Tags: Ashcroft | Urges | Public | Beware | Terror | Attack

Ashcroft Urges Public to Beware of Terror Attack

Wednesday, 13 February 2002 12:00 AM

Ashcroft also announced new steps to keep illegal aliens from buying guns in this country.

The FBI issued the alert Monday night. It identified a Yemeni citizen and 16 alleged associates who might be mounting a terror attack against the United States or one of its overseas assets.

The information driving the alert was obtained during operations in Afghanistan, as the FBI and others sift through documents left by the defeated Taliban regime and al-Qaeda terrorists, and from interrogation of prisoners being detained at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"We have not refined the alert to define its focus," Ashcroft told reporters Wednesday. He again called on the public in the United States and overseas to be on the lookout for the men identified in the alert.

"This administration believes that the public plays a very important role in protecting this culture and others from terrorism," the attorney general said.

Ashcroft also refused to comment on the reported movement of security personnel in Salt Lake City around the Olympic Winter Games.

"We continue to do everything possible to make the Olympics a secure environment," Ashcroft said.

The FBI has said its alert contains no specific threat against the Games.

On another front, Ashcroft said he has ordered the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to improve the nation's instant background checking system so that it can identify aliens who buy firearms in violation of federal law.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, shortened to NICS by the Justice Department, was implemented under the Clinton administration in 1998.

Ashcroft said that for the first time the computer system would be used to identify attempts by aliens to buy guns illegally, and from now on such attempts would be prosecuted.

The attorney general said he has ordered the FBI to upgrade NICS so that it can give immediate responses to 90 percent of gun checks. Under current law, if a "deny" or "proceed" order does not come through from NICS within three days, a prospective purchaser is allowed to buy the weapon.

Under the new directive, "delay" responses will be routed to an examiner to review the relevant state records.

The Justice Department is also allocating $141 million over the next three fiscal years to help states update and automate their criminal history files, upon which NICS depends.

The attorney general also announced a new department initiative called "Project Sentry." Under the program, each of the 94 U.S. attorneys' offices in the United States will receive a new prosecutor who will work with the local community to develop a "Safe School Task Force."

The task forces will prosecute and supervise juveniles who violate federal and state firearm laws, prosecute adults who illegally give firearms to juveniles and promote school safety.

In other news, the Justice Department is charging a tow truck driver who was stopped near the Pentagon Monday with having a false ID.

The complaint against Imad Abdel-Fattah Hamed, also known as Imad Nimer, was filed in Alexandria, Va.

An FBI affidavit supporting the charge said a passenger in the tow truck, identified on a driver's license as Sultan Rasheed Al-Zaabi, possessed conflicting ID documents.

Both men were initially taken to jail in Arlington, Va.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Ashcroft also announced new steps to keep illegal aliens from buying guns in this country. The FBI issued the alert Monday night. It identified a Yemeni citizen and 16 alleged associates who might be mounting a terror attack against the United States or one of its...
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2002-00-13
Wednesday, 13 February 2002 12:00 AM
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