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Another SAIC board member is retired Army General W. A. Downing, who, according to SAIC's website, "was appointed to assess the terrorist attack on the U.S. base at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, and to make recommendations to protect people and facilities worldwide from terrorist attack. As well as being acknowledged as an authority on combating terrorism, he is highly regarded as a leader and an expert by allies in the special operations community around the world."

Downing is controversial for his leadership in the 1990s of the Army's Special Operations Command and the use of its "Delta Force" in the clandestine war carried out against drug lords in the jungles of Colombia. Special operations forces are expected to play a major role in any U.S. response to the World Trade Center attack, and SAIC is said to be a key consultant to Army intelligence, providing personnel and technical assistance.

Last year Downing was a member of a federal anti-terrorism task force that called for more eavesdropping and surveillance of high-risk groups, including foreign students enrolled in nuclear physics courses at U.S. universities. No action was taken in response to the recommendations.

After the attack on the World Trade Center, Downing was quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer as saying, about pending plans to take out Osama bin Laden, "We've been prepared to do this kind of thing for years. But they have always been rejected as too aggressive and too risky. A lot of solutions have been proposed, too, but they were all rejected, dismissed as too extreme or too dangerous. So what we end up with is something ten times as bad as Pearl Harbor."

In December 1997, SAIC formed the Center for Counter-Terrorism Technology and Analysis. Named to run the unit was David Kay, who had been head of the United Nations Special Commission, which monitored weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the group was ejected by Saddam Hussein in 1998. In an article he wrote for Washington Quarterly in the summer of 1998, Kay warned that nuclear secrets "are now Iraqi secrets, well understood by a large stratum of Iraq's technical elite, and the production capabilities necessary to turn these secrets into weapons are widely dispersed throughout Iraq's industrial and scientific infrastructure, which will survive even the most draconian of sanctions."

In December 1998, Kay announced that SAIC had hired Robert M. Blitzer, who had been chief of the Domestic Terrorism/Counterterrorism Planning Section of the FBI's National Security Division. According to a news release issued by SAIC at the time of the appointment, "From 1993 to 1996, Blitzer served as chief of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit, Counterterrorism and Middle East Section at FBI Headquarters.

"As the leader of this unit, he was responsible for overall national coordination, oversight, and direction of all criminal and intelligence operations against the international terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center and who attempted to conduct a wave of bombings in and around New York City in early 1993."

The SAIC website lists several missions for its counter-terrorism group, including preparing for terrorist attacks. "Readiness for response to terrorist incidents using weapons of mass destruction requires a robust crisis, contingency & response planning capability.

"Terrorist use of biological agents will challenge all existing support systems. Emergency responders, law enforcement, and public health and medical systems must be integrated to create an effective response that spans pre-incident preparation to final community restoration."

The operation is said to be well funded by the Defense Department. But what had SAIC's counter-terrorism unit actually been doing in the days leading up to the September 11 attack? Other than the brief description on the website, its activities are shrouded in secrecy. Some indication of the dimensions of the project, however, can be gleaned from a series of help-wanted advertisements appearing last week on the SAIC website. Most of the work listed is for the U.S. Army's Central Command.

"Focusing primarily on the Middle East, Central Command, and Third Army's area of responsibility (AOR) is a large and complex region," according to a description on the Central Command website. "It stretches from the Central Asian States to the Horn of Africa. Within this strategically important region [are] the historical crossroads of three continents, the majority of the world's oil and natural gas reserves, and the primary maritime link between Europe and Asia. Resources, differing geography, religious influences, and historical conflict have shaped this region for centuries and continue to do so today."

As of last week, SAIC was seeking many civilian workers to perform counter-terrorism intelligence related to its Central Command contract. Some of the positions are based stateside, others at bases in England and Germany, including that of "Counter-terrorism Watch analyst."

"The Counter-terrorism Watch analyst monitors and evaluates current intelligence for terrorism-related activity in support of the United States European Command (USEUCOM) Joint Analysis Center (JAC)," according to the job description. "Watch duties are performed on shifts, in a fast-paced, all-source environment. The analyst is the JAC focal point for assessing incoming terrorism reporting and is the go-to analyst for assessments of current events.

"The Watch analyst tracks multiple events, informs affected organizations. The analyst assesses terrorism reporting, informs affected organizations, consults with other analysts, briefs JAC officials, drafts terrorism-related reports, and briefs the next Watch analyst. This is a high-visibility position which supports the critical mission to monitor terrorist activities.

"Applicant must be a U.S. Citizen and must have or be able to obtain a U.S. Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) clearance. Applicants selected will be subject to a government-security investigation and must meet eligibility requirements for access to classified information. Shift work and an extended workweek may be required."

Another Central Command-related position, that of Senior Counter-Terrorism Analyst, is to be based in Tampa, Florida. "Applicant will perform all-source intelligence analysis to support counter-terrorism analysis. Duties will include: link analysis, researching databases, collating information, performing evaluations and assessments, authoring and composing reports, presenting, maintaining databases, and disseminating critical information/products.

"A High School diploma or equivalent plus sixteen (16) years experience OR twelve (12) years experience and a Masters degree in a relevant discipline. Applicants must possess a TOP SECRET/SCI clearance based on a Single Scope Background Investigation. Proven research and analysis abilities either from prior military or civilian experience."

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