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U.S. fears cargo plane attacks

By Sridhar Krishnaswami

Washington Nov. 9. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has alerted law enforcement officials that the Al-Qaeda may use cargo planes from overseas into high-profile targets that could include nuclear installations, bridges or dams. The concern stems from a number of reasons — primarily over the fact that only a small percentage of the cargo is normally checked.

An official has been quoted by an agency as saying that the information came from a single source overseas but has not been corroborated. Nevertheless, cargo security has come under attention in very recent weeks. The Department is maintaining that in spite of the alert, it has not changed the "alert status" which remains at Yellow — the middle level of a five colour scaleMeanwhile, the Independent Commission looking into the terrorist attacks of 9/11 has said that it will be issuing a second subpoena to the Pentagon seeking material and information on U.S. air defences on the day of the attack. The Commission is said to have demanded similar information from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Commission has been expressing displeasure over the manner in which the administration — particularly the White House — has gone about responding to access for documents.

But the Commission, according to a media report, is also being very careful in how it wants to challenge the administration. For example the Commission is keen to find out the kind of information the President gets in his daily intelligence briefings from top officials of the agencies involved.

The White House has made it clear that certain information falls in the realm of executive privilege and therefore will not be parted with. Of specific interest is a August 6,2001 briefing that could detail information of possible attacks by the Al-Qaeda.

The White House apparently floated the idea of restricted access to the Commission — to a small group that would include its Chair, the former Republican Governor of New Jersey,

Thomas Kean. This is not acceptable to the panel the White House has been told.

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