Suspect arrested in driver”s license scam
An Indonesian man named in FBI documents as a contact for airline hijacker Mohammed Atta was arrested yesterday and charged with helping obtain false Virginia identification for another man listed in the same documents as a contact for Osama bin Laden.
Agus Budiman appeared before a U.S. magistrate in this Washington suburb on a criminal complaint charging him with helping Mohammad Bin Nasser Belfas obtain a Virginia driver”s license.
Both Budiman and Belfas are among 370 names included on a detailed FBI list of people sought for questioning in the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The list was released last month by Finnish banking authorities.
Budiman is identified on the list as a U.S. contact person for Atta, the presumed ringleader of the 19 hijackers. Belfas is identified as a contact person for bin Laden, the prime U.S. suspect in the attacks.
According to the criminal complaint filed yesterday, Budiman and Belfas came to the United States from Hamburg, Germany, in October 2000. Attorney General John Ashcroft has said that Atta and two other hijackers were part of a terrorist cell that operated in Hamburg and the United States.
Leahy and Daschle letters linked by FBI
The FBI announced yesterday it believes a letter belatedly found last week was written by the same person who sent an anthrax-laced letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle last month. Agents have decided on an investigative strategy they hope will lead to the sender.
The FBI announcement came as two buildings on Capitol Hill struck by the anthrax scare reopened, and U.S. health experts provided assistance to authorities in Chile who found a new letter that may contain anthrax.
Tom Skinner, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said the agency was planning to test the substance in a letter found by the Chilean government. Skinner said the test could take several days.
Regarding the planned analysis of the Leahy letter, “FBI and Centers for Disease Control investigators hope that this careful, scientifically agreed upon approach will yield clues that will help identify the source,” the FBI said in a statement.
The Leahy letter was found Friday by the FBI and hazardous materials personnel from the Environmental Protection Agency in one of 280 barrels of unopened mail sent to Capitol Hill and held since discovery of the letter to Daschle.
NTSB: Crash still looks like accident
Neither the pilots” conversations nor any background noises in the cockpit of American Airlines Flight 587 show any evidence that a terrorist attack or sabotage brought down the plane, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board said yesterday.
A complete transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, including background noises, showed no indication of a bomb or explosion, NTSB Chairwoman Marion Blakey said in an interview.
“You”re seeing evidence that points in the direction of this having been an accident,” Blakey said. “We continue not to have anything that points to terrorism.”
American Flight 587 plunged to the ground minutes after taking off from New York”s Kennedy Airport on Nov. 12. The crash killed 265 people. Coming just two months after four commercial airplanes were hijacked, the crash initially raised fears of another terrorist attack.
Latest violence leaves 1 dead, 3 injured
Israeli troops killed one Palestinian and wounded another yesterday as the two were planting a bomb along a road in the West Bank. Earlier, three Israelis were wounded in a shooting attack.
The relatively minor fighting and a brief incursion into Gaza by Israeli tanks came as Secretary of State Colin Powell called on the Palestinians to stop violence immediately and insisted that Israel halt settlement construction.
Both Palestinians and Israelis welcomed Powell”s comments, part of what was billed as a major policy speech that he delivered in Kentucky at the University of Louisville
Palestinian Cabinet minister Nabil Shaath praised Powell”s firm stand against settlement construction. Palestinians want a state in all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with removal of all Jewish settlements there.
Requests for Capitol flags surpass supply
A sign of America”s soaring patriotism: The Capitol has run out of the flags lawmakers give their constituents.
Some 100,000 American flags are briefly flown from the roof of the Capitol each year for the purpose of providing members of Congress with souvenirs to send home to their districts. The flags come with a certificate of authenticity usually inscribed to recognize an event or person.
About 30,000 orders have not been filled, and Jim Forbes, spokesman for the House Administration Committee, said they are about six months behind schedule. Never before has the Capitol run out of flags, he said.
“We view it as a good thing because of the surge of patriotism in America,” Forbes said, adding that there were about 50,000 requests for flags in the three days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.