Cover Story

Right on the money

"If you do business with terrorists, if you support or sponsor them, you will not do business with the United States of America," said President Bush in announcing the first tangible U.S. response to the attacks As American flags raised last week, so, too, did the official death toll Homeland security focuses on future biological attacks And on Capitol Hill, the president ran into the first snag in an otherwise cooperative Congress: Tough, new law enforcement provisions meet skepticism from the left and right

Issue: "War in the shadows," Oct. 6, 2001

in Washington-The flags went back to full-staff on Sunday, Sept. 23, but it didn't feel like the mourning was over. On the same day that President Bush hoisted the Stars and Stripes in a grim ceremony at Camp David, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that the number missing in the rubble of the World Trade Center had climbed to 6,453. Flags and death tolls, inching upward in unison. As the nation entered Week 3 since the unprecedented terrorist attacks, symbol and substance could seem strangely out of whack. Girding for a new kind of war, Mr. Bush seemed like a new kind of president. His speech before a joint session of Congress galvanized and energized the nation. Both his personal poll numbers and support for the war effort soared to 90 percent and above. Even the stock market appeared to stabilize, after suffering its worst one-week decline since World War II. Few seemed to doubt the president when he warned of "a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen." Military deployments began immediately, with thousands of soldiers shipped to undisclosed destinations overseas and thousands of reservists called in to replace them at home. Yet even as they watched their soldiers leave, many Americans were focused on worries closer to home. A CBS News/New York Times poll showed that nearly 8 in 10 respondents feared another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. For the first time since the War of 1812, Americans had an overwhelming sense that they were fighting not for friendly nations or vague ideals, but to defend their own homeland. Indeed, just a month ago "Homeland Security" might have been mistaken for a Midwestern savings and loan. Today, it's a Cabinet-level office charged with protecting American soil from what was previously unthinkable: a foreign attack (see "Over here," p. 27). Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, the president's newly minted security czar, was given the sweeping mandate of securing everything from airports and sports stadiums to reservoirs and food supplies. That will require corralling and coordinating the estimated $12 billion spent annually on anti-terrorism efforts by some 40 different federal agencies, all jealous of their own bureaucratic turf. The seriousness of the threat became more evident with each passing day of the biggest investigation in U.S. history. Among the 100,000 leads pursued by law enforcement agencies were reports of terrorist interest in crop-dusting planes. Too small to wreak the kind of havoc the hijackers had in mind for New York, the crop-dusters did have one obvious application for guerrilla warfare: spreading chemical or biological contaminants, such as anthrax or sarin gas. Indeed, just 72 hours before bringing down the World Trade Center, several of the hijackers made one last, vain attempt to rent a crop-duster in south Florida. After being caught completely off-guard by the hijackers' jetliner-as-a-weapon strategy, officials were trying to look at everything in a sinister new way. Reservoirs were closed to boating, lest terrorists should try to poison an urban water supply. Authorities were also keeping an eye on the trucking industry after the FBI arrested Nabil Almarabh, a known colleague of the hijackers, who had recently been licensed to haul hazardous materials, including toxic and radioactive waste. Mr. Almarabh was just one of more than 350 persons, mostly Arabs, being held by authorities under sweeping new emergency measures approved by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Mr. Ashcroft told lawmakers his agency is looking for another 400 suspects and witnesses as investigators cast the net ever wider. But the net has holes in it, Mr. Ashcroft said. He went to Congress on Sept. 24 with a list of 50 new anti-terrorism measures, including expanded wiretaps, e-mail eavesdropping, and property seizures. "We need to unleash every possible tool in the fight against terrorism," Mr. Ashcroft said. "Our vulnerability is elevated as long as we don't have the tools we need to have." After two weeks of almost perfect support for the president, however, Congress balked at many of the administration's anti-terrorism requests. Republicans and Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee agreed that the proposals went too far in trampling civil liberties for the sake of security. In agreeing to put off any vote for at least a week while studying the request, they dealt the administration its first setback since Sept. 11. Still, the unusual sense of harmony in Washington kept the normal political cacophony at bay. Congressional leaders worked with the White House to wipe any potentially divisive issues off the legislative calendar. Republican priorities such as Social Security reform and the faith-based initiative were set aside along with Democratic darlings like campaign-finance reform and prescription-drug benefits. Even education reform and the Patients' Bill of Rights, though passed earlier by both chambers, were delayed, lest differences on the conference committee should disturb the spirit of bipartisanship. Instead of the normal business of Washington, lawmakers focused almost exclusively on an agenda dictated by response to the terrorist attacks. After quick approval of a massive bailout package to keep the nation's airlines