WASHINGTON – The government pressed its fight against terrorism on multiple fronts, calling up more reservists and moving to foil any attempt to use hazardous materials in a new strike against America.
The Bush administration also continued its effort to build a world coalition against terrorists, while a Pentagon official signaled that a military strike in Afghanistan against Usama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network was not imminent.
Stepping back from the blunt war talk of a week ago, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said more information about the location of terrorists and the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan was needed before a strike.
"I think it can't be stressed enough that everybody who's waiting for military action ... needs to rethink this thing," Wolfowitz told reporters in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday where he appealed to the NATO allies for intelligence-gathering assistance.
"We don't believe in just demonstrating that our military is capable of bombing. The whole world knows that," he said.
NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said that following a briefing from Wolfowitz, "It becomes clearer and clearer that all roads being pursued lead to bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network."
The NATO gathering was just one part of the administration's anti-terrorism dialogue with foreign leaders. Continuing the parade of world leaders who've visited President Bush in the past two weeks, Jordan's King Abdullah II was to be at the White House on Friday after seeing Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday.
Bush, hoping to get nervous passengers back onto planes and help revive a major segment of the U.S. economy that was staggered by the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings, planned to propose new airport security measures Thursday.
Officials familiar with Bush's plan said it would bring airport security workers under greater federal supervision while leaving them in the employ of private companies. They would face tougher background checks and receive more extensive training, aides said.
Bush also wants to put more armed marshals on airliners to give travelers confidence they will be safe from terrorists, and to require airlines to better secure doors between the cockpit and cabin.
Hijackers on Sept. 11 crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and another plane went down in southwestern Pennsylvania, with passengers struggling with their captors. In all, nearly 7,000 are missing or dead.
The New York Times reported on its Web site Thursday that Bush has authorized two midlevel Air Force generals to order airliners that threaten U.S. cities shot down when there was not enough time to get an OK from higher-level officials or the president.
On the investigative front, 10 people were arrested on charges of illegally obtaining licenses to haul hazardous materials. The move came a day after the Justice Department warned that terrorists might be planning a strike using chemical or biological weapons.
The arrests were made in Missouri, Michigan and Washington state. Authorities said as many as 20 people had the bogus permits, some of whom may have connections to the 19 hijackers involved in the terrorist attacks.
It was too early to tell whether any of those arrested were connected to the Sept. 11 attacks, Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden said.