Fact-finding mission provides Gibbons with insight into terrorism | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Fact-finding mission provides Gibbons with insight into terrorism

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Rep. Jim Gibbons did not kick back and enjoy summer. He didn’t have the time. He was doing homework to prevent terrorism.

In August, the Republican lawmaker from Reno spent 15 days touring countries in Eastern Europe to gather information on how to help prevent young nations, most formerly of the Soviet Union, from becoming paths of transport for terrorism.

There is an enormous number of terrorists being trained in Iraq and Iran who could use those porous countries as a route to Europe, said Gibbons, 58, a veteran of the Air Force and member of the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee.

“It raised a number of serious concerns,” Gibbons said of the trip. “These are relatively new countries, relatively poor countries that don’t have the resources or technical capabilities to patrol, defend or otherwise secure their borders.”

Gibbons said he spent morning to night meeting behind closed doors to discuss classified security information with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. The congressman said the answer lies in training and sharing of U.S. military capabilities, a process already under way.

Staff members of the Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee accompanied Gibbons. Days started about 6 a.m. with work sometimes lasting until 10 p.m. He said officials he met with were not complacent about the threat of terrorism.

“I think it’s very clear these countries bordering Iran and Iraq are very concerned terrorism is going to spill over into their country if it isn’t addressed,” Gibbons said. “The are very anxious to coordinate their efforts to receive the training we can provide to their very new military and police forces.”

In July, the congressman visited Baghdad with several other members of the House Intelligence Committee. As soon as he stepped off the plane, Gibbons said he felt Iraq’s 130-degree summer heat. It was intensified by his bulletproof vest.

On a three-day trip he learned the United States needs help in the language department. There is a lack of Americans who know the many variations of Arabic. Gibbons said the language barrier has slowed the military’s ability to track Saddam Hussein’s weapons because no one can efficiently translate the 7.5 miles of documents related to Iraqi weapons programs.

“We had to ship documents to another country (for translation) … Qatar,” Gibbons said.

The congressman said the U.S. military investigation into whether Hussein had weapons of mass destruction has only begun. Only 200 of 1,000 suspected weapon sites have been checked.

“Iraq was very well trained in denial and deception,” he said. “We’re finding every day information — bits and pieces of programs we know they had. We’re not going to find weapons in a big shiny case stored in a warehouse someplace.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

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