Shoe-bomb suspect offers innocent plea
Advisories warn the public and local officials to be on the alert for terrorist attacks, especially at utility sites.
BOSTON -- The man accused of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with bombs in his shoes pleaded innocent today to nine terrorism-related charges in federal court.
Richard C. Reid, a 28-year-old British citizen, answered "Not guilty" to the first eight charges, including attempting to murder the 197 passengers and crew members aboard American Airlines Flight 63 on Dec. 22. For technical reasons, the defense had the judge enter the innocent plea on the ninth charge.
Reid appeared in U.S. District Court in heavy shackles and looked down during much of the brief hearing.
Reid was initially charged with interfering with a flight crew. The new terrorism charges, issued Wednesday, accuse him of having been trained in Afghanistan by the Al-Qaida terrorist network and of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
New warning: U.S. authorities warned the public Thursday to be on the lookout for five Al-Qaida operatives who taped messages of martyrdom and may have been planning terrorist acts against the United States.
U.S. soldiers recently found videotapes of the men's suicide messages in the rubble of a top Osama bin Laden lieutenant's home in Afghanistan, suggesting an even closer link than previously realized between bin Laden and his foot soldiers.
One of the five suspected terrorists -- Ramzi Binalshibh of Yemen -- tried unsuccessfully to enter the United States at least three times and is wanted by Germany as an accomplice of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Authorities have been unable to find him or the other four men who appear in the declassified videotapes that were released in abridged form Thursday.
Still unclear: Although authorities are uncertain when the five videotapes were made or how Al-Qaida intended to use them, they "appear to be sort of martyrdom messages from suicide terrorists. And whether or not the attack would be imminent or not is something we can't determine," Attorney General John Ashcroft told reporters.
Ashcroft said the government tentatively identified four of the men as Abd Al-Rahim, Mohammed Sa'id Ali Hasan, Khalid Ibn Mohammed Al-Juhani and Binalshibh. The fifth man's identify was not known.
"These men could be anywhere in the world," Ashcroft said. "We're not able to say that they're in one location or another, or whether they're dead or alive."
Authorities said the public should be on guard. The FBI is hoping that the release of the photographs and three videotapes may produce tips leading to their capture. The sound was edited out of the videotapes, pending further translation work.
Fears for utilities: Twice this week federal security agencies have warned city, county and state officials about possible terrorist attacks on American utilities, according to threat advisories that Knight Ridder obtained. Officials fear that Al-Qaida members may be using government Web sites to help them develop future attacks.
The advisories alerted transportation security agencies and police nationwide Tuesday and Wednesday to the possibility of an upcoming attack on power plants, dams and other utility facilities. They called for stepped-up security, especially at power plants. One advisory said the FBI has "received indications from around the country of multiple casings" of utility facilities.
Web sites: The advisories also urged the utility industry and state, county and city governments to scour their Web sites and remove information that could help terrorists.
The transportation advisory reported that terrorists "may be using U.S. municipal and state Web sites to obtain information on local energy infrastructures, water reservoirs, dams, highly enriched uranium storage sites, nuclear and gas facilities and emergency fire and rescue response procedures."
Transportation security officials wrote that Al-Qaida members also have sought information on central water-supply computers that run remote pumps, reservoirs and metering stations.
The latest warnings about the Web sites of U.S. utilities stem from "uncorroborated and nonspecific information that terrorists may be using these Web sites," Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the Office of Homeland Security, said Thursday.
Removing sensitive information from the Internet has been an issue for security officials since September's attacks.
The Internet remains "the dummy's guide to terrorism," said Rob Housman, author of a security report for the energy industry that the law firm of Bracewell & amp; Patterson produced in November. "That these guys [Al-Qaida] are taking advantage of this is a real concern."
Rights of prisoners: Meanwhile, a team from the international Red Cross began its evaluation of whether the U.S. military is violating the rights of more than 100 prisoners taken from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.
As the latest batch of Al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners settled in to hastily built chain-link cells, bringing the total number to 110, four members of the International Committee of the Red Cross met with U.S. officials Thursday to plan interviews with dozens of detainees.
It was the first time independent experts were given a look at Camp X-ray. Human rights advocates say the prisoners must endure inhumane conditions. U.S. officials maintain the captives' rights are respected.
The Red Cross team, which included a doctor and linguist who has worked in Russia, arrived on a small plane from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Urs Boegli, head of the team, said findings of the prisoners' conditions would be shared with U.S. authorities but said he wasn't sure whether they would be made public. The first interviews were expected to be carried out today.
In other developments:
UPrime Minister Hamid Karzai, already buoyed by a visit from the U.S. Secretary of State, is preparing to meet President Bush in a trip aimed at reintegrating his country into the world community. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said the planned Jan. 28 visit will provide an opportunity for the United States and Afghanistan to develop a partnership against terrorism.
USuspected Al-Qaida members have been detained in Britain, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines, with Britain accusing two suspects of plotting to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Paris.