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It Has Begun. May Intelligence & GOD Be With Us (3:40AM EDT)

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Posted by Robert Garfinkle on September 25, 2001 07:49:47 UTC

This just in... 3:40 AM EDT (CNN)

President Bush has formally notified Congress of his decision to deploy U.S. combat forces "to a number of foreign nations," and said additional deployments are under consideration.

"It is not now possible to predict the scope and duration of these deployments, and the actions necessary to counter the terrorist threat to the United States," Bush said in a letter sent Monday night to House and Senate leaders.

"It is likely that the American campaign against terrorism will be a lengthy one," Bush wrote.

Hours after the president's letter, Saudi Arabia announced that it was cutting all ties with Afghanistan's Taliban government. The official Saudi Arabian news agency reported the move, saying the Taliban was defaming Islam by harboring and supporting terrorists.

The moves are the latest in a steady drumbeat of action that has built since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. On Monday, saying "the American people do not have the luxury of time," Attorney General John Ashcroft called on Congress to quickly approve a legislative package he said would help authorities combat terrorism.

The legislation would broaden law enforcement surveillance powers and ease restrictions on the ability of U.S. authorities to detain or deport suspected alien terrorists.

The package was lauded as just and necessary by House Republicans. Some Democrats said they fear some provisions would not pass constitutional muster, a concern also raised by civil liberties and conservative groups.

Ashcroft, however, stuck to his view that time is of the essence and argued that law enforcement officers are armed with "antique weapons" in the battle against terrorism. He said laws have not kept up with advances in technology and investigators are hindered as a result.

The package outlined by Ashcroft would ease restrictions on wiretaps and search warrant requests.

For example, the legislation would allow one court to authorize wiretaps for a number of different jurisdictions. The measure would also allow federal investigators to seize suspected terrorists' voice mail messages with a search warrant.

U.S. pilots are also seeking authority from Congress to fight off terrorists during flights. The Air Line Pilots Association announced Monday it wants Congress to change the law to allow pilots to carry firearms in airplane cockpits.

Two men in Virginia are in custody, accused of aiding and abetting two of the hijackers in the September 11 attacks by helping them obtain fraudulent Virginia driver's licenses, according to affidavits filed Monday with the U.S. District Court in northern Virginia.

One of the men, named Herbert Villalobos, was charged with helping one of the hijackers obtain a fake driver's license. Both men are believed to have helped two men identified as hijacker, Abdul Aziz al Omari and Ahmed Saleh al Ghamdi, obtain Virginia licenses and residency cards, according to the criminal complaint.

During his appearance before a congressional committee, Ashcroft disclosed that 352 individuals have been taken into custody nationwide, and another 392 are still being sought for questioning about the terrorist attacks. That's more than double the previous count made public, and does not count those arrested overseas, officials said.

President Bush wants to starve terrorist groups of all money supplies. He announced Monday he signed an order freezing U.S. assets of suspected terrorists and demanded financial institutions in other nations do the same. The order names suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and mentions his al Qaeda network.

Pentagon planners are drawing up target lists that include illicit-drug production facilities in Afghanistan in order to cut off one of the main pipelines of money for the ruling Taliban militia, sources told CNN Monday. U.S. officials said illicit drug trade brings the Taliban an estimated $50 million a year.

Meanwhile, markets on Wall Street rebounded on Monday after suffering one of their worst weeks ever. The Dow closed up more than 367 points and the Nasdaq gained more than 75 points.

Latest developments

Deputy U.S. Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz will travel to Brussels, Belgium, for a meeting Thursday of NATO defense ministers where he will lay out to NATO allies evidence the United States has accumulated on bin Laden and al Qaeda's links to the attacks, State Department officials and diplomatic sources told CNN Monday.

A letter bearing bin Laden's purported signature was hand delivered Monday to the Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera. The missive expressed sorrow over the deaths of three people killed last week in anti-U.S. demonstrations in Pakistan.

