Periscope

The Syrian army colonel just disappeared. He was being watched by U.S. intelligence for his role as an expert in biological and chemical warfare when he vanished last February. "Is the colonel working for bin Laden in a secret lab somewhere? Who knows," a U.S. intelligence official told NEWSWEEK. Investigators suspect the missing colonel traveled to Germany after becoming a Muslim extremist.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, investigators are increasingly looking at Germany as the terrorists' favorite lair. "The connection back to Germany is really hot," says a senior government official. U.S. intelligence has also picked up further hints of a connection between the hijackers and Iraq, said an intelligence source who would not be more specific. And the terrorists' money trail, NEWSWEEK has learned, leads through Dubai and several American banks, including Citibank and Bank of America. (Spokesmen for the banks could not be reached for comment.)

The massive dragnet in the United States has yielded only one solid lead to the hijackers--Zacarias Moussaoui, the Moroccan-French man arrested on immigration charges in late August after his flight trainers in Minnesota began to wonder why he wanted to practice turns, not landings. "He is definitely one of them," says a top investigator. The FBI suspects that Moussaoui was the missing man on United Flight 93, which had just four hijackers, while the other three hijacked planes had five.

The bureau is having difficulty linking the two Middle Eastern men picked up with box cutters on Sept. 11 after their flight from Newark, N.J., to San Antonio, Texas, was diverted. And the FBI's arrest of Al-Badr Al-Hazmi, a San Antonio doctor, appears to be a case of getting the wrong man. The mild-mannered radiologist claims he was isolated from his lawyer and family for 13 days and kicked and yelled at by FBI agents. An FBI spokesman said he had "no information of any such allegation," and insisted that Al-Hazmi "has complimented the FBI as to our professionalism."

It is becoming more and more obvious that bin Laden's associates have been breezing in and out of the United States for years. Bin Laden's No. 2, Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahari, came to America in the mid-'90s to raise money, ostensibly for Islamic charities, according to Egyptian court records. One of his sidekicks, Khalid Essayed Aly, described himself on immigration papers as a sales rep for chemicals. Investigators are wondering just which chemicals he had in mind, and note that he had a pilot's license.

Desperate for leads, investigators are interviewing women who dated the suspected hijackers in Florida. Investigators are also wondering why several of the hijackers went to Las Vegas for one or two nights for no apparent reason. "It doesn't fit," says a source. "Maybe they needed to embolden themselves by seeing the ultimate decadence of America."

Osama bin Laden's family of 50 siblings and first cousins controls one of the richest companies in Saudi Arabia. The rest of the clan cut themselves off from Osama in the mid-1990s after he rejected their pleas to stop fomenting terrorism. But now evidence has surfaced that some family members still may be in touch with the world's most wanted man. A source tells NEWSWEEK that upon review of video pictures of the recent wedding of one of bin Laden's sons, family members determined that some of Osama's "relatives" did attend the celebration. The family was relieved, however, that none of those relatives carried the name bin Laden. All the relatives identified as having attended were from Osama's mother's side of the family. His mother remarried after Osama's father died in 1968. The disclosure that Osama's mother's relatives attended the wedding may bolster some investigators' suspicions that Osama could still be getting financial support from sympathetic members of his own family. But U.S. intelligence believes he has plenty of other sources of cash, including "shakedown" money from wealthy Arabs who contribute in the hope that his operatives will not target them.

Before the attacks, bin Laden family members felt comfortable enough to live and work in the United States. After Black Tuesday, however, the Saudis concluded that the American public's tolerance for bin Ladens in their midst might be waning. So, 10 days after the attack, the Saudi Embassy in Washington rounded up about 20 bin Laden family members, including 15 students attending U.S. colleges, and flew them back to Saudi Arabia for their own protection.

