And now the most engaging two minutes in television, the latest footnotes to the American war on terrorism.
John Walker, the American captured while fighting for the Taliban, has reportedly told military debriefers that he was an Al Qaeda member who trained at its camps, learning, among other things how to use poison and explosives. Newsweek quotes government sources as saying that Walker also said he had met Usama bin Laden. Justice Department officials say there could be trouble getting Walker's admissions into evidence since they were obtained without reading him his rights. And Newsweek says some officials think he would be more useful as a cooperating witness. Walker has been moved to the Marine amphibious ship, the USS Peleliu in the Arabian Sea.
Alan Dershowitz, the famed trial lawyer who represented, among others, O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson, says that Usama bin Laden videotape proves that he is "morally despicable," but does not necessarily prove he's guilty of planning, directing, or even knowing in advance of the 9/11 atrocities. The problem, says Dershowitz, is that for such a tape to be "self-proving," it would have to show he possessed unique knowledge of information not in the public domain. But the facts cited by bin Laden, he says, were either known to all or not subject to verification. In other words, says Dershowitz, bin Laden could have been falsely boasting.
Government wildlife biologists planted evidence of a rare, endangered species of cat, the Canadian Lynx, in two national forests. The Washington Times quotes say a total of seven employees of the U.S. Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, were caught in an investigation of the case. It involved the planting of Canadian Lynx hair on rubbing posts in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Wenatchee National Forest. Had not the deception been uncovered, says the newspaper, the government would have probably banned many forms of recreation from the two forests.
General Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former President Clinton, says the U.S. military years ago tried to begin planning with civilian agencies for the possibility of a terrorist attack on American cities. But Shelton said civil libertarians complained about joint military-civilian training. "They said the military was trying to take over the U.S." And such complaints, he said, led to a slowdown in funding.