flying, other industries, from hotels to insurance, came calling. Airport security was a top concern, with Congress debating whether to federalize tens of thousands of baggage screeners and other safety personnel at airports nationwide. The military buildup demanded tough spending choices, ranging from weapons systems to base closures. Indeed, with the end of the Pentagon's fiscal year just days away, lawmakers scrambled to write a new appropriations bill by the Oct. 1 deadline. President Bush also called on Congress to grant him yet another wartime power: the right to waive American boycotts and sanctions on nations that agreed to aid in the war against terrorism. That request, like Mr. Ashcroft's crime-fighting wish list, could run into trouble, however. The issue of sanctions is tricky but important. Some military restrictions already include a clause that allows a president to lift them for national security reasons. When both India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, for instance, the law required President Clinton to impose military sanctions, including halting all arms sales to both countries. Using the national-security clause, President Bush waived those restrictions on Sept. 22. He'd like to go further, however. Pakistan's current regime took power in a 1999 military coup that overthrew a democratically elected government. Following the coup, Congress banned all development aid to Pakistan-monies earmarked for roads and hospitals, for instance. With Pakistan now emerging as America's most important-and tenuous-ally against Osama bin Laden, President Bush wants to dole out development funds to the struggling military regime. Because the 1999 sanctions included no national security clause, however, Mr. Bush can't move without congressional authority. No one doubts the importance of maintaining order in Pakistan, a country teetering on the brink of civil war. But if the president wins blanket authority to waive sanctions against any country he sees fit, that might include Sudan, a terrorist hotbed where an Islamic government in the north is fighting a brutal war against Christians and animists in the south. He might also use that power to waive embargoes against China, which has agreed to share intelligence with the United States, even though it continues to oppress its own religious and ethnic minorities. Some in Congress, both liberals and conservatives, are reluctant to grant the president such sweeping authority. "Moral leadership in defense of democracy and human rights is vital to what we stand for in the world," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the author of a strict sanctions bill passed in 1997. "Acts of terrorism are violations of human rights. Now is the time to show what sets us apart from those who attack us." As Congress debated the limits of his authority, the president and his cabinet struggled to keep public expectations under control. With thousands of service members moving into position in the Middle East, Mr. Bush was at pains to remind Americans not to expect a round-the-clock television war, like the one his father fought in Kuwait. Instead, he promised a campaign of covert operations, strategic alliances, and financial strangulation. He wasted no time in launching the latter attack. On Sept. 24, the president froze all U.S. assets of 27 individuals and organizations known to be involved in terrorism. With plenty of cash, the Sept. 11 hijackers were able to rent hotel rooms and automobiles, buy plane tickets, and take pilot training courses costing up to $35,000. New evidence suggests that four of the terrorists may have lived in this country for years using stolen identities and overseas funds. Mr. Bush wants to dry up the pipeline that makes such operations possible. No one believes that Mr. bin Laden stashes his money at Wachovia or Bank of America, of course. But the president's directive also asked foreign banks to search their records for accounts linked to the terrorist groups. Those that refused to cooperate, he warned, would have their own U.S. assets frozen. The effect was immediate. Governments of the G7, the world's richest industrialized nations, quickly agreed to the freeze. And even in Pakistan, state-run Habib Bank said its 1,450 branches would search their accounts for the 27 names on the Bush list. But that list shows just what a diplomatic tightrope the president is walking. Some of the more obscure names on the list claim to be charities with no ties to the Taliban government in Afghanistan. To the Bush administration, for instance, Pakistan-based Al Rashid Trust is a Taliban front, soliciting Muslims abroad for donations, which are then used to fund terrorist cells. But a Trust spokesman insisted it was merely a charitable organization that feeds the poor and provides artificial limbs for Afghans injured by the millions of stray landmines that still dot the hillsides. On the other hand, some of the world's best-known terrorist groups-Hamas and Hezbollah, for instance-didn't make the list at all. That's because they are Islamic organizations fighting the Jewish state, a cause popular even with moderate Muslims. To win the support of those moderates, President Bush must avoid seeming to do Israel's bidding. Instead, he targeted fundamentalist Muslim groups seeking to overthrow more secular Muslim governments in places like Egypt, Algeria, and Uzbekistan (see map). Will that be enough to prevent popular uprisings against the United States once the bombs start falling? The uncertainty is one big reason this won't be a war fought on prime-time TV. Military planners want to quietly take out Mr. bin Laden and decimate his forces-without triumphantly hoisting the American flag over Kabul. When it comes to raising the Stars and Stripes, last week's sad little ceremony at Camp David may have to hold us for a while.

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