Nation's Threat Level Raised to Orange

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by DKSuddeth, Dec 21, 2003.

  1. DKSuddeth
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    DKSuddeth Senior Member

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    WASHINGTON - The government on Sunday raised the national threat level to orange, the second-highest, saying attacks were possible during the holidays and that threat indicators are "perhaps greater now than at any point" since Sept. 11, 2001.

    "Extensive and considerable protections have been or soon will be in place all across the country," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said at a hastily arranged news conference at department headquarters.


    "Your government will stand at the ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to stop terrorism during the holiday season and beyond."


    Orange means a high risk of terrorist attack. Since May, the level had been at yellow, or an elevated risk, and in the middle of the five-color scale.


    Ridge cited reports that Osama bin-Laden's terrorist network is trying find holes in U.S. aviation security, and that "extremists abroad" are anticipating attacks that will rival or exceed the scope of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


    The government elevated the threat level, last raised in May, after U.S. intelligence agencies "received a substantial increase in the volume of threat-related intelligence reports," Ridge said.


    "These credible sources suggest the possibility of attacks against the homeland around the holiday season and beyond," he said. "These strategic indicators, including al-Qaida's continued desire to carry out attacks against our homeland, are perhaps greater now than at any point since Sept. 11."


    A senior intelligence official said last week that analysts were particularly concerned about the threat of Sept. 11-style attacks, in which terrorists would use hijacked airliners as weapons.


    Ridge said that "recent reporting reiterates that al-Qaida continues to consider using aircraft as a weapon. They are evaluating procedures both here and abroad to find gaps in our security posture that can be exploited."


    As a result of the change in threat level, all federal departments and agencies were put in place action plans and stepping up security at airports, border crossing and ports, Ridge said.


    He also sought to reassure Americans about the warning, and urged them to use common sense and report anything suspicious, such as packages, and to prepare or review personal emergency plans.


    "We have not raised the threat level in this country for six months, but we have raised it before. And as before, Americans can be assured that we know what we must do and we are doing it," Ridge said.


    He urged Americans not to disrupt holiday travel plans. "America is a country that will not be bent by terror. America is a country that will not be broken by fear," Ridge said.


    He also said officials did not see a connection between the capture of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the heightened security alert.


    The threat level last was last raised to orange on May 5. Authorities reported at the time receiving general intelligence that pointed to possible terror attacks in the United States related to bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco that killed dozens of people. The threat level was returned to yellow 11 days later.


    U.S. officials by the end of last week were telling holiday travelers to be vigilant about the threat of terrorist attacks. The warning was prompted in part by a raised level of ominous intercepted communications that has not quieted for months.


    On Friday, the Arabic television network Al-Jazeera aired a new statement from Ayman al-Zawahri, the chief deputy of Osama bin Laden. The CIA said Saturday it believes the tape is authentic.

    "We are still chasing the Americans and their allies everywhere, even in their homeland," according to the voice on the tape.

    Some statements from al-Qaida leaders are later regarded as preludes to attacks; others simply propaganda.

    Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday morning that officials were trying to determine whether increased terrorist chatter being detected in recent weeks was an aberration or something more serious.

    "There is no doubt, from all the intelligence we pick up from al-Qaida, that they want to do away with our way of life," he told "Fox News Sunday" after his return from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    "And if they could use another catastrophic event, a tragedy like 9-11; if they could do that again, if they could get their hands on weapons of mass destruction and make it 10,000 (deaths), not 3,000, they would do that."

    Much of the threat information suggests attacks directed at U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, officials said last week.

    "My guess is the government is taking this very seriously both in Saudi Arabia and here," Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN's "Late Edition" shortly before Ridge's announcement.

    The State Department last week recommended that its nonessential diplomatic personnel as well as diplomatic families leave the Saudi kingdom.

    The May change in alert status was fourth time it had risen to orange. Each change set off a flurry of increased security measures by cities, states and businesses. The lowest two levels, green and blue, and the highest, red, have not been used since the system was put in place in early 2002.
     
  2. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    From what I've heard, this seemed an appropriate step. Did you notice that Ridge hesitated when asked by a reporter if they had considered going to 'Red'? My brother is pretty high up in law enforcement and he has said that the people would be amazed at what has been prevented. At the same time, he is not happy with so many unfunded mandates, which ultimately put the citizens and first responders at risk.
     
