- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

Taliban missile threats
U.S. intelligence officials say the Taliban militia has dispatched agents armed with Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and other shoulder-fired missiles to airfields around Afghanistan.
Taliban missileers also were dispatched to northern Pakistan. Their objective: shoot down any U.S. aircraft and helicopters they encounter.
Most of the U.S. strike aircraft involved in operations over Afghanistan fly above the range of the missiles, at about 16,000 feet. But the danger is greater for special-operations commandos. The commandos are using helicopters and AC-130 gunships that fly within range of the missiles during operations in Afghanistan.
The threat to U.S. aircraft was highlighted earlier this week when unidentified gunmen in Pakistan fired on two U.S. helicopters that were trying to recover a downed U.S. helicopter at an airfield in Pakistan.
Most of Afghanistan's fixed air defenses have been knocked out in the three weeks of bombing raids. But the threat remains from shoulder-fired missiles, dubbed "manpads" by military officials, for man-portable air defense missiles. "We are still worried about manpad," said a senior defense official.

Navy ships cased?
The Navy is on the lookout for potential terrorists following incidents of unidentified divers in waters near U.S. ships. One diver was believed spotted near the U.S. aircraft carrier George Washington moored at its home port of Norfolk. Investigations into the suspected casings of the ships by terrorists turned up no information on what might be behind the incidents.
Navy security officials checked under the hulls and on local beaches looking for suspects but did not find any clues to who the mystery divers were.
"We've got pretty good waterside security and it's gotten better since the Cole," a military official said, referring to the October 2000 suicide terrorist attack on the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole in Aden, Yemen.
The official said a "couple" of incidents of suspected covert divers were detected in recent weeks near Navy ships on both the East and West coasts.

Loose lips
Pentagon personnel tell us they have never seen such a concerted effort from the top to intimidate them into not talking to reporters.
Some view the "loose lips sink ships" campaign as part of an overall White House policy to stop all leaks about everything, not just the war. They also wonder if this is a way to protect operational mistakes and miscalculations by putting every event in the classified realm.
The tight rein on information has included the Pentagon refusing to hold daily press briefings on Afghanistan until reporters complained the public had a right to timely updates when the nation's men and women were at war.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld regularly tells reporters that anyone who talks to us about troop movements is committing a felony.
If that isn't chilling enough, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz sent a memo to top officials recently telling personnel not to talk to non-defense people (read reporters) about defense matters.
"Much of the information we use to conduct DoD's operations must be withheld from public release because of its sensitivity," Mr. Wolfowitz wrote. "If in doubt, do not release or discuss official information except with other DoD personnel."
One Pentagon official says Mr. Rumsfeld is perhaps more sensitive to operational security than most recent predecessors who never served in the military. After all, as a young officer, he flew Navy planes off carriers and knows the importance of not tipping off the enemy.

China proliferation
China is continuing to provide weapons of mass destruction material to Pakistan. U.S. intelligence agencies detected a shipment of material used in making chemical weapons in early September. The shipment was described as a "dual-use" precursor chemical destined for Pakistan's chemical-arms program.
Officials did not identify the Chinese state-run company involved in the chemical transfer but said it was one of several companies that has been involved in earlier chemical arms-related deliveries.
Discovery of the chemical-related shipment came after Sept. 1 when the Bush administration imposed sanctions on a Chinese state-run company for supplying missile technology to Pakistan.
That missile technology transfer violated a pledge made in November by Beijing not to provide any materials for foreign nuclear missile programs. The missile goods sale was detected in August and involved material for Pakistan's Shaheen-1 and Shaheen-2 missiles, both of which are regarded as nuclear-capable systems.

Bin Laden Predator
The Washington Times reported shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks that the United States was flying unmanned Predator spy planes over Afghanistan looking for targets.
We didn't know then just how serious the search was. The CIA-operated drones were bedecked for the first time with Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. The target: Osama bin Laden himself.
The CIA had been flying the drone over Afghanistan for some months in hopes of finding bin Laden so the United States could kill him. The first part of the operation worked. The Predator, its video system linked to operators via satellite, captured bin Laden roaming around one of his camps north of Kabul.
The administration did not want to risk another Tomahawk strike over Pakistani airspace. The Clinton administration tried that weapon in 1998, but bin Laden apparently left the targeted camp before scores of cruise missiles landed.
The administration rushed the testing of marrying the Hellfire with the Predator, but by the time the system worked, bin Laden could not be found again. Then came Sept. 11 and the terror maestro went into deep hiding, where he remains today.

North Korean bioweapons
Hwang Jang-yop, one of the highest ranking defectors from North Korea, is being blocked by the South Korean government from visiting the United States. The reason, we are told, is that Mr. Hwang's revelations about North Korean military and terrorist activity might upset Seoul's pro-North Korea policies.
Mr. Hwang, former secretary of the North Korean Worker's Party who fled the communist state in 1997, has been invited to testify before Congress on the inner workings of the Pyongyang regime.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell recently said the defector is welcome to visit and that the United States would make sure he is protected during the visit. But South Korea's intelligence chief recently said the invitation for the visit was not been made formally by the Bush administration, only individual congressmen.
Kim Daek-hong, an adviser to Mr. Hwang, wrote recently to Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, to say that both he and Mr. Hwang would like to testify to Congress about "the power structure of the North Korean regime, and North Korea's production and sale of mass destructive weapons, including biochemical weapons."
Mr. Hwang was well-placed enough in the Pyongyang government to know about the North Korean bioweapons program and activities. North Korea is believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to have large stocks of anthrax.
Supporters of the defectors hope the Bush administration will step in and help by extending the formal invitation so the defectors' testimony can be heard.

Nimitz II
We told you last week about a particularly bad day for the carrier USS Nimitz as it made its made its way to San Diego after an overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding.
On a foggy Oct. 10, the carrier nearly hit a fishing boat, backed into a swell that rattled the crew and saw its cargo plane land off center and nearly slide off the flight deck with a load of Uruguayan VIPs.
It was worse than we reported. The Navy confirmed to us this week that the Nimitz also was forced to shut down one of two nuclear reactors due to a "de-energized" electrical component. The problem was fixed and the reactor restarted, a spokeswoman said. The ship is due in San Diego next month.
Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Mr. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at [email protected] Mr. Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at [email protected]


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