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These stories were published Tuesday, 11 September, 2001

Bulletin at 8: 30 a.m. Tuesday

A.M. Costa Rica will post its web pages early and perhaps several times today, Tuesday, to alert readers here to developments in Costa Rica as a result of the terrorist attacks in the United States.  In addition, we will use the latestnews e-mail service (see below) to relay any vital messages from the U.S. Embassy or elsewhere.

In the morning officials at the U.S. Embassy in San José said they were tuned to televisions just like the rest of the world watching the story of the World Trade Center collapse and the attack on the Pentegon. Later they issued a brief statement that follows.

Air traffic to and from the United States and Costa Rica has been halted, as has air service between other points in the world. Commercial airlines and their passengers were believed to have been used as weapons in the US. suicide attacks. International borders were closed.

Remember, for comments or special needs, you can e-mail editor@amcostarica.com

A.M. Costa Rica

Related news:

Prayer vigil

9:30 a.m.

International Vineyard Christian Fellowship has called a special prayer vigil which will continue day and night for members of the American community who do not wish to be alone.  The vigil is at a private home in Cristal.  Call 296-5729.

U.S. Embassy statement:
11 a.m.
In light of the terrorist acts that took place in the United States, the U.S. Embassy in San José, Costa Rica, has assumed a state of high security. 

Meanwhile, the embassy remains open, but visa services have been suspended until further notice. The Consular Section continues offering services to U.S. citizens with passports.

At present, we have no knowledge of any specific threat in Costa Rica. However, we urge all U.S. citizens and affilitated institutions to remain alert and put into effect appropriate security practices.  U.S. citizens here can consult the Web page of the embassy (www.usembassy.or.cr) for current information relative to this situation. For specific questions or consultations, U.S. citizens can call the Consular Section at 220-3050.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the victims of this horrendous attack.

A report from the scene

By Robin O'Brien
rfobrien_2000@yahoo.com
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

10:20 a.m.
A quick report from the 12th floor of an office building in Jersey City, directly across the river from lower Manhattan:

I just watched the second tower of the World Trade Center collapse.  The first imploded into a cataclysmic cloud that quickly enveloped lower Manhattan.  The ferries scurried from the piers as we watched in disbelief.  Just as the smoke was clearing, Tower 2 just disintegrated, I-beams flying like matchsticks, an even greater cloud rushing out into the river, obscuring the downtown once more.

On the street below a crowd is gathered, a throng of anxious faces.  I waded through the crowd as I came up from the PATH (the subway that links Manhattan and North Jersey).  Many are on cellphones, most in vain. The circuits are overloaded.  The buildings here contain satellite offices for companies based right across the river, 

some in the very buildings that until 2 hours ago dominated the Manhattan skyline.

I was on one of the last trains out of the city. Everything is now sealed off.  We wait, wondering where the next strike will come from, worrying about those we know and love.

As others hurry by, two people, 12 stories below, are locked in the longest embrace I remember.  I watched them run toward each other before they connected. I've called my wife and Dad, I've emailed my friends (many of whom are in Washington, DC.  I pray that they're OK).

Now, we wait, and watch.  It's a helpless, helpless feeling.  Most folks here are cried out now.  Some are talking in low, incredulous voices, trying to make sense of what appears to be a coordinated, devastating, deliberate attack.  The radio dominates the hushed room of cubicles and offices.  We'll probably be here for some hours yet;  the bridges and trains into the city are closed, all air traffic in the country is grounded, the roads are clogged with people trying to get back to home base.

 Hollywood meets Manhattan.  What a terrible day.

High tech systems
can intercept
your messages

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you had the feeling someone was reading your e-mails, your concerns might be well placed.

The United States and other western intelligence agencies maintain a 29-year-old worldwide system to read almost any electronic communication, according to 

civil rights groups. The system is called Echelon, although no one who knows much about it will talk.

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has its own system, Carnivore, called that because it gobbles up messages on the Internet and checks them for suspicious keywords.

Europe is so unhappy with the international espionage system that a European Parliament committee investigated and advised computer users to encrypt all their e-mails if they want to avoid being spied on by the Echelon eavesdropping network, said the BBC. 

But now even putting messages in code may not be enough. The FBI last week refused to tell a U.S. court about its system to capture computer keystrokes, claiming that the method was a secret. The FBI's so-called "key logger" system came to court because the federal agency seems to have used it to catch computer passwords that unlocked encrypted files in a loanshark suspect's computer.

In an affidavit filed Sept. 6 with the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, the FBI said revealing details about the key logger "could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the national security of the United States," according to a report in Federal Computer Week.

