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Never Miss an Appointment, or an At-Large Terrorist, Again

By Al Kamen
Friday, January 19, 2007

Tired of all the cuddly baby polar bears, redwoods, waterfalls and other standard glossy photos on those daily planners you got for Christmas? Want a little something different to jump-start your day?

Then how about having your morning java looking at mug shots of Osama bin Laden and other wanted terrorists and learning how to recognize whether that muscle weakness is from yesterday's workout or perhaps botulism poisoning.

Yes, it's the National Counterterrorism Center's 2007 daily planner, "the largest since the calendar first appeared in a daily planner format in 2003," the introduction says.

No. 1 terrorist bin Laden -- with a $27 million reward "for information leading directly to" his being taken out of business -- is of course still there.

In fact, pretty much all the most-wanted folks are still there, year after year, including Faker Ben Abdelaziz Boussora, still with the $5 million reward offer, still with those "prominently protruding ears and . . . believed to have a serious pituitary gland illness."

A notable exception is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed in a U.S. airstrike on June 7. But "despite the turnover in leadership," the calendar notes in an excellent turn of phrase, "as of October 2006 [al-Qaeda in Iraq] had claimed over 5,000 attacks . . . with no evidence of a change in strategy or tactics." And there are reports that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, wanted for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, may have been taken out in recent U.S. airstrikes in Somalia.

Osama is still listed as living in Pakistan, maintaining his trim 160-pound figure. His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is still hanging out in Afghanistan. And Mullah Omar, who seems to be giving e-mail interviews to journalists these days, insists that he is in Afghanistan, but the Afghans claim he's on the lam in Pakistan.

The NCTC is a great planning guide. Those who have it, for example, know there's a big three-day weekend coming up to celebrate Feb. 3, 2000, which is when "Syria and Sudan sign agreement on fighting terrorism in compliance with Arab Antiterrorism Convention" and the landmark Feb. 5, 2001, accord signed by Algeria and France "to cooperate in fighting terrorism." So you can take that Monday off.

The beautiful calendar "is designed for anyone concerned with terrorism or threat: law enforcement, intelligence, military, security personnel, contingency planners, or simply citizens concerned by terrorist threats," the introduction says.

But the public can get only the electronic version. That's at http://www.nctc.gov. You can download it even in northwestern Pakistan.

It's available to others at undisclosed locations.

A Softer Hard Line on Nukes

Meanwhile, the buzz, amongst those who know where those locations are, is that Kenneth C. Brill, a career diplomat who has been in the director of national intelligence's office as the director of the National Counterproliferation Center, is rejoining his pal, Deputy Secretary of State-designate John Negroponte.

Brill is said to be the likely pick to replace the outgoing undersecretary for arms control and international security, Robert Joseph. The move is seen as a potentially huge change on nonproliferation stances, focusing more on diplomacy and less on confrontation. Brill frequently crossed swords with Bush administration harder-liners on policies toward North Korea and Iraq.

Confirm Two, Get One Free

Rumblings on the Senate side are that Gen. George Casey's confirmation as Army chief of staff is going to be a tough sell, especially with the Democrats in charge. And it's not just the Democrats that need to be sold. Even some Armed Services Committee Republicans are uneasy about this one.

"Gee whiz, the chief of staff of the Army is the guy everybody looks up to," Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) told our colleague Tom Ricks. "We were under Casey's leadership over there for the last three years," the senator said, referring to Iraq, "and it hasn't gone well." Chambliss said that he hasn't made up his mind whether to support the nomination.

There's even talk that the administration is concerned Casey is unconfirmable with the Senate in the mood it's in. So the White House may try to move Casey's nomination and that of Adm. William J. Fallon to head Centcom as a package along with the nomination of highly regarded Lt. Gen. David Petraeus to lead U.S. forces in Iraq.

The Wisdom of Lisa Simpson

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice didn't seem to be trying to make much news on her swing this week through the Middle East. Still, she offered an interesting take on what she called "a challenging time" in the region, our colleague Glenn Kessler reported.

"I don't read Chinese, but I am told that the Chinese character for crisis is weiji, which means both danger and opportunity," Rice pontificated on Tuesday. "And I think that states it very well. We'll try to maximize the opportunity."

Rice did not say where she learned this aphorism, but oddly enough it was once featured on "The Simpsons," as this excerpt from an episode shows:

Lisa: "Look on the bright side, Dad. Did you know that the Chinese use the same word for 'crisis' as they do for 'opportunity'?"

Homer: "Yes! Cris-atunity."

Chinese scholars actually dispute that oft-cited interpretation of the word.

In any event, echoing Lisa Simpson on the Middle East or on the Chinese language may not be a great idea.

Dedicated Strictly to House Members

Correction: Contrary to an item in Wednesday's column, we're told that the Senate version of the new congressional ethics legislation does include a provision that would at least require lobbyists to disclose contributions to building funds and other programs promoted by members of Congress.

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