Skip to comments.LNG tanker stowaways may have terror tie
Posted on 04/29/2004 4:41:52 AM PDT by bitt
The government for the first time yesterday said illegal immigrants on Algerian-flagged LNG tankers in Boston ``may have had indirect associations'' with the so-called millennium plot to blow up the Los Angeles airport.
(Excerpt) Read more at news.bostonherald.com ...
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Federal authorities have suspected since 1995 that illegal aliens from Algeria were sneaking into the United States aboard liquefied natural gas tanker ships, according to a newly re leased U.S. Department of Homeland Security document.
In May 2001, officers from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies boarded an Algerian liquefied natural gas tanker arriving in Boston and discovered a large cache of U.S. currency and illegal drugs, according to the April 15 letter from Homeland Security to U.S. Rep Ed Markey, D-Mass.
The letter was written in response to Markey's inquiries concerning allegations in former U.S. terrorism chief Richard Clarke's book, "Against All Enemies." In his book, published this year, Clarke claimed that federal officials knew prior to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that "al-Qaida operatives had been infiltrat ing Boston by coming in on liquid natural gas tankers from Algeria."
In March, FBI officials publicly denied Clarke's assertions, although they acknowledged that at least one Algerian who secretly entered aboard an LNG tanker is under federal indictment for allegedly planning to blow up Los Angeles airport as part of al-Qaida's "Millennium Bombing Plot."
The letter that Homeland Security sent Markey also revealed that the U.S. Coast Guard, the Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service suspected Algerian LNG tankers of smuggling drugs and illegal aliens as early as 1995. The letter said that federal agencies are still investigating links between the Algerian stowaways and Islamic fundamentalists.
"Preliminary analysis shows a handful of illegal migrants may have had indirect associations with those indicted for the Millennium Bombing Plot," the letter said. It also said that federal agents had recovered "substantial amounts of U.S. currency and illegal drugs" from an LNG tanker.
Markey said Wednesday in a written statement, "This information would seem to confirm statements made in former counter-terrorism Czar Richard Clarke's recent book indicating that LNG tankers entering Boston Harbor may have been used by terrorists as a means of infiltrating into our country."
Many of the 11 hijackers boarded the airliners used in the terror attacks at Boston's Logan International Airport.
Markey, a senior member of the House terrorism committee, whose district is home to Boston Harbor's LNG import terminal, has demanded to know why federal security officials told him repeatedly that there were no known terror threats related to the LNG tankers that had been arriving in Boston.
There is no evidence, according to FBI statements in March, that Abdelghani Meskini, the Algerian stowaway who has been indicted in the airport plot, had terrorist ties when he arrived in this country.
It was unclear from FBI statements whether officials believed Meskini became involved with terrorists after arriving in the United States.
Concerns about potential terror attacks on LNG tankers have arisen in Mobile, where ExxonMobil Corp. and Chenier Energy Inc., have proposed building LNG docking terminals on Mobile Bay, one near downtown and one in the Hollinger's Island area just south of Mobile. The tankers deliver a super-cooled liquid form of natural gas, which is later converted back to the convention vapor form used for residential purposes and for electricity generation.
Officials from the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission downplayed any possible terrorist threat in Mobile during public meetings last year, though scientists have said that an attack at either of the two proposed Mobile Bay sites could devastate surrounding communities. Scientists and federal documents suggest that a terror attack on an LNG ship could result in a fire over a mile wide capable of burning people two miles away.
"The Homeland Security Department has provided a chilling confirmation that individuals with possible terrorist connections may have entered the U.S. onboard LNG tankers," Markey said in his Wednesday statement. "This underscores the need for the federal government, as well as state and local governments to maintain the strongest possible security precautions for all LNG shipments entering the Port of Boston."
Markey and a delegation of Massachusetts safety officials requested increased federal funding to secure LNG tankers as they moved through downtown Boston, but were rebuffed by Homeland Security in March.
Algerian-flagged tankers have been banned from Boston since May 2001, but routinely arrive at an LNG facility in Cove Point, Md., which is located next door to a nuclear power plant.
I think it more worrisome that they are on an LNG Tanker in the first place...