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Sunday, December 03, 2023

U.S. officials soften rhetoric

As the nation formally ended 12 days of mourning Sunday, Bush administration officials cautioned Americans not to expect a massive military response to the Sept. 11 attacks but instead a silent and invisible diplomatic and financial campaign aimed at crippling terrorists.  




Secretary of State Colin Powell said White House officials will produce a document that will contain compelling evidence showing that Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden and his global terrorist network, al Qaeda, were responsible for the devastating attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  




'I think in the near future, we'll be able to put out a paper, a document, that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking him to the attack,' Powell said on the NBC news program 'Meet the Press.'  




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The remarks by Powell and other administration officials were part of an effort to portray a calm, methodical response to the terrorist assaults, buying time for the administration from an American public craving revenge.  




The assurance that the government is acting'even if the actions aren't yet visible'came as Americans struggled to return to daily rituals. The National Football League resumed play Sunday after skipping last week. Thousands of mourners attended a prayer service at Yankee Stadium in New York. Led by Oprah Winfrey and James Earl Jones, Christian, Jewish and Islamic leaders offered prayers, and New York's political leaders recalled the heroism of the city's emergency workers.  




At Camp David, the president and first lady put their hands to their hearts as Marines raised the American flag to full staff while the Marine band played a drum roll and 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' The three-minute ceremony was the formal end to the government-declared mourning period, during which flags flew at half staff. 




Defining the goal

The Bush administration is debating whether to make the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan an explicit objective of the upcoming military campaign against Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and his followers, according to senior U.S. officials.  




While President Bush warned in his speech to Congress last week that the Taliban must move immediately against bin Laden's cadres in Afghanistan or share their fate, American officials are still exploring the practicality of ousting Kabul's radical Islamic government.  




'We have had a discussion and debate among ourselves whether it is wise (to) embrace the overthrow of the Taliban as part of the strategy or not. That continues,' a senior administration official said.  




Powell and other State Department officials have recommended that the United States be cautious about broadening the campaign's objectives to include the removal of the Taliban government, headed by Mullah Mohammad Omar. 




These officials worry that such an effort, even if pursued through covert support to rebel groups, could entangle the United States in Afghanistan's civil strife with little guarantee that a stable, pro-American government would emerge from the country's notoriously feuding militias. 




Terrorists may target crop-dusters, trucks

Sunday, as a result of what sources called a 'serious, credible threat,' the Federal Aviation Administration grounded crop-dusting planes for the second time since the Sept. 11 attacks. 




'The theory is that they were looking into this as a backup to their main objective, or else as a whole other type of operation that could still be a concern,' one U.S. government official said Sunday. 'There are certainly enough questions to elevate our concerns.'  




Investigators are looking into reported visits by Mohammed Atta to Belle Glade State Municipal Airport in Florida, where he may have inquired about the crop-dusting planes that take off from there. Atta is believed to have flown an American Airlines flight into the World Trade Center. Investigators also discovered a manual on crop-dusters in the possession of Zacarias Moussouai, a man with alleged links to bin Laden who was detained in August in Minnesota after he sought training at a flight school.  




'The intelligence community came to us and encouraged us to shut down the crop-dusters,' said FAA spokesperson Scott Brenner.  




Investigators have also issued warnings to the trucking industry to watch for any suspicious activity involving the hauling of chemicals, radioactive waste, biological agents and other hazardous materials.  




The FBI 'has received information on numerous terrorist threats regarding potential use of chemical, biological and/or radiological/nuclear WMD,' or weapons of mass destruction, according to an alert issued Thursday by American Trucking Associations.  




Last week the FBI arrested a former Boston cabdriver, Nabil Almarabh, who had financial ties to some hijackers and had recently secured a Michigan license to haul hazardous materials such as dynamite, gases and toxic waste.

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