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August 11, 2004
Surveillance Tapes Set Off New Worries: NYT

The New York Times reports today that the FBI has held a Pakistani and his videotapes, narrated in Arabic, of some unusual sightseeing activities -- building and transit systems in the South and a dam in Texas:

The federal authorities, on heightened alert over the prospect of another Al Qaeda attack, are conducting a terrorism investigation into an illegal immigrant from Pakistan found with videotapes of downtown buildings and transit systems in four Southern states and of a dam in Texas, officials said on Tuesday.

Officials acknowledged that they had no direct evidence linking the suspect, a former Queens resident named Kamran Shaikh, to terrorism. But they said they remained keenly interested in determining why he made the extensive videos, which included narratives in Arabic.

"These were not your normal tourist videos," said a senior law enforcement official in Washington who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. "This could turn out to be something legitimate and innocent, but it's raised our suspicions, and we think there's something else going on here. We don't like the look of it."

The arrest underscored the increasing nervousness among federal counterterrorism officials about the possibility of a terrorist attack in the near future, perhaps before the November election. Ten days ago, the Department of Homeland Security declared a high risk of a terrorist attack against financial institutions in Washington, New York and Newark after receiving information from Pakistan about detailed reconnaissance missions conducted at possible targets three or four years ago.

It certainly doesn't make anyone feel any better that the man identified as Kamran Shaikh also traveled under an alias, Kamran Akhtar, or that he gave federal investigators false information regarding his immigration status. He's now facing charges on those immigration issues while the FBI tries to determine what else Shaikh/Akhtar was doing with the videos.

Reporter Eric Lichtblau includes this chilling tidbit only at the end of the article without much elucidation:

Officials said Mr. Shaikh's last known address was in the Elmhurst section of Queens. The apartment where he lived sits on the top floor of a brick building in a quiet residential neighborhood. The name "K. Shaikh" still appears on the door, but a superintendent at the building said Tuesday that he did not think Mr. Shaikh or his wife and young son had lived there for about eight or ten months.

If he hadn't lived there in eight or ten months, where has he been living? Since his name is still on the door, the rent must be paid up. Who paid it? If it was Shaikh/Akhtar, how did he get the money to maintain at least two residences? This sounds extremely suspicious and certainly should alert those areas surveilled to be on alert for any other suspicious activity.

However, if anyone actually came out and said that ... all we'd hear about from the lunatic fringe is the timing of the information.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 11, 2004 10:30 AM

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» Little Is Worst Than Big from Josh Ferguson
Captain's Quarters posted a New York Times article reporting that the police had picked up an illegal Pakistani immigrant who had made some very unusual video tapes of places in the South. Ever since the 9/11 attacks, I've always thought that if the ... [Read More]

Tracked on August 11, 2004 4:16 PM

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