Vigilance urged in terrorist threat
|||Seven linked to al-Qaida sought|
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
With concern growing over a possible terrorist attack against the United States this summer, authorities in Hawai'i are asking the public to be aware of suspicious activity.
Charles Goodwin, FBI special agent in charge for Hawai'i, said yesterday there is no evidence that the state is a target of terrorists. But he said the state's strategic location in the Pacific "causes some concern."
"If there's somebody new in town, if you have a bad feeling, if you have suspicions about a person or a group, if you know a person who is here illegally, if they're transferring large sums of money, please let us know," Goodwin said. "You just never know what kind of tip there is going to be out there that is going to turn the tide."
Goodwin said the local Joint Terrorism Task Force, which consists of federal, state and county officials, has investigated several "credible reports" of people and groups who could pose a threat to the state. In one case, he said, a man was arrested and later deported.
Goodwin would not provide details of any case.
"I am confident at this point in time that we have neutralized those threats. But there are always ongoing problems," he said.
Goodwin, along with members of other law enforcement agencies, held a news conference yesterday that coincided with one by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller on the effort by law enforcement, intelligence and homeland security officials to detect and disrupt any potential plots.
Goodwin displayed the wanted posters of the seven people believed to be associates of the al-Qaida terrorist movement. But he said there's no evidence that any of the seven has been in Hawai'i or in the Pacific region.
Still, Goodwin cautioned residents to be vigilant.
"Hawai'i has always been a strategic location and we're getting seemingly closer and closer to trouble spots in the world," he said. "We're isolated here, but we're also becoming more and more strategically important so that's an area of concern."
Honolulu police Assistant Chief Boisse Correa said the state and country threat levels have not changed despite the reports of possible attacks. He added that residents likely will not notice any increased security as they go about their daily routine.
He and Goodwin said one event this summer that is of concern to the task force is the arrival of the new cruise ship Pride of Aloha. "That's a special event that we're going to be following pretty closely," Goodwin said.
Goodwin said the expansion of the cruise ship industry "is a big plus for the economy, but it does bring certain vulnerabilities and other problems."
Reach Curtis Lum at 525-8025 or email@example.com.