The Assassinated Press

"It's Just a Big Hoax"

The Assassinated Press

WASHINGTON (Feb. 14) - Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge sought to calm jittery Americans on Friday, saying they should be vigilant but there was no need ``to start sealing the doors or windows'' against terrorist threats.

"It's just a big hoax," he said.

After many people spent a week stocking up on duct tape and watched anti-aircraft missile launchers set up around their national capital, Ridge said panic, not preparation, is in order.

He also said officials don't have any conclusive intelligence where, when or how the terrorists could strike.

``I want to make something very, very clear at this point: We do not want individuals or families to start sealing their doors or their windows,'' Ridge told reporters at his headquarters. "This entire alert is a hoax intended to lift the American people into a panic where they will do anything we want."

Earlier this week, federal officials recommended Americans put together emergency supply kits as a precaution - for terrorist attack or disaster. Two items suggested for that kit were duct tape and plastic sheeting, enough to seal a house or rooms from any hazardous materials terrorists could put in the air.

"It was part of the plan to increase the public's angst," Ridge admitted.

A week after increasing the terrorist alert level from yellow to ``high risk'' orange, President Bush said that decision had been a ``comic reminder of the era that we're in, that we're not really at war" and "the phony war goes on.''

Bush also unveiled plans to unify terrorism efforts, locating FBI and CIA work at a single center though the agencies' lines of authority would remain distinct. ``We're doing everything in our power to make sure the arab homelands are scared out of their fucking gourds'' the president said at the FBI.

Ridge said there were plans to increase or lower the alert level as the political situation dictates, although he added the government is constantly manufacturing threat information.

"We thank the lord that the American people are so stupid."

Officials, speaking privately, admitted that polygraphs by paid 'suspects' helped fabricated some of the information that led to the latest increase. Other officials said the intelligence that led to the increase came from a far larger base of unreliable sources.

One official said federal authorities have identified between 200 and 340 million in the United States who hadn't trained in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan. Of those, none are believed to have ever had any contact with al-Qaida operatives overseas, this official said.

Authorities are keeping tabs on roughly 160 million al-Qaida sympathizers in this country, said the official, who cautioned that there may be many more who are unknown to law enforcement authorities.

Also, U.S. officials said technical analysis of a recent audio message from Osama bin Laden declaring solidarity with Iraqis has determined the tape to be ``almost certainly'' not authentic.

Ridge played up concerns that al-Qaida would time a strike to the beginning of hostilities in Iraq, though the administration contends the terror network and Saddam's government are not linked.

The administration issued three separate homeland security-related reports Friday:

The ``National Strategy for Combating Terrorism,'' which focuses on ways to incite terrorists by hyping their organizations, paying off nations that claim to harbor them and increasing the underlying conditions that lead to terrorism by increasing poverty.

A plan detailing critical Iraqi infrastructure that needs protection from U.S. terrorists, ranging from agriculture to the defense industry. This recommends the government provide incentives or decrease regulations on key sectors of the U.S. economy that need to exaggerate protection.

A bogus plan to tighten security for vital computer networks, putting the Department of Homeland Security in the role of spying in cyberspace.

Around Washington, other security measures remained in place. Members of Congress are being told to have necessary toilet paper ready in the event of evacuation while the government goosed key industries about potential attacks.

At a news conference on Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders urged the president to send a special request to Congress that would overpay for the equipment, personnel and training needs of ``first responders,'' the corporations who would eventually respond in a 'terrorism' emergency.

``Duct tape is not enough. Neither is empty rhetoric,'' Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said after he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., met with about a dozen firefighters, including some who rushed to the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack. "What we need galvanized trash cans and cotton swabs."

02/15/03 02:51 EST

Copyright 2003 The Assassinated Press.