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[] Al-Qaeda computer geek nearly overthrew US,

Schöner Verriss des Bush&Medien-Hypes über die jahrealten Computerdaten
von Al-Qaeda (erinnert sich noch wer an die Nationalgarde in der Wall
Street letzte Woche?).

Al-Qaeda computer geek nearly overthrew US

By Thomas C Greene

Published Wednesday 11th August 2004 16:45 GMT


A White House with a clear determination to draw paranoid conclusions
>from ambiguous data has finally gone over the top. It has now implied
the al-Qaeda computer geek arrested last month in Pakistan was involved
in a
plot to destabilize the USA around election time.

Two and two is five

As we reported here and here, so-called al-Qaeda "computer expert"
Naeem Noor Khan, a Pakistani, was arrested on 13 July in possession of
detailed but rather old surveillance documents related to major
institutions in New York, Newark, and Washington.

Since that time, other intelligence has led the US security apparatus to
imagine that a plot to attack the USA might be in the works. (No doubt
are scores of plots in the works, but we digress.) Therefore, last week,
ever-paranoid Bush Administration decided that Khan's building
documents, and the hints of imminent danger, had to be connected.
Indeed, if
al Qaeda is to strike at all, it is most likely to strike the targets
mentioned in Khan's documents, as opposed to thousands of others, the
Bushies reasoned.

New York, Newark and Washington were immediately put on high alert, at
expense, and to the inconvenience of millions of residents. The sites
mentioned in the Khan documents have received extraordinary attention,
thousands of other potential targets remain exposed to easy attack.
doubting this should look at the photos of unguarded access and control
points to a Manhattan gas pipeline over forty inches in diameter,
photographed without difficulty by Cryptome's John Young.)

But government panic over dubious intelligence was not enough. Another
Administration hobby horse is a notion that foreign evildoers intend to
disrupt the November elections. We've been hearing about this ever since
was assumed that a terrorist attack determined the Spanish elections
back in

So it did not take long for Bush security apparatchiks to begin leaking
the press strong hints that this is precisely what's behind the
Administration's current terrorist hysteria.

According to an article in the New York Times, Khan the cyberterrorist
also communicating with al Qaeda operatives who the authorities say are
plotting to carry out an attack intended to disrupt the fall elections,
senior intelligence official said Saturday."

Given the amount of skepticism the Administration has had to confront
its most recent Chicken Little act, and its hammerheaded aversion to
acknowledging even the tiniest of mistakes, perhaps it was inevitable
the terror hype of last week could only be hyped further. It was
to retreat.

It has now got every citizen and law enforcement officer obsessing on a
handful of targets that, thanks to the news cycle, al Qaeda knows not to
mess with.

Missed opportunities

Meanwhile, back in Britain, UK Home Secretary David Blunkett - in a rare
moment of common sense, if not lucidity - upbraided the Bush
for "feed[ing] the news frenzy."

The information on which the Bushies decided to raise the terror alert
is "of dubious worth," Blunkett said, adding that such information
should be
published "only if it would prove useful in preventing injury and loss
life," which he obviously believes the Bush hysteria would not do.

"There has been column inch after column inch devoted to the fact that
the United States there is often high-profile commentary, followed - as
the most current case - by detailed scrutiny with the potential risk of
inviting ridicule," Blunkett said, inelegantly but rightly.

Blunkett is spot on in that critique, and still it gets worse. According
wire reports, Kahn the geek had been cooperating with Pakistani security
forces, until the Bush Administration's insistence that he be arrested
immediately, and their leaking of his name, ended his cooperation, and
stuffed up several terror investigations in various countries, the UK

Pakistani intelligence forces have complained that several high-profile
Qaeda suspects they'd been keeping an eye on have gone to earth and now
can't be found, merely because Khan was named. The twelve suspects
rounded up in Britain last week were almost certainly nabbed in haste
the same reason.

But Khan is clearly a small-fry player, one whose continuing cooperation
would have yielded more fruit than his arrest. Indeed, his arrest has
signaled to scores of other al-Qaeda players that they should shift
plans. ®

Thomas C Greene is the author of Computer Security for the Home and
Office, a comprehensive guide to system hardening, malware protection,
online anonymity, encryption, and data hygiene for Windows and Linux.

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