"We hope that these brothers will be the first martyrs in the battle of Islam in this era against the new Jewish and Christian crusader campaign that is led by the Chief Crusader Bush under the banner of the cross," the fax said.

Bush met with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien on Monday at the White House; U.S.-Canadian border security issues were expected to be high on the agenda. Chretien expressed his full support for the United States and said the discussions were going well.

A U.S. military delegation, diplomatic sources told CNN, is believed to be in Pakistan inspecting military facilities to evaluate whether they can be used for any potential U.S. retaliation for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Across the border in Afghanistan, the nation's ruling Taliban said Monday it was mobilizing "300,000 well-experienced and equipped men" in the center of the country.

Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar said in a statement the crisis will continue until the United States pulls its troops from the Persian Gulf area, stops its involvement in the "Palestinian crisis," and "leaves Islam alone."

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday said Russia has worked out how it will aid the U.S. campaign on terrorism -- going so far as to exchange intelligence but stopping short of allowing U.S. warplanes to use Russian airspace or air bases. Putin said Russia would expand its cooperation with the Afghan opposition, including providing military aid.

Ukraine has agreed to a U.S. request to allow Ukrainian airspace to be used in the event of a U.S. military strike, Russia's Interfax news agency reported Monday.

A second deployment order signed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the weekend includes Special Forces, Pentagon sources told CNN. The sources said the deployment is mainly support personnel, including specialists in communications, logistics, medical, intelligence and security.

In New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, barred by term limits from running for re-election this fall, was reportedly trying to extend his term. At a news conference Monday, Giuliani refused to speculate on his political future. In an appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman," Giuliani said he hasn't "had the time to sit down and think about it."

Giuliani announced updated casualty figures from the New York attacks: 276 confirmed dead, of which 206 have been identified. The mayor said 6,453 people are missing and presumed dead.

The city is making it possible for families of the missing to file death certificates before the bodies of their loved ones are recovered. Teams of lawyers will work free of charge, Giuliani said, to file the necessary papers in court.

A Vatican spokesman told CNN on Monday that the Holy See would understand if Washington resorted to force in its response to the attacks, although the Vatican would prefer the United States take a nonviolent approach to the crisis.

A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told CNN on Monday the Taliban have taken over its offices in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and are preventing staff from using communication facilities in other parts of the country. UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler said the organization was in talks with the Taliban to see if the Afghan ruling regime will allow it to use one radio per office to help local staff inside Afghanistan.

Police in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta said they will crack down on attempts by radical Islamic groups planning to "sweep" the city of American citizens pending an attack on Afghanistan.

Iran's President Mohammad Khatami called the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria on Monday to drum up support for Iran's position that the United Nations must lead any worldwide fight against terrorism.

Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Khan on Monday said Pakistan has pulled its entire diplomatic staff out of Afghanistan.

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev told CNN Monday his country was prepared to back the United States in its battle against terror. Nazarbayev said his country has granted a request by the United States to use its airspace. He said Kazakhstan would be prepared to provide the use of its military bases and airfields.

The United States and Pakistan signed an agreement Monday to reschedule $379 million in debt owed to the United States. The deal was signed at a ceremony by U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin and a Pakistani official. She said the package had been in the works since January and will lift some economic sanctions having to do with arrears in debt payments.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw arrived in Iran on Monday to deliver a letter saying "the war on terrorism is not remotely a war against Islam."

Citing national security, the Federal Aviation Administration has extended a ban on U.S. crop-dusting through 12:05 a.m. Tuesday in each time zone. In addition, no aircraft capable of or equipped for agricultural operations is allowed to operate -- except firefighting tankers with emergency authorization, according to the FAA. Ashcroft verified that one of the hijackers had inquired about getting a loan for a crop dusting business in Florida. A guest on "Larry King Live" said he and other employees at a Florida crop dust business were questioned several times by a man now identified as one of the hijackers. The FBI grew alarmed about crop-dusters after a crop-dusting manual was discovered among the belongings of a man now being held as a material witness in the investigation.

............. Oh Boy...

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