- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

The Navy is investigating 11 incidents in which "Arab" or "Middle Eastern" males appeared to be conducting surveillance of naval bases, and, on one occasion, a truck loaded with munitions, according to an internal message to commanders.
The Oct. 11 message from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) recounts disturbing cases of suspicious activity around major air bases and ports that could be the prelude to terrorist attacks. A copy of the message was obtained by The Washington Times.
The document deals strictly with Navy facilities worldwide. But a senior U.S. official said the armed forces are operating under the assumption that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network has conducted surveillance of military installations belonging to all the services in preparation for possible attacks.
The U.S. charges that bin Laden and al Qaeda executed the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The United States also has accumulated evidence linking bin Laden to the suicide bomber attack on the destroyer USS Cole that killed 17 sailors in a Yemen port. Bin Laden has urged his army of terrorists to specifically attack American military personnel.
What's more, defense sources say in recent years suspicious persons were seen photographing the Pentagon in a methodical manner.
The Navy message states, "The report documents a collection of incidents that remain under investigation but still has not been fully mitigated. None of this information has been definitely linked to pre-operational terrorist activity."
Among the incidents, both before and after the Sept. 11 attack:
A truck driver transporting ammunition and explosives from a naval weapons center said a Middle Eastern man approached him at a truck stop in Kentucky.
"Subject was observed looking the truck over, then asked the driver where he was heading," the message states. "The truck driver did not answer, and a white vehicle bearing Florida license plates followed his truck for the remainder of the trip" to Hanover, Pa.
Some of the terrorists who executed the Sept. 11 attack lived and trained in Florida.
The Island County, Wash., sheriff's office told of reports of suspicious behavior by "three Arab males" who checked into a motel near a major naval air station. The three drove a rented car. The name on the rental agreement "did not match the name given by the driver to the motel."
"Three Arabic males were reported acting in a suspicious manner and possibly surveying [Naval Air Station] Whidbey Island [in Washington]."
"The individuals were on the beach with fishing gear; however, [they] did not do any fishing and their gear was not appropriate. The same individuals had been ordered out of a restricted area of the park by park rangers earlier in the day where they were observed videotaping the Deception Pass Bridge."
A "Middle Eastern" man visited a county property assessment office and got parcel maps of all private property surrounding the Whidbey station.
Two males at an air show at the Willow Grove, Pa., Naval Air Station, trained high-powered scopes on areas of the flight line closed to the public. "The individuals were writing numbers in a notebook, which the spectator believed to be tail numbers of various aircraft on the flight line," the message says.
The suspicious activity was chronicled by NCIS' anti-terrorism task force and sent to major commands around the world, including the fleet. The reports were gleaned from hundreds of other sightings that were judged inconsequential.
Lt. Cmdr. Cate Mueller, a Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said the reports "indicate there is increased security awareness and we are looking at all the reports and cataloging and assessing them to determine if there is a threat."
She added, "I'm not going to get into the specifics of any of the ones discussed in the message."
Since Sept. 11, she said, the Navy has introduced "a number of proactive measures to ensure the safety of our men and women and equipment which is vital to our national security."
The Navy has been hit particularly hard by bin Laden's terrorists. In addition to the 17 sailors killed on the Cole last year, one of the hijacked airliners demolished the Navy's Pentagon command center, killing 33 sailors and nine civilian employees.

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