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Bush goes after terrorists' assets

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush signed an executive order Monday aimed at cutting the financial lifeblood of Osama bin Laden and organizations linked to his alleged terrorist network.

The order froze the U.S. assets of 27 groups, corporations and individuals identified as supporters of terrorism.

"They include terrorist organizations, individual terrorist leaders, a corporation that serves as a front for terrorism and several nonprofit organizations," Bush said.

CNN's Allan Dodds Frank reports on the Bush administration's order to seize the assets of Osama bin Laden and his organization (September 24)

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U.S. banks that have assets of the targeted groups and people must freeze their accounts, Bush said. American citizens also are prohibited from doing business with them, he said. Bush also asked overseas banks and financial institution to freeze terrorists' funds. The Treasury Department may freeze or block the funds of the international banks if they do not help, the president said.

Attorney General John Ashcroft appeared on Capitol Hill Monday to urge lawmakers to pass quickly a legislative package that would broaden law enforcement surveillance powers and make it easier for U.S. authorities to detain or deport suspected alien terrorists.

Terrorism is "a clear and present danger" and that law enforcement officers are armed with "antique weapon," Ashcroft told the House Judiciary Committee. "Intelligence information available to the FBI indicates a potential for additional terrorist incidents," he said.

Some members of Congress have questioned the constitutionality of the proposed laws, drafted after the September 11 attacks.

Meanwhile, authorities have charged two men in Virginia with aiding and abetting two of the suspected hijackers in the attacks. The men helped the suspects obtain fraudulent Virginia driver's licenses by signing papers the suspects used to get licenses, according to affidavits filed Monday with the U.S. District Court in northern Virginia.

One of the men, identified in court papers as Confidential Witness No. 1, is cooperating with authorities, officials said.

In the latest developments in the investigation:

-- The Federal Aviation Administration has extended a ban on crop dusters until Tuesday, September 25. The ban is in effect until 12:05 a.m. in each time zone, the FAA said. The ban is a response to FBI concerns of a possible biological or chemical terrorist attack.

-- Drug traffickers may be laying low after the terrorist attacks. According to the U.S. Customs Service, drug seizures at U.S. border crossings are "noticeably down" in the last two weeks.

-- The FAA ordered airports and airlines to scrutinize the employment histories of baggage handlers, food service workers and other employees who have access to airliners, ramps, tarmacs and other secure areas. Employees' names will also be compared to the FBI's watch list and some workers may have to go through new criminal background checks.

-- The U.S. Coast Guard has begun checking the identities of passengers on inbound ships.

-- The FBI or the Immigration and Naturalization Service have detained or arrested 352 people since the attacks and are looking for 392 more who may have information about the terrorist acts, Ashcroft said. The investigation so far has resulted in 324 searches, 103 court orders and 3,410 subpoenas, he said.

-- U.S. officials plan to meet Thursday with NATO defense ministers to lay out evidence linking bin Laden and al Qaeda to the attacks.

-- The U.S. is holding Zacarias Moussaoui as a material witness after authorities discovered information about crop dusters and pesticides in his belongings, sources said. The discovery came to light after his arrest last month for an alleged passport violation, sources said.

Moussaoui apparently raised suspicions because he sought training in flying commercial jets at flights schools in Oklahoma and Minnesota, yet showed no interest in learning about takeoffs or landings, sources said.

Probe looks at box cutters

A key part of solving the hijacking puzzle may be box-cutter knives or similar tools found on two flights that landed without incident on the same day that four commercial jets were hijacked and crashed.

The hijackers who seized the airliners used box cutters to attack some of the crew and passengers, according to government officials and accounts from air passengers who phoned relatives before their planes crashed.

Two small knives were found on a Delta Air Lines flight that was supposed to depart Boston, Massachusetts, and a box cutter turned up on a Delta international flight to Brussels originating from Atlanta,Georgiaa, a knowledgeable source said. Neither plane took off, since all flights were grounded after the hijackings.

Investigators are unsure for what purpose the tools, found when the planes were searched, were intended. Officials are leaning toward the theory that the sharp instruments may have been put into position by accomplices for others to use -- in short, "inside jobs," as one U.S. official told Time magazine.

Some box cutters were found on other planes besides the four hijacked ones, said Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, but he did not provide any details.

Also, two men now in federal custody were found with box cutters when they were detained in Texas two weeks ago. The two, Ayub Ali Khan and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, had been on a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to San Antonio, Texas, that got diverted to St. Louis, Missouri. They were stopped on an Amtrak train on its way to San Antonio.

-- CNN National Correspondentst Mike Boettcher and Eileen O'Connor and CNN White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace contributed to this report.


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