But, We Provoke It
Washington Post 'reports' below.
Note the idiocy in the last para.
Planned Jan. 2000 Attacks Failed or Were Thwarted
Plot Targeted U.S., Jordan, American Warship, Official Says
By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 24, 2000; Page A02
Islamic militants headed by Osama bin Laden appear to have planned a spectacular three-country attack last January that would have included multiple bombings in Jordan and the United States and the sinking of a U.S. destroyer in Yemen, the Clinton administration's counterterrorism chief said last week.
"I think [bin Laden's] Al Qaeda network was going for a three-country attack at multiple locations," Richard A. Clarke, national coordinator for infrastructure protection and counterterrorism, said in an interview. "What if January last year had started with 1,000 Americans dead at six or seven locations around the world? We came very close to having that happen."
The attacks planned for last January either failed or were thwarted by arrests.
U.S. officials won't comment on current potential threats. But they noted a sharp increase in threat reports over the past three months. One counterterrorist official said that officials in Kuwait recently arrested the members of a terrorist cell with apparent links to bin Laden and that authorities in Qatar recently apprehended a key terrorist operative.
This year, U.S. facilities and military forces are operating at a heightened state of alert throughout the Arabian Peninsula after the Oct. 12 bombing of the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden and the increase in threat reports. But U.S. officials declined to comment on the precautions being taken over the holiday period.
As a result of the Cole investigation in Yemen, Clarke and other U.S. officials say they now more fully understand and appreciate the extent of last year's planned terrorist attacks, which were aimed at disrupting millennial celebrations.
Details of those plans have been previously reported. But Clarke, for the first time, offered what he called his own "theory" of the planned attacks, based on all available intelligence -- bombings in Yemen, Jordan and the United States, all to take place on Jan. 3, 2000, which was a day of special religious significance during the Muslim holy period of Ramadan.
A person who helped plan the suicide bombing of the Cole has told investigators that a terrorist cell in Aden planned to bomb the USS The Sullivans during a refueling stop last Jan. 3, Clarke said. The plot failed when a fiberglass skiff loaded with explosives sank.
Members of a terrorist cell linked to Al Qaeda, who were arrested in Jordan last December, have told investigators that they planned to use explosives on Jan. 3 to flatten the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman "like a pancake." They also planned to attack American tourists at Mount Nebo and at a site on the Jordan River that Christians associate with John the Baptist, according to Clarke and his deputy, Roger W. Cressey.
U.S. investigators still do not know what sites Ahmed Ressam may have targeted for attack at the same time on the U.S. West Coast. Ressam, an Algerian, was arrested by U.S. Customs on Dec. 14, 1999, at Port Angeles, Wash., as he entered the country from Canada. But the investigators theorize that there may have been three targets, Clarke said, because components for three bombs were found in the trunk of Ressam's car.
Clarke said there are Islamic "Jihadist" networks with ties to bin Laden's Al Qaeda in more than 45 countries. He said bin Laden has set up several of them as "national affiliates," including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the IMU in Uzbekistan, the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines and the Asbat al-Ansar, a Sunni extremist group, operating out of Ain al-Hilwah in Lebanon.
"It's no longer just the Arab world that's threatened, it's all of Central Asia," Clarke said.
In a wide-ranging discussion of the Clinton administration's counterterrorist campaign, Clarke and Cressey also said that the problem of terrorists "hiding in plain sight" in Afghanistan goes far beyond bin Laden's mountain hideaways and includes housing, bases, training facilities, laboratories and testing ranges for dozens of other Islamic terrorists.
"This is 'Terrorism Incorporated,' with campuses," Clarke said, applauding an arms embargo imposed last week by the U.N. Security Council against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia for harboring bin Laden. The embargo does not apply, he noted, to an opposing faction, the Northern Alliance, headed by Ahmed Shah Massoud.
Clarke manages the government's campaign against bin Laden. He helped pioneer a global disruption strategy in which the CIA and the FBI have worked closely with foreign intelligence and law enforcement services to hunt down bin Laden's operatives around the world.
"Overall, I give them very high marks," said Robert Oakley, who served as the State Department's ambassador for counterterrorism during the Reagan administration. "The only major criticism I have is the obsession with Osama, which has made him stronger."
L. Paul Bremer, who succeeded Oakley as ambassador for counterterrorism and who recently chaired the National Commission on Terrorism, said Clarke and the Clinton administration have their resources "correctly focused on bin Laden."
But he faulted the administration for not making more of an issue of Iran's continuing sponsorship of terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.
Clarke acknowledged that the administration, in its zeal, has focused its rhetoric on bin Laden in a way that has elevated his stature in the Arab world and has confused many U.S. allies.
"We say 'Osama bin Laden' as shorthand for the Jihadist networks -- the Jihadist networks that are present in somewhere between 45 and 55 countries," Clarke said. "By using that shorthand too much, we have confused some people into thinking that the problem is one man when the problem is not one man, though he plays an important role and certainly had an extraordinary role in creating this series of networks."
Clarke also lamented that some of bin Laden's followers do not seem to fear U.S. retribution. Many others, however, do fear being captured by the United States and its global partners, he said.
"They have a fear of our being able to pick them off and take their cells apart because we have been [able to do that], and that does bother them, and they are conscious that that's been happening," Clarke said. "I think people sitting around the campfire in [bin Laden's headquarters at] Khandahar are worried stiff about who we're going to get next. They're thinking that the little messenger on a mule is going to come over the hill at any moment and tell them another chapter has gone away."
There is no alternative to taking an aggressive posture against bin Laden and the terrorist networks associated with him, Clarke said, even if it means raising his stature among his followers.
"If we didn't try to contain [his movement] and roll it back to a more acceptable level, it would get totally out of hand," Clarke said. "What if we had 10 governments that looked like the Taliban. A lot more Americans would be dead -- there's no doubt at all about that."
© 2000 The Washington Post Company