Monday, December 29, 2003

Cincinnati al-Qaida cell hypothetical


Weiser: Inside Washington

WASHINGTON - Is Washington trying to spook Cincinnati on terrorism?

A former top CIA official, testifying this month before a special commission studying terrorism, offhandedly mentioned an al-Qaida cell in Cincinnati.

Twice.

Former CIA associate deputy director John MacGaffin said later he was just throwing out Cincinnati as an example of a random American city.

In his Dec. 8 testimony before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, MacGaffin said:

"It's hard tactical penetration work to have your spy sitting next to the spy in the bin Laden mountaintop and in the bin Laden cell in Cincinnati, if you will, over long periods of time."

A few minutes later, he said: "As we've all said at the beginning, you can no longer separate foreign and domestic (intelligence) in the sense that it goes from the shadow of the Hamburg mosque to Cincinnati."

MacGaffin, now a director of AKE Group international security company, said through a spokeswoman that he just used Cincinnati because it's one of his favorite cities.

Last June, an expert on the rise of radical Islam told the Senate that the Saudi government had paid to build the $6 million Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in 1995.

Stephen Schwartz, a Muslim himself and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee the money was part of the Saudi effort to spread Wahhabism, "the most extreme, separatist and violent form of Islam."

Indeed, a press release on the Saudi's embassy Web page said the Saudi government would allocate an annual budget and appoint an imam for the mosque and community center in West Chester.

But Saudi embassy spokesman Nail Al-Jubeir said the press release was wrong.

Islamic Center administrator Karen Dabdoub said the Saudis have never had anything to do with running the mosque.

"We certainly don't consider ourselves to be following what might be called Wahhabism," she said.

DELEGATING: The Republicans this month released the details on how its convention delegates will be allotted among states.

It's a formula that makes the Bowl Championship Series look simple. But it works for Ohio and Kentucky.

It starts with the number of congressional districts.

Then it mixes in how the state did for Bush in 2000.Then it mixes in a bonus based on the number of Republican elected officials statewide: Ohio's bonus is 24, Kentucky's 15. The final tally: Ohio gets 91 delegates, Kentucky gets 46.

Not that it matters much. There's not expected to be a close vote on the GOP nominee.

DEANY NEW YEAR: Still looking for something to do New Year's Eve?

State Rep. Catherine Barrett of Cincinnati is hosting a Cincinnati for Howard Dean for a New Year for America House Party. (Yes, that's the full name.)

The party is 7 p.m. Tuesday in the first floor party room of the Hammond North condos, 5300 Hamilton Ave.

Contact Lynn Worpenberg at lynnw@fuse.net or (513) 481-3347.

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Carl Weiser covers Washington news for the Enquirer. E-mail cweiser@gannett.com or call (202) 906-8134.




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