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  1. #1
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    Default FBI: al-Qaeda detainee spoke of fire plot

    Posted 7/11/2003 4:49 PM

    FBI: al-Qaeda detainee spoke of fire plot
    PHOENIX (AP) — The FBI alerted law enforcement agencies last month that an al-Qaeda terrorist now in detention had talked of masterminding a plot to set a series of devastating forest fires around the western United States.
    Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, told The Associated Press that officials there took note of the warning but didn't see a need to act further on it.

    The contents of the June 25 memo from the FBI's Denver office were reported Friday by The Arizona Republic. Davis declined to share a copy of the memo and an FBI spokeswoman in Denver didn't immediately return a telephone call.

    The Republic reported that the detainee, who was not identified, said the plan involved three or four people setting wildfires using timed devices in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming that would detonate in forests and grasslands after the operatives had left the country.

    The memo noted that investigators couldn't determine whether the detainee was telling the truth.

    The newspaper said many forest law enforcement officers it contacted had no idea the warning had been issued.


  2. #2
    Forum Member PAVolunteer's Avatar
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    If, in fact, the fires currently burning around San Diego were set by Al-Queda operatives, I'm honestly surprised that it took this long.

    Regarding the issue of not viewing it as a credible threat ... even if they did, what can we do to stop them (serious question)?

    Stay Safe

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    Originally posted by PAVolunteer

    Regarding the issue of not viewing it as a credible threat ... even if they did, what can we do to stop them (serious question)?

    Stay Safe
    I am not certain there is an answer. But the first step in the process might be to take it seriously.

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    Sr. Information Officer NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    The USFS incident commander was asked this morning on "Good Morning America" if he suspected al-Qaida was responsible. He had no information to deny or confirm that allegation.

    As Spock would say...."fascinating." Or maybe..."illogical?"

    I agree with George. The threat should be taken seriously...until proven otherwise.
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    MembersZone Subscriber EFD840's Avatar
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    Default Behold the power of Firehouse.com

    The newspaper said many forest law enforcement officers it contacted had no idea the warning had been issued.
    I guess they should join the forums since we talked about this threat here several months ago.

    I don't think the California fires are the work of Al-Qaeda, but even if they are I don't think there's a lot we can do to prevent this type of act. As we talked about in the other thread, the 'Burn down the western forests' plan is not new. It was first attempted by the Japanese in WWII. Instead of timer devices, they used balloons launched from Japan and submarine-transported floatplanes dropping incendiaries.

    I really don't think this fits Al-Qaeda's profile. It doesn't have an immediate shock value like a bombing. A wildfire campaign would be an effective economic weapon, but I just don't think it would get them the worldwide attention they seem to desire. Besides, why would they bother. We've got enough nutjobs over here that they can simply sit back and take credit for our home grown fires. Al-Qaeda or not, any intentional fire campaign could be devastating.

    Interesting that this was posted today. Last night, "Mail Call" on the History Channel had a segment about military smokejumpers assigned to deal with the Japanese incendiary campaign.

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    really don't think this fits Al-Qaeda's profile. It doesn't have an immediate shock value like a bombing. A wildfire campaign would be an effective economic weapon, but I just don't think it would get them the worldwide attention they seem to desire. Besides, why would they bother. We've got enough nutjobs over here that they can simply sit back and take credit for our home grown fires. Al-Qaeda or not, any intentional fire campaign could be devastating.
    That's because it wasn't your house that burned.

    This recent wave of fires is certainly gettign worldwide press.

    Why would they bother? Time for a counterterorism course, my friend.

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    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    This recent wave of fires is certainly gettign worldwide press.

    Just like they do every year about this time.

    Just like back in June or so we had news stories on the big fires in the south of France.

    And frankly there's bigger things you could do with well placed incenderias/explosives for economic impact. Think of the thousands of miles of isolated high tension lines in rural America. We've seen what a glitch in the power system could do this past summer when there was no physical damage to the network. Heck, there was much better things they could've done with 24 guys than take four planes -- think 24 cessnas into the 24 largest U.S. refineries and imagine the economic impact.

    Should we be aware of the danger and vigilant for such stuff like wildfires? Sure. But I'm not gonna lose much sleep over it -- bring it on, deal with it, move on.

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    Gee, my counterterrorism courses all focused on the bad guys maximising deaths and destruction where there would be instant and continuing media coverage with graphic videos, striking at "the infrastructure" of the country. Burning the forests (overgrown because of the refusal to allow logging) was not even mentioned. Not enough deaths (regretablle as any death is), unreliable results, not what the terrorists want.

    Not everything bad that happens is terrorism.
    Last edited by Sleuth; 10-27-2003 at 03:08 PM.

