Sunday, February 2, 2003

Terrorism ruled out



The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Government officials said Saturday there was no indication that terrorism was a factor in the loss of the space shuttle Columbia.

"There is no information at this time that this was a terrorist incident," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the Homeland Security Department. "Obviously the investigation is just beginning, but that is the information we have now."

At Cape Canaveral, Fla., NASA chief Sean O'Keefe told a news conference: "At this time, we have no indication that the mishap was caused by anything or anyone on the ground."

FBI spokeswoman Angela Bell also said there was no sign of terrorism. She said the FBI would have a tangential role in the investigation, mainly assisting in evidence recovery.

A Bush administration official said no threat had been received against the flight, and the shuttle, at an altitude of about 203,000 feet over north-central Texas when it lost contact, was out of range of surface-to-air missiles.

A senior law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been some intelligence that raised concerns about a previously scheduled flight of Columbia, which was to have carried the same crew. The intelligence, related to Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, was termed not credible, but the flight was postponed for other reasons. There had been no troubling intelligence regarding this flight, officials said.

Security for both Columbia's launch and its planned landing had been extraordinarily tight for their 16-day scientific research mission because of the presence of Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut.

Space agency officials feared his presence might make the shuttle more of a terrorist target.




(Complete Columbia coverage at Cincinnati.com)

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