The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and Australia are believed to be the partners of the United States in the Echelon program that used sophisticated satellites, land-based antennas and hard-wired taps into telephone and Internet transmission lines. 

The alliance was set up to spy on the Eastern Bloc as early as 1947, but with the end of the Cold War, the interests of intelligence services have turned to drug smugglers, money laundering, sabotage, terrorism and commercial espionage.

Civil rights groups say Echelon can be used to intercept almost any electronic communication, be it a phone conversation, mobile phone call, e-mail message, fax 
 

transmission, net browsing history, or satellite transmission, according to the BBC, which has followed the story vigorously.

The FBI system, Carnivore, came under scrutiny during budget hearings in the United States this spring. The Department of Justice $3.5 billion authorization bill passed by the U.S. House requires the department to report to Congress on its use of Carnivore.

The bill requires the FBI and the Department of Justice to report to the House Judiciary Committee each year, starting at the end of 2001, on the way Carnivore is being used, how its use is authorized, the frequency of use and how many warrants were obtained. 

Warrants seem to be an issue in the New Jersey court case where the FBI said their secret system for finding out what someone was typing on their computer should stay a secret. Lawyers for the loanshark suspect wanted to know if the FBI obtained a warrant to use the system which would seem to reply on some kind of wiretap technology.

In the United States, police agencies must justify the use of a wiretap in front of a judge before they actually hook one up. 

That might not be the case in Costa Rica where the National Legislature has passed a bill that would allow police to tap telephones to solve certain types of crimes without first a judge's approval.

The crimes involves include murder, kidnapping, exploitation of children and child pornography. 

With the FBI's key logger technology Costa Rican police also would be able to find out individual private passwords to inspect secret areas of hard drives and computer servers.


 

 
 
 

U.S.
issues
new
alert
for
citizens

The U.S. government issued another warning Friday to its citizens abroad, telling them that they may be at increased risk of terrorist action from extremist groups.

The government also said they had heard reports that terrorist actions may be taken against U.S. military facilities or placed frequented by military personnel in Korea and Japan.

The government also is taking seriously information that U.S. citizens might be targets of groups with links to Usama Bin Ladin and his Al-Qaida organization. 

The announcement from the U.S. State Department said that U.S. facilities worldwide are at a heightened state of 
 

alert. The announcement urged U.S. citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take steps to decrease their vulnerability. 

"Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion," the announcement said. "In addition, American citizens are also urged to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects, and to report the presence of the objects to local authorities.  Vehicles should not be left unattended, if at all possible, and should be kept locked at all times."

Americans traveling overseas were reminded that travel warnings are available on the Internet at: 
http://travel.state.gov.

Professors claim that child exploitation is rampant
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

PHILADELPHIA - Tens of thousands of U.S., Mexican and Canadian children and youths become victims of juvenile pornography, prostitution and trafficking each year. So significant is the problem that even most law-enforcement and child-welfare officials do not realize its scope. 

This was the finding of two researchers at the University of Pennsylvania based on about 1,000 interviews in 28 cities in the three countries.

"Child sexual exploitation is the most hidden form of child abuse in the U.S. and North America today. It is the nation’s least recognized epidemic ," said Richard J. Estes, a University of Pennsylvania professor of social work and the author of "The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada and Mexico." Neil Weiner of Penn’s Center for the Study of Youth Policy co-authored the international report. 

The three-year project was funded by the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice, the W.T. Grant Foundation, the Fund for Nonviolence and the Research Foundation of the University of Pennsylvania.

It was unclear how the professors were able to extrapolate from their interviews with children, law enforcement officers and welfare workers to obtain their estimate that 325,000 children are exploited each year. The university only said they used previous data and field research from 288 federal and local agencies to extrapolate their findings to the U.S. population.

Estes reported that his and Weiner’s research identified 17 groups of children in the U.S. who are at "substantial risk" of being sexually exploited. 

"The largest of these groups are runaway, thrownaway and other homeless American children who use ‘survival sex’ to acquire food, shelter, clothing and other things needed to survive on America’s streets," Estes said.

Estes also reported that some U.S. children engage 

in commercial sex while living at home. 

Many of these children live in secure middle-class homes, and few parents are aware of their children’s involvement in pornography or prostitution, he said.

This group also includes American youths who cross into Canada or Mexico in pursuit of cheaper drugs, alcohol and sex, said a University of Pennsylvania release. Mexican authorities report that border towns are little more than "cantinas for America’s youth," Estes said. It also was unclear how these sex tourists figure into the professors' calculations. 

