Terrorism: December 14, 1999


: The two Libyans accused of the Dec 1988 Lockerbie bombing go on trial on 2 Feb. Abdel-Basset Ali as-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima continue to insist that they are innocent. Scottish prosecutors recently traveled to the US to interview a witness who claims he watched the two accused men prepare the bomb. The witness is a Libyan who escaped to the US and who has, for years, been kept in a secret location and protected by US security officials.--Stephen V Cole

December 14; The arrest of Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles, two militia members accused of plotting to blow up a propane storage facility near Sacramento, has sent shockwaves through the community. Residents of the area are demanding that the facility be shut down or its security massively increased. Owners of the facility say they have hired off-duty sheriff's deputies to stand additional guard watches, and on-duty deputies have been assigned to guard the area as well. Some people are concerned that the two men arrested may be only the most easily indictable of a larger conspiracy, other members of which are still at large.--Stephen V Cole

December 11; The FBI is now using communications intercepts from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to track terrorists and criminals. This raises serious questions, since spying on US citizens is limited by various laws and court rulings. The NSA has, like the CIA, been kept out of domestic operations so far, but new "rules of cooperation" are being drafted that will bring the NSA into the war against drugs and crime. The NSA admits, however, that it has "fallen behind" in technology to monitor Email or encrypted cellphones. The NSA notes that it cannot track Osama bin Laden because his top staff use European-made encrypted mobile phones. -Stephen V Cole

December 11; After a year-long investigation, the FBI has arrested two members of an ultra-right-wing militia group who (the FBI says) believed that they would enter paradise if they were fighting against the government at the time of the millennium. The two were reportedly planning to place bombs at the Suburban Propane storage facility near Sacramento, California, on New Year's Eve. Kevin Patterson (42) and Charles Kiles (49) are now under heavy guard. They had assembled a large stockpile of weapons and explosives for their attack. --Stephen V Cole


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