Mzansi Afrika

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Thursday, August 05, 2004

US Terror Alert

USA Today has a breakdown of the intelligence information leading to the latest high terrorism alert in the US:

• Intelligence that officials have been gathering for months indicating that al-Qaeda is in the execution phase of an attack in the USA designed to affect the Nov. 2 elections. This information has been conveyed to the public since April 2004, but officials have noted that it is not specific about time, place or method of attack.

• Word on Friday morning that Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, an al-Qaeda computer specialist captured in Pakistan, was active in planning attacks and had computer files with surveillance information on five financial centers in the three U.S. cities. Officials believe the surveillance files — 20 to 40 pages each, including details about what explosives would work best to destroy the buildings — were put together in 2000 and 2001. But at least one file was updated as recently as January 2004.

• Additional information that Khan has connections to individuals who authorities believe are planning pre-election attacks here. There also was evidence that those planning the attacks had "recent" access to the surveillance information about the financial buildings. An official refused to explain what he meant by "recent," other than to say it did not mean last week.

• Intelligence about a separate threat to New York City. Officials would offer no details but said the threat was being taken very seriously and remains under investigation. That threat alone was deemed serious enough that it might have prompted action.

The timing of the terror alert seems rather politically expedient to George W. If a terror attack is prevented he'll walk away looking like a hero, it gets Kerry out of the headlines, and diverts attention away from the chaos and confusion that we call Iraq. Another attack will almost certainly mean saying good-bye to another term in office. But let's not be too unkind to the old boy, he does have a duty to protect the American people and after 9/11 prevention is definately better than cure.

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