oops...back on terror alert.

  1. Yak
    13,672 Posts.
    It's simple, the alert stands: US
    By staff writers and wires
    July 31, 2003

    AUSTRALIA remains on a short-list of possible terrorist targets despite the Federal Government insisting the country would be excluded from a revised United States warning.

    The US insists Australia is a possible terrorist target

    The US Department of Homeland Security said today it was standing by a warning to the airline industry that included Australia as a possible "attack venue" of an al-Qaeda strike.

    Spokeswoman Rachel Sunbarger told NEWS.com.au: "It's very simple. We have no plans in changing our advisory."

    The Australian Government is, however, standing by its claim that a revised travel advisory will be issued soon by the US, stating Australia may be a point of origin for a hijacking, but not a target.

    Attorney-General Daryl Williams said Australia maintained the warning from the US Department of Homeland Security was not an accurate reflection of the intelligence on which it was based.

    But Ms Sunbarger said this morning: "The intelligence used indicates that Australia should be on the advisory, and the intelligence agencies want it to remain there."

    Mr Williams told reporters both the Department of Homeland Security and the US State Department had indicated a correction would be issued.

    "That is the position that we maintain," he said.

    "I cannot explain why the Department of Homeland Security issued a travel advisory relying on intelligence that US and Australian agencies have themselves acted upon," Mr Williams said.

    "Australia was just in a list of countries that might be sources of aircraft, that's all."
    Alexander Downer
    Foreign Minister

    Dr Michael McKinley, a senior lecturer in international relations at the Australian National University, said there was "no excuse" for not using intelligence information from US sources since the lessons of the Bali bombing.

    If the US insisted it would not change its warning, Dr McKinley said it meant they had revised it and had good reason for keeping Australia on the list.

    "If it came from Homeland Security, and a lot of Australian intelligence is derived from US product, we are obliged to take is seriously.

    "If it makes people anxious that is in the nature of terrorism, but you have no excuse for not passing it along," he said.

    The Australian Government was now "faced with a series of incompatible claims", he said.

    It is not known what contact the Australian Government has had with the US administration on the issue, the Department of Homeland Security has said.

    Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was adamant today the Australian Government had been told the US would amend its travel warning.

    "They clearly did make a mistake, and they've rectified that mistake, or are in the process of rectifying that mistake," Mr Downer told the Channel 9.

    "We had some information from the Americans that an Australian aircraft conceivably could be hijacked and used as a weapon against the east coast of the United States or somewhere in Europe.

    "Australia was just in a list of countries that might be sources of aircraft, that's all."

    The Homeland Security memo said Australia, Britain, Italy and the US east coast could be targeted "due to the relatively high concentration of government, military and economic targets".

    It continued: "The hijackers may try to calm passengers and make them believe they were on a hostage, not suicide mission. The hijackers may attempt to use common items carried by travellers, such as cameras, as weapons."

    Spy agency ASIO briefed airlines and airports last week about the US warning and Qantas said it was in regular contact with intelligence and security organisations.

    In the US today, President George W. Bush said there was a "real threat" of new al-Qaeda attacks.

    "The threat is a real threat ... We don't know when, where, what," he said at a news conference.

    "We have got some data that indicates that they would like to use flights, international flights for example. I'm confident we will thwart the attempts."

    Mr Downer said it was unlikely flights from Australia would be used for terrorist attacks in the US or Europe because Australia was so far away.

    "If you were to hijack an aircraft in Australia and fly it all that way it would have to refuel on the way, it would be a complicated situation," Mr Downer said.

    "Seems to me on the face of it, a little unlikely that Australia would be the ideal source."

    Mr Downer said Australia had a high level of airline security, with air marshals travelling on many flights and baggage being carefully screened at airports.

    "Ever since September 11, 2001 we've increased very substantially the degree of security for aircraft going overseas, as well as domestically," he said.
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