Although authorities would not officially disclose the nature of the planned attacks, government sources said they included threats against American embassies on three continents, a U.S. military base in Europe and American cargo ships passing through the straits of Gibraltar.
It also remained unclear how many of the threats were against specific sites inside the United States. But federal authorities noted that it was the interrogation of a key al-Qaida operative that ultimately led to the arrest last year of Jose Padilla, the so-called "dirty bomber" who allegedly was scouting fresh attack targets in the United States.
The disclosure about the planned attacks came in a legal declaration filed by Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
His nine-page affidavit was used by government prosecutors to detail how important the interrogations have become, and to argue against a federal judge's ruling last month that Padilla be allowed to meet with his lawyer.
According to the CIA, more than 3,000 al-Qaida operatives and associates have been detained in more than 100 countries since the Sept. 11 attacks. CIA Director George Tenet said recently that the United States had developed "a trove of information we're using to press the hunt further."
U.S. intelligence officials said their most valuable information has come from senior al-Qaida operatives in custody, particularly Abu Zubaydah, a top Osama bin Laden lieutenant captured in Pakistan last year.
"One Abu Zubaydah is worth a ton of guys at Gitmo," the U.S. intelligence official said, contrasting him with the 630 al-Qaida and Taliban suspects detained at the U.S base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
International commission blasts ruling on legal rights
GENEVA — An international group of jurists yesterday criticized a U.S. court for handing President Bush what it called "sweeping" approval to deprive U.S. prisoners accused of terrorism of basic legal rights.
Wednesday's ruling by a federal appeals court in a case involved American-born Yaser Esam Hamdi, who was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 while fighting for the Taliban. The United States has labeled him an enemy combatant and detained him without access to a lawyer and without being charged.
"The court determined that basic human rights, as provided under the U.S. Constitution, may not be invoked by an 'enemy combatant.' This decision has no basis in international law," the International Commission of Jurists said.
"While a government may limit certain human rights during states of emergency, the court here is allowing the government to do so in a wholesale and sweeping fashion, without meaningful judicial review," it said. "Even under a state of emergency, which the United States has not in any event declared, certain rights remain inviolable."
The International Commission of Jurists is a Geneva-based organization composed of 60 eminent international jurists.
Paris airport baggage handler cleared of stashing weapons
PARIS — A baggage handler arrested after police found a stash of weapons and explosives in his car at Paris' main international airport was cleared of wrongdoing yesterday and released.
Abderazak Besseghir, 27, a French citizen of Algerian origin, was arrested Dec. 28 after he was allegedly seen handling a gun in a parking lot at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, where he worked.
Besseghir insisted all along that he was innocent, and that he was being framed by the family of his late wife, Louisa, who died in a fire last summer.
The witness who reported seeing Besseghir with the gun and alerted police has confessed to planting weapons and explosives in his car, judicial officials said.
Faysal Galab, 26, one of six men charged with being part of a terrorist sleeper cell in western New York, pleaded guilty yesterday to supporting al-Qaida by attending one of its training camps in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11 attacks. ... Mohammed Ali Hassan Sheik al Mujahed, suspected of being responsible for al-Qaida's logistics in Yemen, was arrested yesterday in Frankfurt by German authorities acting on a U.S. request. ... Leroy "Rich" Richmond, 58, a Virginia postal worker who contracted inhalation anthrax while working at Washington's central postal plant in 2001, has field a $100 million suit against U.S. Postmaster General John Potter and two other postal managers for allegedly failing to close his workplace swiftly after the deadly substance was discovered. Richmond has not returned to work and two friends and co-workers died. ... The FBI yesterday issued an advisory on the dangers of ricin, a deadly toxin found this week during a raid on suspected Algerian militants in London. The FBI said it wasn't warning of any known threat involving ricin, but noted that it could be used to contaminate heating or air-conditioning systems, drinking water, lakes and rivers, although it is most effectively delivered by "injection or food contaminant."