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US anti-terror force planned

The Herald (Glasgow) November 15, 2002

Pg. 16

Ian Bruce

AMERICA'S military special forces and the CIA are to set up a joint team of covert counter-intelligence agents to be known as the "proactive pre-emptive operations group" for secret missions targeting terrorist leaders.

The group of about 100 is to include experts in behind-the-lines intelligence gathering, computer hacking, and other clandestine skills dating back to the days of the cold war.

The PPOG, funded from an increased special operations budget, would be under the direct control of the White House and would carry out missions co-ordinated either by the Pentagon or by CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia.

Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, is also considering a request for extra cash which would almost double the current (pounds) 3.5bn annual budget for conventional special forces.

Although the special operations command lists 47,000 personnel on its books, only about 7000 are actual "shooters" and the vast majority provide logistical and technological back-up. Delta force, America's equivalent of the SAS, has only 600 elite troopers in its ranks.

The war on terrorism and the need to commit large numbers of men from the command in Afghanistan, Yemen, Colombia, the Philippines, Georgia and now the Persian Gulf has put a strain on the scarce combat elements of the command.

General Charles Holland, the air force officer who leads what the rest of the US army calls the "snake-eaters", wants cash and resources to recruit and train another 9000 men and women. About 1500 to 2000 would eventually raise the command's behind-the-lines capabilities.

Opponents claim that to increase the size of the regiment would be to dilute the exceptional skills of those who make the grade to become troopers in its ranks.

The FBI has received unconfirmed information from intelligence sources overseas that hospitals in four US cities could be terrorist targets.

Bob Doguim, Houston FBI spokesman, said the vague threat involved hospitals in Houston, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington and mentioned a time between December and April.

"It's non-specific, uncorroborated information, but nonetheless it is information we received," Doguim said.

He said the threat mentions the possibility of anthrax or explosives.

The Chicago FBI office said the threat suggested an attack was timed for mid -December.

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