Ready or Not?

A counterterror medical team based in Denver is supposed to be able to launch in hours after an attack. But FEMA cuts may curb that capability.

A Denver-based federal counterterrorism team charged with saving
lives after nerve gas, nuclear or dirty-bomb attacks is facing its
own challenges that threaten its ability to quickly respond.

“If getting there early is going to save lives, we are not going
to save as many lives,” said Dr. Charles Goldstein, commander of
the 90-member unit.

The team of doctors, nurses and paramedics – a unique unit in the
107-team National Disaster Medical System – is supposed to be able
to mobilize within hours, then fly into chaos and work through the
crucial first few days after an attack to contain casualties.

But overspending has mired the system in debt, forcing the
suspension of funding for such teams while Federal Emergency
Management Agency supervisors scramble to sort out irregularities.

Team members say the problems threaten to compromise their work in
a disaster by impeding maintenance of equipment, limiting paid
training and increasing the time it takes to prepare to go.

The Denver team now requires eight hours to mobilize, two hours
more than the FEMA standard, for lack of a functioning centralized
pager-notification system, Goldstein said. He blames poor FEMA

More than a year after Hurricane Katrina called FEMA’s management
into question, the agency’s stewardship of the disaster medical
system “is dysfunctional and complex,” Goldstein said.

The problems have shaken the entire National Disaster Medical
System, which was formed during the Cold War as a prized asset of
the Public Health Service.

FEMA took over the system after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks amid
concerns that terrorists would launch more attacks inside the
United States. Congress gave it $34 million a year. It includes
teams with specialized capabilities ranging from handling heaps of
dead bodies to helping distressed animals.

Now – on orders from the White House – the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services is poised to take back the system as part
of a post-Katrina reorganization.

Three teams in nation

Goldstein’s team operates out of a beige warehouse in north Denver
holding millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and vehicles. It is
one of three elite medical teams in the system. Others are
positioned in Los Angeles and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

It is the nation’s only team configured to travel on short notice
by air using collapsible gear that fits into easily transportable

Its mission is responding to terrorist attacks involving weapons of
mass destruction, though all teams in the system can work after
natural disasters and other crises as well. The Denver team worked
in Houston for two weeks after Katrina.

But team spending on training and maintenance so exceeded the
system’s budget that FEMA supervisors shut down funding in
September. The deficit amount “is still being reviewed,” said
Jack Beall, chief of the system at FEMA, in response to written
questions from The Denver Post.

Goldstein said that he couldn’t say how much he spent this year but
that the total doesn’t exceed his roughly $800,000 annual budget
from 2005.

“They’ve never told me how much money I’m allowed to spend” in
2006, he said.

Team members are classified as “intermittent federal employees”
and until recently received from $13 to $50 an hour, depending on
their skill level, for work devoted to the team. As a doctor,
Goldstein, 59, said he has collected $50 an hour for 24 hours a
week of work outside his private medical practice to run the team –
about $57,600 a year.

If FEMA officials “tell me what the rules are, I’m going to play
by them,” he said. “But they are not telling us what the rules
are. And then they keep changing them midstream.

“We are doing things, utilizing our best judgment, to accomplish
the mission and keep our teams in a state of appropriate readiness
and alertness.”

Outside work questioned

Some units of the National Disaster Medical System, including the
Denver-based team, solicit additional outside funding. Goldstein
arranged a $75,000-a-year sponsorship from the Hospital Corporation of America. At FEMA headquarters, Beall said the sponsorship is illegal under federal rules to guard against conflicts of interest.

Said Goldstein: “We weren’t told we can’t do that. We were told
there were potential conflicts of interest. They said they were
going to investigate teams individually. That never went

The Denver team formed a nonprofit foundation after the Sept. 11
attacks to raise money and do outside work. This nonprofit sought
and won a $600,000 state government contract to run a database and
train local medical volunteers.

FEMA officials said teams can do outside work like this and accept
payment as long as they are not acting in their federal capacity.
It’s unclear whether that means team members can work together and
use federally funded equipment.

Now the interruption of funding threatens response capabilities.
For example, Goldstein said, his 13 vehicles no longer are fully
maintained, and crews are hard-pressed to handle tedious but
crucial tasks such as charging more than 425 batteries that run
respirators, air-monitoring devices and other tools.

Limited funding resumed this month, but the Denver team now
operates at “a sub-optimal level,” Goldstein announced in a
recent memo to team members.

At FEMA headquarters in Washington, new managers hired after the
Hurricane Katrina debacle acknowledged problems with the disaster
medical teams. They say they’re investigating and scrambling to put
in order a system the nation could need any day.

Supervisors cut off funds in September because “a number of teams
had overspent their budgets,” said Glenn Cannon, director of
FEMA’s response division.

Team leaders “got in trouble because they tried to make it like
there were full-time positions when in fact there weren’t,” Cannon
said, declining to single out specific teams.

“Now,” Cannon said, “we will watch, much more closely, the
spending rates of the teams.”

U.S. Health and Human Services officials who will take over the
disaster-response system in January said they’ll have lawyers
review all FEMA decisions.

The system “needs strengthening,” said Public Health Service Rear
Adm. Dr. Craig VanDerwagen, an assistant secretary for public
health emergency preparedness.

Maintaining an elite team that can fly into a crisis within four
hours is essential, VanDerwagen said.

Team members around the country “are appropriately anxious,
perhaps frustrated, and somewhat angry because of the movement back
and forth (between agencies) over the past two years,” he said.

Where the cuts will hurt

Now, after the sudden suspension of funding, Denver team members
train on a volunteer basis. This month, managers were allotted a
combined total of 48 paid hours a week to coordinate training and
keep equipment ready, Goldstein said.

“There are things that are going to suffer,” he said. “I have 13
vehicles that are supposed to be driven 50 miles a month. I can’t
pay people to do that anymore. … Is fuel going to start leaking
from one of my trucks because it hasn’t been lubricated?”

Last Sunday, a dozen or so nurses, doctors and paramedics gathered
for training in their rented 16,600-square-foot warehouse, east of
Interstate 25, amid millions of dollars’ worth of gear, from drug
supplies to nerve gas detectors.

Clad in chocolate-colored protective overalls, lime-green rubber
boots and double gloves, they practiced inserting breathing tubes
into a mannequin while wearing gas masks that made their voices
sound pinched and faraway.

“Like working underwater,” said team member Dr. David Levine, 57.

Team members set up collapsible stretchers. They set up a
collapsible decontamination tent and an accordion-like apparatus
for moving unconscious victims on backboards through a scrubbing
zone. They reviewed procedures for jamming injectors filled with
atropine, a nerve gas antidote, into their thighs.

Now, with federal funding reduced and seemingly uncertain, some
team leaders seek new jobs to make up lost income.

“I can do this for a couple months, but then it will start getting
tight,” said team administrator Wendy Colon, whose paid hours were
cut from 40 a week to 24. “And there are some things that aren’t
being done.”

Yet despite uncertainties, every terrorism-related news bulletin,
such as the recent one about possible radiological bombs in
football stadiums, sends team member Edie Lindeburg, 40, bolting to
a spare room in her house, where her black duffel bag sits ready to

“I run and check my equipment. I think: ‘Did I do the battery
check? Who do I have to notify if I go?”‘ said Lindeburg, an
18-year-veteran hospital and emergency room nurse.

“I’d be scared to death” to walk into the scene of a nuclear or
chemical attack, she said. “But I still am ready to do that.”

War on Terrorism

Detainee tries to force feds’ hand

A man from the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands jailed for more
than two years after the FBI targeted him as a possible
Denver-based terrorist – but never charged him – has begun a
last-ditch legal gambit to resume his life with his U.S.-citizen wife and four kids.

