‘Getting into the Minds’ of Al Qaeda Suspects
W A S H I N G T O N, Aug. 9 — The FBI has sent a team of behavioral scientists to create psychological profiles of suspected al Qaeda imprisoned at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, senior U.S. counterterrorism officials say.
The effort is aimed at helping agency directors and field agents understand the new generation of young terrorists who have been recruited by the group blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks.
"We are trying to get more cultural knowledge and get into the minds of radical fundamentalists," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The results of the interviews will be compiled, analyzed at FBI headquarters and shared with the CIA and the National Security Agency, the official said.
The behavioral scientists have full access to those suspected of being al Qaeda members and are asking questions designed to uncover the detainees' personal histories, why they joined forces with the terrorist group and how they view the United States.
Another law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said several detainees already have been profiled. The profiling is still under way and the results have not been used in any law enforcement effort.
U.S. intelligence efforts initiated after Sept. 11 indicate al Qaeda stepped up its recruiting efforts during the past decade. The profiles would be used for developing ways to disrupt recruitment and in hunting terrorists within the United States.
"This is an important piece of our plan to look beyond today and tomorrow and think about preventing attacks even further down the line," the official said.
The United States is holding 564 people at the base in Guantanamo Bay, most of whom were captured in Afghanistan. How much valuable information has been gleaned from them is unclear.
It's not the first time the United States has attempted to profile prisoners of war. Government contractors conducted similar interviews with Viet Cong prisoners during the Vietnam War and enemy soldiers in the Korean War.
That data was used for propaganda pamphlets dropped over enemy cities aimed at undermining support, according to several researchers.
Some experts who study terrorism say the government must develop a better understanding of young Islamic extremists. They say the population is growing because of an ongoing backlash against globalization and Western culture.
"We've seen an enormous rise in Islamic extremism in the young," said Emilio Viano, a terrorism expert and professor at American University. "We are seeing the rejection of the Western world — an attempt to find an identity in a world that has been denied to them. Al Qaeda offers religion, nationalism and a way to strike back against feeling powerless against the United States."
The law enforcement official also said the profiling effort was aimed at fostering a better understanding of what the "Sunni side of radical fundamentalism is about."
The two major factions of Islam are Sunni and Shia. Al Qaeda is led by Sunni Muslims.
U.S. counterterrorism has its roots in combatting Shiite fundamentalism in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Al Qeida leader Osama bin Laden is credited with giving rise to anti-U.S. extremism among Sunnis in the early 1990s, gaining allegiance from groups in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
While the number of formal al Qaeda members has remained fairly constant at about 200 since 1990, the fruits of that recruitment have led to a large increase in the number of young men who are willing to carry out directives from the group.
Stephen Zunes, a professor at the University of San Francisco, said he was skeptical of the government's profiling effort and doubted it would lead to any change in efforts to deal with extremists.
"Much of the public comment from the government has reflected the idea that they hate us because of our freedom and democracy," Zunes said. "I'm as proud as any American but the unfortunate truth is they are angered by a policy in the region, which has nothing to do with freedom and democracy. I don't think the profiling will lead to a better understanding of that by the government. They don't want to acknowledge it."
— The Associated Press
Moussaoui Sought Minnesota Crop-Dusting Program
S T. P A U L, Minn., Aug. 9 — Barely two weeks before his arrest outside an Eagan hotel, Zacarias Moussaoui inquired about the University of Minnesota's crop-dusting program, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The newspaper reported today that Moussaoui e-mailed the university's Crookston campus on July 31, 2001, seeking information on a "short course you offer to become a crop duster (6 month, 1 years max.)."
Moussaoui is a former Norman, Okla., resident charged as a conspirator in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Moussaoui made a fleeting reference to the e-mail in a court filing late last month in Alexandria, Va., where he is representing himself against charges he conspired with Osama bin Laden and others to plot the attacks.
Moussaoui, who faces the death penalty, has said he is a loyal member of al Qaeda but denies a role in Sept. 11 attacks.
In the e-mail, Moussaoui said he was in the United States working toward a commercial pilot's license and that he hoped someday to start a crop-dusting business in Morocco or France. His message also asked for advice on setting up such a business, the Pioneer Press reported.
"I am interested to know what type of aircraft, material, equipment, something in detail, a kind of business plan," he wrote.
Larry Leake, director of the university's agricultural aviation program, said he didn't pay much attention to the note. The writer, who identified himself only as "Zacarias," was looking for a much shorter course than the university's two- and four-year programs.
"We didn't have what he was looking for," Leake told the newspaper, "so I just sort of disregarded it."
Authorities have said crop-dusting information was found on Moussaoui's computer after his August arrest. Officials later twice grounded all crop-dusting planes following the attacks.
Immediately after Sept. 11, federal agents talked to Leake as part of their nationwide canvassing of flight schools. The e-mail never came up, because Leake said he didn't know whom it was from until agents discovered Leake's name in a notebook or computer file of Moussaoui's. When agents contacted Leake a second time, he provided a copy of the e-mail.
