CIA cautioned about terrorism in ’95

WASHINGTON

The CIA warned as early as 1995 that Islamic extremists were
likely to attack U.S. aviation, Washington landmarks or Wall Street
and by 1997 had identified Osama bin Laden as an emerging threat on
U.S. soil, a senior intelligence official said yesterday.

The official took the rare step of disclosing information in the
closely held National Intelligence Estimate for those two years to
counter criticisms in a staff report released Wednesday by the
independent commission examining pre-Sept. 11 intelligence
failures.

That staff report accused the CIA of failing to recognize
al-Qaida as a formal terrorist organization until 1999 and mostly
regarding bin Laden as a financier instead of a terrorist leader
during much of the 1990s.

But the U.S. intelligence official, who spoke only on condition
of anonymity, said the 1997 National Intelligence Estimate produced
by the CIA mentioned bin Laden by name as an emerging terrorist
threat on its first page. The National Intelligence Estimate is
distributed to the president and senior executive branch and
congressional intelligence officials.

 

Nearly 500 counties fail air quality standards

WASHINGTON

Counties in 31 states are flunking air-quality standards,
drawing a federal warning to clean up industrial plants, put new
restrictions on cars and take other action to make their air less
polluted.

Nearly 500 counties, mostly in California and the eastern third
of the country, were cited yesterday as having too much
smog-causing pollution in violation of the federal clean air
law.

The Environmental Protection Agency told state and local
officials to develop new pollution controls to reduce ground-level
ozone, a precursor of smog. Some 159 million people, about half the
U.S. population, live in areas singled out by the government for
contributing to unhealthy air. Acting under court order, the EPA
identified all or parts of 474 counties that either have air that
is too dirty or have pollution that causes neighboring counties to
fail the air quality test. Despite having some of the toughest air
pollution requirements, California still has the worst air, the EPA
said.

The Los Angeles basin was designated as having severe air
pollution, the only one in the category. The area has until 2021 to
comply with the federal standard.

 

Europe rejects truce offer from bin Laden

LONDON

Key European nations, including Iraq war opponents Germany and
France, vigorously rejected a truce offer purportedly from Osama
bin Laden yesterday, saying there could be no negotiating with his
al-Qaida terrorist network.

Many saw the audiotaped offer as an attempt to drive a wedge
between the United States and its European allies, and one analyst
said it might contain a message to militants to hold back on
attacks against Europe.

The tape, which the CIA said is likely to an authentic recording
of bin Laden, was broadcast on Arab TV stations offering “a
truce … to any country which does not carry out an onslaught
against Muslims or interfere in their affairs.”

In Italy, a nation shocked by the killing of an Italian civilian
captured by militants in Iraq, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini
said it was “unthinkable that we may open a negotiation with
bin Laden.”

 

VP challenges Asia to pressure N. Korea

SEOUL

Vice President Dick Cheney challenged Asian powers yesterday to
do more to contain North Korea’s nuclear program, saying that
letting it grow unchecked could spark a new arms race in the region
and create a weapons bazaar for terrorists.

“We must see this undertaking through to its
conclusion,” Cheney told a university audience in Shanghai,
China. “Time is not necessarily on our side.”

He expressed clear frustration with the current diplomatic
stalemate before flying to South Korea, his last stop of a weeklong
Asia trip. The speech was carried by China’s state television
without deletions or blackouts, which U.S. officials took as an
encouraging sign of change.

 

FBI warrants have risen since 2001

WASHINGTON

The number of secret surveillance warrants sought by the FBI has
increased 85 percent in the past three years, a pace that has
outstripped the Justice Department’s ability to quickly
process them.

Even after warrants are approved, the FBI often does not have
enough agents or other personnel with the expertise to conduct the
surveillance.

The FBI still is trying to build a cadre of translators who can
understand conversations that are intercepted in such languages as
Arabic, Pashto and Farsi.

These findings are among those of investigators for the
commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks.

 

— Compiled from Daily wire reports

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