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FBI warns N.Y. landmarks may be attacked

Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty was one of the landmarks named in Tuesday's warning.  

(CNN) -- New York City authorities are taking new precautions to protect landmarks from new attacks and lawmakers are looking into why a memo noting that Osama bin Laden supporters were taking flying lessons at U.S. schools never surfaced until after September 11.

The FBI, citing an "abundance of caution," warned authorities to be ready for possible terrorist attacks against city landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge, sources said Tuesday.

The information was gathered from detainees, but sources said the threats had not been corroborated. The information did not include specifics, such as when an attack could occur.

In a statement Tuesday, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said city officials "are taking all necessary precautions." (Full story)

New York Gov. George Pataki said that while officials were taking the threats "seriously," people should "go on and go about their ordinary lives" and not give into fear.

Eyes on the Phoenix

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, the so-called "Phoenix Memo" received new scrutiny from lawmakers amid questions over whether the government missed clues prior to September 11 that might have alerted authorities to possible attacks.

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Written on July 10, 2001, by FBI agent Kenneth Williams, the memo said law enforcement officials during the Clinton administration began looking into questions about Arab students attending U.S. flight schools -- some 17 months before September 11.

The memo cited "supporters" of bin Laden "attending civil aviation universities/colleges in Arizona." The three-page document also talked about a "fatwa" issued by an Islamic spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed Fostok, in London.

The memo was sent to about a dozen people but never reached the highest levels of the FBI, CIA or Justice Department until after the attacks in New York and Washington.

None of the names in the memo have been identified by the FBI as any of the September 11 hijackers.

Williams and FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared Tuesday before a closed-door session of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers later praised Williams as a thorough agent, but said they were unsatisfied with how the memo fell through the cracks.

"There was no explanation as to why the memo did not go to other places. Nobody knows at this stage, and that is something that has to be pursued," said committee member Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania.

Attorney General John Ashcroft met separately with ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees. Williams is scheduled to appear Wednesday before the House Intelligence Committee.

Government sources said Tuesday that Mueller and Ashcroft were not told about the memo until several days after September 11.

The sources said President Bush was not informed about the memo until recently because it was only one piece of a much broader, active investigation and established no link to the September 11 hijackings. (Full story)

Justice Department officials insisted Tuesday they have provided a mountain of material to congressional investigators looking into events leading up to the terrorist attacks and have refused them nothing.

The State Department Tuesday warned Americans of a "growing concern" about possible terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens in northern Africa and the Middle East, specifically those in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula.

Officials warned terrorists may seek "softer targets" because of beefed-up security at official U.S. facilities overseas and warned that groups such as bin Laden's al Qaeda network do not distinguish between civilian and government targets.

Feds say no guns in cockpit

As Congress focuses on aviation security, the head of the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday that commercial airline pilots would not be allowed to carry firearms in the cockpit.

The TSA had been considering the issue for months. Congress gave the agency -- along with the airlines -- the final decision on whether to arm pilots with lethal weapons as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, passed in November.

The agency is "actively considering" allowing pilots to be armed with non-lethal weapons, including stun guns and Tasers, according to DOT spokesman Chet Lunner.

In a report to Congress on Monday, the TSA said it would need to employ 57,500 people to screen airline passengers and luggage. That number does not include armed air marshals on airplanes or a federal police force to be deployed at airport checkpoints. (Full story)

Other developments

  • The State Department on Tuesday released its annual report "Patterns of Global Terrorism." The report cites excellent cooperation among the United States and its allies since September 11. The report identifies seven countries as state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan and Libya. (Full story)
  • U.S. Special Forces raided a compound in eastern Afghanistan near where a fellow soldier was killed in a weekend attack by suspected Taliban or al Qaeda fighters, a U.S. Army spokesman said Tuesday. The body of Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr., 38, of Morgantown, West Virginia, has been flown to Ramstein Air Base in Germany en route to West Virginia. (Full story)
  • Still seeking a suspect in the anthrax letters mailed last year, the Justice Department is preparing to give lie detector tests to hundreds of federal workers at two facilities where anthrax bacteria is kept, a law enforcement official said. (Full story)
  • House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Missouri, repeated his call Tuesday for an independent commission to investigate what went wrong before the September 11 attacks. Gephardt announced Monday he would co-sponsor legislation to create the commission. The Bush administration opposes creation of an independent panel, saying an ongoing, behind-closed-doors investigation by the House and Senate intelligence committees is the proper venue. (Full story)
  • The FBI -- citing al Qaeda discussions about renting apartments in order to explode the tall buildings -- has asked apartment owners and property managers to report any suspicious activity, U.S. officials said Monday. The FBI did not issue a formal alert or advisory because the information from diverse sources was "uncorroborated" and not specific to any city or region.
  • The FBI's Mueller predicted Monday there would be "another terrorist attack" in the United States and "we will not be able to stop it. It's something we all live with." He also called it "inevitable" that the United States would one day see pedestrian suicide bombers. (Full story)




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