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WASHINGTON (AP) — The military is
Exploring ways to stop the around-the-clock
anti-terrorism patrols that tighter jets have been
pying over American cities since Sept. 11,
defense officials said.
But four months after the devastating attacks
mi U.S. soil, any decision on ending the combat
air patrols may come down to largely a political
Calculation of how safe Americans would feel
Without them, they said.
As a part of heightened homeland defense, the
[missions began after terrorist hijackers crashed
jetliners into the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon. They have flown constantly over New
fork and Washington since then.
Other patrols are flown randomly over other
[major metropolitan areas and key infrastructure,
And jets are on alert at 30 bases across the country
|o scramble if called.
The military also has been authorized to
)rder pilots to shoot down commercial aircraft
Officials have been looking to cut back on the
brogram for some time, knowing from the outset
[hat the high-tempo use of manpower, equipment
ind money couldn’t be kept up for long with the
Existing people and budget, one defense official
[aid on condition of anonymity.
Final decision may depend on the
safety Americans feel with the patrols
Now that four months have passed and aviation
security has been improved somewhat, some won
der it if might be time to start rethinking the
patrols, the official said.
The operation uses 1 1,000 people and 250 air
craft, another official said, also in return for
anonymity. Those figures include maintenance
crews, pilots for 100 F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, as
well as crews for tankers needed for midair refuel
ing and AWACS —Airborne Warning and Control
System — planes to provide radar information.
At the Pentagon, Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem
said Monday that pilots and crews of airborne warn
ing aircraft may be operating so intensely that they
are not getting their usual training for other missions.
“Maybe we’re not getting the training that we
need done now for our rotations overseas, so
that’s being looked at,” he said. Stufflebeem is
deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs
The fighter pilots, mostly from Air National
? uard units, go up for flights of two to six hours.
he jets are refueled about every two hours, mean
ing some go through two midair refuelings on a
From Sept. 1 1 to Dec. 10, the operation flew
13,000 missions. The cost was $324 million.
Defense Department spokeswoman Susan
Air Force officials had no immediate comment
The North American Aerospace Defense
Command, which runs the operation, said peri
odic review of missions is standard procedure in
“We continuously analyze our ongoing opera
tions ... as a matter of prudent military planning,”
said Maj. Barry Venable, a spokesman for
NORAD in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“We will continue to execute our role (in
homeland defense) until the national leadership
directs otherwise,” he said.
NORAD says that through Dec. 10, its jets
responded 207 times to problems such as uniden
tified aircraft, planes violating restricted air space
and in-flight emergencies.
Not included in the figure is the case in which
two jets escorted a Paris-to-Miami flight to Boston
late last month after a passenger tried to ignite
what authorities said was an explosive hidden in
In 92 of the cases, jets on alert on the ground
were scrambled to respond.
In the other 1 15 cases, NORAD diverted jets
that already were in the air flying combat patrols.
Pentagon officials said privately that there is
mounting stress on the people and planes that can
affect readiness for other missions.
And while they believe the patrols are a deter
rent to would-be attackers and give some
Americans a greater sense of security, they also
argue that scrambling planes against attacks is a
measure of last resort. Security should be tight
ened on the ground before problems become air
borne in the first place, they maintain.
One alternative to constant patrols would be
to keep planes on ground alert, as was done
before Sept. 1 I. They were on alert at a handful
of places before it was ordered at 26 bases, then
grew to the current 30.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — A
chilling videotape of an alleged
lember of al-Qaida, cradling a
ifle, eyes closed, is among
hdeos and photos of five sus-
cts delivering what authorities
call “martyrdom messages from
Attorney General John
Ashcroft released the videos
and photos Thursday, urging
the public to help “identify,
locate and incapacitate terror
ists who are suspected of plan
ning additional attacks against
One of those depicted was an
ssociate of hijacking ringleader
lohammed Atta. Authorities
believe the man intended to take
fart in the Sept. 1 I attacks.
Ashcroft said the videotapes
[The Justice Department
[released photos and video
[excerpts of five al-Qaida
[suspects on Thursday, and
[asked people worldwide to help
| locate them. The tapes, found
[by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan,
[depict the suspects simulating
[ attacks and sending what
I officials describe as “martyrdom
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Binalshibh is believed to have
ibeen the intended 20th hijacker
[of the Sept. 11 attack on the
United States. Authorities believe
that after Binalshibh was denied
entry to the United States.
[Zacarias Moussaoui, indicted by
U.S. authorities on Dec. 11, was
chosen as an alternate.
ounce, fbi ap
had been recovered recently
from the rubble of the home of
Mohammad Atef, believed to
have been Osama bin Laden’s
military chief. Officials say
Atef was killed by a U.S.
airstrike in November.
The sound was left out of the
released versions to guard
against the possibility that the
messages contained signals for
other terrorists, officials said.
In one video a man buries his
head in his amis for moment. The
next image is of the same man,
eyes closed, hugging a rifle. He
leans his face close to the barrel,
his lips appearing to touch it. He
then looks up and smiles.
The strap of the rifle is
inscribed with Arabic writing
that the man seems to be show
ing off. Officials did not tran
scribe the message.
The videos were shown with
out sound. Ashcroft said prelim
inary translations of statements
from the men indicated they
may have been trained and pre
pared for attacks.
“The videotapes depict
young men delivering what
appear to be martyrdom mes
sages from suicide terrorists,”
Authorities don’t know
where the men are; there,is no
evidence they ever entered the
“These men could be any
where in the world,” Ashcroft
said, urging viewers to call the
FBI or an American consulate if
they think they’ve seen any of
the five men.
He said the government had
tentatively identified four of the
five men depicted in the video
as: Abd Al-Rahim, Muhammad
Sa’id AM Hasan, Khalid Ibn
Muhammad Al-Juhani and
Ramzi Binalshibh. The fifth
man’s identify is not known.
Ashcroft said little was known
of the five except Binalshibh, a
Yemeni whom officials allege
was an associate of the Sept. I l
suicide hijacker Atta.
In the indictment handed
down in December against
Zacarias Moussaoui, Binalshibh
was named along with Atta and
the 18 other hijackers as an
At a news conference,
Ashcroft showed 30-second
videos of Hasan, Al-Rahim and
Al-Juhani. There were technical
problems with the videos of the
other two men; for them, the
government released only still
photos taken from the tapes.
Photos shot from the tapes were
also released for the other three.
Ashcroft said investigators
were still translating the tapes; a
decision about releasing the
sound or a translation would be
made after weighing security
concerns, he said, adding that
the department may decide not
to release the sound.
“The portions we released
today we felt were safe for
release and we didn’t believe
they contained any surreptitious
messages or coded signals that
would be designed to alert parts
of the terrorist network,”
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