Skip to comments.U.S. Tracking Ships in Mediterranean
Posted on 12/15/2001 10:04:57 AM PST by oxi-nato
BERLIN -- Acting on intelligence gathered by American and allied agencies, the United States is tracking ships that have left ports in Africa and are in the Mediterranean that may be involved in smuggling goods to finance terrorist groups, according to a senior U.S. military officer in Europe. Authorities are now working through technical and legal issues to decide if the ships, which are also suspected of carrying supplies to make weapons of mass destruction, should be boarded at sea or inspected when they try to dock, said the officer, who has been taking part in high-level daily intelligence briefings in Europe.
The ships are being tracked by the U.S. Sixth Fleet naval forces, which operate in the Mediterranean, and other assets including satellites and AWACS aircraft. They are currently in areas ranging from North Africa to the Middle East, and most are suspected of being owned by, or carrying economic cargo to benefit Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, the officer said on condition of anonymity. "It's beyond just simply monitoring," he said. "It's posing real issues of possible to probable interdiction." The officer would not be more specific about location or cargo. "To reveal their cargo or nature of the cargos would not be helpful to the process of detaining them," the officer said.
Navy Capt. Gordon Hume, spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Europe, which commands the Sixth Fleet, said he could neither confirm nor deny the operation. "As a matter of policy we're not going to get into disclosing any current or future operations or planning efforts that may or may not be in progress," Hume said. U.S. agencies have pieced together information about the ships with the help of the intelligence services of many countries which have been spurred into a new spirit of cooperation since Sept. 11.
Before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, American agencies shared intelligence with one another, but also often pursued leads independently. There was also a great reluctance to share information with other countries, even close allies. Now, representatives from CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency meet daily at U.S. headquarters across Europe, which have video or telephone links to one another, and share information they have gathered, according to the officer, who has been involved in many of the meetings. American agents are providing more detailed information to allies, who reciprocate with their own intelligence. "Because of this enhanced coordination between agencies ... we're tracking more effectively the financial aspects of transnational terrorism so that we're better able to watch it from where the money flows and where the goods flow to whose hands they end up in," the officer said.
Bill Harlow, a spokesman for the CIA based in Langley, Va., said the flow of intelligence between both American and international agencies has vastly expanded since the Sept. 11 attacks. He would not comment on the tracking of the ships or other results of the information. "As you recall, the president talked about how we would be asking for the support of governments worldwide in the fight against terror," Harlow said. "Any government that has information about terrorism, we would be asking them that it be shared with us ... (and) the sharing has increased dramatically in recent months."
In the case of the ships, the information came from African, Middle Eastern and the former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe that had intelligence sources at the docks watching cargo being loaded. They then passed the information to U.S. authorities through their own agencies, the officer said. "It really is a fairly wide network of information that we draw from," he said. Intelligence sources recently provided information that al-Qaida owns or controls some two dozen ships, said two defense officials in Washington who spoke on condition of anonymity.
That information led to the intensification of an American operation in the Arabian Sea that started in late November in which U.S. troops have been boarding ships to look for Osama bin Laden or fleeing al-Qaida members. Several vessels have been boarded since the program began, and another 200 either contacted by radio or other signal and asked to identify themselves and their cargos. No fleeing members of al-Qaida have been found, according to the Pentagon.
According to the Bundesnachrichendienst, the German equivalent of the CIA, about 300 intelligence agencies worldwide are cooperating in the hunt for international terrorists. To cope with the increased flow of information, the U.S. has increased its number of analysts in Europe six-fold since Sept. 11, and they now number in the hundreds, the American officer said. Agencies that are cooperating now include one-time enemies from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, as well as countries that were once kept at arm's length by American intelligence. "It's become more complicated," the officer said. "If the Cold War was more defined in who the bad guys were, this threat is more elusive and more difficult to discover, but there are more people looking."
Kinda makes you wonder exactly what the intelligence says, doesn't it
Wonder if the feminists regrest damaging it so badly through P.C. and Tailhook???
That is as long as it is good info.
The best thing about being a feminist is never having to say you're sorry.
Didn't the US Navy recently close the Vieques Bombing Range ?
Training is very important.
Declare the ships as enemy combatants.
It's a white guy in a white van!!!
I don't thing the feminists damaged it. The navy did Tailhook to themselves and addressing it probably improved moral.