Russian Plane Searched at JFK Airport

Russian Aircraft Searched at JFK Airport

N E W Y O R K, Oct. 23 — An Aeroflot aircraft from Russia was searched at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York today for possible radioactive material but none was found, law enforcement officials said.

They said the flight from Moscow with 176 passengers on board landed about 2 p.m. in New York and was investigated after Russian authorities called U.S. authorities and said an individual on the plane should be searched.

"Based on information that we received earlier today, we have an interest in interviewing a passenger on that plane," FBI spokesman Jim Margolin said. "We believe this should be resolved within a couple of hours."

One suspect was taken into custody, said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House Homeland Security Department.

"Information was received that led federal authorities to search the plane. The plane has been cleared and released to Aeroflot for use. All runways are operational," Johndroe said in Washington.

Agents from the FBI, U.S. Customs and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey met the plane. Passengers were taken off the Boeing 767 as the search was conducted.

One official said the suspect was being questioned about possible smuggling and it appeared unlikely to be terrorist related.

— Reuters

Man Charged With Perjury for Allegedly Lying About Attack Plan

D E T R O I T, Oct. 23 — A man who told federal agents a month before Sept. 11, 2001, that an airplane attack was being planned on Washington is facing trial on perjury charges for allegedly lying to a grand jury.

Gussan Abraham Jarrar, 42, a Jordanian, told the Detroit Free Press in a jail interview that nobody would listen to his warning.

An FBI report acknowledges that Jarrar gave vague statements in August 2001, but said agents determined he had no real information and simply fabricated details of a nonexistent terrorist cell to liven up his jail stay.

"If they would have given me a chance, I would have found out what was going to happen," Jarrar told the newspaper.

According to the Aug. 30, 2001, FBI report, Jarrar predicted terrorists would "carry out a suicide plane bombing attack on the White House, Washington, D.C., sometime during the holiday season, 2001, possibly Thanksgiving and or Christmas."

"He either had knowledge or he's an amazing soothsayer," his lawyer, Donald Ferris, said.

FBI spokeswoman Dawn Clenney in Detroit said Jarrar wasted valuable FBI resources. Federal authorities spent months investigating his claims.

"He liked to talk," Monroe County Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth Swinkey said Tuesday. "He claimed he had a lot of information about criminal activity and literally took our sheriff's detectives for a ride."

At the time he talked to federal agents, Jarrar was being held on a drug charge.

Called before a grand jury in Detroit on Aug. 16, 2001, he testified that he and seven other men planned to blow up the Mackinac Bridge, the federal building in Detroit and the Cedar Point amusement park at Sandusky, Ohio. He claimed the group, called Whatever It Takes, was an anti-Israeli organization.

Jarrar said he learned of the planned Washington attack from documents he found in a briefcase in a vehicle he repaired for an associate of the group.

The grand jury said he lied about the existence of the group, falsely claimed he bought parts to make pipe bombs and fabricated a letter he claimed had been written by a member of the plot.

Each charge is punishable by five years in prison and Jarrar could be deported if he is convicted. His trial is scheduled for next week.

— The Associated Press

President Bush Signs Defense Spending Bill

W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 23 — With strokes of his pen today, President Bush signed into law a bill giving him the tools he wants to wage an expensive, no-end-in-sight global fight against terror and possibly Saddam Hussein.

"Our nation faces grave new dangers, and our nation must fully support the men and women of our military who confront these dangers on our behalf," Bush said before signing legislation providing a hefty increase in defense spending and financing for military construction projects in 2003.

"The bill says America is determined and resolute to not only defend our freedom but to defend freedom around the world, that we're determined and resolute to answer the call to history and that we will defeat terror," Bush told a Rose Garden audience of mostly uniformed military personnel, along with a handful of lawmakers.

The spending measures were the first of their kind to become law — three weeks after the start of the 2003 budget year. Lawmakers who were deadlocked over spending decisions and anxious about midterm elections left Capitol Hill last week to campaign. They plan to finish the other 11 required spending bills in a lame-duck session after the Nov. 5 voting.

The $355.4 billion defense bill, approved with overwhelming support to provide most of what Bush requested, increases spending by more than $34 billion over the previous fiscal year. Bush sought $367 billion, but ran into bipartisan resistance to his proposal for a $10 billion fund he could tap without congressional input for combating terrorists overseas.

"It's the largest increase in defense spending since President Reagan was the president," Bush said Tuesday as he stumped for candidates in Bangor, Maine.

