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Published: 1/13/2001

Ignoring terrorist threat puts Americans at risk

Laurie Mylroie, publisher of the online newsletter Iraq News, was an adviser to President Clinton in his 1992 campaign. It's evident he didn't pay much attention to what she had to say.

Ms. Mylroie's new book, Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America, makes a strong case that the Butcher of Baghdad was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, as well as subsequent failed plots to blow up the United Nations building and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels and attack U.S. airliners in the Pacific.

“The rash of terrorist attacks directed at the United States ... does not represent an amorphous - and therefore unpreventable - new kind of terrorism,” she concludes. “Rather, the United States is involved in a new kind of war - an undercover war of terrorism, waged by Saddam Hussein.”

Most of the information from which Ms. Mylroie draws her conclusions comes from a careful reading of the evidence made public during the trials of four of the seven indicted in the World Trade Center bombing, and 11 of the 15 indicted in the subsequent New York City bomb plot.

The man prosecutors acknowledge was the mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing was Ramzi Yousef, who came to the United States from Iraq via Pakistan.

According to a conspirator who turned state's evidence in the second bomb plot (on the United Nations and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels), Yousef also played an important role in that. “Ramzi Yousef showed up on the scene and brought a number of individuals together and escalated the original plot,” testified Rahman Haggag.

Yousef was the only individual suspected of being involved in both the World Trade Center bombing and the subsequent bomb plot. Again, he managed to leave the country before the law descended upon the other conspirators.

The law eventually caught up with Yousef in 1995, as the result of an accident. Yousef and a co-conspirator were in the Philippines, planning to blow up 12 U.S. airliners over a 48-hour period. They'd designed a jelly-like bomb that could get through airport screening machines. But Yousef started a fire while mixing explosives in the kitchen sink of his apartment. The fire department came, and then the police. Yousef escaped from the Philippines, returning to Pakistani Baluchistan, where Pakistani authorities picked him up. He is now in a maximum security prison in Colorado.

Yousef displayed considerable knowledge of chemistry, a sophisticated understanding of what the CIA calls “tradecraft,” and deep pockets. But there are no indications he is a religious extremist. Ms. Mylroie makes a persuasive case that he was an Iraqi intelligence operative.

Only one of those indicted in the World Trade Center bombing remains at large. He is Abdul Rahman Yasin. He lives in Baghdad.

Though the evidence presented at the New York City bomb trials fairly screams state sponsorship, the government did not pursue this angle for, Ms. Mylroie thinks, two reasons.

The FBI tends to regard terrorism as a criminal act committed by individuals, not an act of war sponsored by a state. And if the government publicly acknowledged that Iraq was behind the bomb plots, it would be compelled to do something about it. The Clinton administration has been loath to take strong action against Saddam Hussein.

Blaming terrorism on loose networks of extremists may provide an excuse for inaction. But failure to take action against the real culprits puts the lives of tens of thousands of Americans at risk.

Jack Kelly is a member of The Blade's national bureau. E-mail him at jkelly@post-gazette.com.



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