Still in prison in Colorado, Haroon Rashid has filed a motion in
federal court to force the government to prosecute him.

It’s an unusual effort to break out of the legal limbo that has
derailed his life and the lives of others jailed since Sept. 11,
2001, in the government’s war on terrorism.

After charging 441 detainees in terrorism and terrorism-related
cases, federal authorities have won 261 convictions, a new Justice
Department study found. Most of the convictions were for petty
offenses, not terrorism.

An undetermined number of suspects, including Rashid, still are
detained. About 150 cases are pending.

U.S. officials say secret evidence supports a hard-line approach.
Prosecutors are trying “to prevent terrorist acts before they can
occur,” Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said.

But civil-liberties leaders question basic fairness.

“Yes, we want to be safe, but do we want to sacrifice our
liberties in the process? … If you want to always be safe, you
could lock everybody up. But that’s not what our system is based
on,” said Judy Rabinovitz, senior attorney for the American Civil
Liberties Union.

Rashid made his move, through his attorney Jeff Pagliuca, after
U.S. Attorney Troy Eid filed a motion Oct. 2 to drop a lesser
immigration charge the government was pursuing as the FBI’s initial
terrorism case evaporated, court records show.

By dropping the immigration charge, Eid had planned to clear the
way for Rashid to be deported back to his native Pakistan for
misdemeanor assault. In 2003, a jury found Rashid guilty of
assaulting a street-gang member he said threatened his kids. He
received a 401-day sentence that was mostly suspended.

Now Rashid’s motion – to block federal prosecutors from dropping
their case – aims to delay his deportation and further clear his
record. He’s been held in federal custody at his lawyer’s request
to avoid deportation until the federal case is resolved.

Rashid comes from Quetta, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, an
unsettled hotbed of anti-U.S. sentiment where Taliban forces are on
the rise. His wife and children say they dread moving there if he
is deported but would do so to be together.

“It doesn’t do anybody in our country any good to have this man
deported back to Pakistan on a misdemeanor,” Pagliuca said. “…
I’d rather have Mr. Rashid here taking care of his children.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock must decide how to handle
this jam – with feds asking to drop their charges and Rashid asking
for a trial to exonerate himself and let his family stay a bit
longer in the country.

Rashid already has served more time in prison than would be
possible if prosecutors won a conviction on the lesser immigration
charge they’re now trying to drop.

He immigrated to the United States legally in November 1997. His
wife, Saima Saima, and her father, Abdul Qayyum, are naturalized
U.S. citizens. Rashid worked driving an airport shuttle as they
raised their kids.

Federal agents began investigating him and his family in 2002 after
President Bush and then- Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed to
use every legal tool they could to detain and prosecute possible
terrorists. Rashid had visited Pakistan that year.

Denver-based FBI Special Agent Mike Castro testified at a 2003
detention hearing that there was evidence Rashid bragged he had
fought against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and that he was in
Colorado awaiting orders to carry out violent acts.

Said Pagliuca: “I don’t believe it. Why didn’t they charge him as
a terrorist?”

Castro and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Ross
Godwin, members of a joint terrorism task force, went to California
and questioned Imran Khan, son of Rashid’s father-in-law by a
previous marriage, who had entered the United States in August 1997
with Rashid’s wife.

The agents sought Kahn as a source on Rashid and others. Though
they lacked a warrant, they arrested Khan and hauled him back to
Colorado in shackles, court records show.

In a 2004 court order, Judge Babcock stated that “the terrorism
implications of this case have since evaporated” and that “there
was confusion about how and under what authority an FBI and
(immigration) agent working in concert in a mixed civil and
criminal investigation should conduct their investigation.”

Federal officials recently have rebuffed repeated efforts to
interview Rashid at the Englewood federal prison. He was held
previously at a federal immigration prison in Aurora.

Family members can visit, including a toddler born during Rashid’s

The older children regularly ask about their father and beg to stay
in their schools.

U.S. authorities “are breaking this family. We’ve been patient. …
This is very unfair,” Rashid’s wife said in a Denver mosque.
“They still think he’s a terrorist.”

State Counterterrorism Officials Casting Wider Net


The ACLU denounces the use of a website to report “suspicious” activity as an encouragement to spy.

Colorado counterterrorism officials used the 9/11 anniversary to
launch an Internet system that lets ordinary people electronically
report “suspicious activity” – ferreting out possible terrorist
bombers or plotters in their midst.

“One person can make a difference in thwarting terrorism,” State
Patrol Chief Mark Tostel said Monday in unveiling the system.

Civil-liberties leaders immediately denounced the move as deeply

The system lets anybody with Internet access send a report and
photos (via documenting anything that strikes them
as suspicious.

Officials said suspicious activity may include “unusual requests
for information,” “unusual interest in high-risk or symbolic
targets,” “unusual purchases or thefts,” “suspicious or
unattended packages,” “suspicious persons who appear out of
place” or people acquiring weapons, uniforms or fraudulent

A report sent through the system would ping the e-mail of a law
enforcement staffer at an intelligence relay station, the Colorado
Information Analysis Center, located in Centennial in a secure
building looped into federal computer networks.

Multi-agency teams in this “fusion” center, with access to
classified data, then would review the report, perhaps running
license-plate or other personal- data checks, and could notify the

About 300 tips about possible terrorism-related activity in
Colorado, fielded at the center over the past 18 months, were
deemed significant enough to forward to the FBI, state officials
said. The new electronic system is designed to increase the flow of
information that could be used to stop terrorism.

It’s unclear what happens to names, locations and other information
sent to the FBI. Everybody who sends in a tip will get a response,
officials said.

Coloradans could abuse the system “to undermine their neighbors or
their enemies,” said State Patrol Sgt. Jack Cowart, a former Air
Force intelligence officer who manages the center. But that risk
already exists with the rise of phone-oriented systems that let
Coloradans report “road rage” and crime, Cowart said.

“This is just one more. … We need information from the public to
keep the public safe,” Cowart said.

A counterterrorism telephone hotline (720-852-6705) already draws
up to 20 tips a week to the fusion center. Surveillance crews
sometimes contact police dispatchers, who can send officers to
check out people or places, said State Patrol Capt. Brenda Leffler,
commander at the center.

“I hate it,” said Cathryn Hazouri, executive director of the
American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado. “This is encouraging
people to spy on one another.”

It moves modern America in the direction of communist societies of
the Soviet Union and China, “where people were encouraged to turn
in their family members, or their neighbors, if they believed those
people were not toeing the government line,” Hazouri said.

“Be careful. Be aware that you could ruin people’s reputations,
ruin their ability to go on an airplane,” Hazouri said. “There
are so many things that grow out of this kind of program.

“It’s almost as though they are trying to tell people that they
need to be afraid. Very afraid. Afraid of people they know, and
especially of people they don’t know.”

Cheyenne Mountain on Standby

Duties at the Colorado Springs-area military post, touted as America’s safest spot, are moving to Peterson.

Colorado Springs – The military is relegating its newly renovated
airspace and missile defense complex in Cheyenne Mountain to
standby status – clouding the future of a Cold War nerve center
touted as the most secure spot in America.

The green-jumpsuited sentries who electronically scan the skies
from deep inside this granite cocoon southwest of Colorado Springs
– built in the 1960s to withstand Soviet nuclear blasts – now are
to blend into broader homeland defense operations under prairie
skies at nearby Peterson Air Force Base.