"Any time the United States of America sends our youngsters into harm's way they deserve the best pay, the best training and the best possible equipment. ... It doesn't matter how long it takes to defend freedom, we'll do it. ... We have a duty to future generations of Americans to make this land secure."

With the military moving toward a war footing with Iraq, the defense measure increases spending in almost every area, from weapons procurement to payroll. It includes a 4.1 percent pay raise for military personnel and almost all the $7.4 billion Bush requested to keep developing a national missile defense system.

The defense bill also provides $3.3 billion for 15 C-17 transport aircraft, $2.3 billion for two Aegis destroyers, $3.2 billion for 46 Navy F/A-18 E/F fighters and $3.5 billion to continue developing the Joint Strike Fighter. Another $249 million is allotted for Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles, a prime weapon in the Persian Gulf War.

Nonmilitary federal programs are operating on last year's budgets, under a fourth temporary funding bill that is good through Nov. 22.

— The Associated Press

Lawyer Calls Case Against Islamic Charity Leader ‘Assault on Islam’

D E T R O I T, Oct. 23 — A lawyer for the jailed head of

a U.S.-based Muslim charity group that has been branded a

foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government said

Tuesday his client was the victim of an "assault on Islam" by

the Bush administration.

"Rabih Haddad is not a terrorist. He's not in any way, form

or shape associated with terrorism," said the lawyer, Noel

Saleh.

"This is just a totally unjustified assault on Islam, on

Islamic Americans, and upon persons who believe that the

American system of justice is the correct system of justice —

in that it allows for dissent, it allows for having differing

points of view," Saleh said.

"Unfortunately, the Bush and Ashcroft administration doesn't

seem to believe that, and no longer believes in the basic

tenets of our constitution," he said.

Haddad, a native of Lebanon and Michigan-based co-founder

of the Global Relief Foundation, has been under arrest since

December for overstaying his tourist visa.

He is one of hundreds of detainees whose proceedings have

been kept largely secret, as part of the Bush administration's

anti-terror campaign after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World

Trade Center and Pentagon last year.

On Friday the U.S. Treasury Department put Global Relief on

its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorist

organizations. In doing so, it alleged the group has

well-established ties to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda

network, the shadowy group suspected of orchestrating the Sept.

11 attacks.

Saleh, who spoke to reporters after a bond hearing for

Haddad in a federal immigration court, said the government has

offered no solid evidence of a link between Global Relief and

al Qaeda or any other terror group.

"The government has been investigating Global Relief since

1997 and they really haven't shown us much of anything," he

said.

The immigration judge who presided over Haddad's bond

hearing said he would rule on a request for his release later

this week. Haddad was to appear in court again today,

however, for a hearing on his request that he and his family be

granted political asylum in the United States. Government

prosecutors are expected to request his immediate deportation

to Lebanon.

During a bond hearing Tuesday, Immigration and Naturalization Services attorney Marsha Nettles said Haddad was not eligible to seek political asylum because he did not apply for it within a year of entering the United States.

But defense attorney Ashraf Nubani said the 41-year-old Ann Arbor resident can apply for asylum because Lebanon's political climate has changed since Haddad left, and that his case's publicity would make him a target of human rights violations.

"We have a war and it's not a war against al Qaeda," said

Saleh, who called the case against Haddad "this travesty of

justice."

"It's not a war that's limited against terrorism. They've

expanded the definition of that war ... It's a war against

Islam."

— Reuters

Moussaoui’s Ex-Roommate Sentenced for Lying, Agreed to Testify

N E W Y O R K, Oct. 23 — A former roommate of Zacarias Moussaoui who

admitted he lied to investigators about their activities together

was sentenced Tuesday to time served.

Hussein al-Attas, 24, had pleaded guilty in July to lying about

Moussaoui to FBI agents before and after the Sept. 11 attacks. He

agreed to testify against him.

Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker who was arrested in

Minnesota the month before the attacks when a flight school became

suspicious, faces a death penalty trial as an alleged conspirator

in the attacks.

Al-Attas testified in July that on several occasions Moussaoui

"expressed a general desire to participate in Jihad," or holy

war.

Al-Attas also said then that Moussaoui, who went by the name

"Shaqil," sought to persuade him to go to Pakistan to speak with

Islamic scholars and others who believe that Islam favors

participation in Jihad.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey before

Tuesday's sentencing, al-Attas apologized, saying he was "in a

state of shock and confusion when I lied to law enforcement

agents."

