MSNBC - Terrorism: Leads From a Laptop

R. A. Hettinga rah at
Sun Aug 15 14:24:53 PDT 2004


Terrorism: Leads From a Laptop

Aug. 23 issue - As frightening as the recent terror warnings about attacks
on the homeland have been, U.S. intelligence officials are still stumped by
one key question: did any of the plots represent live threats or had Al
Qaeda shelved the plans long ago? Raids in Pakistan and Britain over the
past few weeks led to a windfall of intelligence about terrorist cells,
operations and tradecraft. The major bonanza was a computer and related
gear seized from captured Qaeda fixer Muhammed Neem Noor Khan-who, U.S.
officials tell NEWSWEEK, was in at least indirect contact with Osama bin
Laden. It was from Khan's computer disks that the Feds learned about plans
to attack major financial targets in New York and Washington. But intel
officials also revealed that the operatives cased the potential targets
more than three years ago, suggesting the plot may not have been active.
What they have not disclosed, NEWSWEEK has learned, was intelligence that
strongly suggested terrorists were actively planning to strike somewhere in
Britain. Sources say Khan and Babar Ahmad, a cousin in London who ran
pro-bin Laden Web sites, had recently exchanged messages about such an
operation. The plotters apparently researched numerous targets, but none in
depth, suggesting they had not made any final decision or that, in the
words of a senior U.S. law-enforcement official, "They were very flexible."
(The method of attack is unclear.) Sources close to the case say that
Ahmad-who was arrested by British authorities on a U.S. extradition warrant
earlier this month-recently quit his job and moved to sell his house in
South London, possibly in preparation for leaving the country. (Ahmad's
lawyers failed to respond to requests for comment.) A British official
acknowledged that authorities were aware of possible plots but said "there
is no specific identification of targets-either individuals or locations."

British authorities have spent nearly two weeks questioning several other
suspects, one of whom is Esa al-Hindi, the high-level Qaeda operative who
is believed to have written some of the surveillance reports of financial
buildings in New York and Washington that were found in Khan's computer.
U.S. officials say al-Hindi is the author of a jihad recruitment book
published in Birmingham, England, which describes him as a Hindu convert
who once served as an instructor in an Afghan training camp. A
representative of the publisher told NEWSWEEK he met al-Hindi once, and
that he was short and spoke with a London accent. U.S. officials, NEWSWEEK
has learned, have photos of al-Hindi that they are eager to make public and
show to employees in the cased buildings, hoping to jog memories,
especially about possible accomplices. But they have so far been blocked
from doing so by British authorities who say such premature publicity could
blow their case. British law requires that al-Hindi and other suspects be
released or charged early this week-at which time the photos are likely to
be released.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

More information about the cypherpunks-legacy mailing list