- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

Hundreds of badges, uniforms, identification cards and decals have been stolen from police agencies in five states, prompting the Department of Homeland Security to warn law enforcement authorities to guard against the theft of equipment that may be used by terrorists.

In a bulletin sent this week to law enforcement authorities nationwide, and released yesterday by the State Department to U.S. companies that do business overseas, Homeland Security said attempts to acquire the equipment — including police vehicles — “would be consistent with the tactics and techniques of al Qaeda and other extremist groups.”

While stressing that it had no specific information that the thefts of police equipment were related to a pending terrorist plot, Homeland Security noted that a “large number of items” had been taken and that terrorist groups “have utilized police or military uniforms to mask their identities and achieve closer access to their targets without arousing suspicion.”

The bulletin said several terrorist attacks in the past, including bombings in Chechnya, the Philippines and Pakistan, were carried out by terrorists disguised as police, carrying badges and identification cards.

The thefts were discovered after officials at Homeland Security, concerned that al Qaeda terrorists and others might attempt similar tactics to strike again, surveyed police agencies across the country to find out about missing equipment.

It was al Qaeda terrorists who steered three hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, killing 3,000 people.

“This survey revealed that from February to May 2003, hundreds of official identification cards, badges, decals, uniforms and government license plates were reported stolen or lost,” the department bulletin said. The states were not identified.

The bulletin also noted that several private companies had reported receiving inquiries about renting official delivery vehicles and that emergency services personnel had received requests for detailed vehicle descriptions.

It also pointed out that several individuals and private firms were selling high-quality imitations of official identifications and uniforms, which the department said “increases the possibility such items could be used to facilitate future terrorist attacks.” Some of the items, the bulletin said, were available on the Internet.

The bulletin urged the police agencies and private companies to monitor their identification cards, badges, uniforms and vehicles and to report any theft or disappearance immediately.

The Department of Homeland Security began operations March 1 after several agencies, including the Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Border Patrol and the Agriculture Department merged under a single roof to anticipate, pre-empt and deter threats to the United States.

It is responsible for assessing the vulnerabilities of the nation’s critical infrastructure and cyber-security threats and has been tasked to take the lead in evaluating the vulnerabilities and coordinating with other federal, state, local and private entities to ensure the most effective response.

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