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.