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Developments on the War on Terrorism - 2002-11-20


In the war on terrorism, the United States Senate has given final approval to a sweeping reorganization of the U.S. government. The Senate passed legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security. The new department will bring together 170,ooo workers from 20 federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, customs, immigration and transportation security departments. President Bush called the Senate approval a historic and bold step forward to protect the country from the emerging threats of terrorism in the 21st century. There were also a number of other developments in the international war on terrorism. Laura Keel has the details.

Osama bin Laden is still alive. That, according to US intelligence officials, who have concluded a recent tape recording was actually made by the al-Qaida terrorist leader. White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

SCOTT McCLELLAN
“The tape is genuine. It cannot be stated with a hundred percent certainty and it is clear that the tape was made in the last several weeks, as well.”

In the tape – delivered to the Al-Jazeera Arabic television network – the voice, determined to be bin Laden’s, praises recent terrorist attacks and promises that his followers will carry out new acts of terror against the United States and its allies. Such attacks may have already been attempted.

In London, the subway system was an apparent target. Last week police arrested three members of an al-Qaida linked group, who allegedly planned a cyanide attack on the subway.

In Israel, officials say skyscrapers in Tel-Aviv may have been the intended target of a man who tried to hijack an El-Al flight.

And in Jakarta, interrogation of a suspect in last month’s Bali disco bombings led to the closure of schools for American and European children in Indonesia.

The bin Laden tape and information on al-Qaida threats obtained from other sources prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to issue new alerts in the United States. According to the FBI warning, “Al-Qaida may favor spectacular attacks that meet several criteria: high symbolic value, mass casualties, severe damage to the U.S. economy and maximum psychological trauma.”

U.S. National security advisor Condoleeza Rice.

CONDELEEZA RICE
“We are raising protective measures in a number of places around the country.”

Possible targets include airports, power plants, and significant national landmarks. Meanwhile, on the intelligence-gathering front, the U.S. Justice Department has scored a major victory. An appeals court ruled it has broad discretion in the use of wiretaps and other surveillance of suspected terrorists and spies.

Civil liberties groups voice concerns this would lead to the violation of free speech and other rights of U.S. citizens. But Attorney General John Ashcroft welcomed the decision.

JOHN ASHCROFT
“I think it should make the task of securing America from additional terrorist attack, a task which is more likely to be successful.”

Finally, more than forty seven thousand newly trained federal workers have taken over security screening at most of the airports in the United States. They replace lower-paid workers hired by private security firms. A year ago the U.S. Congress mandated that all airport security screening should be in the hands of federal employees by November 19th

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