- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Inspectors at six of the nation’s busiest airports, including Washington Dulles International, are on alert for travelers of Pakistani descent — including U.S. citizens — with “rope burns, unusual bruises or scars” that could have been received at terrorist camps run by Islamic extremists.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security bulletin, have been warned that potential terrorists who trained at camps in Pakistan may seek to return to the United States between now and the November presidential elections to carry out new attacks.

Law enforcement authorities confirmed yesterday that the bulletin directs “increased scrutiny” of passengers at Dulles, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Newark’s Liberty International Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County International Airport, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Los Angeles International Airport.

A Homeland Security official yesterday downplayed the alert, saying it was a “regular” memo to inspectors at six airports and the 22nd such memo this year.

“It basically told them to be on the lookout for passengers that may have had certain activities or lack thereof when travelling to and from Pakistan. This is a regular occurrence and there is no specific threat associated with it. At the same time, we asked inspectors to look at certain activities of travellers coming into the U.S.,” the official said.

CBP officials declined comment.

The June 17 bulletin, according to authorities, directs federal inspectors to focus on foreign travelers, naturalized U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents of Pakistani descent “who exhibit evidence of suspicious travel, including short trips to Pakistan not related to family or business.”

The suspicious travelers are to be directed by primary inspectors at the six airports to secondary inspections, where more detailed checks are made.

The bulletin noted, authorities said, that persons who trained at terrorist camps may exhibit certain features the inspectors might be able to readily identify, including rope burns on the arms and legs from rappelling training, unusual bruises from obstacle courses, and wounds or scars that may have occurred during firearm or explosives training.

U.S. intelligence officials are concerned, according to the bulletin, that persons trained in the Pakistani camps could be intent on “committing illegal activities in the United States.”

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security announced this week a dozen commercial airline pilots and crew members from foreign countries were banned from flying into the United States after background checks showed suspected ties to terrorists or other criminal activity.

Homeland Security officials scrutinized 450,000 crew members who have flown into the U.S. since March and found nine pilots with suspected terrorist ties, two crew members carrying fake passports and a third with an arrest record for assaulting a police officer.

The officials said the countries of origin of the flight crew members could not be released because of legal concerns. Government officials also inspected 2.7 million truckers licensed to carry hazardous materials and flagged 29 drivers with suspected links to terrorist operations.

“This reflects a new capability of the Department of Homeland Security,” said Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security.

With the Fourth of July weekend approaching, federal and airline officials are stepping up security but will not raise the national security alert level, which remains at Code Yellow, or elevated.

Also, pilots trained to carry guns to protect their aircraft against terrorists can now travel with their weapons when they commute from one airport to another as passengers, instead of checking them with luggage carried in the plane’s belly.

The change in policy was a result of hundreds of reported incidents that weapons packed in lockboxes had been mishandled, lost or sent to baggage claim. At least one gun has never been recovered.

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