The FBI has issued another alert about possible terrorism attacks, but this time quietly. Law-enforcement sources tell TIME the bureau has sent word to its field offices and 56 federal terrorism task forces that they should advise local officials to tighten security around large apartment buildings, as well as busy malls, supermarkets and restaurants. The alert is a response to statements made by captured bin Laden aide Abu Zubaydah. According to sources, Abu Zubaydah told interrogators that al-Qaeda operatives were discussing attacks on "soft targets," meaning nongovernmental buildings and places where large numbers of Americans gather. Although investigators remain leery of anything Abu Zubaydah says, they don't want to discount his remarks entirely. So instead of issuing a public warning that might turn out to be a false alarm, this time they passed the message along to local police chiefs and mayors discreetly.
Meanwhile, the bureau is about to send more agents to Spain, to help Spanish authorities pull together tantalizing evidence of a thriving al-Qaeda network based there prior to Sept. 11. For one thing, the FBI wants to determine exactly whom 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta met when he visited Spain in July 2001. One person they suspect he may have linked up with is Ramzi Binalshibh, a member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell and a former roommate of Atta's, who visited Spain at the same time. The bureau wants to establish whether they were together and find out who else was with them. Binalshibh, a Yemeni who sent money from Germany to 9/11 hijackers and also to accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, hasn't been seen since he flew from Hamburg to Madrid on Sept. 5. Investigators believe he made his way to the border regions of Pakistan and is still hiding there. --By Elaine Shannon