US Fears Stolen ID, Uniforms May Be Used in Attacks
Thursday, July 24, 2003; 9:34 PM
By Deborah Charles
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned that would-be terrorists may try to use stolen identification, uniforms or vehicles to enter sensitive facilities to plan or carry out an attack.
In an information bulletin distributed this week to law enforcement and the private sector and obtained by Reuters on Thursday, the department urged vigilance against such tactics.
"The (bulletin) is meant to advise the owners and operators of the nation's infrastructures about the possible use by terrorists of official identification, uniforms, or vehicles to gain access to sensitive facilities for purposes of planning or carrying out attacks," it said.
The bulletin said the department had no information on any organized effort by "extremist elements" in the United States to steal such items, but it had identified the recent theft or disappearance of large numbers of official identification, uniforms and vehicles.
"Attempts to acquire official identification, uniforms or vehicles would be consistent with the tactics and techniques of al Qaeda and other extremist groups," the bulletin said.
The bulletin noted that extremists have worn police or military uniforms in the past to mask their identities and get closer to targets without arousing suspicion. It cited December 2002 suicide bombings in Chechnya and efforts by groups in South America, the Philippines and Pakistan as examples.
A Homeland Security survey in five states showed that hundreds of official identification cards, badges, decals, uniforms and government license plates were reported stolen or lost from February 2003 to May 2003.
Additionally, a number of private companies have reported receiving suspicious inquiries about renting official delivery vehicles and emergency services representatives have received unusual requests for detailed vehicle descriptions, it said.
The bulletin also noted that a Japanese Web site sells near-exact replicas of badges from law enforcement agencies such as the U.S. Secret Service, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service and the Los Angeles Police Department.
In the report sent to police, manufacturing groups and major U.S. companies across the country, the department urged recipients to keep tabs of their uniforms and identification.