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Fighting terror

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 1, 2002

U.S. drafts secrecy guidelines for data

WASHINGTON -- The White House is drafting guidelines to define a new category of government information that would be withheld from the public in order to avoid making it available to terrorists.

Currently being called "sensitive homeland security information," the category could include everything from blueprints of critical government and private buildings to scientific research of potential value to terrorists.

No one knows what it will encompass, because the White House Office of Management and Budget has not released the guidelines.

A White House official said Thursday that OMB is working to define the information at the request of the Office of Homeland Security.

Administration officials have taken pains to say that no information that is currently available to the public would be included in the new category. It merely represents a desire to treat information that terrorists might use consistently throughout the government, they say.

But some representatives of private groups that have been consulted by OMB about the pending guidelines have expressed concern that the move will lead to a general tightening of public access to government information.

Agents raid Tenn. homes of two Iraqi immigrants

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Agents with a terrorism task force raided the homes of at least two Iraqi immigrants Thursday, and authorities said other searches were being conducted in the city.

No immediate arrests were made, but FBI, Customs and IRS agents spent about three hours at the home of Fadhil Abbas Al-Sahaf, 34. They were seen leaving with boxes, plastic bags, papers, envelopes, FedEx packages and videotapes. A travel trailer in the back yard also was searched.

Agents also searched an apartment less than 2 miles away rented by Mahdi Al-Tamimi, his wife and young son. Bank documents, IRS forms and other papers were removed.

Douglas Riggin, an FBI agent in charge of the task force, said the moves were not connected to "any terrorist act which might pose a threat to the city." As for whether the raid was related to terrorist threats elsewhere, he said: "The task force investigated it. Draw your own conclusions."

Al-Sahaf, reached by telephone after the raid, said he was not sure why the house was searched, but "I think it is because I sent money to my family." He said he is an Iraqi native who moved to the United States in 1994.

Al-Tamimi, an Iraqi-born U.S. citizen who sought political asylum in 1994, said that when agents searched his home they asked him about sending money to his family in Iraq.

Moroccan said to have close relations with Atta

HAMBURG, Germany -- A Moroccan accused of supporting the Sept. 11 terrorists often prayed with suicide pilot Mohamed Atta, a witness told a German court Thursday, describing the lead hijacker as a close friend of the defendant.

The witness, 29-year-old student Holger Liszkovski, lived for roughly three years in the same university housing complex in Hamburg as defendant Mounir el Motassadeq. He testified that Atta frequently visited el Motassadeq and shared meals with him.

"I would describe their relationship as a close friendship," Liszkovski said. "They often prayed together."

El Motassadeq, the first Sept. 11 suspect to stand trial, has acknowledged being friendly with members of the Hamburg al-Qaida cell, but he denied knowing of their plot to attack the United States.

The 28-year-old Moroccan, who has also admitted attending a training camp in Afghanistan, faces life in prison if convicted of belonging to a terrorist organization and more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder.

No leads reported in slaying of U.S. envoy

AMMAN, Jordan -- Investigators reported no new leads Thursday in the killing of a U.S. diplomat Monday in Jordan's capital.

Security officials have been questioning dozens of Islamic militants as they try to discover who was behind the assassination of Laurence Foley, a U.S. aid agency administrator. The gunman escaped.

"The investigation is continuing, but there is nothing new," Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abul-Ragheb said.

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