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US modifies procedures to unearth travel nexus of suspects

Last Updated: Thursday, December 10, 2009 - 11:25

Washington: In view of the unearthing of David Coleman Headley`s case by the FBI and several other similar incidents in the recent past, the US has modified procedure based on intelligence inputs to expose any travel nexus of terror suspects.
“We have modified procedures based on information from the intelligence community in order to try to stay current with what we know to be the case and anticipatory in terms of trying to think out of the box in order to do that," Under-Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beer told Senators.

Beers said this in response to a question during a hearing convened by the Senate Homeland and Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

It is the responsibility of the Department of Homeland Security to monitor travel in and out of the United States or in the United States by air, he said.

"About the possibility of Americans or Westerners being trained in Pakistan has been out publicly based on the Director of National Intelligence statements of, I believe, two years ago," Beers said in response to a question from Senator Joe Lieberman, Chairman of the Committee.

"That information, obviously, was made available to us, including in classified forms, and so we have looked at ways to try to make sure that we`re ahead of the curve on this," Beers said.

"Is there a role to be played here in sharing information on potential terrorist travel with other nations?" asked Lieberman.

"Yes," replied David Heyman, Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security for Policy. "There is a role and we actually do collaborate, cooperate and share information with the partner nations and definitely look to opportunities to do more of that."

In a number of cases recently, he said, it has been observed that individuals, and these specific US citizens, like Headley are in fact sympathetic to al Qaeda, to its affiliates, to the ideology.

"As indicated by the recent indictments, we see also the nexus of travel in those who maybe get further indoctrinated abroad or perhaps trained or otherwise. I think we need to continue to work with our colleagues in the FBI and the intelligence community, be able to identify threats. Travel in and off itself is not necessarily an indicator," he said.

"We will continue to pursue the programs that we have been pursuing to this day that I think have been effective; that is to say, continuing to engage with communities, to our links to state and local partners. We need to do that," Heyman said.

Senator Lieberman asked if someone with Pakistani and British passport travels to Pakistan with his Pakistani documents and then comes to the US with his British passport. Then is there "any record that he travelled to Pakistan?" "I don`t know if that`s a question without an answer, but I just give it to you because I remember that as a practical fear, based on the presence of all the training camps and centres of world terrorism in the Pakistan/Afghanistan area," Lieberman said.

That continues to be a concern, said Timothy Healy, director FBI`s Terrorist Screening Centre.

"I was last in London in November and had a two-hour dialogue with a variety of British officials on this particular issue. It is one in which we are looking to work out procedures. I can`t tell you we`ve worked them out yet, but we`re absolutely aware of this and looking at whether or not there are ways within our systems to be able to catch that because you`re absolutely right," Healey said.

"If the person left the UK under one passport and came back under another passport, being a dual citizen that would be caught by the UK. But the travel under a Pakistani
passport isn`t necessarily under the current system going to raise an alert, but they are looking at that system, and I think we all have to be cognizant of that," the official said.


First Published: Thursday, December 10, 2009 - 11:25

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