OLSON STILL SPEAKING OUT

It has long been a tradition for U.S. solicitors general to stay above the political fray--and avoid lobbying Congress on legislation they might one day have to defend before the Supreme Court. But U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson says he feels compelled to take a different course on the Justice Department's current push for broader powers to crack down on terrorists. "I have a direct personal stake that people understand," says Olson, whose wife, political commentator Barbara Olson, died on the hijacked flight that hit the Pentagon. Last week the solicitor general--after reviewing the antiterrorism bill with top Justice officials--accompanied Attorney General John Ashcroft to Capitol Hill when the A.G. testified for the measure. Among the provisions: expanding FBI wiretaps and allowing the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists during deportation proceedings. "I don't understand the objections," Olson says. Indefinite detention makes sense, he says, if the United States has evidence that a deportable alien might be involved in a terrorist plot--but lacks the proof needed to bring charges in court. In the midst of mourning, Olson has also approved the publication of his late wife's upcoming book, "The Final Days: The Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House." Although the book is sure to stir controversy, Olson says there is no question that his wife would have wanted it to come out. "For me to tell Barbara that her voice would be silenced because she was murdered by terrorists--I couldn't have lived with myself," he says.

Back in 1995, when he began to prepare his trial defense for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, lead counsel Stephen Jones tried to come up with alternative suspects. One whom he considered was Osama bin Laden. It didn't pan out, of course. But it did prompt Jones to joke to a colleague, "Just imagine how difficult it would be for us if the government went after him."

It could happen now, if U.S. forces manage to locate bin Laden and bring him back alive for criminal prosecution. They tell you in law school that everybody's entitled to a defense, but what lawyer would represent bin Laden--the pariah of pariahs? Perhaps some of the lawyers who have other high-profile Muslim clients; last week Manhattan's Stanley Cohen reveled in his role defending two men who had been questioned by investigators, and offered that he was prepared to represent bin Laden as well.

But what about higher-profile attorneys? "It might be a career-breaker," says Jack Litman, a prominent Manhattan criminal-defense attorney, who defended Robert Chambers in the "preppy murder" trial in 1988. "A bin Laden case could take five to 10 years of full-time work. It would be hard to find clients afterward. Apart from a likely conflict of interest in knowing friends who were victims of the WTC horror, lawyers have instincts of emotional self-preservation." Says Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University, "A lawyer who took that case--even the mob would shun him."

Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor who's made a career of taking on unpopular clients like O. J. Simpson, says he might defend bin Laden if a court appointed him. "It would be emotionally wrenching--I hate everything he stands for," Dershowitz says. "We're all fearful--this is the only time I've gotten death threats even though I've never suggested that I might consider representing him. If bin Laden were acquitted, I could be his next target." Nonetheless, Dershowitz says, the criminal-justice process demands that every defendant get a fair trial, and "how could I say no in principle?" Dershowitz likens a defense of bin Laden to an E.R. doctor treating one of the hijackers. "Whoever represents him would be performing an act of high patriotism," he says, "but I hope I'm not the one who gets the call."

Jones has no such reservations, arguing that unless a lawyer had a conflict of interest or his physical safety put in jeopardy, he ought to jump in. That's what he did in 1995. After several other lawyers turned down a federal judge's request to defend McVeigh, Jones agreed to take the case on (and wound up being paid several million dollars out of taxpayer funds). "It's important that mainstream lawyers take these kinds of cases," Jones says. The same is true for judges, though many in the New York area probably would recuse themselves. But what about a jury? Are there even 12 New Yorkers who can say they have no opinion about Osama bin Laden?

As New York's bravest bury their dead, top fire investigators are looking for their own answers in the ashes. The FDNY has completed its "operational review," a grim Monday-morning quarterbacking session to determine how so many lives--343 firefighters and more than 5,600 others--were lost. The consensus? From the moment the 10-60 alarm sounded, signaling a major emergency, the situation defied normal rules of firefighting.

Given the height of the building and the thick black smoke that enveloped it, the first firefighters on the scene couldn't see the size of the hole in Tower 1. Most assumed it had been hit by a small private plane and not by a commercial airliner filled with thousands of gallons of flammable fuel. In effect, the building had been bombed. But they thought the greatest threat was fire, not collapse, so supervisors set up command centers in both lobbies and sent scores of men, many of them high-rise fire specialists, to "blitz"--defend the stairways against fire while performing an orderly evacuation. Thousands did get out safely, but the toll on the department was devastating when the buildings imploded.

"Our strategy was right," says retired chief Vincent Dunn, a respected tactician who writes firefighting textbooks and trains FDNY firemen. "There's a science to putting out high-rise fires. The FDNY knows it better than any department in the world." Dunn says high-rise fires are usually predictable: in 15 years he's seen partial collapses of the floors engulfed in flames. But "we never considered that a building would pancake the way it did."

