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September 30, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Iran's weapons
Much public attention has been focused in recent weeks on Iran's continuing efforts to hide its covert nuclear weapons program.

The Bush administration recently highlighted another major weapons problem, accusing Tehran of building deadly biological and chemical arms.

The State Department's annual report "Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments" said Iran has the capability of weaponizing deadly agents in missile warheads and aerial bombs.

"The Iranian [biological weapons] program has been embedded within Iran's extensive biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries so as to obscure its activities," stated the report, made public last month. "The Iranian military has used medical, education, and scientific research organizations for many aspects of BW-related agent procurement, research, and development. Iran has also failed to submit the data declarations called for in the [Biological Weapons Convention]."

Regarding chemical arms, the report said the U.S. government has evidence that "Iran has manufactured and stockpiled blister, blood, and choking chemical agents, and weaponized some of these agents into artillery shells, mortars, rockets, and aerial bombs."

"We continue to believe that Iran has not acknowledged the full extent of its chemical weapons program, that it has indigenously produced several first-generation [chemical weapons] agents (blood, blister, and choking agents), and that it has the capability to produce traditional nerve agents," the report said, noting that "the size and composition of any Iranian stockpile is not known."

Atta's photo
Congressional investigators looking into the Special Operations Command data-mining activity known as Able Danger are trying to find a woman in California who first came up with a supposed photograph of September 11 terrorist leader Mohamed Atta months before the deadly suicide attacks.

The woman worked for a security contractor that obtained the photo of Atta and other Islamist militants through surveillance of a mosque, said Rep. Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican who has been looking into the matter.

"There were five cells of al Qaeda that were identified [by Able Danger], including the Brooklyn cell," Mr. Weldon told us.

The purported photo of Atta was later reproduced on a chart that had the names of up to 60 suspected terrorists that Mr. Weldon says he gave to Stephen J. Hadley in 2001, when he was White House deputy national security adviser.

Frederick Jones, an NSC spokesman, said that Mr. Hadley does not recall ever seeing the chart with the Atta photo, but does not rule out the possibility that he was given the photo by Mr. Weldon.

The photo was purchased from the woman by Orion Scientific Systems Inc., a government contractor that was involved in an early phase of the Able Danger program.

Orion was purchased by SRA International Inc., an intelligence contractor, in 2004.

A spokesman for SRA could not be reached for comment.

The reputed linkages between Atta and Islamists in Brooklyn were uncovered by Able Danger analyses of information related to the New York-area terrorist group that carried out the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and other al Qaeda attacks or plans.

Pentagon officials say an extensive investigation in recent months failed to turn up any chart showing Atta. They say they have found Able Danger charts depicting other terrorists.

Scoundrel times
Even in times of war, there are scammers more than willing to prey on American fighting men and women.

We've obtained a memo from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, Fort Campbell, Ky., office, which warns of scammers telephoning soldiers to try to get their Social Security and credit card numbers.

"The scammer calls the residence or office number of the victim and identifies themselves as an officer or employee of the local court or jurisdiction," the Sept. 9 memo says. "The scammer announces to the victim that he/she has failed to report for jury duty, and that a bench warrant was issued against them for their arrest. The victim's reaction is one of shock and surprise which places them at an immediate disadvantage, and much more susceptible to the scam.

"The scammer shifts into high gear, reassuring the victim of the possibility this is all 'just a misunderstanding' or 'some sort of clerical error' that can all be straightened up on the phone.... Any reluctance on the victim's part and the scammer will threaten that the failure to provide the information will result in an immediate execution of the arrest warrant. The scammer obtains names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and will solicit credit card or bank account numbers claiming these will be used by their credit bureau to 'verify' the victim's identity. Family members who receive these calls are especially vulnerable to coercion."

The memo urges any personnel who receives such a call to report the "jury duty scam" to military police.

Fort Campbell is home to a Green Beret detachment, and to the storied 101st Airborne Division.

Good press
The Army Corps of Engineers is quite pleased with the press it's getting about efforts to repair the broken levees surrounding Katrina-bashed New Orleans.

An internal memo we've seen says that of more than 5,000 articles mentioning the corps, "95 percent of references to corps are positive." It said the corps's strategic public relations plan is putting out "corps points, transcripts [of] daily messages and updates; Web updates; news releases; and a strategic communication tip sheet."

Al Qaeda and drugs
Top military officials have been reluctant to state publicly that al Qaeda is reaping money from the heroin trade in Iraq. Yesterday, Gen. John Abizaid, the chief of Central Command, was not so reticent to discuss the al Qaeda-drug connection.

He told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "They develop safe havens that are both geographic and ungoverned spaces and virtual within the Internet and within the mass-media world. They have front companies. They buy off politicians. They develop facilitators and smugglers. They deal with financiers that move drug money around, as well as other illicit money."

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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