McCaslin's Beltway Beat

Posted: Oct 31, 2001 12:00 AM
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks launched by 19 foreigners using simple, unconventional weapons will result in the largest insured loss in the nation's history. "With estimated losses of upwards of $50 billion, the potentially astronomical liability of future attacks has put the (insurance) industry at risk of not being able to cover future losses associated with terrorism," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue now warns the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Nevertheless, the insurance industry remains committed to meeting its obligations to policyholders as a result of the September attacks. FOOD FIGHT Medical microbiologist Sam W. Joseph is a veteran of the Naval Medical Research Command, researching biological- and chemical-warfare agents. Today, as a professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, he studies organisms that can attack in the environment and through food. In fact, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill rush to protect the nation's food supply from biological attack, Joseph is finding ways not only to eliminate organisms should they wind up in the local salad bar, but also to eliminate those organisms that could be applied directly to crops to wipe out food supply. If that's not enough to swallow, the professor warns it is "easier than we like to think" to obtain dangerous organisms from research labs like Maryland's, where security has been a top priority. Yet all researchers, Joseph says, aren't so careful. 'DEAR TOM' LETTERS Pieces of mail - now being stacked at an undisclosed location for anthrax screening - Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle receives on average in a week: 5,000 to 6,000. PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS Posted on a Capitol Hill bulletin board:
You are a free-lance photographer for a news service traveling alone in the Middle East. There is a flood in progress and many homes have been destroyed. You come across Osama bin Laden, who has been swept away by the floodwaters. He is barely hanging on to a tree limb and is about to go under. You have to make a choice: You either put down your camera and save him, or you snap a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph as he loses his grip on the limb. So, here's the question and think carefully before you answer: Which lens would you use? DON'T BLAME BUBBA Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright says the Clinton administration never had the public support it needed to root Osama bin Laden from his terrorist training grounds in Afghanistan. "The (bombing) events that happened (at two U.S. embassies in Africa and against the USS Cole) were abroad," Albright explained to reporters prior to a speaking engagement at Cherry Hill High School East in New Jersey. "This (Bush) administration has the support to go forward in a way we did not." In addition, according to New Jersey's Courier Post, Albright said the Clinton administration was never able to link bin Laden's repeated terrorist attacks against the United States because of intelligence deficit. However, "we did everything we could based on the intelligence we had," Albright insisted. AFGHAN WARNING "Long before the Sept. 11th attacks, all Afghans in the United States and abroad and the Afghans inside Afghanistan raised their voices loudly and warned the world about the existence and threats of these non-Afghan terrorist groups inside Afghanistan." So write some 100 Afghan families living in New England in a letter to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. "Taliban do not represent the Afghan society," say the families, about 20 of which fled their country in the last two years to escape Taliban rule. The letter goes so far as to charge: "It is unfortunate to say that the government of Pakistan (and) its military forces helped, funded, and created these terrorist groups along with the Taliban who rules Afghanistan right now." Shortly after the September attacks, this very community in New England issued a statement condemning the terrorists, voicing solidarity and unity with President Bush and the U.S. government, and expressing sorrow and condolences for the families that lost their loved ones. COMMUNICATION IS KEY What's really tragic about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United states is that "a wanted terrorist and known (Osama) bin Laden associate walked up to an airline ticket counter and used his real name and real identification to board an airplane." So says freshman Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., who adds that the airplane the terrorist boarded later crashed into the Pentagon. Now, an amendment introduced last week by Keller as a key component of the sweeping new anti-terrorism bill has received overwhelming support, because it would link - via computer - the FBI's terrorist watch list and airline passenger manifests. In light of the amendment, the FBI is now required to study and report back to Congress within 120 days how it will go about linking the computers. "I'm thrilled that it was passed," Keller tells this column in a telephone interview. "I think it is absolutely critical that we no longer have a situation where a known terrorist suspect gets onto an airplane, simply because of a lack of communication between airlines and government agencies."