- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

Terrorists linked to al Qaeda have targeted U.S. military facilities in Pearl Harbor, including nuclear-powered submarines and ships, The Washington Times has learned.
Intelligence reports about the terrorist threat to the Hawaiian harbor bombed by the Japanese in World War II were sent to senior U.S. officials in the past two weeks and coincided with reports of the planning of a major attack by Osama bin Laden's terrorist group. Officials said the reports were one of the reasons that led to the recent heightened security threat alert. The alert status has since been lowered.
According to officials familiar with the reports, al Qaeda is planning an attack on Pearl Harbor because of its symbolic value and because its military facilities are open from the air.
The attacks would be carried out by hijacked airliners from nearby Honolulu International Airport that would be flown into submarines or ships docked at Pearl Harbor in suicide missions, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"The targeting includes nuclear ships and submarines and military facilities in the Pearl Harbor area," a defense official said.
The harbor is the home for 30 Navy and Coast Guard warships, including 18 nuclear submarines, five destroyers and two frigates.
An additional terrorist target is said to be Hickam Air Force Base, located next to Honolulu airport and less than five miles from Pearl Harbor. Warplanes, transports and refueling tankers are based there.
A second official said the intelligence information about the threat also indicated the harbor was targeted because of its openness.
"They could easily attack submarines in port with hijacked airliners," this official said.
Hawaii's airport is a key stopover and refueling point for commercial airliners coming from Asia to the United States.
In 1995, al Qaeda terrorists were found to have planned a series of attacks using bombs planted on commercial airliners departing from Asia. The plan, known as Project Bojinka, was thwarted by the arrest of one of the plotters in Manila.
However, U.S. officials said a key feature of al Qaeda is its determination to carry out unfinished attacks, as the strike on the World Trade Center towers showed. The first attack in 1993 was unsuccessful in knocking down the two skyscrapers.
A spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command, based in Hawaii, had no comment.
A defense official in Hawaii said no extra security measures have been taken in response to the intelligence reports.
"All the installations down here are on a pretty high state of security and have been for a number of months," the official said. "Security at Pearl Harbor has been at a heightened state for some time."
Security, however, has been increased at nearby Honolulu International Airport, where vehicle checks have been stepped up in recent days, the official said.
A spokesman for the airport could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese warplanes on December 7, 1941, in a surprise raid that sunk numerous ships but missed several aircraft carriers that had been sent to sea in advance of the attack.
The threat to Pearl Harbor comes as al Qaeda terrorists are said to be planning a major attack against the United States, either on U.S. territory or overseas.
Intelligence reports last month indicated that the Islamist terror group wants to carry out a major attack to rival the September 11 strikes on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. According to the reports, the attack could be preceded by smaller-scale attacks, such as assassinations of public figures or smaller bombing attacks.
The major attack is suspected by the CIA to be al Qaeda's first attack using deadly chemical, biological or radiological weapons.
The threat warnings prompted the Bush administration last month to raise the color-coded terrorist threat level from "elevated" to "high," or Orange. However, the alert status was lowered last week back to "elevated," or Yellow.
A U.S. intelligence official said numerous intelligence reports of terrorist planning and targeting are likely to lead to another raising of the alert status in the near future.
It is not clear what effect the arrest of a senior al Qaeda leader on Saturday will have for the group's plans for major attacks.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, one of the most senior al Qaeda terrorist planners, was arrested in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and U.S. officials said he had been involved in recent attacks and planning for attacks.
One official said it is not clear yet whether Mohammed's arrest will weaken the al Qaeda organization, but it could disrupt some operations.
Since the U.S.-led ouster of the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan, al Qaeda terrorists have been dispersed outside the country.
U.S. intelligence agencies say al Qaeda is adapting to a less centralized structure that may provide individual terrorist cells, operating in about 60 countries, more autonomy to conduct attacks without the approval of senior leaders.
Al Qaeda also has begun to focus its attacks on targets that could result in economic disruption.
The last major al Qaeda-linked attack took place Oct. 12 in Bali, Indonesia, when terrorists firebombed two nightclubs. Nearly 200 people were killed, most of them foreign tourists.

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