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Posted: 6/24/2003 7:17:51 AM EDT
Terrorists possibly targeting Texas Internet chat cites attack in July; energy facilities on alert By MICHAEL HEDGES Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence agencies early this month eavesdropped on two suspected al-Qaida operatives discussing potential terrorism in Texas timed for the July Fourth weekend, raising the specter of an attack on energy facilities in the Houston area, officials here said Monday. That information, which did not specify a target, an exact time or a type of terrorist attack, was passed along to state officials. "We get these reports on a regular basis," said an official with the Department of Homeland Security. "We are currently in the process of assessing the credibility of the report concerning Texas. We have informed the authorities in Texas of the information we received and told them we were trying to determine its credibility." With Texas as the target, officials are especially concerned about oil or gas facilities and pipelines because al-Qaida terrorists in the past have talked about attacking the energy sector as a way of damaging America's economy, officials said. A federal official confirmed an account first published in Newsweek magazine that a possible al-Qaida operative known as "Sakr" told another person during an Internet chat room conversation that an attack had been planned for a long time, and that terrorists inside the United States were only waiting for approval from a man dubbed "the Sheik" before striking in early July. The information was more intriguing to intelligence analysts than much of the avalanche of vaguely suspicious electronic intercepts because Sakr had sent a message predicting "good news" coming from Morocco shortly before a successful terrorist strike in that country. "We are aware of this threat, but beyond that we can't comment," said Tela Mange, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. "We are going to be checking out different things to see what we can find, but that is all that I can say." The possibility that al-Qaida terrorists were inside the United States plotting attacks was highlighted last week with the announcement of the arrest of Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver who secretly pleaded guilty May 1 to plotting to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge. Faris began cooperating with the FBI after his guilty plea and had been helping authorities gather information on other suspected domestic terrorists. Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, the oil refineries and port facilities of East Texas were recognized as vulnerable targets that could be attractive to terrorists. In recent weeks the Homeland Security Department announced about $30 million in grants to upgrade security at port facilities where oil is shipped in Houston and Beaumont. The intercept from the suspected al-Qaida operative was just the latest in a series of indications that terrorists could strike at Texas oil and port facilities. In October, the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center sent out two detailed warnings to private oil companies in the Houston area that "recent statements, apparently by al-Qaida leaders" indicated that terrorists were targeting the U.S. economic backbone, including oil and gas industry facilities. Those warnings followed an al-Qaida attack on an oil tanker in Yemen last fall. As part of the alert in October, the FBI suggested that private companies increase their security and make security more visible. "Our adversary is trying to portray American influence as based on economic might and therefore seeks to strike an economic target prominent enough that it would have immediate resonance around the world," the FBI alert said. [url]http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/front/1964157[/url]
Link Posted: 6/24/2003 7:27:22 AM EDT
While driving by all the chemical plants, tank farms and refineries, I've often thought how easy it would be to do some serious damage. I'm surprised it hasn't already happened.
Link Posted: 6/24/2003 7:34:37 AM EDT
On the 4th I'll be in a vehicle pulling 500# of 1.3G explosives. And then I'll help set it off. Ahhh, the work of a pyrotechnic.
Link Posted: 6/24/2003 8:07:16 AM EDT
i guess i'll have to travel armed now. for that false sense of security.
Link Posted: 6/24/2003 8:14:27 AM EDT
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