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Jewish World Review April 25, 2002 / 14 Iyar, 5762

Matt Towery

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One step ahead of devious minds capable of unthinkable crimes?


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Early in April, we reported that highly placed sources were quietly voicing concern over the potential of suicide bombings coming to the United States or U.S. interests abroad. As we noted at the time, these same sources had indicated that at least one of the major early alerts posted by the government after Sept. 11 was about just this possibility.

Not long after that story earlier this month -- which some doubted, if the reaction from some readers is any indication -- there began to appear, in both print and broadcast media, reports about the risk of domestic suicide bombers. As was noted last week, much of this was due to subsequent comments made by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Now, new evidence is surfacing to support the original concerns about Palestinian-style attacks in the U.S.

In the first few days following the Attack on America, intelligence officials were aware that the primary goal of Osama bin Laden and his followers was to badly damage the financial stability of the U.S. Attacks on military and government installations have always been a part of war. But the destruction of the World Trade Center was the ultimate symbol of victory for the many loosely tied groups who want to see America's power and influence diminished.

Over the months since the Attack, the Treasury Department has reportedly been working feverishly to protect the safety of our monetary system. Reliable sources say there existed a significant concern last November and December over the possibility that U.S. currency could be tainted. Apparently this would be to trigger an effect similar to the one brought about by the anthrax letters mailed last year to a Florida media company and to various members of Congress, which scared the public right in the middle of an economically important holiday spending period late in 2001.

But even as those concerns began to fade, new and potentially more dangerous threats were emerging. Reportedly, the IRS, Treasury Department and Federal Reserve have moved swiftly to beef up security by developing what one source called a new "cyber-attack-proof" computer system. Officials are aware that a widespread cyber-attack could have a paralyzing impact on the flow of funds and that the resulting panic it might cause in both domestic and foreign financial markets would be immeasurable.

But computer problems can be fixed. Harder to mend are people's concerns about walking into banks, or the skittishness of those working in financial institutions who might fear for their lives.

When we ran the initial report about the concern over the possibility of suicide bombers in the U.S., it was not yet clear that government officials were connecting other dots. This past week, the story -- or at least some of the story -- finally emerged in the form of a warning by Attorney General John Ashcroft. He issued a warning -- serious but not overly dramatic -- to financial institutions, especially in northeastern states, to be on alert for possible violent attacks on banks or other financial centers. Later reports made it clear that the greatest concern was the possibility that these attacks might come in the form of suicide bombings.

On April 3, it may have seemed to be tempting fate to suggest that suicide bombings in the U.S. were a legitimate concern of U.S. officials. Now, suddenly it is painfully obvious that our sources were not only correct, but have been accurate in their insistence that America's financial institutions have been and remain the focus of attention by our enemies.

There is good news. Our nation's intelligence and law enforcement agencies are performing at an amazingly effective level. While the story may be that a top al Qaeda leader broke down and confessed to possible attacks on banks, the truth is that top officials already had more than enough reason to be vigilant, and have been so for months. That would explain the rumors early this week that captured al Qaeda leader Abu Zubayda supplied the tip about bank attacks. The inaccuracy was the attribution to Zubayda. Regardless of what Zubayda might or might not have said, officials from numerous sources had already verified the threat.

The improved level of protection does not end there. Those airports that have been manned by federally trained officials are reporting fewer security breaches and are processing passengers more quickly than before. Other potential targets of terrorism, such as the U.S. food supply, are now receiving the attention of Congress.

Yes, it is disturbing to suggest that suicide attacks could occur in the U.S., and we all pray that such terrorist tactics will not be seen on our soil. But it's still reassuring that the government seems to be staying one step ahead of devious minds capable of unthinkable crimes.



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© 2001, Creators Syndicate