Five U.S. Embassies in Africa Reopened

The State Department reopened five embassies in Africa yesterday but said terrorists directed by fugitive Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden still may be preparing attacks against U.S. facilities.

Declaring the protection of U.S. diplomats a top priority, spokesman James P. Rubin said the embassy in Madagascar would remain shuttered, with daily evaluations of the situation on the Indian Ocean island republic.

Security at all six embassies has been enhanced since operations were suspended last Thursday, but they remain the targets of "suspicious surveillance," Rubin said.

He would not say whether U.S. intelligence knows the whereabouts of bin Laden.

Last week, Rubin offered no details about the surveillance that led U.S. authorities to suspend operations at the embassies in Gambia, Togo, Liberia, Namibia, Senegal and Madagascar. He did not explain yesterday why officials decided to reopen all but the embassy in Madagascar.

Rubin also renewed a warning that bin Laden may be preparing to strike as the first anniversary nears of the Aug. 7 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The blasts killed 224 people, including 12 Americans in Nairobi. "We have seen an increased activity indicating continuing planning for terrorist attacks by members of Osama bin Laden's network," he said.

Bin Laden and 14 others accused of masterminding last summer's twin attacks in East Africa have been indicted in a New York court.

Appeal of Air Pollution Ruling Is Sought

The Justice Department asked a full appeals court to reconsider a three-judge panel's decision to overturn new federal air pollution regulations for smog and soot.

The controversial requirements, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1997, called for tougher pollution controls to reduce the amount of smog-causing chemicals and microscopic soot in the air.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals here said in a 2-1 decision last month that the EPA lacked authority to impose the tougher smog standards and had improperly issued new standards for soot.

The Justice Department argued that the panel had "erred in concluding that the EPA lacks authority to implement and revise more stringent ozone" standards and in holding that the agency's actions on soot was an "unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority."

The full appeals court must consider whether to uphold or reverse the panel's decision. The administration may still appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

The controversial 1997 regulation struck down by the May 14 decision required tougher air pollution controls to reduce soot and ozone levels to ensure better protection of children, the elderly and people with respiratory illnesses. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by a cross-section of industry groups representing the trucking, utility, chemical, oil and auto industries, as well as small businesses. Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia also joined the suit.

Hackers Vandalize Army s Web Site

Computer hackers defaced the Army s main Web site in the latest digital attack on a federal system. Pentagon workers noticed it early yesterday and repaired it. Army spokesman Jim Stueve said administrators believe that hackers altered the site between 8 p.m. Sunday and 5 a.m. yesterday, but no internal systems were affected. There were no security breaches, he said. The altered site announced the attack has a purpose . . . to settle rumors about the demise of the loosely organized hacker group that claimed responsibility for the May attack on the White House Web site. Another message hidden within the altered page s computer code urged people who saw it to trust very few people. Stueve said he noticed the defaced page when he arrived for work Monday morning. It was replaced by 6 a.m. The attack follows several others on prominent government Internet sites, including those of the White House, FBI and Senate. Military pages have long been favorites of hackers. They re always the target, said Keith Rhodes, a director in the information management division of the General Accounting Office, the investigative branch of Congress. It s almost like a rite of passage. You have to bust a [military] site to have any credibility.