  3. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Winds of Change is an excellent source for what is happening in terror. I'm posting, but you really should check the site, there are many, many embedded links that are interesting and informative:

    http://windsofchange.net/archives/004419.html

    SPECIAL ANALYSIS: Holiday Terror Alert
    Dan Darling

    The United States has recently moved to "High" or "Orange" Alert as a result of what the intelligence community has deemed to be credible threats against US interests both here and abroad on par with or even surpassing the scale of 9/11. This analysis will endeavor to explain why the alert level was raised as well as answer whether or not al-Qaeda still has the operational capacity to conduct such an attack, plus a few clues about who to be on the look-out for as we all prepare to enjoy the holiday season.

    Just the facts, ma'am ...

    Al-Qaeda desiring to "top" the September 11 attacks is nothing new, as this article from September 5, 2003 regarding al-Qaeda plans to possibly hijack cargo aircraft for use in multiple attacks inside the US should hopefully indicate (the article also mentions a number of names that I'll come back to a later on). According to CNN, one of the sources for the intelligence for hijacking cargo airlines with Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Farqasi al-Ghamdi, whose tribe seems to keep turning up in conjunction with a number of al-Qaeda plots, including 9/11.

    According to US intelligence, al-Qaeda is planning a simultaneous series of attacks against both major cities and remote targets, possibly using domestic or foreign airliners whose hijackers are already licensed pilots as well as chemical or biological weapons and perhaps a radiological dispersal device, better known as "dirty bomb." We know from MI6 that al-Qaeda set up a crude nuclear facility in Herat for the purposes of creating such a weapon and that the anonymous weapons expert from Herat referenced in the BBC story as being still at large is very likely none other than Abu Musab Zarqawi.

    The American Terror Machine

    Joe and I disagree somewhat on the nature of al-Qaeda infrastructure inside the US based on his own inferences from the case of Abdullah al-Muhajir case and to be quite frank, I really hope I'm wrong on this one because of the logical implications that follow from such conclusions.

    In any case, I think that one of the reasons as to why the US has yet to experience a second wave of terrorist attacks since September 11 is due in large part to three unique factors: al-Qaeda's grandiose visions of death and destruction, the arrest and later detention of Ali Saleh al-Marri, and the fact that US law enforcement has finally gotten their act together. Let me go through these one-by-one to show you what I mean.

    1. The Downsides of Meglomania ...

    For better or worse, by carrying out attacks like 9/11, the Bali bombings, the Poshipnikov Zavod Dubrovka theater seige in Moscow, and more recently the Istanbul suicide bombings sets a very high bar for the terrorist network as far as its operational planning goes, which is one of the reasons as to why there is such a lengthy gap between major al-Qaeda attacks. While smaller organizations like Hamas or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are generally content with killing only a handful of civilians in reasonably simple attacks such as suicide bombing a bus, al-Qaeda favors sophisticated simultaneously mass casualty suicide attacks designed to inflict a massive amount of damage as well as to spread a maximum amount of fear to the civilian population. More to the point, al-Qaeda leaders such as Abu Salma al-Hijazi have previously promised the network's supporters that the next major attack on the US will kill as many as 100,000. Chopping that figure down by a factor of ten by filtering out the hyperbole, we arrive at ~10,000 casualties, which would be well within the network's capabilities of achieving - Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing originally hoped to kill over 100,000 in his plan to cause one tower to crash onto the other, creating a kind of giant "domino effect." However, by committing itself to such astronomical figures, the network cannot easily resort to Hamas-style suicide bombings inside the US because to do so would be to grant America a tacit admission that its capabilities have become extremely degraded since 9/11.

    This train of thought is echoed in this article from USA Today from November 27 which states that al-Qaeda scrapped plans to launch a series of low-level attacks inside the US this year in favor of a "more spectacular" attack on par with 9/11.

    2. Ali Saleh al-Marri

    According to the June 23 issue of Newsweek, al-Marri was identified by none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as al-Qaeda's "point man" in the United States after 9/11 and was charged by the network to organize further attacks against American interests inside the continental US. Unfortunately for al-Qaeda, al-Marri, an alumni of al-Farooq camp was arrested December 2001 and is now listed as an enemy combatant, meaning that he is almost certainly removed from any contacts he had inside the United States, likely severing the main point of contact between US sleeper cells and the central leadership.