“I can’t be in two places at one time,” said Adm. Tim Keating,
commander of both U.S. Northern Command, set up in 2002 to fight
terrorism, and North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD.
Both NORAD and Northcom have their headquarters at Peterson.

U.S. strategists created the mountain complex to prevent nuclear
missile and bomber attacks. But today the government’s best
intelligence “leads us to believe a missile attack from China or
Russia is very unlikely,” Keating said in an interview this week.

The emergence of varied terrorist threats such as suicide bombers
“is what recommends to us that we don’t need to maintain Cheyenne
Mountain in a 24/7 status. We can put it on ‘warm standby,”‘
Keating said.

Just how warm depends on money to maintain the complex, military
officials said. Keating said his goal is to be able to fire up the
complex in an hour.

Keating today is scheduled to announce the decision he made after
consulting with military chiefs in Washington. He’ll move 230
surveillance crewmembers and an undetermined number of about 700
support staffers – as quickly and inexpensively as possible. The
time frame: within two years.

About 1,100 people now work in the mountain. Military leaders
promised there’d be no net job loss from the move.

Whether money can be saved is uncertain, Keating said. Mountain
operations cost taxpayers $250 million a year.

Budgets at first may increase, officials said, depending on how
much money is available to maintain mountain facilities, but in the
future could decrease.

The move itself will cost “tens of millions of dollars,” said Air
Force Col. Lou Christensen, deputy director of operations.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the government began
a $467 million modernization of the mountain facility. A recent
congressional probe found cost overruns – modernizers spent more
than $700 million, and the work isn’t done.

Moving surveillance crews out marks a twist in nearly 50 years of
secretive activity at the mountain. Blasting a 4 1/2-acre cavern
about 60 feet high was the first of many engineering feats that led
to construction of 15 free-standing buildings mounted on 1,319
springs, which allow a 12-inch sway. The total cost, $142 million,
raised eyebrows back then.

Since the mid-1960s, joint U.S.-Canadian crews in the mountain have
guarded North America, poised to send warnings that could initiate
nuclear missile launches. Strategists long were locked into notions
of superpower security through “mutually assured destruction.”

Now military analysts ponder strategic implications of a move that
reflects a growing concern with terrorism by small groups against a
military superpower.

While odds of a nuclear missile attack now seem slim, “take it 15
years down the road,” said John Pike, director of Global Security,
a Washington think tank. “Maybe the Chinese will try to take us
on. They might start blowing up military targets. And though
currently we’re not concerned about the Russians, that may change.
What would be required to get back into that mountain?”

The decision to move surveillance crews out followed an internal
study launched in February. The study explored consolidation of two
overlapping surveillance operations – the one in the mountain and
the new homeland defense center at Peterson, about 12 miles from
the mountain at the eastern edge of Colorado Springs.

There, homeland defense surveillance crews surrounded by wall-sized
video screens try to detect and track threats – with access to the
same data available inside the mountain.

These crews track threats as varied as U.S.-bound ships carrying
unidentified cargo and suspicious cars idling around power plants.

Today, protecting America is increasingly complicated, said Army
Col. Tom Muir, who directs the new center and helped run the
internal study. “Is Hezbollah going to attack the United States?”
he asked.

During the 9/11 attacks, the NORAD commander at the time, Air Force
Gen. Ralph Eberhart, was caught shuttling from headquarters at
Peterson to the mountain command post and couldn’t receive
telephone calls as senior officials weighed how to respond.

Consolidating surveillance operations is aimed at “strengthening
the command center here,” Muir said. “This is an efficiency

Canadian defense partners who helped run mountain operations also
sit at the new surveillance center. It has been renamed N2C2, short
for NORAD-Northcom Command Center.

“I have found, over the course of several pretty extensive,
rigorous exercises, that I’m able to get as good or better
situational awareness in the command center … at Peterson,”
Keating said.

Besides NORAD and Northcom, other military forces work in the
mountain today. An Air Force Space Command squadron of 100 people
tracks space debris and satellites. U.S. missile command crews and
intelligence teams from the National Reconnaissance Office and
other agencies also are there – all supported by 700 cooks, a
barber, medics, recreational center staff, engineers, guards and

Air Force Space Command, too, is looking into moving its operations
out of the mountain to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California –
raising the prospect of a virtually empty mountain.

Keating said he and other commanders have talked about this. “I’m
aware of the plans” that would move a majority of remaining forces
out, he said. Yet “we appreciate the importance of Cheyenne
Mountain. That is exactly why we are going to maintain it … in the
event we would need it.

“This is not Step One that will lead, inevitably and inexorably,
to closing Cheyenne Mountain.”

One possibility: using the mountain as a second seat for the U.S.
government in a crisis. Keating said he knew of no discussions on
this, but he characterized that option as reasonable.


Key events in Cheyenne Mountain’s history:

Early 1950s: The Cold War with the Soviet Union leads U.S.
authorities to find a place where military warning facilities could
survive a nuclear attack.

1958: The U.S. and Canada establish the North American Air Defense
Command, or NORAD, to monitor and defend North American airspace
from attack.

1959: Cheyenne Mountain is selected for the NORAD command site.

1961: Excavation and construction begin. More than 693,000 tons of
granite is removed from the mountain. Eventually, 15 buildings,
some mounted on springs, are constructed behind 25-ton blast doors,
1,400 feet inside the mountain.

1966: The NORAD Operations Center inside the mountain becomes fully

1979: A simulation of a large Soviet missile attack is mistakenly
interpreted as real by Cheyenne Mountain personnel and almost leads
to a massive launch of U.S. nuclear missiles before the error is

1981: NORAD changes its name to North American Aerospace Defense
Command. The Air Force starts computer-system upgrades at an
estimated cost of $968 million.

1983: The hit sci-fi movie “WarGames,” starring Matthew Broderick
and set at NORAD, is released. It is one of several Hollywood
productions that have used Cheyenne Mountain as a setting,
including the films “Sum of All Fears” and “Deep Impact” and
TV’s “Stargate SG-1.”

1989: NORAD begins military support of agencies fighting transport
of illegal drugs into the U.S.

1998: Computer upgrades started in 1981 are declared operational,
at a total cost of about $1.8 billion.

2000: The Air Force starts another program to modernize and
integrate Cheyenne Mountain systems.

Sept. 11, 2001: In the wake of the terrorist attacks that day, the
complex closes its blast doors for the first time in decades when
it’s suspected that a hijacked aircraft is headed for the mountain.
The doors reopen when it’s determined no such threat exists.

2001: NORAD’s mission expands to include monitoring air traffic
within North America in response to 9/11.

2002: U.S. Northern Command, or Northcom, is established to fight
terrorism at home and to lead the land, aerospace and sea defense
of the United States. It is based at nearby Peterson Air Force Base
in Colorado Springs. It carries out much of the same surveillance,
with access to all the same data, as the NORAD command post.

2004: Cheyenne Mountain is upgraded, doubling the command center’s
540 square feet. The overhaul is to accommodate the increased staff
from Northcom and the Federal Aviation Administration.

February 2006: U.S. Navy Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of
Northcom and NORAD, tells The Denver Post he has launched an
“internal study” of whether to keep the NORAD command post at
Cheyenne Mountain.

July 2006: A report by Congress’ Government Accountability Office
says poor management has delayed needed upgrades to early-warning
systems at Cheyenne Mountain and pushed the cost more than 50
percent over budget.

Sources: Denver Post archives,,, GAO, The Associated Press,

Northcom & NORAD: Eyes on the Future

Last of three parts New and invisible enemy on radar Homeland security is about more than terrorism these days. The threat of a bird-flu pandemic has defenders scrambling.