The Pioneer Press reported that Moussaoui used the same e-mail account and screen name he used when corresponding with Airman Flight School in Norman in the fall of 2000. He arrived there in February 2001 and logged nearly 60 hours of flight time but never flew solo and left after two months without earning a license.
Moussaoui arrived in Minnesota about Aug. 12 to train on a 747-400 jet simulator owned by Northwest Airlines and administered by Pan Am International Flight Academy in Eagan.
Flight school officials have said Moussaoui was unqualified for the training he requested. They described him as insistent on learning how to steer a jetliner in the air rather than how to take off and land. His behavior prompted a school official to contact the FBI and Moussaoui was taken into custody Aug. 15, before logging any simulator time.
He was booked into the Sherburne County Jail on an immigration charge two days later and stayed there until Sept. 14, when federal authorities transferred him to a New York City detention center.
— The Associated Press
Appeal Over Disclosure of Detainee’s Names
W A S H I N G T O N, Aug. 9 — The Bush administration is appealing a judge's order that the Justice Department must reveal the names of all those held in the investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Federal attorneys are also asking for a temporary stay of the order, which would allow the government to keep the names secret until after the appeal. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled last week that the Justice Department has not proven the need for a blanket policy of secrecy about more than 1,000 people picked up since the jetliner attacks. In the documents filed late Thursday, the government said that Kessler had missed the point about keeping the names secret. Kessler ordered the government to release the names in 15 days, in part because she rejected the Justice Department's argument that it would tip al Qaeda to the extent of the U.S. investigation. In her opinion, she said that al Qaeda would likely already be aware of all those cell members who have been captured by the United States. But government lawyers argued in court documents that many of those detained are not believed to be al Qaeda members, but rather were illegal immigrants who were suspected of having knowledge of terrorist activities. Therefore, releasing the names would give al Qaeda significant information that it might not already have, the government argued. "While some information may have been available to our enemies, a compendium of the entire universe of information regarding the identities of detainees has never been provided, much less officially confirmed," the government said in its notice of appeal. The ruling by Kessler did provide for exceptions to the release of names: if an individual detainee objects or if the government can show that separate court orders prohibit release of information about someone held as a material witness in a terrorism investigation. A material witness allegedly has substantial information about a crime but is not charged with it. Such witnesses may be arrested, but they may not be held indefinitely. Those arrested apparently are all foreign citizens, and many have been charged with immigration violations. Some have already been deported. The department has said nearly 1,200 people were swept up by federal, state and local authorities following the September attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon that took more than 3,000 lives. The government disclosed that 752 people were arrested or detained on immigration charges between Sept. 11 and June 24. Others were held on different charges. In late June, the Justice Department reported that at least 147 people still were being held, including 74 on charges involving immigration infractions. Prosecutors have not said how many people are being held as material witnesses.
— The Associated Press
Free Fort Lauderdale Hotel Rooms on Sept. 11
F O R T L A U D E R D A L E, Fla., Aug. 9 — Fort Lauderdale tourism officials are using the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks to lure visitors, offering a free night's stay in Broward County on Sept. 11.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau announced the promotion Thursday, two days after Fort Lauderdale-based Spirit Airlines said it would offer free flights on Sept. 11.
Visitors to the Fort Lauderdale area carrying an airline ticket and booked for at least two nights at one of the county's 38 participating hotels, can stay the night of Sept. 11 for free, officials said.
Customers snapped up the free seats being offered by Spirit Airlines in eight hours, officials said.
Spirit's offer was a response to travelers' reluctance to fly on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
American and United, the nation's two biggest carriers, have said they are cutting back their Sept. 11 flight schedules based on weak bookings. No. 3 Delta is trimming flights for the entire work week of Sept. 9-13. Several European airlines also have canceled flights to the United States on Sept. 11.
— The Associated Press
Oscar Mulls a Move to New York
N E W Y O R K, Aug. 9 — Could Oscar be coming to New York?
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a group of New York leaders have been talking about moving part of next year's Academy Awards show to New York City to help the city recover from the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The group of New Yorkers — including Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Miramax Films Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein — asked the academy to consider bringing at least a portion of the March 23 event to New York.
"New York City is the entertainment capital of the world and there's no better way to demonstrate that than to hold the premier event in show business," Bloomberg administration spokesman Edward Skyler told The Associated Press today.
The academy is seriously considering the idea as a one-time nod to New York, academy President Frank Pierson told The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
He said an early proposal from Weinstein to move the entire show to New York was "out of the question" because the show is a Hollywood staple and because of the academy's contractual obligations.
But "New York will be a huge presence in next year's show," he said. "America wouldn't be America without New York and the movie business wouldn't be the movie business without New York. Just like the movies, it's part of our culture and our lives."
He said any decisions would have to come after a producer is selected for next year's show, most likely by next month.
The Oscars ceremony returned to Hollywood last year for the first time since 1960, to its new home at the Kodak Theatre. For years the event was held at the Shrine Auditorium and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles.
— The Associated Press