- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2001

The Justice Department yesterday clamped down on illegal aliens as part of a massive anti-terrorism strategy, with the FBI now investigating concerns that as many as six jetliners were targeted in last week's attacks.
Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to take aliens into custody who have violated the law "and may pose a threat to America."
He also directed INS Commissioner James Ziglar to expand the length of time aliens can be held before charges have to be filed from 24 hours to 48 hours "or to an additional reasonable time if necessary under an emergency or in other extraordinary circumstances."
The rule change applies to the 75 persons already in custody, many of whom have been linked to terrorist organizations involved in last week's attacks on New York and Washington. Several are said to be cooperating with investigators.
Meanwhile, the FBI investigation is focusing on concerns that as many as six commercial jetliners may have been the targets of hijackers last week in a plot to attack U.S. interests.
"We are looking at the possibility that there may have been more than four planes targeted for hijacking," said Mr. Ashcroft. "But we are not able at this time to confirm that." He did not elaborate.
Law-enforcement authorities confirmed late yesterday that a third hijack team may have been aboard an American Airlines flight scheduled to take off from Boston's Logan International Airport on the same day that two others from there were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center. That plane, fully loaded with fuel and bound for Los Angeles, was grounded because of mechanical problems, authorities said.
Authorities said the FBI is trying to trace several passengers of Middle Eastern descent listed on the flight manifest. None of those passengers returned for the flight after it was rescheduled for a Friday departure, authorities said. The FBI has declined comment.
Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, this week cited "credible evidence" that the Sept. 11 hijackings were part of a "multiday" plan of terrorist attacks orchestrated by Osama bin Laden.
FBI agents are questioning 75 persons now in custody on immigration violations about an expanded plot, and investigators are tracking thousands of other leads. These leads include information that the hijackers and their accomplices who provided cash and logistical support worked on the scheme over several years, formalizing it during the past few months.
Four of those detained are being held as material witnesses on warrants issued by a federal grand jury in New York. They are believed to be two India natives who were arrested in Texas after police boarded an Amtrak train and found them in possession of $5,000 in cash and box cutters similar to those used by the hijackers; an Algerian man who offered large amounts of money for flight training in Minnesota; and a Saudi national doing a medical residency at the University of Texas.
In his crackdown on terrorism, Mr. Ashcroft also has instructed the country's 93 U.S. attorneys to establish an anti-terrorism task force of federal law- enforcement agencies to "disrupt, dismantle and punish terrorist organizations throughout the country."
"We must all recognize that our mission has changed. It has been changed by the events of this last week. The threat that seemed fairly remote to most Americans seven days ago is now felt in every heart and every home in the United States," he said. "To dispel this threat, we must meet it with ingenuity and with determination."
Mr. Ashcroft said the tightened net around aliens who had committed crimes would not infringe on the privacy rights and personal freedoms of law-abiding citizens.
"We will not yield in our determination to protect the constitutional rights of individuals," he said. "Very frankly, those who attack the United States would attack the constitutional rights as well as the safety of individuals. We're going to do everything we can to harmonize the constitutional rights of individuals with every legal capacity we can muster to also protect the safety and security of individuals."
Mr. Ashcroft said 135,000 leads have been received from the public or generated by FBI agents across the country, all of which have been "extremely helpful" in assembling a list of individuals who might have information about the accomplices or were themselves accomplices.
But, he said, a great amount of information remained to be collected in order for investigators to understand how last week's attacks were planned and the full extent of the damage the terrorists intended to cause.
Robert Weiner, a former official with the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, yesterday said bin Laden could be prosecuted under existing drug laws because of his ties to Afghanistan's massive heroin trade. He said the terrorist's ties to Afghanistan's suspected heroin trade was "an additional way to expose and prosecute" the Saudi exile.
"The Taliban government has made no effective attack against opium cultivation or production," he said. "On the contrary, they have nurtured the development of an infrastructure for the production of heroin."

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