Peterson Air Force Base – Military commanders called together
government emergency-

response officials recently for a brainstorming session at this
Cold War base turned headquarters for homeland defense.

But rather than dirty bombs or suicide attacks, they wanted to talk

Convinced that pandemic influenza inevitably will strike inside the
United States, military leaders contend the failure of civilian
agencies, like after Hurricane Katrina, could happen again.

It’s an example of how U.S. Northern Command military forces
charged with homeland defense quietly are assuming broader,
nontraditional roles.

Those perched around conference-room tables here knew the latest
worst-case scenario assessments too well: pandemic flu could kill
as many as 2 million Americans.

The recent spread of the H5N1 bird-flu virus to birds in Africa and
southeastern Europe, just as birds begin seasonal migrations, has
piqued concerns the virus could mutate to spread from birds to
humans and among humans. Experts say that could touch off a global

At the meeting here, civilian officials could only dream of
acquiring the beds, vaccines, ventilators and worldwide outbreak-
detection data available in the military system. Department of
Health and Human Services officials say these military assets could
more than double the national capacity of 970,000 staffed beds and
100,000 ventilators.

But Northcom chiefs emphasized: The military system would treat
soldiers, veterans and their families first.

Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kelly, Northcom spokesman, said military capacity
figures “aren’t available yet, but we do not believe we’d be able
to double the national capacity.”

Yet, spurred by President Bush during his recent visit here,
Northcom officials are preparing to:

Share early-warning data on outbreaks with civilian health

Inspect passengers at airports and seaports for signs of flu.

Slow travel and help police communities, short of attempting
full-blown quarantines.

Move medicines to hard-hit areas and victims to clinics for

Back up civilian doctors by working shifts at overloaded

Possibly share vaccines, beds and ventilators.

“This thing could hit next week, for all we know,” said Col.
Joseph Bassani, Northcom’s chief of planning.

While defense once meant mobilizing armed forces to confront
foreign armies and control turf, homeland-defense forces over the
past year participated in such activities as border control and
firefighting. On Monday, Northcom convened military and National
Guard leaders to talk about how to handle hurricanes this year.

Bush has said the military would play an important role in
responding to pandemic flu. Bush also said that “the best way to
deal with a pandemic is to isolate it in the region in which it
begins,” and suggested Congress debate quarantines.

Civilian response leaders here – representing diplomatic,
environmental protection, emergency management and transportation
agencies – welcomed the prospect of military support.

Military forces “have assets we don’t have. They move tons of
equipment every day. They’re also the best at planning,” said
Capt. Lynn Slepski of the U.S. Public Health Service, now serving
as a senior health adviser in the Department of Homeland Security.

Compared with civilian hospitals that often are hard-pressed to
meet noncrisis needs, the military’s medical system can treat
thousands of soldiers in critical condition at once.

Fixed and mobile clinics give a “surge capacity” that civilian
health officials in cities such as Denver are struggling to

After Hurricane Katrina, military doctors and nurses treated
hundreds of victims. Helicopters evacuated victims to the 500- bed
USS Bataan floating hospital.

Military medical teams track disease outbreaks by testing tissue
and blood samples at surveillance centers in Egypt, Kenya,
Indonesia, Thailand and Peru.

Meanwhile, civilian hospital emergency rooms turn away as many as
500,000 people a year, according to recent studies.

The new defense budget includes millions of dollars to prepare for
pandemic flu, including streamlined vaccine production.

If pandemic influenza strikes, the military is likely to be needed
to stabilize communities and enable an effective response, said
Colorado College professor Andrew Price-Smith, author of “The
Health of Nations” and an authority on pandemic threats to the
economy and security.

U.S. communities aren’t as cohesive as in the past, and “the
fragmentation in the government response evident in Katrina is,
unfortunately, likely to be replicated during a pandemic,”
Price-Smith said. “Do we rely on the military to make up for the
diminished capacity in various states? Unfortunately, we are going
to need their resources. The question is: How much can the military

Government worst-case scenarios suggest pandemic flu could infect
90 million Americans, with half needing medical treatment. Up to 40
percent of workers would stay home, and the economic impact could
match that of a major recession, according to a new Congressional
Budget Office assessment.

The pandemic flu in 1918-19 killed more than 500,000 Americans and
50 million people worldwide.

The problem, military leaders told civilians here, is that military
facilities likely would be overwhelmed, too.

These exist primarily to serve soldiers and their families, and
they’d be treated first in a pandemic, said Navy Adm. Timothy
Keating, chief of Northern Command, in an interview.

“Our job in the Department of Defense is principally to fight and
win the nation’s wars,” Keating said. Tens of thousands of
soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan “need to know that their
families are being taken care of. That’s a significant effort.”

But “simultaneously, or as soon as we can,” military forces would
mobilize “to stabilize and ease human suffering,” Keating said.

Military planners said soldiers would not attempt large-scale
quarantines. Quarantine “really isn’t effective with influenza,
because influenza is so contagious,” said Dr. Tanis Batsel,
Northcom’s chief of preventive medicine.

Americans likely would stay home anyway, she said. “Most
convincing will be that people are going to be dying. Everybody
will know somebody.”

Soldiers instead would screen travelers at airports and perhaps
restrict movements of those who are infected.

Homeland defense officials also plan an aggressive public
information campaign: Vaccinate. Follow cough etiquette. Wash
hands. Avoid large groups. Reach out to the homeless and infirm.

By calling civilian emergency planners together, Northcom hoped to
encourage agencies “to come up with requests for assistance” as
soon as possible, Batsel said.

Then military chiefs can review them and “give a reality check.”

Editor’s note

This is the final article in a three- day series on U.S. Northern
Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, both
based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, and their
efforts to prepare for 21st-century threats to the nation’s

Sunday: Northcom expands its mission to monitor the high seas for
terrorist threats aboard ships worldwide.

Monday: The future of NORAD’s command post deep inside Cheyenne
Mountain is in question as the nation’s homeland defense priorities

Today: Northcom quietly plans to respond to a disease pandemic that
could sicken or kill millions of Americans.

More online: Read previous installments in the series and find
links to the Northcom and NORAD websites.

Northcom & NORAD: Eyes on the Future

Second of three parts

Fate of defense post iffy

War on terror could reshape centers’ roles

NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain command post has seen many of its duties duplicated at other bases.

Cheyenne Mountain – Thousands of feet under granite in a command
post built to withstand Soviet nuclear blasts, Canadian Maj. Pat
Audet quietly supervised one of the U.S.-Canadian surveillance
crews that for nearly 50 years have scanned North American skies
guarding against enemy intruders.

But on this recent morning, Audet faced cardboard “top secret”
signs taped over two of his surveillance screens. For “U.S. eyes
only,” he said.

Such barriers to sharing information hint at changes reshaping this
Cold War-era defense complex just southwest of Colorado Springs as
well as the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, the
U.S.-Canadian partnership that runs it.

U.S. officials increasingly look to U.S. Northern Command, or
Northcom, set up in 2002, to pursue broadening homeland-defense

Meanwhile, Canada – which joined Europe and Mexico in opposing the
U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and objects to the Pentagon’s
missile-defense project – on Feb. 1 launched Canada Command to
defend its nation.

Today, the very existence of the NORAD mountain command post is up
in the air.

U.S. Navy Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of Northcom and NORAD,
says he recently launched “an internal study” of whether to keep

Built in the 1960s for $142 million, the command post inside a 4
1/2-acre excavated grid of chambers and tunnels consists of 15
multistory buildings mounted on springs. Personnel at workstations
inside, wired into data networks, were to survive and win a nuclear

U.S. and Canadian forces here number 200 to 300 on a shift, about
800 overall.

