Terrorism: June 15, 2000

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: greater resources. --Stephen V Cole

The National Commission on Terrorism has concluded that the most likely threat to US soil is terrorist attacks, possibly including chemical or biological weapons. The Commission has also concluded that current efforts to detect, prevent, and prepare for such attacks are inadequate. The Commission said that meeting the terrorist threat would require a tough approach that would include controversial elements. Some of the possible steps include:


@ Ignore human rights concerns in recruiting informants.


@ Make it easier for the FBI to initiate an investigation.


@ Government payments for legal help for agents who overstep their bounds.


@ Monitor foreign students in the US.


@ Update the list of foreign terrorist organizations.


@ Refuse to remove Iran or Syria from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.


@ Add Afghanistan to the list of state sponsors of terrorism.


@ List Pakistan and Greece as "not fully cooperating" against terrorism.


@ Expand Federal authority to deal with terrorists.


@ Designate the Pentagon rather than FEMA as the lead federal agency in dealing with catastrophic terrorist incidents on American soil.

Some do not believe that the terrorist threat will significantly increase, that the next ten years will be no worse than the last. These fear that excessive security as an overreaction to the perceived threat will do greater damage to America than the terrorists. They express concern that increased security could deny constitutional rights to Americans and unfairly target minorities and foreigners. Others, however, fear that Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center were only a wake-up call, and that the next decade will see several attacks on that level and numerous other incidents, such as truck bombs that destroy buildings or collapse tunnels, massive explosions at propane storage facilities, suicide bomb attacks on crowded public areas. Terrorists planned all of these attacks and more over the last decade, but were foiled by intelligence services. Security advocates express concern that the terrorists must eventually get lucky and escape detection. All of these attacks could have amounted to a thousand killed and thousands more hurt, but even so, the chances of a given American being killed in such an attack would be considerably less than the chances of being killed in a traffic accident or drive-by shooting. The problem, however, is the panic and hysteria that would be caused by a major chemical or biological attack. Even a conventional bombing such as Oklahoma City, repeated once or twice a year, would eventually wear down the national psyche. The terrorists of the 21st century are expected to be more dangerous and harder to deal with than before. Large-scale attacks have become a possibility. Terrorist organizations have become more fluid, as networks replace the previous relatively small cells. These organizations should be easier to penetrate as they are larger, but are actually harder to infiltrate because the inner circle is harder to find and has more resources to check out potential recruits. The Commission was highly critical of US intelligence services, saying they were "overly risk-averse" and "excessively dependent on foreign intelligence services". The commission noted that US intelligence services are overly burdened with their own bureaucracy and are often confused as to their policy and goals. The Commission called for clarification, simplification, and streamlining of procedures and making sure that agents on the ground know what they can and cannot do. The Commission noted that the CIA was hamstrung by "up and down" appropriations, and that the NSA was at risk of being outpaced by technology.--Stephen V Cole 


June 14, 2000; Ahmad Behbahani defected from Iran to Turkey during May. He claimed to have been an Iranian intelligence official and that he had documents to prove that Iran was behind the Khobar Towers bombing and the Pan Am 103 bombing. Iran denied the charges, saying that Behbahani is in fact a member of the rebel Mujahideen Khalq and that his documents are forgeries. Turkish and US officials are questioning Behbahani to see if his story can be confirmed. As two Libyans are currently on trial for the Pan Am 103 bombing, proof that Iran was behind the plot could affect the trial. But lawyers involved in the trial said they

 

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