LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Officials Warn Terrorists Could Modify Electronics as Weapons
Aired August 4, 2003 - 19:11 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We've got some breaking news coming out of Washington. For that, let's go to Jeanne Meserve, who has some new information about al Qaeda and that new terror threat released several days ago -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, homeland security officials say a new advisory will be issued tomorrow to the aviation industry and all federal screening personnel, directing them to pay particular attention to the screening of small electronic items.
Administration officials tell CNN that the discovery in al Qaeda hideouts overseas of small electronic items modified to carry small weapons or explosives contributed to the decision last week to send out a warning to the aviation sector, warning about the possibility of future hijackings.
Among the items authorities believe al Qaeda was seeking to modify, cell phones, boom boxes, and cameras. But that is not an exclusive list.
Last week's warning read, in part, the hijackers may attempt to use common items carried by traveler travelers, such as cameras, modified as weapons. I should say there was a security directive last week which ordered closer scrutiny of small electronics like cameras.
That went into effect and related primarily to the screening of people who were traveling without visas through the U.S., transiting through the U.S. That program, those two programs, rather, that allowed people to stop in the U.S. without visas have now been suspended.
The directive last week also applied to domestic travelers who set off metal detectors who were selected for random screening.
But the advisory being sent out tomorrow will encompass all travelers. It says it wants to see screening, more intense screening of electronics of all individuals, whether they be flying on airlines or whether they be entering foreign buildings.
No new intelligence, I'm told, has been collected since that initial directive went out to the aviation sector last week. But in the abundance of caution they have wrapped together all the various intelligence, everything they have learned, and they're issuing this new advisory tomorrow -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jeanne, just one quick question. I'm not sure, you may have the answer to this. How new is this intelligence that they've got, I mean, that they've found, I guess, in al Qaeda hideouts, some of these electronic devices? How new is that?
MESERVE: Now we are just learning that they found these electronic devices. What I'm led to believe is that this is part of the information which led to the advisory one week ago.
When I first learned of this advisory last Tuesday, I was told the information leading to the advisory had been developed over several weeks. We know that, in addition to what may have been found in these al Qaeda hideouts, other factors were interrogations with some al Qaeda detainees and also some electronic intercepts -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Jeanne Meserve, thanks very much. We're also going talk to Peter Bergen, CNN security and terrorism expert, in just a few minutes.
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