February 14, 2003

ORANGE AND RISING:

U.S. Increased Alert on Evidence Qaeda Was Planning 2 Attacks: American intelligence obtained evidence that agents of Al Qaeda might be positioning themselves to carry out two major attacks, including one inside the U.S. (JAMES RISEN, 2/14/03, NY Times)
Officials said there were indications that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, believed to be one of the central planners of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, might be involved in the current operations. But officials indicated that they were now most concerned with identifying and tracking the lower level Qaeda operatives who might already have been sent on missions.

The intelligence indicates two distinct strands of activity among Qaeda operatives. American analysts believe that signifies two separate terrorist plots in the works, officials said. The intelligence is fragmentary, but the discussions among Qaeda operatives of the movement of personnel and other activity seems to be going in two directions.

"They are seeing a lot of activity, and it doesn't all seem related to the same thing," said one official. "The evidence seems to break into two piles."

Much of the intelligence collected by the United States in recent days and weeks comes from intercepted communications among suspected Qaeda operatives. Analysts began to see an increased level of communications recently, and some of those intercepts apparently refer to the movement of personnel and other signs of action.

But American officials also said today that the intelligence pointing to an imminent threat went beyond the communications intercepts, although they declined to provide details about what other specific information they had obtained.

While they would not provide specifics, one crucial indicator used by American counterterrorism officials to track Qaeda's movements is to follow evidence of financial transactions among supporters of the terrorist network. The money trail can sometimes aid in tracking the movements of Qaeda operatives.

One official said that concerns within the intelligence community rose even higher Wednesday night, when "chatter" among Qaeda operatives suddenly dropped off. The official said there were fears that the operatives, having moved into place, were quiet because they had finished their prepearations and were poised for an attack.

Although government officials said today that they had no immediate plans to raise the threat level further, a jittery nation stayed on a high level of alert today.


How many times in the last few days have you heard some Maureen Dowd type claim that this was ginned up to gain support for the war? Unfortunately, if an attack is foiled no one believes it ever existed in the first place and if it succeeds, it's unseemly for the government to say, told you so. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 14, 2003 8:53 AM
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