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Amid hunt, FBI seeks wider powers
A grand jury convened in New York to help pursue those responsible for last week's terrorist attacks as the federal investigation intensified Sunday, with authorities holding at least two men arrested as material witnesses and expanding their list of people being sought for questioning to about 175.
At the same time the Justice Department, responding to what it depicts as obstacles slowing its investigation, prepared to seek special new tools from Congress, including broader wiretap authority and easing of other restrictions on the FBI's investigative powers. Concerned that these will be opposed by civil libertarians, department officials may ask for such authority only for the duration of this investigation.
As investigators began plowing through their list of those who may have useful information on the hijackings, a Tribune review of the original list of 100 people wanted for questioning suggested that many in fact had little of interest to contribute. Some were merely passing acquaintances of the perpetrators, and the results illustrate just how broadly the FBI is casting its net.
Public records show that two of the men held for questioning in connection with the attacks listed an apartment in Chicago among their addresses from 1998 until last June. The men, who were arrested on an Amtrak train in Texas last week, were reported to be cooperating with federal agents in New York.
In Washington, senior intelligence officials told key lawmakers Sunday that the terrorists who planned Tuesday's attacks could be planning further strikes against American targets, and did not rule out the possible use of chemical or biological weapons.
"The assessment of the intelligence community is that the plan of the terrorists had more than just Tuesday," Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said after a CIA briefing.
The FBI has yet to name anyone a suspect in the hijackings other than the 19 who seized the four planes and died in the crashes at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in rural Pennsylvania. But frenzied investigative activity stepped up across the country as an extraordinary task force of more than 4,000 FBI agents aided by 3,000 support personnel hunted those who might have provided aid or shelter to the terrorists.
One focus of FBI activity over the past few days has been Jersey City, N.J., home to a large Arab-American community and just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan. The FBI was led to Jersey City after it seized two men from an Amtrak train in Texas last week in connection with the attacks.
Both men lived in Jersey City, and interviews with the two led authorities Saturday to raid a 13-unit brick apartment there, said FBI agent Sherri Evanina. The raid resulted in two men being led away in handcuffs, putting them among the 25 individuals who have been detained but not charged in connection with the deadly hijackings.
The neighborhood around the building is predominantly Egyptian, and Arabic stores and restaurants pepper the area. The FBI searched a second-floor apartment that records suggest was home to both of the men detained in Texas.
The building landlord said Sunday that the two residents were "perfect tenants" who claimed to have worked at newsstands in New York and always paid their $480 monthly rent promptly.
Ayub Ali Khan and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, both of whom are from India, have leased the small, one-bedroom apartment, No. 202, for the past six or seven years, said the landlord, who requested anonymity.
However, public records show that, as recently as last June, both men listed their residence as an apartment at 1025 W. Hollywood Ave. on Chicago's North Side.
The raid on the apartment building in Jersey City started about 11 a.m. Saturday with agents smashing through a glass-and-steel security door to gain access to the building, according to residents.
"I just heard the noise and saw people running up the stairs," said Harish Singh, a 42-year-old computer programmer whose first-floor apartment is a few steps from the security door.
Singh and other residents said they were questioned by the FBI and were shown grainy black-and-white photographs of two Arab men. Residents said agents also questioned them about their own immigration status and demanded to see their personal papers.
FBI agent Evanina declined to comment on why two other men were arrested at the building during the search, which lasted about two hours. She said only, "We were not anticipating encountering the other two."
A crowd gathered outside the building chanted "U.S.A., U.S.A." as the men were taken away in handcuffs, said Singh and other residents.
The building is steps away from Jersey City's Masjid As-Salaam Mosque, one of two New York-area mosques long affiliated with the radical Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who is in prison.
The blind cleric was convicted in New York in 1995 of plotting to carry out simultaneous terrorist bombings of the United Nations, the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels and other New York landmarks. Abdel Rahman also was considered by prosecutors to be the spiritual leader of the men convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
It was not clear how long the 25 people being detained on immigration violations can be held without charges. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service rules provide that the Justice Department must decide within 24 hours whether to charge them, but prosecutors are allowed a "reasonable" amount of time before actually doing so, as determined by a judge.
At least two men are being held as material witnesses in New York. One of them was stopped last week at John F. Kennedy International Airport for having a false pilot's license. Authorities suggested the other is Zacarias Moussaoui, a Minnesota man who has been in jail on immigration charges in Elk River, Minn., since Aug. 17, nearly a month before the attacks.
Moussaoui was taken from the jail at 10:16 a.m. Friday, said Sgt. John Olson of the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office. Federal authorities told jail officials that they wanted to question Moussaoui in connection with the terrorist investigation.
Moussaoui is on the Justice Department's roster of 175 people sought for questioning.
Two days after the terrorist strikes, Moussaoui declined to be interrogated by the FBI, jail officials said, and was "whisked away" one day later. He had attended a flight school in Eagan, Minn., which is operated by Pan Am International Flight Academy, where officials confirmed that the FBI had investigated their student pilot records.
The convening of a grand jury marked a turning point in the inquiry, though not an unexpected one. It gives investigators a powerful tool, enabling them to issue subpoenas more easily, without having to persuade a judge that there is "probable cause" of finding incriminating evidence.
A grand jury also enables authorities to enforce secrecy rules on witnesses who are questioned and would otherwise be free to talk.