But today, with the emergence of Northern Command, a separate,
newer command post carries out much of the same surveillance, with
access to all the same data. That post lies northeast of Cheyenne
Mountain at Peterson Air Force Base, where the Central Intelligence
Agency, FBI, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency
and others have offices.

“It would be logical for you to think: Could there be some
economies and efficiencies by combining functions? And we are
looking at that,” Keating said in an interview.

U.S. officials estimated that NORAD operations cost $350 million a

That money could fund important defense projects, Keating said.

“We would use it to partner with industry and provide … a single
radio” system to link federal, state and local civilian police
with military forces, he said.

In the future, terrorists may well wield nuclear weapons, “but it
still may not be worth the money of burrowing in that deeply,”
said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst at the Brookings
Institution think tank in Washington, D.C.

“It actually would be desirable, to be blunt, if terrorists would
attack a military command facility rather than a city, but it’s not
likely to be a target,” he said, adding that it’s appropriate to
consider melding two surveillance centers into one.

As for U.S.-Canadian military teamwork, nobody expects this will
end, despite recent political differences. Diplomats are
renegotiating terms of the NORAD partnership agreement, which is
scheduled to expire in May.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, military officials
from both countries formed a planning group to explore common

“I can see Northern Command, Canada Command and NORAD all becoming
one,” said Canadian Lt. Gen. Eric Findley, deputy commander of

Yet effective cooperation against terrorism requires mutual
recognition of a need to share information as smoothly as possible,
Findley said.

A few Canadian academics have questioned U.S. assertions that
Northcom now defends all of North America.

Findley shrugged: “If it makes people feel any better, I think the
United States is part of Canada’s area of responsibility.”

Canada certainly is “a trusted and valued partner,” Keating said.
“The trade and commerce we do with them is staggering. What harms
them would harm the United States, and vice versa.”

But he added: “I don’t know that the NORAD of today is going to be
the same NORAD in 2011, five years from now.

“They are standing up their Canada Command, which will be similar
to Northern Command. You’ll have this combatant command in Canada,
and you’ll have a combatant command (Northcom) in the United
States, separated by 7,000 miles of border.”

Today, for the 170 or so Canadians posted at Northcom, just
handling e-mail grows increasingly difficult. Canada’s Capt.
Richard Bergeron, co-director of the joint planning group, pointed
at separate U.S. and Canadian computer systems on his desk.

Inside Northcom’s newer command center, predominantly American
surveillance crews, surrounded by wall-sized flat screens, focus
increasingly on potential threats inside the United States.

“We can certainly pass information to the FBI,” U.S. Army Col.
Tom Muir, director of the center, said on a recent shift. “In
fact, we do that all the time.”

A Canada Command liaison officer sits in the room.

Inside the Cheyenne Mountain post, commanders described how
surveillance crews today have access to Federal Aviation
Administration radar data for tracking about 11,000 flights at a
time inside U.S. airspace – they regularly hear cabin conversations
– in addition to scanning airspace outside the U.S.

Word is out that an internal study has begun into whether to keep
the NORAD mountain command post. And practically everyone bristles.
The mountain post is steeped in tradition after decades of
close-quarters cooperation.

“There are things that can happen here that cannot be duplicated
downtown,” U.S. Air Force Maj. Charles Thinger said, casting
Northcom operations as “complementary” during a recent shift.

Canadian Cmdr. James Hayes, scanning his surveillance screen for
incoming missiles, said rapidly increasing data from “all these
sensors” makes this “a very valuable place … a powerful system,”
even if similar work is done elsewhere.

“In times of trouble,” he said, “this will be very useful.”

Northcom & NORAD: Eyes on the Future

Anti-terror fight takes to the seas From sites in Colorado Springs, the military keeps a close eye on worldwide shipping to thwart threats.

Peterson Air Force Base – A federal agent working with port
authorities in South Asia sounded the warning: A cargo container
had tripped sensors that detect possible chemical, biological and
nuclear weapons. The container was gliding west through the
Mediterranean Sea on a ship bound for New York.

Here, at the military’s homeland defense headquarters in Colorado
Springs, surveillance crews melded that tip with radar and
satellite data. Surrounded by wall-sized screens, the high-tech
trackers located the ship and followed it across the Atlantic

About 200 miles off the East Coast, Coast Guard forces intercepted
and boarded the freighter and searched the cargo containers until
they knew all of them were safe.

Military officials wouldn’t say more about this classified incident
that occurred in November, but the way it was handled begins to
reveal how secretive military forces in Colorado – the center for
airspace surveillance through the Cold War – increasingly target
the high seas to reduce what commanders see as a major

This is part of broadening military activity driven by U.S.
Northern Command, or Northcom, to confront a wider array of
security threats that are as varied as computer hackers and suicide

Northcom commanders contend terrorists will try to hijack ships and
use them to smuggle people and weapons, or turn the vessels into
giant floating bombs.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently granted new authority to
Navy Adm. Timothy Keating – commander of both Northcom and the
U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD – to call up aircraft carriers, submarines and other sea craft for maritime operations to deter and disrupt enemies and collect intelligence.

High-seas surveillance soon will expand, deploying new fleets of
unmanned aerial drones and blimps with infrared capabilities over
oceans, Keating said in an interview.

The new defense budget devotes billions of dollars to developing
this technology and integrating it into daily operations over the
next few years.

Blimps and drones will give pinpoint visual detail on ships,
Keating said. Blimps equipped with cameras and possibly radar, will
hover 70,000 feet above areas of interest while drones eavesdrop in
close. Abnormal behavior, such as vessels traveling outside regular
shipping lanes, would trigger increased surveillance.

“Our job is to deter and prevent any and all attacks on the United
States, whatever the means. We have thousands of miles of
coastline. … We have radar that can track an airplane. … For us to
do our mission, we felt we needed to ramp up maritime domain
awareness,” Keating said.

For nearly 50 years, NORAD’s early-warning operations – run from
deep inside Cheyenne Mountain, southwest of Colorado Springs – focused on airspace, watching for incoming nuclear missiles and warplanes.

Today, NORAD crews still scan airspace imagery, much of it sent
from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora. They scramble fighter jets
several times a week in response to possible threats, such as a
private plane flying near Air Force One.

A reorientation spurred by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
drives the broadening air-land- and-sea approach.

Northcom surveillance crews, working in a new operations center at
Peterson Air Force Base, scan growing amounts of airspace, maritime
and other data integrated with intelligence from spy agencies, the
FBI and others.

Officials from those agencies work at Northcom headquarters.

Fusing this data to track ships and land threats – such as
suspected suicide bombers – is essential to protecting Americans,
said Anthony Cordesman, a veteran defense analyst at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“Your worst-case threats don’t yet exist. You have to deal with
all kinds of low-level activity and possibilities,” Cordesman

“To even begin to create the capability (of effective homeland
defense), you have to make a fundamental change to cover land
borders, ports, seas, coasts and the air. If you miss any of those,
you don’t have homeland defense.”

Each year, some 7,500 foreign-flag ships make 51,000 calls at U.S. ports. They deliver millions of cargo containers that move by rail and truck across the nation.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, security officials have been wrestling with
the possibility that enemies could use ships to smuggle weapons and

To help counter the potential threat, federal agents have been
deployed at 44 ports worldwide. Customs officials also use a
computerized targeting system to review shipping manifests,
identifying potentially dangerous containers for inspection.

Now, military forces are getting more involved supporting these
efforts by tracking and intercepting ships. Last year, U.S. naval
forces boarded more than 2,000 vessels, according to congressional
testimony by Pentagon officials.