    3. The FBI Gets A Clue ...

    Couple this with the arrest and subsequent turning of al-Qaeda sleeper Iyman Faris that we know led to the arrest of at least two additional operatives: Uzair Paracha, who was involved in the NYC shipping industry and Majid Khan, who was planning to blow up the underground storage tanks of several US gas stations, and we can see that a sizeable dent was already made against the US al-Qaeda infrastructure by law enforcement in the spring of last year.

    And in addition to leading us to Faris, who turned in Paracha and Khan, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has reportedly given the FBI the names of 12 US al-Qaeda operatives who were reportedly planning attacks inside the US to be in conjunction with the war in Iraq. According to other reporting that followed the arrest of Faris as well as Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's press conference on Sunday, the combination of turning Faris and cracking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was one of the steps that enabled the US to avert potential al-Qaeda plots during the course of the war with Iraq, the last time the US was placed on "Orange" alert.

    To date, the FBI has identified 6 al-Qaeda support groups spread out across 40 states inside the continental United States and if I had to venture a guess I would say that they likely include al-Muhajiroun, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Jamaat ul-Fuqra, three extremist organizations known to act as al-Qaeda front organizations. A parallel might be drawn between these groups and the German-American Bund or the Silver Shirts prior to the US entry into World War 2.

    Decentralized? Think Again.

    A number of media reports that I've seen since we entered "Orange" alert seem rather skeptical at the prospect that al-Qaeda could plot an attack on par with 9/11, citing the increasingly decentralized nature of the network since the events of Operation Enduring Freedom. What these reports frequently miss, however, is the fact that within the course of the last year or so al-Qaeda has been successfully relocated itself to a new HQ - the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    The first whispers of this started on August 28, 2002 when the Washington Post reported that "dozens" of key al-Qaeda figures including military commander Saif al-Adel and top ideologue Mahfouz Ould Walid (variously known as Abu Hafs the Mauritanian or Mr. Mauritania) had taken shelter in hotels and guesthouses in the Iranian border cities of Mashhad and Zabol. This seems to have been noted by US intelligence but little was done about it publicly as far as pressuring Iran on the subject until shortly after the first Riyadh bombings when US intelligence identified Saad bin Laden, Saif al-Adel, and Abu Mohammed al-Masri (the latter two being the network's equivalent to ministers of war and finance) as being sheltered by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) at one of their military bases somewhere in Kerman province.

    More tidbits have trickled out over the course of the last several months, including the rationale as to why Iran is carrying out this seemingly suicidal foreign policy. While the general Iranian response to these allegations are that these individuals are "in custody," such a state of implies generally implies that the individuals being held are unable to run a global terrorist network out of the Islamic Republic. Take for example, the case of Suleiman Abu Ghaith, whom Iran has admitted is among the "detainees" yet is still able to make audiotaped threats to Dubai's Panorama FM radio station. Last time I checked, the ayatollahs don't extend these kinds of courtesies to all of the students and pro-democracy activists that are routinely arrested in Iran.

    At any rate, the latest information is that over two dozen al-Qaeda leaders and roughly 500 operatives are currently based inside of Iran and are being protected by Qods Force formerly run by Ahmed Vahidi, who is now Iran's Deputy Minister of Defense. These developments, among others, led the conservative Weekly Standard to publish an article on November 3, 2003 entitled "Al-Qaeda's New Base" detailing the extent and implications of al-Qaeda having a safe harbor in Iran. If one is to believe Mansoor Ijaz, those al-Qaeda leaders who have been granted safe haven in Iran include both bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Ironically, this squares somewhat with account of Haji Mohammed Akram, a Saudi national who claims to have served as bin Laden's chef in Afghanistan.

    Whether or not bin Laden is in Iran, the point is that enough of the organization's operational infrastructure is both inside the country and likely has been for over a year - more than enough to time plan a major attack on US soil. On the other hand, any successful mass casualty attack launched by al-Qaeda against the continental United States (and I concur with the Belmont Club that they can probably execute at least one) will have almost-certain suicidal consequences for the current Iranian government, a fact that al-Qaeda's backers inside Iran may well be keenly aware of.

    Thinking Vigilance Is Good, Too ...