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    MembersZone Subscriber EFD840's Avatar
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    George,

    I'll probably screw up my point here as badly as I did in my first post, but here's what I was trying to say. From a strategy standpoint, it would be a very effective operation. There would be significant economic impact and the chance of detection is almost nil. My thought behind my poorly worded 'why bother' comment was that starting wildfires doesn't seem to demonstrate a capability on the same level of the USS Cole, the Embassy bombings, or 9/11.

    I'm not trying to start a fight. You're the real expert here, I certainly am not. If you think it is something they would consider, then I believe you.

    One more thing, what's happening to those poor folks is an awful tragedy no matter the cause. I will be praying for the civilians and firefighters trying to deal with it.

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    I didn't write the article and I didn't say that I thought it was Al Qiada. But, the threat is conceivable enough not to pooh-pooh it.

    Terrorists will exploit weakness. These fires have completed surrounded a large community in what the AP is desrcibing as the largest outbreak of brush fires in the past ten years. Infrastructure has been compromised. For example, air routes have been modified in and out of San Diego, resulting in dealys, cancellations and re-routing. 14 people are dead. Millions of dollars of resources have been compromised.

    Any criminal investigation class will tell you that criminal behavior may undergo an evolutionary process. In other words, the bad guys may adapt to a changing situation. Security has been tightened at airports, power plants, etc. Stiking in the hills around So. California exploits a weakness.

    No insult intended here, but here is a major difference between cops and fire fighters. Things like this tend to be black and white with FF. When cops, especially criminal investigators, think in terms of black and white, cases are screwed up and investigations fail. You must think outside the box.

    You have to admit, that it is not out of the realm of possibility that large brush fires that jeopardize a major urban area could be terrorism. It certainly is plausible enough not to reject out ofhand.

    Watch the news tonight. See if there aren't "graphic videos" of massive damage. BTW 14 deaths AND COUNTING!

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    MembersZone Subscriber AFD368's Avatar
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    EFD840


    I really don't think this fits Al-Qaeda's profile. It doesn't have an immediate shock value like a bombing.………….. Al-Qaeda or not, any intentional fire campaign could be devastating.
    Are Government eyes watching this closely around the rest of the country?

    If this "is" Al-Qaeda, does anyone understand DIVERSION ?
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    Forum Member stm4710's Avatar
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    George,is this the same plot as was discussed earlier this year in this thread or a different plot?http://cms.firehouse.com/forums2/sho...threadid=51083

  13. #13
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Post Not Here..........

    I have different things taking precedence over terrorist wildfires here on the East coast. A flood watch was just issued for a good sized part of the Mid-Atlantic states, rain is still coming down. There are a lot of things to consider when discussing threats and probabilities. Someone said security is tighter around airports, thus forcing potential terrorists to seek "softer" targets. Exactly. The harder it is to do something, the less likely someone will try, up to a point. But, there is always that tiny group that will appear and try, just to make a point (they think). Targets of any kind, when located in rural areas are always more enticing, for several reasons. Less chance of detection, smaller law enforcement presence, smaller response capabilities, and more, add up to make things in the boonies look easier. Take a look around your first due, consider what damage would result from the destruction of a High Tension Electric tower, a Bridge, a cellphone tower, a railroad track, and the list goes on. The more you learn about this thing known as Terrorism, the safer you'll be later on. Stay Safe....
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    This same plot of diversion has been discussed numerous times in the news over the past years. Some sought of fire being set, either in a urban setting or a forest setting, in order to carry out other devious actions.

    This can obviously be the case, bust is also quick to jump to anyones mind. Same thing with the major blackout we had up here on the eastern seaboard. It must be fully investigated before making the conclusion, but in the mean time, we should be on our highest alert.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Someone said security is tighter around airports, thus forcing potential terrorists to seek "softer" targets.

    Thankfully, most terrorists are not 20 year college kids who email advanced notice to the DHS...

    George is right to some extent about "black & white" -- I'm not sure that's the right term, firefighters & cops are trained to look at situations differently.

    Both Firefighters & Cops on *rare* occassions have to make snap judgements that their in danger and take action to get out of that situation. Once you don't see an immediate danger, Firefighters tend to look a situation briefly, develop a size-up based on best-guesses and take action. Police will take more time to "investigate." Part of this is natural -- fire situations are usually going downhill faster than police situations.

    Should we be vigiliant? Absolutely. The terrorists out there probably aren't gonna get seen by electronic intelligence, if they're out in the woods it's gonna be joe schmo hiker or hunter who sees something odd. Doesn't mean you have to be in some state of anxiety-riddled alert, just be willing to **** your head, go "huh", and think that seems odd...

    I still don't see big wildfires from a strategic sense being big terrorist targets. Even from the perspective of diversion, these large campaign fires don't deplete the core cities. So what some fires start in the hills, they start small and grow over hours or days, plenty of time to ramp up overtime to keep the core covered.

    Start me hundreds of fires along highways, vacants lots, maybe a few dozen abandoned buildings within a couple hours and my oh crap meter would be pegged.