By posting agents in foreign ports, “you get the smell and the
flavor” of a port, but agents can be tricked, said Navy Cmdr.
Robert Nestlerode, a former nuclear submarine chief now working at
Northcom. Terrorists on ships also can elude surveillance by
turning off transponder beacons, he said.

Maritime specialists at Northcom said that in October 2001, Italian
police seized a Canada-bound ship from Egypt at an Italian port. Aboard, they found an Egyptian man hiding in a cargo container equipped with a bed, toilet, cell and satellite telephones, Canadian passports, airplane tickets and an airline mechanic’s certificate valid for airports in
New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Italian authorities released the Egyptian on bail, then he

The massive volume of shipping makes inspecting every cargo
container impossible, “and we don’t want to stop 95 percent of
ships on the ocean,” said Navy Cmdr. Richard Farrell of Northcom’s
future operations division.

Yet, “we can’t afford to have a 9/11 in the maritime domain,”
Farrell said. “We’re looking at all avenues to make those
containers visible. … A lot of our next steps are classified. We’re
trying to be a little more anticipatory.”

The scope of these operations is global, looking increasingly
beyond coastal waters to vital shipping routes, such as the Red
Sea, where piracy is on the rise.

Even nuclear submarines, built to deter an attack by the Soviet
Union, may be rolled into homeland defense.

A few years ago, U.S. forces – including a sub – trailed a North
Korean ship off Yemen, near Osama bin Laden’s ancestral homelands.
Eavesdropping U.S. crews heard every sneeze. When Spanish forces
raided the ship, they found Scud missiles.

“A submarine can approach in a very clandestine manner and track
(a ship) if need be,” Keating said. If Northcom crews observe a
ship “behaving erratically” with cargo that isn’t on a manifest,
“or it has been alongside another ship that we don’t trust,”
calling in a nuclear-powered attack submarine might make sense, he

All would assist, he added, in the overriding goal of “being able
to respond with increasing rapidity as far away from our shores as

Peterson Air Force Base is nation’s eye on land, seas, skies and space


Launched to fight terrorism at home in 2002, U.S. Northern Command
became fully operational a year later. Northcom – based at Peterson
Air Force Base in Colorado Springs – is responsible for land,
aerospace and sea defense of the United States.

Operations include global surveillance as well as support of civil
authorities in dealing with attacks and natural disasters.

Northcom is one of several regional commands that coordinate U.S.
military operations in various parts of the world. Its area of
operations includes the United States, Canada, Mexico, parts of the
Caribbean and surrounding waters out to 500 miles.

About 950 men and women, 360 of them civilian, serve at Northcom
headquarters. Its annual budget is about $70 million.

Northcom forces also include an 87-member civil-support task force
based at Fort Monroe, Va., and a 140-member counterdrug task force
at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Another 30 Northcom personnel serve on a force protecting

Northcom calls up outside military units for operations and
activities worldwide.

In addition to air, land and sea surveillance, Northcom commanders
have run dozens of operations, including training drills nationwide
with local first-responders and simulated response exercises with
military commanders. Recent operations also included border patrol
and helping victims of Hurricane Katrina.


Peterson is also headquarters of the U.S.-Canadian North American
Aerospace Defense Command. For decades, NORAD crews have scanned
North American skies for incoming warplanes and missiles from an
operations center deep inside Cheyenne Mountain on the southwest
side of Colorado Springs.

Those operations now include surveillance of U.S. airspace.

Much of the satellite data used by NORAD surveillance crews comes
from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.

U.S. Navy Adm. Timothy Keating commands both Northcom and NORAD.


The U.S. Air Force Space Command also is based at Peterson,
overseeing units nationwide, including the Space Warfare Center,
which conducts missile-defense work, and the 50th Space Wing, which
runs military satellites, both based at Schriever Air Force Base,
east of Colorado Springs.

Editor’s note

This is the first article in a three-day series on U.S. Northern
Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, both
based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, and their
efforts to prepare for 21st-century threats to the nation’s

Today: Northcom expands its mission to monitor the high seas for
terrorist threats aboard ships worldwide.

Monday: The future of NORAD’s command post deep inside Cheyenne
Mountain is in question as the nation’s homeland defense priorities
evolve. Officials are studying whether to keep the underground

Tuesday: Northcom quietly plans to respond to a disease pandemic
that could sicken or kill millions of Americans, and prepares to
treat military personnel and their families if disaster strikes.

More online: Find links to the Northcom and NORAD websites.

Hiring Rules Enforcement Nonexistant

In Denver, it’s been three years since any fine was imposed for failure to verify workers’ immigration status.

While Congress wrestles with new legislation to crack down on
employers who hire illegal-immigrant workers, enforcement of an
existing prohibition has all but ceased.

Not a single employer in the Denver area has been fined for three
years, records show, and federal authorities have targeted only a
handful of employers nationwide.

This week, experts on all sides of the intensifying national
immigration debate agreed: Work- site enforcement will be crucial
in efforts to deal effectively with growing numbers of illegal
foreign-born workers.

“If I could do one thing in the area of immigration reform, it
would be to stop employers from providing the magnet. Then we’d
have much of this problem solved,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo,
R-Colo., leader of the House Immigration Reform Caucus.

A 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border that Tancredo and a
majority of fellow lawmakers demand, costing hundreds of millions
of dollars, “is a symbol as much as it is a practical obstacle
…,” Tancredo said. “I certainly believe we should have that
symbol, but the real key is work-site enforcement.”

Longtime federal immigration chief Doris Meisner, now a senior
fellow at the Migration Policy Institute think tank in Washington,
called current work-site enforcement “a charade,” a
“wink-and-nod system” vulnerable to fraud and fakery.

The 1986 law that makes hiring illegal workers a crime “is an
unworkable law because of the verification issue. There’s no way
for employers to know whether the documents they see are valid,”
she said.

“And they don’t have a requirement to verify those documents. That
has to be fixed,” said Meisner, who ran the Immigration and
Naturalization Service under President Clinton.

“You have to have a way that’s straightforward” – similar to
credit-card verification using photo identification and Social
Security numbers – to check workers, she said.

Establishing penalties and a database for screening workers “is an
important step in developing a credible immigration system,” said
Marshall Fitz, advocacy director for the American Immigration
Lawyers Association.

That group and Meisner contend work-site enforcement must be
combined with bringing in more temporary workers to ensure U.S.
economic competitiveness.

Even business advocates at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce favor
required work-site screening “as long as it is fast, reliable and
accurate,” chamber vice president Randy Johnson said. “We
recognize that improved employer verification has to be part of

Senate lawmakers now are expected to offer “guest worker”
proposals. House lawmakers have passed broad enforcement-

oriented legislation that would require employers to verify workers
are legal and impose fines of $25,000 per violation.

Today, federal enforcers let companies police themselves. Under a
nationwide pilot program, only 4,830 employers nationwide (131 in
Colorado, 31 in Denver) voluntarily checked Social Security numbers
against a federal database last year.

Federal enforcers also have failed for nearly a decade to issue
guidelines on which identification documents employers should
review, a Government Accountability Office investigation found.

Wide use of fake documents and identities complicates enforcement.

Government statistics show that workplace arrests of illegal
workers nationwide decreased from 17,554 in 1997 to 159 in 2004.

Notices of intent to fine employers decreased from 865 in 1997 to
three in 2004.

In Denver, no employer has been fined for three years for hiring
illegal workers, said Carl Rusnok, regional Homeland Security
spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Immigration officials blame their lagging enforcement of the
current work-site law on post-

9/11 security priorities. Field agents focus on sensitive work
sites: nuclear power plants, military bases and airports.

