TIME Exclusive: Cropduster Manual Discovered in Suspected Terrorist Hideout Sources tell TIME that U.S. officials suspect that bin Laden conspirators may have been planning to disperse biological or chemical agents from cropdusting planes
MASSIMO CALABRESI AND SALLY DONNELLY
Saturday, Sep. 22, 2001 New York -- U.S. law enforcement officials have found a manual on the operation
of cropdusting equipment while searching suspected terrorist hideouts,
government sources tell TIME magazine in an issue out on Monday, Sept. 24th.
The discovery has added to concerns among government counterterrorism experts
that the bin Laden conspirators may have been planning - or may still be
planning -to disperse biological or chemical agents from a cropdusting plane
normally used for agricultural purposes.
Among the belongings of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, sources tell TIME, were manuals showing how to operate cropdusting equipment that could be used to spray fast-killing toxins into the air.
The discovery resulted in the grounding of all cropdusters
nationwide on Sunday Sept. 16th. The dusters have been allowed back up, but are
not allowed to take off or land from what traffic controllers refer to as Class
B airspace, or the skies around major cities.
One senior official cautions that because corroborative evidence is lacking
the FBI does not place "high credibility" in the notion that the hijackers were
in fact exploring the idea of stealing or renting cropdusters. However, the FBI
is advising members of a crop-dusters' group to report any suspicious buys of
dangerous chemicals in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks.
Last week, the National Agricultural Aviation Association, a crop dusters
trade group, posted a message from the FBI to its membership: "Members should be
vigilant to any suspicious activity relative to the use, training in or
acquisition of dangerous chemicals or airborne application of same including
threats, unusual purchases, suspicious behavior by employees or customers, and
unusual contacts with the public. Members should report any suspicious
circumstances or information to local FBI offices."
-With reporting by Elaine Shannon/Washington
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