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God help the United States, because the FBI isn't going to

By Jeremy Reynalds
web posted August 19, 2002

May God help the United States, because the FBI isn't going to. If you discover a plot to blow up the United States tonight, if it's after 5 p.m. don't try telling the FBI (at least the Atlanta field office). They'll take a message and have someone call you back tomorrow (maybe!)

Sadly, you don't fare a whole lot better if it's before 5 p.m. One day last week I was e-mailed a tip that the al-Qaida's Alneda.com terrorist web site was back on line under a different address. This was the web site believed by officials to have been used by al-Qaida to deliver messages possibly connected with further attacks.

Back again: Alneda.com
Back again

The new site can be found at this address: http://www.securesite8.com/~news4/. After doing a little electronic investigation and discovering that the site's internet service provider was based in Atlanta Ga., I contacted the FBI field office there. I was connected to an answering machine where I left a message. While I was hopeful that I would get a call back based upon some previous dealings with other FBI field offices I wasn't over optimistic.

On the way to a business luncheon about half an hour later, my cell phone rang. It was the Atlanta FBI asking me what I needed. I told the individual what I had discovered and she asked me to repeat the address for the site – which I had already left on an FBI answering machine. I explained that I had left the office for an appointment and the site address had totally slipped my mind. The woman (who refused to identify herself for "security reasons") then rattled off an FBI e-mail address and asked me to mail the information I had to the bureau.

Explaining that I was driving and couldn't take down the address didn't help, so I asked the woman if she could send me an e-mail so I would have her address. Then I could send her the information once I returned to the office. Unbelievably she told me that was not her responsibility. It was mine, she said, and if I wanted to pass on the information I would have to contact her.

Returning to the office I later placed another call to the FBI's Atlanta field office hoping for at least a marginal improvement in attitude. No such luck. Different people, same attitude! Whoever answered the phone told me to leave a message with her and she would pass it on to the appropriate people who would call me back tomorrow.

I didn't fare a whole lot better with the ISP either, even though they were admittedly a whole lot nicer than the FBI in their response. dv2.com's Mark Howard told me by e-mail, "If it is an illegal site, then we will take action against our customers, but we will have to be able to read it first."

A J. Hinkle also from dv2.com sent me a similar message, writing "I walk a fine line with free speech (which you as a writer understand) and patriotism - I think both are extremely important and in fact intertwined. Let me know what it (the web site) says so I can evaluate it."

A spokesman who later called me from the company said he would be happy to take it down if the FBI called him and said it was a dangerous site. Well, based upon my experiences today with the Fibbi's, there's a fat chance of that happening.

Let me remind you why this web site is so important. A few weeks ago, cyberterrorism expert Ben Venzke told USA Today that the original alneda.com site was "one of the only sites, if not the only site, for statements by al-Qaida and the Taliban."

Apparent mirror sites www.drasat.com and which sprang up after the original alneda.com was taken off line appeared to be non-updated duplicates of that site, mainly reprinting anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric from other media sources. It remains to be seen what's on this site but one thing is clear for sure: the FBI isn't in a hurry to find out.

Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico and is pursuing his PhD in intercultural education at Biola University in Los Angeles. He is married with five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work can be viewed here and weekly at www.americasvoices.org. He may be contacted by e-mail at reynalds@joyjunction.org.

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