"All I was trying to do was to distance myself from a situation

that didn't really involve me," he said. "Still, I should have

been truthful and let the truth take care of me."

Mukasey sentenced al-Attas to time served, though he will remain

in custody the rest of the year as a material witness for the

Moussaoui trial.

Al-Attas, a Yemeni citizen, lived in Norman, Okla., with

Moussaoui in the summer of 2001. They became roommates after

Moussaoui enrolled at the nearby Airman Flight School. Later,

Moussaoui asked al-Attas to drive him to Eagan, Minn., a

Minneapolis suburb, where he enrolled in a flight school there.

Alexander E. Eisemann, a lawyer for al-Attas, said in a letter

to the judge that his client "was nothing more than a good person

who reacted inappropriately when he found himself in the wrong

place at the wrong time."

Eisemann said it was a natural reaction for al-Attas to try to

lower his profile after Sept. 11 to distance himself from Moussaoui,

although it was a mistake in judgment to make false statements.

Moussaoui was arrested Aug. 16 in Eagan, Minn., after

administrators at the flight school there became suspicious of his

intense desire to fly jumbo jets despite his poor flying skills.

Al-Attas was taken into custody with Moussaoui for questioning for

two days, released, and then detained again on Sept. 11.

Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, is the only

person charged with conspiring to help 19 hijackers who plunged two

passenger jets into the World Trade Center, a third into the

Pentagon and a fourth into a Pennsylvania field.

— Reuters

Pentagon Prepares to Release Guantanamo Terror Detainees

W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 23 —The U.S. government is preparing to free a

small number of prisoners from its high-security jail in Cuba, in

what would be the first release of combatants who are no longer

considered a terrorist threat, Secretary of Defense Donald H.

Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

"There are some people likely to come out of the other end of

the chute," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon press conference.

Other officials said on condition of anonymity that it could be

within days.

Rumsfeld said officials were vetting the prisoners to make sure

they were not candidates for prosecution, no longer of any

intelligence value, and not a threat to the United States and its

allies.

The first batch to be let go includes "a relatively small

number" of men, he said, adding that he didn't know their

nationalities.

Pakistani officials have said a visit to the prison turned up a

number of Pakistanis who do not represent a threat to the United

States.

The government, a major U.S. ally in the counter-terror war, has

asked the men be allowed to return to Pakistan. It's unclear how

many other countries have sought release of their nationals.

"We vetted them and gave our assessment ... that some of the

detainees did not pose a threat" to the United States, said Asad

Hayauddin, spokesman for the Pakistan Embassy in Washington.

There are reported to be some 58 Pakistanis in Guantanamo, 100

Saudi Arabians, a dozen Kuwaitis and so on. In all, the United

States is holding 598 men from 42 countries who it has labeled as

enemy combatants, saying it may legally hold them until the end of

hostilities. It hasn't made clear whether that means the end of the

campaign in Afghanistan or the entire global war, which is expected

to go on for years.

It was unclear whether the men to be released would be freed

completely or simply transferred to some other country for

detention, Rumsfeld said.

The U.S. government has said for months that some of the

prisoners might eventually be prosecuted, released to other

countries for prosecution or held indefinitely.

Though rules for military tribunals were announced nearly seven

months ago, no one has been ordered sent before a tribunal for

trial.

Some of the men have been held for nearly a year since being

rounded up during the air war that opened the military campaign in

Afghanistan on Oct. 7. Transfers from Afghanistan to Guantanamo

began in January.

The main task with them over the months has been to interrogate

them for information that might help prevent future attacks and

catch other suspects, officials have said.

"Over the course of our efforts against terrorism, we expect

there will be numerous releases, and presumably transfers, to other

countries," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis said,

declining to give further detail.

One official said that for safety reasons, no transfer will be

announced until the prisoner or prisoners have safely arrived

wherever they are being sent.

Officials fear al Qaeda will track down anyone who is released

and try to get information from them, forcibly if need be, on such

things as U.S. interrogation methods, security procedures, details

of other detainees and any potential weaknesses in security at

Guantanamo.

Up until now, transfers into Guantanamo have been one-way trips

for the vast majority of prisoners. The only ones acknowledged sent

out by the U.S. government so far have been a man with mental

health problems and prisoners determined to be Americans, who were

sent for detention in the United States instead.

— The Associated Press