Ashcroft: Summer ripe for terror

By Michael Davis

The summer event-season and the coming fall are prime times for terrorist attacks on American soil, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Tuesday.

Ashcroft met with the Atlanta Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council to share information with metro Atlanta's law enforcement community on how to combat the threat of terrorism in the area.

He said conventions, July 4 celebrations and other summer activities create opportunities for al-Quaida to strike American targets.

"al-Quaida wants to hit the United States and hit us here sometime between the summer and fall," Ashcroft said. Statements from captured al-Quiada operatives and "significant intelligence from multiple streams," indicate the terrorist network not only plans to attack, "but plans are largely in place."

"They have information that something's going to happen but they don't know where or when," said Forest Park Police Capt. Jamie Reynolds, a member of the advisory council.

He said Tuesday's meeting was an opportunity for law enforcement officials from several Atlanta-area jurisdictions to share their concerns with Ashcroft, the nation's top law enforcement official.

"If we had any type of questions or comments, you got to deal with him more on a one-on-one basis," Reynolds said.

Forest Park Lt. Lillianna Stevens said the private question-answer session of the ATAC with Ashcroft, "made us feel like we were an important part of the entire process."

While Ashcroft said that no particular place or location has been targeted for attack, because Atlanta is a hub of commerce and transportation, the city could be considered a potential target.

Ashcroft downplayed Monday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that suspected terrorists held at Guantonamo Bay should have certain procedural rights.

While many saw the ruling as a setback to the Bush administration, Ashcroft said the ruling "sustains the President's power."

He went on to say that under the ruling, the procedural rights of detainees may not necessarily include access to U.S. courts. "In one of the cases, it was suggested that not all of the processes that may be required are necessarily judicial," Ashcroft said, adding the administration is still studying the ruling.

Ashcroft also outlined Bush's plan for the expansion of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Because al-Quaida has "shown an ability to adapt ? the president has asked for additional tools in the fight against terror."

Extending the ability for law enforcement to administer administrative subpoenas to detain terror suspects, and opening the possibility to apply the death penalty to terrorist convicted to certain acts, he said are necessary to combat terror. "But some terrorist crimes that result in death do not result in the death penalty," he said.

"I think it would be appropriate for us to enact the death penalty when terrorists sabotage certain kinds of facilities that result in a loss of lives," he added, specifying nuclear power plants.