"Despite popular notions to the contrary," Estes said, "strangers commit fewer than 4 percent of all the sexual assaults against children." 

Other groups of commercially sexually exploited children in the U.S. include girls in gangs; transgender street youths; foreign children brought into the U.S. illegally, especially from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere in the Americas; and U.S. youth who are trafficked nationally and internationally as part of organized sex crime rings.

"There is an urgent need," Estes said, "for systematic public and professional education on the causes, nature and extent of child sexual exploitation in the United States. The situation in the U.S. must be understood within the broader content of child sexual exploitation occurring throughout both the North American region and the rest of the world. Only through such understanding will the U.S. be able to act decisively in protecting her children from such heinous abuse." 

He also called for earlier identification and more intensive supervision of sexually offending adults and juveniles as urgent priorities in protecting children from sexual exploitation. 

For the three-year project, researchers selected 17 U.S. cities, including
Philadelphia where the university is located, based on their size and for being known as having problems with the commercial sexual exploitation of children, a university announcement said.

No developments reported in kidnapped of women and youngsters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There were no new developments reported Monday in the kidnapping case that has the whole country talking.,

The kidnapping took place before 8 a.m. Friday in Rohrmoser when two vehicles cut off the car in which two women were riding with two children. 

News organizations seemed to downplay the story, perhaps with concern that negotiations were taking place out of the public's eye between the kidnappers and the parents of one of the children.

Major newspapers did report Monday that police found the car used in the kidnapping near Juan 
Santamaría Airport. The car was burned to 

eliminate clues by the kidnappers. But the newspapers played the stories inside without much prominence.

Spokesmen for investigators said late Monday that there was no news.

Kidnapped about 7:45 a.m. Friday were Gabriela Diaz Vindas, 32, a Honduran, her son Luis Diego Escalante Díaz, 4 1/2, a nephew, Billy Guillén Díaz, 3 1/2 years, and Yorleny Cajuna, 20, a Nicaraguan believed to be a nanny for one of the children. Local news reports speculated that the younger boy was the kidnapper's target because his father runs a chain of stores.

The kidnappers are believed to be seeking $2 million in ransom. 

U.S. brands right-wing group
a terrorist organization

The United States has branded a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group a foreign terrorist organization ahead of a Tuesday visit to Bogota by Secretary of State Colin Powell. 

Secretary Powell issued a statement Monday, saying the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, has carried out many acts of terrorism, including the massacre of hundreds of civilians and the kidnapping of political figures. 

The designation of AUC as a terrorist group makes it illegal for persons in the United States to provide it any kind of support and requires U.S. banks to freeze any AUC funds they hold. 

In Bogota, Secretary Powell will meet with President Andres Pastrana to discuss Colombia's U.S.-funded efforts to curb illegal narcotics smuggling. Colombia is the chief source of cocaine smuggled into the United States. 

Powell will go to Colombia after being in Lima, Peru, to attend an Organization of American States conference on democracy. 

In a related development, a rebel commander has been convicted and sentenced in absentia to 40 years in prison for the 1999 murder of three U.S. nationals. Colombia officials say a court in the eastern city of Cucata delivered the verdict Monday against German Briceño, who remains at large. 

Briceño is a suspected low-level member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which is involved in a civil war against the government and right-wing paramilitary forces. 

Cuba Invites U.S. to drug confab

Cuba has invited U.S. officials to Havana to participate in an international conference on the fight against drug trafficking in the Caribbean. 

Cuban Justice Minister Roberto Diaz Sotolongo told reporters Monday in Havana that officials from the U.S. Coast Guard as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration and other anti-narcotics agencies would be welcome. There was no immediate reaction from U.S. officials. 

Cuba and the United States do not have full diplomatic relations. There has, however, been periodic cooperation between the two sides on a case-by-case basis regarding smugglers. 

Cuba also has invited representatives of the European Union to attend the conference scheduled for Nov. 9 and 10 in Havana.
 

Ochoa's lawyer says 'innocent'

A lawyer for Colombian Fabio Ochoa has entered a "not guilty" plea for his client in a U.S. court in Miami, where Ochoa is charged with helping to smuggle 30 tons of cocaine per month into the United States.

Monday's hearing came two days after Colombian authorities extradited Ochoa to Florida to face trial on drug trafficking charges.

Ochoa is the most high profile Colombian sent to the United States to face trial since the South American nation lifted a constitutional ban on extradition in 1997. 

What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier