Pentagon paper predicted new terror

By PAM HESS, UPI Pentagon Correspondent  |  May 17, 2002 at 4:20 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 17 (UPI) -- The following article, excerpts from an exclusive story published by United Press International six days after the Sept. 11 attacks, describes a 1994 federal report that warned of possible terrorist strikes -- including, in its original form, how airplane hijackers could use Washington landmarks to hit the White House or Pentagon. "Terror 2000" was never released to the public because of State Department concerns it would cause panic.

The Sept. 17 story by UPI Pentagon Correspondent Pam Hess said the report, which was obtained exclusively by United Press International, not only outlined the changing face of terrorism but also seemed to predict the scope and timing of the attack carried out against the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

"Targets such as the World Trade Center not only provide the requisite casualties but because of their symbolic nature provide more bang for the buck. In order to maximize their odds for success, terrorist groups will likely consider mounting multiple, simultaneous operations with aim of overtaxing a government's ability to respond, as well as to demonstrate their professionalism and reach," states "Terror 2000," compiled in 1994 after the World Trade Center bombing from research and interviews from 41 intelligence, government and private industry experts, including foreign governments such as Israel and Russia.

The report was distributed to the Defense Department, State Department, FEMA, intelligence communities and members of Congress on June 24, 1994, according to author Marvin Cetron.

At the State Department's request, it was "scrubbed" of some details -- including how to hit the Pentagon or White House by airplane using the Washington Monument as a landmark. It was never publicly released, again at the request of State, according to Cetron.

"They said, 'You can't handle a crisis before it becomes a crisis. It scares the hell out of people and they can't do anything. It's like a person with cancer; some people don't want to know. Others want to know everything so they can fight it.' I think they took the ostrich approach," Cetron told United Press International.

Cetron runs an economic and technological forecasting company in northern Virginia, producing reports for the U.S. government, 300 Fortune 500 companies and 17 foreign governments.

Where once most terrorists were politically motivated and sought achievable ends -- safe passage out of a country, or the release of political prisoners -- "Terror 2000" predicted a more dangerous form was evolving in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"We appear to be entering an era in which few, if any, restraints will remain. ... Unlike politically motivated terrorists, they do not shrink from mass murder. ... Mass casualties are not to be shunned ... but sought because they demonstrate to unbelievers the cataclysmic nature of divine retribution. And if innocents suffer, God will sort them out."

Ethno-religious terrorists would be motivated by "fierce ethnic and religious hatreds" bent on the "utter destruction of their chosen enemies."

The 1.5-inch think report was compiled by Cetron and Peter Probst, then with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and 40 government and private industry experts after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. While it seems to accurately describe the situation that is unfolding now, it makes only passing mention of prime suspect Osama bin Laden as a specific threat.

"The ethno-terrorist is defending his family and his community, the memory of his ancestors, his cultural heritage, and the identity of his people, most of whom have suffered and many of whom have died simply because they were Armenians, Bosnians, Basques, Irish, Quiche, Ibo or Kurds. His enemies seek the subjugation or annihilation of his people, if only in his eyes; it is his sacred to prevent this evil, not only for the sake of the living and future generations, but out of reverence for the dead."

Cetron asserted that Islamic fundamentalists considered the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo in which Muslims were persecuted by the Yugoslav government, a Holocaust of their own. The perceived delay by Western countries to intervene in the Balkans stoked already existing anger with the United States and European countries.

The report says because this motivation is so strong and death is not to be feared, ethno-religious terrorists are most likely to kill indiscriminately and to embrace weapons of mass destruction.

Secular terrorists "have no basic argument with the existing order; they simply want power within it or concessions from it. Religious terrorists consider themselves completely outside a system that is to be eradicated and replaced," states the report.

The report warned that the states of the former Soviet Union -- three of which border Afghanistan, where bin Laden is believed to reside -- are fertile grounds for terrorists as the repressive government yoke is off them. Intelligence communities have done little to penetrate these once insignificant groups, because the focus of collection was on Warsaw Pact countries.

"Only now are we beginning to learn their names, histories and agendas. Because such groups were of little interest to the traditional intelligence collector, security services know virtually nothing about their ethnic allies or their depth of support, either on their home turf or in other countries," the report states.

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