    But ya know the best way to discourage that? Solid planning in advance and discipline the day that you go into a overload mode and terrorists, who may only be testing, see that the fire service doesn't cease to function effectively. Cause the same things that help handle the response to say, the aftermath of an earthquake, is the same skills that would handle a multiple location incendiary attack.

    Planning & Discipline. It'll go a long way.

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    Default Is it really the same MO

    Well first off, if you ask if Al-Queda could do this then the answer is yes, but I don’t think this sounds like an Al-queda plot. The MO just doesn’t seem right

    First if you think about it ,all acts of terrorism are really symbolic acts, The WTC attack was an attack at America As a capitalist nation. The attack of the pentagon was an attack of the US as a military power. So these attacks against our forest what all do the signify. They are burning brush and yes homes are being destroyed but America as a whole, where’s the associated terror. I mean WTC brought terror to an entire nation and the world However this is an isolated event to just the southern portion of a state. Is al-queda scaling down? When there are numerous more target that can destroy an infilstructure of the nation(sp) .Like a previous person said what about all our oil refineries. I also agree that this does stretch are resources thin but it just doesn’t seem like a terrorist act. Also these act are not as spectacular in nature as others. if the was an al-queda attack don’t you think they would have claimed responsibilities I mean after WTC Osama bin laden was praising islam. And we haven’t really heard a peep from him.
    Well this is just my 2 cents

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    I'll preface by repeating that I don't know if I believe that al Qaida is responsible for these fires or not. But here are some things to think about.

    1. You don't need "hundreds" of fires. Look at what ten or so strategically placed fires can do.

    2. Infrastructure? Based on what I know from media reports, here is the infrastructure that I see affected.

    -Airports
    -Power grid (many thousands of people are out of power)
    -Roadways (major highways closed)
    -Schools and public facilities
    -Businesses (San Diego's mayor was asking businesses to close)

    3. Economic impact? Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. There is a domino effect involved here. People may have to relocate pending insurance settlements. Even with insurance, most people will not be able to recover all their losses. Loss of vehicles means difficulty in getting to work. Lost businesses means unemployment. Lost tax revenue. Impact on public services. The list goes on and on.

    4. Don't focus solely on the cities. Cities could certainly be the hub of some infrastructures, but most of us don't live in the cities. Most of us feel very secure in our suburban homes. If those homes are threatened, it strikes at the core of our security.

    Remember, the true goal of terrorism is not to kill as many people as possible or destroy as much property as possible. It is, simply, to strike fear into the hearts and minds of the citizens. Example?

    How about the anthrax "attack". Basically, there were four letters sent. Less than 20 people were affected. But nationwide, in every town big and small, people were scared to death. Every piece of mail was suspicious. Every dust particle was anthrax. Just think of how many jobs you guys ran. People were, quite simply, terrorized.

    Think outside the box.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    My biggest problem though, George, is wildfires on this scale is, *yawn* usual.

    I remember watching TV as a kid in the 70s and the "reality" shows of the day loved footage of the the Bel-Air fire of 1961 (what, 2,000 or so homes?).

    Could you have a huge bio impact on the U.S. economy? Sure, introduce influenza. Thousands would die, millions of work-days would be lost, and a) people wouldn't give a shoot and b) even if it was a terrorist, we'd probably not believe them. Why? Cause we live with the flu year in, year out. Kills thousands. Wildfires happen, yeah they might have impacts but they're not going to get attention of something unusual like flying planes into buildings and sending Anthrax around.

    Economic impact of the fires currently in Southern California are no greater than the myriad of normal disaster cycles, weather fire, flood, or earthquake.

    To paraphrase the philosophical question of if a tree falls in the forest, If a terrorist does something and it doesn't provoke terror, is it terrorism?

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    Originally posted by Dalmatian90
    My biggest problem though, George, is wildfires on this scale is, *yawn* usual.

    I remember watching TV as a kid in the 70s and the "reality" shows of the day loved footage of the the Bel-Air fire of 1961 (what, 2,000 or so homes?).

    Could you have a huge bio impact on the U.S. economy? Sure, introduce influenza. Thousands would die, millions of work-days would be lost, and a) people wouldn't give a shoot and b) even if it was a terrorist, we'd probably not believe them. Why? Cause we live with the flu year in, year out. Kills thousands. Wildfires happen, yeah they might have impacts but they're not going to get attention of something unusual like flying planes into buildings and sending Anthrax around.

    Economic impact of the fires currently in Southern California are no greater than the myriad of normal disaster cycles, weather fire, flood, or earthquake.

    To paraphrase the philosophical question of if a tree falls in the forest, If a terrorist does something and it doesn't provoke terror, is it terrorism?
    Never in a thousand years did I expect you to agree.

    I am not arguing for a position here. I am just trying to get people to think outside the lines.

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