim that he was plotting a "dirty" bomb attack.
The FBI director, Robert Mueller, and Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defence, did note on Monday that any plot was in the very early planning stages, and a specific target may not even have been selected. But those cautions were largely drowned out by Mr Ashcroft's assertion – all the more dramatic in that he chose to make it in Moscow during a trip to Russia on unrelated matters – that the authorities had "disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot to attack the US by exploding a radioactive dirty bomb."
For the Bush administration, the more alarmed the public the better as it tries to push through Congress a measure to set up a new Department of Homeland Security and seeks to convince Americans, as the holiday season begins, that the war on terror continues, and that al-Qa'ida remains a potent threat.
The arrest, moreover, deflects attention from the deficiencies of the security services – especially the FBI – before 11 September, which are now under a Congressional spotlight. It gives some substance too to the torrent of warnings from the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, down, that it was inevitable that terrorists would sooner or later obtain weapons of mass destruction and use them.
A dirty bomb, as expert after expert points out, is anything but a WMD, and might initially cause no more than a few dozen casualties. But the longer-term decontamination problem, and alarm at the very mention of the word radioactive, more than compensates.
Far from coincidentally, the unnamed "senior officials" who have furnished the background to the arrest have lavishly praised the co-operation between the CIA and the FBI – whose previously frosty relations long bedevilled US intelligence gathering. In other words, according to the White House script, the problems of the past are over.
Yesterday Mr Ashcroft used the alleged threat posed by Mr Muhajir to bolster his defences on another front: against the charge that in their pursuit of terrorists the authorities had trampled on the civil rights of detainees.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups have been highly critical of how Mr Mujahir, though a US citizej, is being deemed an "enemy combatant" and has been turned over to the military without access to a lawyer. His treatment comes on top of the continuing detainment of hundreds of individuals taken into custody after 11 September despite the lack of evidence of even indirect involvement with the attacks.
But Mr Ashcroft, as he continued his European tour in Hungary yesterday, was unrepentant. It not the Bush administration, but the terrorists themselves, who were endangering civil freedoms, by carrying out the devastating attacks in New York and Washington, and now trying to build radioactive weapons.
"It is the terrorist who threatens liberty, freedom, equality, human dignity and even the existence of humanity," the Attorney General declared.
• One of nine charges filed against Richard Reid, who is accused of trying to blow up an airliner with explosives in his shoes, was thrown out by a judge in Boston yesterday.
The charge of attempting to wreck a mass transportation vehicle was filed under the USA Patriot Act, which was passed by Congress after the 11 September terrorist attacks.
But district judge William Young ruled that an aircraft is not a vehicle as defined by the new law. Mr Reid still faces eight charges, including attempted murder and attempted destruction of an aircraft.
|Re: return of 'war on terror' can only help Bush|
|06/12/02 at 00:49:23|
British security sources raise doubts over US claims about 'dirty bomber'
By Kim Sengupta and Andrew Buncombe in Washington
12 June 2002
British and European security officials are highly sceptical of American claims that the alleged "dirty bomb" plotter, Abdullah al-Muhajir, was preparing to unleash a radioactive attack.
British sources point out that despite extensive inquiries, no evidence has been produced to show that he had access to the radioactive material needed to build the bomb, or indeed that he had even worked out a time or place to launch the attack.
The most that could be said about Mr Muhajir, a former member of a Chicago street gang now allegedly working for al-Qa'ida, is that he had the "intention" of launching such an attack, security sources said.
President Bush announced yesterday that a "full-scale manhunt" was under way across the United States for accomplices of Mr Muhajir. "We will run down every lead, every hint. We're in for a long struggle in this war on terror. And there are people that still want to harm America."
Before his arrest at Chicago's O'Hare airport on 8 May, Mr Muhajir – who changed his name from Jose Padilla – stopped in Zurich on the way from Pakistan, where he collected $10,500 (£7,000).
Despite claims by the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, that the FBI had disrupted a plan to launch a radioactive attack against Washington, other officials conceded yesterday that there was no evidence that any such plot had progressed beyond the most basic stages.
British security sources, who believe Mr Muhajir might have been acting as a courier, said the Americans investigated Mr Muhajir's activities and tried to find a terrorist network he may have been involved with inside the US. The highly publicised announcement of the arrest only came after the failure to find anything more incriminating.
In Washington there was a growing suspicion that the arrest was seized on by the Bush administration in dramatic fashion for political ends. British and European security agencies do believe, however, that there is still a real threat of a possible attack.
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board