Now Homeland Security chiefs are beginning to “look at giving
employers better tools to determine the legality of their
workforce. Some of these things are going to be unveiled pretty soon,” said Dean Boyd, national Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman in Washington.

“If employers don’t take those steps,” he said, “we are looking at what sanctions are available.”

Africa Lifelines: FBI Cultivating Africans as Security Teammates

Denver agent training Kenyan officers in forensics The U.S. views Africa with interest as a frontier for terrorism, but any military acts can stoke resentment.

Nairobi, Kenya – Nine thousand miles from his home in Denver, FBI Special Agent Carle Schlaff faced 60 top African detectives packed into a room in Nairobi as part of a new U.S. focus on Africa.

Schlaff’s mission: to work with these African counterparts on
forensics and cultivate them as security partners.

The U.S. government views Africa with renewed interest as a
frontier for terrorism where al-Qaeda and other Islamic radicals
hide. Africa also supplies a growing share of the oil Americans
consume – nearly a fifth.

Terrorists in Africa could affect U.S. interests and organize
attacks inside the United States, said William Bellamy, U.S.
ambassador to Kenya.

“We try to monitor as best we can” airport travelers to prevent
terrorists from entering America, he said. “But I would not
exclude the possibility that could occur. … It’s certainly

Kenyan police recently found anti-tank missiles – some U.S.-made – in a terrorism suspect’s apartment at Mombasa, Kenya.

The U.S. priority in Africa of combating global terrorism has led
President Bush to deploy military forces at a growing network of
bases from Algeria to Uganda – in a pattern Bush set after the
Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

About 1,600 U.S. soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors are posted
in Djibouti at a base called Camp Lemonier, a former French Foreign
Legion outpost. It is the first large long-term deployment of U.S.
forces to Africa.

Bush also sent special forces soldiers to Mali, Chad and Niger for
exercises with local forces against radical Muslims.

And U.S. officials have delivered more than $152 million in weapons
to sub-Saharan Africa since 2001, up from $92 million during the
previous four years.

But the military approach stokes resentment. African leaders say
they’re more interested in fighting worsening poverty than serving
U.S. interests.

African authorities believe young men were willing to join
anti-U.S. groups “because they had no jobs,” said Nicholas
Kamwende, commander of the Kenyan National Police anti-terrorism unit.

“We think fighting poverty is one of our ways of fighting
terrorism,” he said.

Kamwende said the United States traditionally has used skillful
diplomacy and developmental aid to help Africa address water,
health care and economic needs.

Tensions are mounting. Kenyan courts recently acquitted several
terrorism suspects indicted in the United States, and Kenyan
lawmakers have refused to pass an anti-terrorism law.

U.S. State Department officials say savvy cops such as Schlaff, who
also has worked in Botswana and the Red Sea area, can be more
effective than soldiers in helping locals root out terrorists.

In a spartan conference hall in Nairobi, Schlaff wore a sport shirt
and slacks instead of the camouflage fatigues that mark most U.S.

He smiled the way he might over coffee back home as the African
detectives in coats and ties stood quiet. He handed out FBI pins,
patches, fingerprint kits and cameras. He showed photos of his
family in the Colorado mountains.

He told of his forensics work on the FBI team that investigated the
bombing of the USS Cole warship that killed 17 sailors. Schlaff
helped dredge the harbor off Yemen and found part of an outboard
motor that cracked the case.

The attentiveness of Kenyan police officers impressed him, Schlaff

“Their focus is street crime. We’re not suggesting a different
focus. We’re just trying to make them aware there could be a
terrorism matter involved.”

Now, Schlaff is back in the United States. But detectives he
coached are working in Eastleigh, a Somali-run ghetto on the
outskirts of Nairobi, trying to recruit sources, offering money for

They’ve discovered funds flowing from Somalia to Eastleigh for
construction of shopping malls. They’re investigating who might be
sinking roots or raising money in Kenya.

These efforts bore out Schlaff’s conclusions. Street-

level police when treated with respect “are genuinely interested
in working with us” against terrorism, he said.

“If you want to convince people Americans are not the aggressor, I
think you’ve got to do it by being there low on the ground.”

High Noon in Latin America: U.S. Targets “Lawless” Areas

A war on rebels and drug cartels in Colombia has left the U.S. an unpopular symbol of authority in a region where violence is becoming rampant.

Puerto Colón, Colombia – Here at the edge of the Amazon jungle, chain-saw scalpings, death threats and bodies floating down the river signify a spreading lawlessness that U.S. officials say terrorists could exploit.

But an emerging new military-led response is controversial.

The lawlessness grows from the U.S.- backed war on Colombian rebels and drug cartels – which has cost taxpayers $3.3 billion over the last four years, the third most expensive war behind Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Even my 4-year-old daughter has seen dead people,” migrant barmaid Maria Giron, 22, said recently at this southern outpost. Marauding militias “cut off heads,” and teenagers “go into the violence because there’s no work for them. It’s growing. There’s no end to it.”

Now people and violence spill into neighboring Ecuador, and U.S. military commanders are pressing proxy armed forces to confront what they call a new “war on terrorism” challenge across Latin America.

They’ve identified the pulsing green Ecuador-Peru border region, where oil workers already clash with indigenous groups, as one of several “ungoverned spaces.”

Kidnappings, dealing in drugs and arms, and killings are becoming common here. Military officials say areas like this could give criminals and anti- U.S. terrorists a foothold to destabilize governments and plot attacks against the United States and its allies.

Gruesome stories

The emerging U.S. military strategy for ungoverned space seeks to assert control through armed force. In Ecuador, U.S. officials have trained and equipped some 7,000 troops to create a bulwark against rebel- held southern .

The idea is “to lay a foundation so that we don’t have to use a pre-emption strategy,” said Army Col. David McWilliams, spokesman for U.S. Southern Command, which runs operations in Latin America.

Nobody is planning first- strike action to take out threats in Latin America, McWilliams said, and U.S. soldiers also will do humanitarian work.

Yet some Latin American leaders – remembering U.S. military interventions in Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua – say military-led “war on terrorism” action may only make matters worse.

Here in the Ecuador jungle, farmers, refugees, soldiers, priests and local officials tell sometimes-gruesome stories of violence and worsening economic conditions. They call for economic help – not armed force – because families who relied on coca field work now have nothing to fall back on. Without alternative crops and access to markets that pay fair prices, they say, law and order will be precarious.

On Nov. 12, just down the San Miguel River that marks the Ecuador border, militiamen carrying lists of suspected rebel sympathizers massacred at least three villagers at the Colombian town of Afilador, villagers and authorities said.

One man’s hands were tied and his skull sawed open. Bodies were dumped in the river. Some authorities estimated more than 20 people were killed; Colombian officials last week were still investigating. The victims are among tens of thousands of civilians killed in ‘s40-year civil war.

The war pits Marxist rebel guerrillas against U.S.-backed government forces and right- wing paramilitary militias – irregular fighters originally hired by landowners for protection. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says he’s dismantling the militias.

Yet across ,they still attack, sometimes using chain saws to spread fear in rebel-held areas, according to Colombian officials and Ecuadorean Catholic priest Edgar Pinos.

After the massacre, Pinos, 52, went near the scene, to the Ecuadorean side of the river at Puerto Mestanza, where Afilador villagers had fled. Drunken men were dancing with girls in a blue bordello as Pinos arrived.

The killers, too, crossed the river and threatened Ecuadoreans, said Luis Francisco, 54, a father of three whose wife was cooking at the bordello. “They said we are guerrillas. We’re not. We’re just people who are here to work.”

