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Intelligence Hints at New Terror

Raymond Bonner and John Tagliabue New York Times Service Monday, October 22, 2001

LONDON More than a month after the September terror attacks, the United States and its close allies are still intercepting communications among Osama bin Laden's associates and are convinced that more attacks are coming, intelligence officials in several countries say.

While U.S. officials have been warning of another attack, the foreign intelligence officials stress that they base their analysis and conclusions on what their own agencies have gathered and not on intelligence they are getting from the United States.

In interviews over the last week, intelligence officials in six countries in the Middle East and Europe said they were unsure where to expect the attacks or whether they would involve explosives or chemical or biological weapons. But they said their information and other indications have convinced them that a second and possibly a third wave of attacks were planned.

There is no evidence yet linking the recent anthrax-tainted letters to Osama bin Laden, said intelligence officials from two European countries that have been working closely with the United States. But if the letters are Mr. bin Laden's work, they are likely only the beginning of more attacks, they said.

Still, arrests in the United States and the disruption of suspected terrorist plots abroad may have bought some time in the battle against terrorism, U.S. officials said.

Since Sept. 11, foreign intelligence services have arrested and interrogated hundreds of suspects, and they claim to have disrupted at least four separate plans to attack American and allied institutions in France, Belgium, Jordan and Turkey.

Interpreting intercepted communications, which are cryptic and in code, and sorting through all the rumors present formidable challenges. According to two senior intelligence officials, one message intercepted before Sept. 11 was the first early warning of the assault and it set off a scramble by U.S. and other intelligence agencies.

In that call, Mr. bin Laden advised his wife in Syria to return to Afghanistan. That message, intercepted by the intelligence services of more than one country, was passed on to the United States, officials from three countries said.

"The question mark was when and where, mainly where because we assumed it would be soon," a senior intelligence official said.

Now the United States and its allies find themselves in a similar situation. They believe that something is coming, but do not know where or when.

In the past, officials noted, there had been many months between attacks - for example, two years between the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on the U.S. destroyer Cole last year in Yemen.

But this time the follow-up attacks are likely to come much sooner because Mr. bin Laden probably had set them in motion before Sept. 11, the officials said.

Intelligence agencies in Europe and the Middle East say they continue to monitor some communications among bin Laden associates even though they are aware of the surveillance.

On the day of the attack, Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, revealed that conversations among bin Laden followers had been intercepted. He was relying on evidence that he had received at a White House briefing, which was passing on information from the German government.

The divergent views on the nature of future attacks can be explained in part by the lack of a central repository for global intelligence information. Most countries pass what they get to Washington, but U.S. intelligence agencies do not reciprocate as fully. Allied governments share their intelligence with each other even less.

An Israeli expert said that, based on the intelligence he had seen before and since Sept. 11, he expected that Mr. bin Laden would turn to chemical and biological weapons, and that American interests in Western Europe were the likely targets.

"We have some basic signs that the people of bin Laden have been interested in chemical and biological materials," he said.

He said investigators were looking into reports that a couple of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 attacks had sought training in Europe to fly crop-dusting planes.

The officials agreed that further attacks against the United States had been planned by Mr. bin Laden before Sept. 11.

"The aims and behavior of Osama bin Laden, and the expectations of his followers and supporters, is that he will answer the attacks on Afghanistan and the Taliban," said one European official.

The roundups of terror suspects in the United States and Europe apparently have not completely interrupted Mr. bin Laden's ability to launch further attacks against the United States.

"When Osama bin Laden launches the next attack, we'll find the next surprise," the Israeli expert said.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 21, 2001


When you figure how easy it would be to hijack hazardous waste and munitions trucks, it's hard to believe that is not the route the terrorists will follow next. We can't guard them all with really efficient protection. There are just too many on the road.

-- Uncle Fred (, October 22, 2001.

My bet would be bio-terrorism. I think the anthrax attacks are the tip off.

-- Nancy& (, October 22, 2001.

Wouldn't chemicals be the most logicall? We are the biggest makers and exporters of chemicals in the world, by far.

-- QMan (, October 22, 2001.

My WAG is terrorists injecting the Coca Cola syrup at various McDonalds with some deadly virulent contageous organisms that cause disgusting symptoms (e.g. hemorrhagic fever, cholera). That would knock off two US icons at one go.

-- Barb Knox (, October 22, 2001.

McDonalds? Coca cola...Whaa? But my doctor,Dr. Kelly said they are already poisonous.

-- Rick V (, October 22, 2001.

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