    Despite all of the warnings of vague caution from elected officials, one of the things that I have found the most deplorable is that a US media that finds it "newsworthy" to show us Jacko's freakish visage 24/7 could at the very least put up the face of the man reputed to be the next Mohammed Atta in addition to being the guy looking for dirty bomb material during the hourly news bulletins - Adnan El Shukrijumah.

    Even more ominous is who El Shukrijumah was reputed to be traveling with during the last sighting of him on September 14 in Naples, Maine - Abderraouf Jdey, for whom an FBI advisory on August 1, along with his associate Faker Boussora. As the article notes, Jdey first came to US attention after he and Boussora appeared on videotape with three other individuals who were apparently intended to serve as the next generation of al-Qaeda leaders. Of the three others, Binalshibh became a member of the military committee while Khalid Jehani replaced Abd Rahim al-Nashiri upon his capture as the head of al-Qaeda's operations in the Persian Gulf. To be quite frank, if Jdey is here than it means that he's likely got a sizeable number of followers to order around, either in the US or north of the border in Canada.

    A Saudi Connection?

    Recently, MEMRI carried excerpts from The Voice of Jihad, which appears to be the main propaganda organ of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In it, we learn that Lewis Atiyyat Allah, a noted al-Qaeda ideologue who has taken over from the late Yousef al-Ayyeri as al-Qaeda's principle ideologue and is a member of the 225 Wahhabi leaders who make up the supreme council of the global jihad led by bin Laden's spiritual advisor Safar Hawali that maintains extensive infrastructure within the United States as a result of the good relationship between the US and the Saudis that could easily be converted by al-Qaeda to serve as a support base for attacks launched from in North America. It is for that reason that Lewis Attiyah's most recent comments in The Voice of Jihad should be remembered:

    "Regarding the Al-Muhaya operation [the November 8, 2003 bombing in Riyadh],, it can be claimed that the house of Salul [a derogatory term used by al-Qaeda against the Saudi monarchy] had some media success in portraying the battle as the killing of Muslims, and in inciting some against the Mujahideen. But this effect is temporary and will disappear if, for example, the Mujahideen strike another blow in America. Then sympathy will return to what it was in the past, and may even increase."

    In Conclusion ...

    While attacks may or may not materialize over the course of the holiday season, we should nevertheless keep in mind that as long as men like Lewis Attiyat continue to roam freely and have access to Saudi finances, we may as well get used to this whole system of multi-colored terror alerts and vague warnings from the authorities.

    Posted at December 23, 2003 09:03 PM
     
  4. bushin04
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    I don't understand
     
  5. Bullypulpit
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    Bullypulpit Senior Member

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    I would take the orange alert alot more seriously if a few things had, or hadn't, occurred.

    Firstly, it would have been nice if Congress had passed a bill requireing the US petro-chem industry to tighten security around the many plants in, or near, major US population centers. A few whispers in well placed ears and a few bucks in well placed pockets killed that bill. Opponents argued that passing the bill and putting it into force would have been too costly. What price human life?

    It would have also been nice if the Air Traffic Safety Administration hadn't laid off some 6,000 baggage screeners because the couldn't afford to pay them. Odd, the Bush administration found $89 billion lying around to provide a tax-cut for his campaign contributors.

    So, the next time Tom Ridge starts braying about the threat level, keep those items in mind. Is America more secure...? No.
     
  6. jimnyc
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    jimnyc ...

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    Terror alert was raised. No strikes occurred. Terror alert has been lowered. I would say the answer is yes.
     
  7. Psychoblues
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    Psychoblues Senior Member

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    I see no harm in the elevation or the de-elevation of national security alerts. Actually, as proven statisticaly in many forms, they mean little to the "average" American or the "average" traveller (immediately post-9-11 excepted) to whom these alerts are designed to notify. They do, however, increase apprehension and give some degree of security to those that make a habit of fear. Unfortunately, there are many of those amongst us and it is those that the alerts are designed to effect and in my opinion create some kind of a political persuasion.
     
  8. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    There are immediate responses to the change in alerts, which has an impact on every working person-the increase is EXPENSIVE, and will lead to increased deficits at the local or federal level. While NYC and DC are always at the highest level, the rest of the country isn't. It appears that the government is beginning to acknowledge that and implement a more 'localized' increase in alerts-say for international airports or on water filtration plants perhaps in response to Bully, petro plants.
     

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