Monday, September 27, 2004

U.S. law enforcement officials have been unable to locate an upstate New York man wanted for questioning regarding threats to President Bush.

Lawrence Ward, 49, left his Bainbridge home in central New York on Sept. 9. A photo of Mr. Bush along with the written words “Dead Man” were found in his house.

Mr. Ward has emptied his bank accounts and canceled his credit cards, said national security officials close to the case. Those actions were seen as measures to prevent authorities from tracking or finding Mr. Ward, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Secret Service has issued a nationwide alert for information on Mr. Ward, who left his house with a hunting rifle and told a neighbor he was leaving and would not return, officials said.

He also turned over the keys to his small, one-bedroom house to his neighbor. The threatening slogan and the photo were discovered two days later.

Investigators determined Mr. Ward may not have written the threat that appeared near the Bush photograph but left the photo in place.

A Secret Service spokesman declined to comment on the alert for Mr. Ward.

Officials said information about the threat to kill Mr. Bush is sketchy but includes interviews with people who said Mr. Ward had planned to kill the president.

One official sought to play down the threat as limited to the president’s recent visit to New York City.

The alert for Mr. Ward was one of several potential security threats related to Mr. Bush’s security during his speech last week to the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.

Other officials said they fear the assassination threat is serious.

Fox News Channel broadcast an audiotape of Mr. Ward praising Timothy McVeigh, one of the men involved in the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

In the tape, Mr. Ward said June 11 should be remembered as “McVeigh Day,” when people should recall McVeigh’s “noble and dignified sacrifice.”

In the audiotape, Mr. Ward also called McVeigh “this most honorable young man.” McVeigh was executed June 11, 2001, for the bombing, which killed 168 persons.

Mr. Ward also said McVeigh “kept the torch of liberty alive in the nightmare of fascism that overtook the United States in the last half of the 20th century.”

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