How should firefighters respond if the unthinkable happens again? FDNY Deputy Commissioner Frank Gribbon said departmental tactics are already under review. Privately, the brass doubt they could ever again send that many firefighters into a building under attack. Instead, they will focus on evacuating the area around the building and assess the safety of the structure before trying to rescue people inside. "Firefighters are not soldiers," said one sadly. "There is no strategy and no training in the world that can save people from acts of war." Acknowledges Gribbon, "The commander at the scene would calculate the risks to firefighters against the number of lives that could be saved." The heartbreaking lessons of the Twin Towers, he says, will always be in the back of every firefighter's mind.

Is America ready to have fun again? While Hollywood ponders what sort of fare the public is going to want, and editorial writers proclaim the Death of Irony, Ben Stiller's "Zoolander" arrives to test the troubled waters. A wicked satire of the preening world of supermodels, its smart, wacked-out silliness may be just what the doctor ordered. Stiller, who co-wrote the script and directs, stars as Derek Zoolander, two-time model of the year and full-time moron. Earnest, narcissistic and idiotic, Derek is a perfect candidate to be brainwashed by an evil cartel of fashionistas led by tempestuous designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell). They want him to assassinate the prime minister of Malaysia, who is trying to put an end to the use of child labor. The laughs come fast and furious, but one at least sticks in your craw: a fiery, lethal explosion in a New York City gas station. It would have been funny a month ago; not today. The rest of the time (a fleet 89 minutes) "Zoolander" is a giddy, welcome gift.

What's going to be built on the site of the World Trade Center? Some people have suggested it be left empty in memory of the 6,000 victims. But no one believes for a New York minute that 16 acres of prime Manhattan real estate will be left undeveloped, though there'll surely be a memorial built on it. Some--including former mayor Ed Koch--say the Twin Towers should be rebuilt exactly as they were. That's unlikely: who'd want to rent an office on the 101st floor after what's happened? Developer Larry Silverstein, who bought a 99-year lease on the World Trade Center just seven weeks before the attack, offers the idea of "four 50- or 60-story towers," but says, "This is strictly a back-of-the-envelope response."

In truth, no one knows what might be built. The cleanup's just begun and could take a year. And complicating the site's future are the number of parties who will have some say in the matter. The land is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey: that means the governors will be involved, especially George Pataki. The city will put in its two cents, but New York is scheduled to have a new mayor next year, and he'll appoint his own people to key planning posts. Any speculation about what might be done is "premature," says Kathy Wild, president of the New York City Partnership, an organization of corporate leaders that's helping downtown businesses recover. "The reality of the marketplace and the economy are going to dictate what happens there." Many New York architects and critics would like a more open process to arrive at a design. At a meeting of the Architectural League last week, one speaker suggested not an office tower but an institute against terrorism. Another proposed a world arts center, with a design chosen in an international competition. "Or maybe give it to Frank Gehry," she said. Gehry, from his California office, said, "There are 6,000 families to be considered. I think it's in bad taste for a bunch of developers and architects to be saying things now. We have to give it time."

Most designers haven't made specific proposals. "There's a great opportunity to rethink what the possibilities are," says architect Charles Gwathmey. "The really interesting thing is about memory--those two towers were indelible. The replacement has to be incredibly spiritual and dynamic architecture. Whatever is built there is going to be visited forever."

In 1969 Beverly Sills had just moved into her apartment in New York City when the doorbell rang. It was Isaac Stern, with a violin case in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other, dropping by to welcome his friend the opera singer to the building where they would both live for more than three decades. "We sat down on two cartons, and he actually played for me," Sills told NEWSWEEK. It was this warmth that imbued his violin and made Stern, who died Sept. 22 at 81, one of the great fiddlers of our time. "His generosity of spirit was the key to his playing," said longtime friend Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony. And it led to a lifetime of mentoring young musicians--including Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma--and promoting the arts around the world. Carnegie Hall, which Stern helped to save from demolition in 1960, stands today as something of a trophy to his enthusiasm for music. How fitting that Carnegie's Isaac Stern Auditorium, named for the man who presided over the concert hall's return to glory, would host a memorial concert this week for victims of New York's terrorist tragedy. For her part, Sills listens to tapes of her friend's music, but not in memoriam. "I think he'll continue to live. I'll just miss him in the elevator." Susannah Meadows

Periscope | News