State Web site gathers tips on embassy blasts

The State Department is using the Web to gather tips about the recent bombings of U.S.
embassies in East Africa.


A special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service said State officials hope the site
will encourage anyone with information about the parties responsible for the bombings to
contact the department.


“Leads are coming in from all over the world,” said the agent, who asked not
to named. “We’re looking into all leads or passing them on to the appropriate
federal law enforcement agency.”


He would not say how many tips the department has received about the recent bombings
through e-mail or whether the department has narrowed the search for the culprits.


“All I can say is that we’re finding the Web site very useful,” the
agent said.


The security service’s webmaster added a link to a site the department maintains
on terrorist actions. State created the link a day after the Aug. 7 bombings in Nairobi,
Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. More than 247 people, including 12 U.S. citizens, died
in the blast in Kenya. The bombing of the Tanzania embassy claimed the lives of 10; none
were U.S. citizens.


The Diplomatic Security Service site at http://www.heroes.net is part of State’s
Counterterrorism Rewards Program. The program offers multimillion-dollar rewards for
information leading to the arrest or conviction of terrorists. The service also maintains
an 800-number telephone line to gather tips.


“Sometimes the Internet is a better law enforcement tool than the 800
number,” the agent said. “The Web site gives people worldwide the ability to
communicate with us. In these cases, people usually don’t like talking on the
phone.”


The service’s webmaster, Brad Smith, passes the tips on to special agents in
Washington every hour. Agents review the tips and follow up on them through security
service offices around the globe. The service also passes on tips to other federal law
enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, CIA, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the agent said.


Smith processes about 800 to 1,000 e-mail messages via the Web site each month.


In 1997, the site had more than 1 million hits from users in 102 countries, he said.


The Web server is in a “protected location,” Smith said, and he refused to
disclose any information about it other than the fact that it runs Microsoft Windows and
Linux.


Because 33 percent of terrorist groups are believed to use the Web, the Diplomatic
Security Service encrypts most of its communications, Smith said. According to the
agent, the counterterrorism reward program has helped prevent and punish acts of terrorism
since its inception in 1989. As part of the program, State launched the heroes.net site in
mid-1993.


The program led to the arrest of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who led the World Trade Center
bombing on Feb. 26, 1993. It also led to the arrest of Mir Aimal Kansi, who gunned down
employees outside CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., in 1993, the agent said.  

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