The threats “affect you psychologically,” a shopkeeper said, asking that her name not be printed. “Everybody’s afraid. You try to live your life, not one side or the other, neutral.”

Frayed nerves

Outside her shop leaning back in a chair, Colombian farmer Fermin Mejias, 40, a coca field cutter, said a boatman he knew and a woman were among the dead he saw in the river.

“The way we are now, it’s not going to get any better,” he said. “People are coming into our towns. It scares you. You don’t know who the people are. You don’t know what they are going to do … On top of this, the United States is spraying crops. They aren’t just spraying the coca. They are spraying our crops.”

Farther inside Ecuador, killings, kidnappings and pipeline attacks fray nerves in Lago Agrio, an oil boomtown and provincial capital where U.S.- equipped Ecuadorean troops patrol the main street in groups of seven. Oil companies that see Ecuador as a potential major supplier have been unable to work easily.

In 2001, armed bandits nabbed 10 oil workers and held them for 141 days, executing Ron Sander of Missouri, before employers met ransom demands. U.S. Embassy officials advise against travel in the area.

Non-U.S. oil workers said gangs attack pipelines to steal etherized “white gas” that “narcogangs” use to turn coca leaves into cocaine. A smuggled tank of white gas sells for $120 on the side of the river, Lago Agrio Police Chief Hugo Cadena said.

This year, Lago Agrio had 70 firearms murders, police statistics show. Most involved Colombians killing Colombians – who increasingly cross into Ecuador for relaxation and supplies, Mayor Maximo Abad said. And hundreds of returning Ecuadorean coca field workers worsen the strain of 25 percent unemployment, Abad said.

“We need help from the United States to improve the quality of life. If we could get food, not arms, that would be welcome. But if we have more soldiers, more arms, more efforts by the United States to fortify the military presence, the results won’t be effective. Violence generates more violence. Many arms. Many battles. Many drug deals. And the terrorism does not end.”

U.S. officials say they intend to work cooperatively with Latin American governments – on humanitarian as well as military missions – to control ungoverned spaces. Among other spaces they cite: the tri-border intersection of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, and jungle parts of southern Panama.

The fear is that enemies could set up bases, exploit lax control and use well-established drug routes to smuggle weapons and terrorists into the United States.

In Ecuador, U.S. special forces troops have trained a brigade for jungle operations. U.S. supplies include food rations, fuel and 200 vehicles – Humvees and 5-ton trucks.

The United States may supply night-vision goggles, said Army Col. Kevin Saderup, military group commander at the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador’s capital, Quito.

It is “very narrow to believe that something that happens in Ecuador doesn’t harm the United States,” Saderup said, referring to how “the Taliban and al-Qaeda took up station” in Afghanistan. “Just because something is happening in a faraway place doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry about it.”

U.S. ignites opposition

Indeed, the jungle here is dense, and the 400-mile Ecuador border is porous. Crossing in a motorboat costs $1; families have relatives on both sides. Cargo moves freely. Even in Quito, a 40-minute flight over snowcapped volcanoes, international travel is relatively unrestricted.

“There are organizations that use Ecuador as a base to smuggle people from other countries into the United States,” said Ecuadorean immigration Maj. Gilbert Orozco, chief of an 11-member enforcement team.

But U.S. officials have not given hard evidence of anti-U.S. terrorists taking root in Latin America.

And from Tierra del Fuego to Tijuana, U.S. military overtures ignite opposition.

At a recent security summit in Quito, defense ministers from Brazil, Argentina, Chile and elsewhere balked at U.S. efforts to create a multinational armed force for .

“The problems that faces are problems that has to resolve,” Ecuadorean Defense Minister Nelson Herrera said at a news conference beside U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

U.S. military aid to Latin America is increasing – nearly surpassing nonmilitary aid this year, government data show.

For ,this year’s $551 million for military/police work is more than triple the $150 million in economic and social aid.

Ecuador this year received $44 million for military/police work, versus $38 million for economic projects.

An estimated 240 million of Latin America’s 600 million people live in extreme poverty, and frequent peasant uprisings in Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay and elsewhere have shaken governments.

Weak government control in jungle areas “doesn’t necessarily mean larger roles should be played by armed forces. That could be counterproductive … It is like assuming there will be conflict,” said Gaston Chillier, an Argentinian human rights lawyer at the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank critical of U.S. policy.

“A more effective way to address this is to encourage a full government presence – not just military – and have clear policies for development. Otherwise, you are escalating the violence.”

Some U.S. officials agree that work to counter poverty is crucial.

“Could we do more? Sure. My fear is we are going to be cut,” said Ray Waldron, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Ecuador.

On the other hand, those advocating butter over guns must accept that violence can get in the way, Waldron said.

“There has to be some rule of law. There has to be some security.”

In Ecuadorean jungle communities, owners have put land up for sale. Teens try to leave. Tenants such as Blanca Barragan, 55, and Gilberto Gomez, 60, who raise bananas, corn and chickens, wonder how they’ll survive. They’re constantly wary of the militiamen and rebels who pass their fields.

“Maybe some people give them water. You don’t know who they are. The militias can say they are guerrillas. They say ‘hello,’ and you don’t know who they are. I try not to say anything.”

Neighbors “have left, those who know they are being looked for,” Barragan said. For everyone the militiamen kill, “they are paid. They kill whole families.”

The impact of violence

Five years ago, Colombian refugee peanut farmer Edilson Rodriguez, 33, fled with his family into Ecuador after armed men slaughtered nine in the town where they had electricity, a refrigerator and television.

Now, he has hacked out subsistence life as a squatter – no electricity, pollution from a nearby oil well tainting water his kids use to wash, and a peanut harvest that would earn him $5.60.

Real security requires “a fair wage” for “a product that could be exported to the United States,” he said.

Instead, he hears radio reports of massacres that dismay him – “It’s getting worse day by day” – as does U.S. intervention.

“You know what you are doing? You are aggravating the situation. You are making it more complex. Now, there are going to be more people coming out of .There’s more fighting. Instead of investing in armies, you need to invest in industry.”

For some refugees, the impact of violence is such that they may never go home.

Heavy-set truck driver Eduardo Suares, 42, sobbed uncontrollably inside a fenced refugee compound in Ecuador one recent night as his brain-damaged daughter, Maria, 14, patted his back trying to console him.

In April, rebels had hijacked him on his way back from a run to Cali. He drove silently – “thinking they’d kill me out in the middle of nowhere” – when government troops attacked, firing at his blue Chevy C-70. He ducked, swerved, and “when I looked in the mirror, I saw two dead guerrillas.” Then one with a patch over his eye and a woman in high rubber boots accused him of siding against them.

A report he filed to Colombian police gave details of what happened and of how, 15 days later, other rebels came to his house asking him to work for them. He refused. And in September, somebody slipped a note ordering him killed, stamped with a rebel commander’s seal, under the family’s front door.

Suares fled south through rebel-held territory in the back of a friend’s truck hiding under apples and passion fruit, crossing to Ecuador. His family fled later.

Now, after presenting themselves to United Nations representatives, begging to be resettled overseas, they were cooped up in this compound unable to work, insects humming, generator kicking out periodically. Suares was convinced rebels in Ecuador would hunt him down and kill him and his wife and children.

“It’s not good here. We feel in danger.”

He couldn’t sleep, barely ate.

No proclamations of progress in mattered, he said. And though he supported the current crackdown on rebels, he’d never go back even if it ends.

His daughter Maria needs medicine, he said. Recently, she had a violent seizure that left several teeth chipped.

He stared out into the night and just cried, terrified, “waiting for somebody to help us.”

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