The grand jury is meeting in the Southern District of New York, meaning that much of the investigation will be run out of Manhattan, where the Justice Department's counterterrorism task force is based.
Saying they need added powers to pursue the inquiries, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft directed Justice Department officials to ask Congress for broad new investigative authority, such as greater wiretapping abilities, possibly on a temporary basis only for the current probe.
The FBI has long sought some of these powers but in the past has been blocked by liberal and conservative lawmakers who fear giving too much power to law enforcement. In the current climate, the request may be harder to resist.
One of the new powers the Justice Department is seeking is "multipoint" wiretap authority. This would allow agents to obtain permission to monitor a person's calls no matter what phone line is used. Currently, agents get permission to wiretap one phone line at a time.
Outside Washington, FBI agents scoured Dulles International Airport, where American Airlines Flight 77 took off before it slammed into the Pentagon, for clues on how five men slipped through security and boarded the Boeing 757.
One lead they were investigating involved a 15-passenger mini-van returned to a National Car Rental site away from the main terminal. The van had been a one-way rental from Cleveland.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration was looking into reports that one of the terrorists who seized one of the two planes that departed Boston's Logan International Airport on Tuesday before smashing into the World Trade Center had visited the control tower on a tour the Saturday before the attacks.
"We've initiated an internal investigation to look into the allegations that one of the men who may have been involved in one of these events visited the control tower," said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown. "We have not confirmed anything."
In Florida, the FBI and the Brevard County Sheriff's Office are investigating whether two of the hijackers had ties to Brevard County and had brushes with the law while living there, Chief Deputy Bob Sarver said Sunday.
"It appears two with the same names were in Brevard County at some time," he said. "We're forwarding whatever information we can to the FBI as I'm sure every law-enforcement agency from here to Anchorage, Alaska, is doing."
The sheriff's office received the list of 175 names from the FBI and found the matches while running a records check, Sarver said.
In April 2000, Melbourne, Fla., police arrested a man named Saeed Alghamdi at a nightclub on charges of disorderly intoxication, Sarver said. Alhgamdi, who was booked into the Brevard County jail, told police he was a student at the Florida Institute of Technology.
"He gave an address of 150 E. University Blvd., which is within about a half-mile of the college," Sarver said.
In 1994, sheriff's deputies arrested a man named Essam Ahmed Alghamdi on reckless driving charges. Sarver said local officials do not know if the two men are those involved in the attacks.
18,000 agencies helping
As part of the global push for answers and suspects in last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the Justice Department is asking 18,000 law-enforcement agencies to help locate those who may have information about the four hijackings.
The FBI has distributed a 12-page list that contains the names of the hijackers, dozens of their associates, possible relatives and dozens of other U.S. citizens, some of whom said they had no idea why their names were listed.
The vast majority of the names appear to be Middle Eastern and are spread out from coast to coast, though they appear to be concentrated in Florida, Texas and the New York metropolitan area. FBI officials in Washington said the list was compiled after Tuesday's attacks.
The list offers some insight into how federal authorities are trying to unravel the network of associates who either supported or participated in the attacks, whose death toll may reach above 5,000 victims.
For instance, the list contains the names of at least 11 Saudi Arabian pilots or engineers who may have attended the same U.S. flight schools as some of the hijackers. It also includes pilots from the United States, United Kingdom and Morocco.
But those on the list who were contacted by the Tribune said they had no connection with Tuesday's attacks and no idea why their names were included in what has become the most immense manhunt in U.S. history.
For instance, six FBI agents talked to Mark Deuitch of Boone, N.C., for two hours Saturday. Deuitch said he is co-owner of an Internet company and a former investment banker with business ties to the Middle East.
"I think [the agents] are probably going through some analysis of all tickets purchased" for travel on the day of the attack, he said. "And, certainly, if any were purchased by people connected with the Middle East, or having Arabic names, that's probably a pretty big red flag."
Deuitch said he was questioned about his credit cards, his travels in the Middle East and how he had obtained a plane ticket for a flight that was scheduled to depart Charlotte for Orlando the morning of the terrorist hijackings. The flight was canceled when the FAA grounded all planes after the attacks.
Another person on the list, Nabil Saadawi of Vero Beach, Fla., said he was questioned by the FBI on Thursday, as were others who attended the FlightSafety school there.
Saadawi said one student from the school was taken to Miami for further questioning by the agents, then released the next day. He would not disclose the student's name, saying, "He's a good guy."
Saadawi said the agents showed him pictures of the hijackers, and he told them he recognized some of the faces. He said he had nothing more to tell the agents.
"I don't know any of them," Saadawi said. "They interviewed all of us. They talked to me about everything," he said. "I told the FBI, this is my career. It was awful-- imagine my family and kids all of them on an airplane and in one minute, they're gone. It's awful."
What remained unclear Sunday in some jurisdictions was exactly what the hundreds of local law-enforcement authorities are supposed to do with the list. And there are some concerns about whether such a vast list--sometimes including only vague information like a name, with no date of birth or Social Security number--could be misunderstood or misused by police agencies.
In suburban Arlington Heights, Ill., police Sgt. Jerry Leonard played down the concerns, saying there was no cause for alarm that names have been widely circulated.
"This list is not made available to the public," he said. "We have a list of the names and some vehicle information. If we encounter them, we will detain them and contact the feds and turn them over."