The Central Intelligence Agency reportedly has been given wide latitude, including presidential authorization to kill, in its hunt for Osama bin Laden.
The Washington Post cites senior government officials saying that President Bush last month signed orders calling for the destruction of bin Laden and his al Qaida network.
Washington officials have said bin Laden is the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 hijackings and attacks on New York and Washington in which some 6,000 people were killed. Bin Laden is also suspected of having planned other terrorist acts against U.S. interests, including the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Last month, Bush allotted an additional $1 billion to the CIA's campaign against terrorism, most of which was expected to be used in covert missions, the Post said. The wide-ranging order issued by the president was meant to exploit a weakness that had been recently discovered in the bin Laden organization.
A senior official told the Post: "The gloves are off. The president has given the agency the green light to do whatever is necessary. Lethal operations that were unthinkable pre-Sept. 11 are now under way."
In response to the Post report, a Taliban official told the BBC that bin Laden was "living in complete safety."
On Oct. 7, the United States opened the military phase of its anti-terrorism campaign with sustained air attacks on targets in Afghanistan -- most of which is controlled by the Taliban, which has refused to hand over bin Laden.
During the weekend, the first confirmed action involving U.S. ground troops occurred, with American forces attacking an airfield and the complex used by Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. While the Taliban claimed to have killed at least 20 U.S. soldiers, the Pentagon denied that any of its ground forces had been killed. However, two U.S. personnel were killed in a helicopter crash across the border in Pakistan.
-- When U.S. forces catch up with bin Laden, what should they do with him? Do you think it will be possible to give him a fair trial? Why or why not?
POLLS, WE GOT POLLS
The latest Newsweek Poll finds majorities of Americans believe it's at least somewhat to very likely that large numbers of Americans will die in the near future by terrorist attacks through the use of conventional explosives (74 percent), anthrax sent through the mail (57 percent), or smallpox or some other disease (55 percent).
Topping the list of targets seen as at least somewhat to very likely to be attacked next are another major business or government building (79 percent), a stadium or sports arena (63 percent), a major bridge or tunnel (62 percent), or a water supply (61 percent).
And with the number of reported anthrax cases growing, a majority (63 percent) of the 1,006 Americans surveyed thinks Osama bin Laden's terrorist network is probably behind the contamination. Despite that, 67 percent are at least somewhat confident that national and local governments are prepared to deal with a terrorist attack with chemical or biological weapons.
However, only seven percent of people polled think that it is very likely they or their families will be exposed to anthrax or some other biological agent in the near future. And an overwhelming majority (94 percent) of Americans have not taken any steps to protect themselves against a chemical or biological attack by buying a gas mask or obtaining antibiotics. Six percent say they have.
52 percent say they are more sympathetic toward those people who have taken such steps and understand their fears, while 33 percent say they are more critical of them for overreacting and hoarding supplies that may be needed by others.
And while at least 24 percent say they are feeling at least somewhat less safe (9 percent say a lot less safe), those figures are the lowest since the Sept. 11 attacks. Only 15 percent in the Newsweek Poll say life in the United States has permanently changed for the worse. Twenty-eight percent think it has changed for the time being but will return to the way it was before Sept. 11. Fifty-two percent say it will not only return to normal but actually improve.
-- What do you think?
(Web site: newsweek.msnbc.com)
The Senate this week will take a look at whether student visas should be issued to people from nations designated by the State Department as terrorist-supporting states.
That's according to a spokesman for Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif.
The discussion comes only days after 14 Syrian men legally entered the United States through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to attend a flight school at Fort Worth, according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Syria is one of seven nations considered terrorist-supporting states by the U.S. State Department.
The Syrians, who entered the United States on M-1 visas for vocational education, were checked out by the State Department and were not on any "watch lists," according to the INS. Their entry was completely legal, the INS said.
Although four of the 19 suicide hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had reportedly attended U.S. flight schools, none of the rules used to screen foreign applicants for U.S. flight schools have been changed.
Talks, however, have been under way in Congress.
In late September, Feinstein proposed a temporary 6-month moratorium on the student visa program to give the INS and educational institutions time to sort out problems with the student visa applications and tracking foreign students once they enter the United States. She later withdrew the proposal when the parties agreed to work on the problems voluntarily.
This week, Feinstein will propose legislation to fund an electronic database to track foreign students -- including requirements that they designate a specific school and that the school notify the INS if the student doesn't show up, according to spokesman Howard Gantman.
Officials estimate that 245,000 foreign students have entered the United States this year to pursue studies. Between 1999 and 2000, the State Department issued 3,370 visas to students from nations on the department's terrorism watch list.
-- Should the United States stop issuing student visas to people from nations designated byb the State Department as supporting terrorism? Why or why not?