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At the FBI, they're calling the investigation PENTTBOM, for Pentagon Twin Towers Bombing, and running the probe from inside the agency's high-tech Special Information and Operations Center, a 40,000-sq.-ft. command post in Washington where FBI Deputy Director Tom Pickard supervises the 4,000 agents and 3,000 analysts and support people working the case. Pickard's team had received 46,125 tips by last Saturday, which they were farming out to field offices and 31 other agencies working with them on the case. Pickard, 51, a native of Queens, faces the colossal task of shaping the information into a portrait of a criminal organization ingeniously designed to avoid detection.
FBI agents are delving into the training logs and financial records of four Florida flight schools and others around the U.S., compiling a list of other pilots who could form the nucleus of fresh hijack teams that might be scrambling for jet seats even now. A U.S. intelligence official told TIME he believes some 30 terror operatives were deployed on the Sept. 11 mission. "There's more," says the official. "More than we have accounted for." And the hit squads were backed, officials now believe, by a network of financial, informational and logistical support. "There's a concern that there's a substantial infrastructure scattered around the country, in Detroit, Florida and Boston, for example," the intelligence official told TIME.
U.S. security agencies must unravel a conspiracy that stretches back years and across continents. Israel's Mossad, experts in this sort of thing, estimate that it took at least two years and 100 people to pull it off. Someone thought long and hard how to do it, then found willing fanatics to carry it out. They carried different passports--Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon--and perhaps pledged fealty to different radical factions. What brought them together was first a hatred of America for causing their resentments and frustrations, and then someone who knew how to transform their rage into bloody results. Osama bin Laden may be the top general in charge, but who are the field lieutenants? Even usually placid FBI officers called their search squads "frenzied" as they hunted last week for shadow figures who might be involved. To underscore the broad reach, at New York's Kennedy Airport Thursday, 10 people were questioned, and one was eventually held as a material witness.
The West had developed a fairly well-defined profile of the typical suicidal terrorist. That man would be young, 18 to 24, born in poverty, a victim of some personal tragedy, a despairing zealot with nothing to lose. He would be fanatic in behavior and belief: stern, moralistic, teetotaling. The status of shahid, or holy martyr, would solve his earthly issues in paradise, and someone would give money to his family on earth. If he hailed from the rebel training camps of Afghanistan, where the cult of jihad gets its earthly gunmen, he would be fundamentalist in his faith, ignorant of the outside world, immersed in a life of religious devotion and guerrilla instruction. He would speak not in casual conversation but in scripture. An intense, carefully nurtured fanaticism would replace any natural instinct for self-preservation.