Crackdown Targets 46 Terror Groups

The Sept. 11 terror attacks had a profound impact on the United States, and the effects are still rippling across American society in large and small ways. Here is a periodic wrap-up of some of them.

Immigration Crackdown Targets 46 Terror Groups

W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 31 — Attorney General John Ashcroft announced a sweeping new immigration crackdown today, designating 46 terrorist groups whose members and supporters will be banned from entering the country.

Ashcroft said the designation "will enable us to prevent aliens who are affiliated with them from entering the United States." See letter Ashcroft sent to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The attorney general also announced the creation of a new foreign terrorist tracking task force to "neutralize the threat of terrorist aliens."

Ashcroft said the task force will be charged with denying entry to the United States of members or representatives of terrorist organizations and aliens who are suspected of having engaged in terrorist activities or having provided support to terrorist activities.

"We will detain, prosecute, and deport terrorist aliens who are already inside the national border," Ashcroft said. "America will not allow terrorists to use our hospitality as a weapon against us."

Ashcroft said the task force will be headed by Steven C. McCraw, the deputy assistant director of the intelligence branch of the FBI's Investigative Services Division.

Immigration Commissioner James Ziglar said the task force will provide immigration officials with "real-time access to information" that will enable them to keep suspected terrorists out of the country.

"We're not talking about immigration," he said. "We're talking about evil."

Ashcroft said the 46 groups include those linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, those whose assets have been frozen by presidential order, and others who U.S. authorities have determined have engaged in terrorist activities.

U.S. intelligence officials earlier said they're concerned that bin Laden's inner circle has issued new orders for attacks against Americans and that the terrorists might strike even if their contact is cut off from Afghanistan, officials say.

— The Associated Press

Special Oversight for Anti-Bioterror Vaccinations Recommended

W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 31 — An anti-terrorism panel created by Congress recommended to the White House today that the government oversee development and production of vaccines against germs that might be used in bioterror attacks.

The advisory commission on domestic terrorism concluded that because there is little market for manufacturing vaccines that would fight anthrax, smallpox or other diseases terrorists might release, the government should supervise and finance contractors' research and production of them. Altered vaccines might be needed to combat manipulated strains of existing diseases, the experts concluded.

"We've suggested that the private sector can no longer respond to the requirements of producing vaccines for diseases that may only emerge if they are intentionally perpetrated," said Michael Wermuth, a policy analyst at the Rand research group and project director of the panel's report. "The private sector can't see any profit motive in doing this over the long term."

The government should establish the capability to "very quickly ramp up production" in the event of a future bioattack using smallpox or anthrax, he said in a telephone interview.

The government has 15.4 million doses of smallpox vaccine on store. Researchers are considering stretching that number by diluting each dose, possibly getting five vaccines from each existing dose. The Bush administration has asked Congress for $509 million, part of a larger bioterrorism package, to buy 300 million doses of smallpox vaccine. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is negotiating with private drug companies to produce it.

— The Associated Press

Prosecutor Admits Anthrax Hoax, Quits

C H I C A G O, Oct. 31 —

A Cook County prosecutor has resigned after admitting that he perpetrated an anthrax hoax on a co-worker.

James Vasselli, 27, assigned to downtown traffic court, admitted Tuesday that he placed an envelope containing sugar on the desk of fellow prosecutor Adam Weber. The envelope bore the return address of a person Weber was prosecuting.

Weber found the envelope Tuesday morning. Firefighters and a hazardous materials team were sent to the Traffic Division's offices.

"No law enforcement official should be engaged in such irresponsible behavior at a time like this," Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine said.

In Blountville, Tenn., charges of perpetuating an anthrax scare were dropped for lack of evidence against a nurse who admitted sprinkling talc on a doctor's shoes as a joke. A judge agreed that an affidavit used to support the arrest of Thomas Henry Arnold Jr. "was not sufficient to support the charge, even if it all was true," said defense attorney Lynn Dougherty.

— The Associated Press

Children Urged to Skip Halloween Pranks

Oct. 31 —

Enjoy the treats, but skip the tricks.

That's the advice officials in Massachusetts are giving children this Halloween, amid fears of terrorism.

Youngsters are being urged to refrain from time-honored Halloween pranks, even if they seem relatively harmless. With the public on edge and law enforcement stretched to the limit, pranks tolerated in the past may not be tolerated this year.

Boston police say any prank that tries to capitalize on people's fears will be dealt with "very seriously."

In Salem, Mass., the traditional "Haunted Happenings" celebration goes on as scheduled tonight. But security will be tighter than ever.

Salem's entire 90-member police force will be on duty. And they'll be joined by officers from neighboring communities.

The mayor says that's so the "Witch City" celebration will be both safe and fun.

— The Associated Press

Memorial Sevice Planned for 343 Firefighters

N E W Y O R K, Oct. 31 —

A memorial service for the 343 New York City firefighters lost in the World Trade Center attacks will be held Nov. 18 at Madison Square Garden.

The ceremony will bring together New York firefighters with their counterparts from around the world in a three-hour ceremony, said Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen.

The memorial is a joint effort of the New York Fire Department and the International Association of Firefighters.

— The Associated Press

City Surprised How Few Seek Death Certificates

N E W Y O R K, Oct. 31 —

Seven weeks after the World Trade Center attack, city attorneys say paperwork for just 1,800 death certificates has been submitted to the courts.

They say they're surprised at how few families of missing people have applied to have their loved ones officially declared dead.

A spokeswoman for the city's legal arm says people just aren't coming in.

The city streamlined the process of getting a death certificate following the attack, so that families could immediately receive life insurance and other benefits, process wills, distribute property and access bank accounts.

It typically takes up to three years to get a death certificate when there are no identifiable remains found.

City officials believe more than 4,000 people were killed in the attack but are still missing.

— The Associated Press