OCTOBER 13, 2011
Judicial Watch, the public interest organization that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has uncovered an intelligence document detailing the September 2004 attack by Chechen Islamic militants on a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia, in which 380 of the 1,100 hostages (children, parents, teachers, and visitors) held captive for three days were murdered. The document was obtained from the State Department by Judicial Watch in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on August 26, 2005.
The document, jointly released by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is dated October 12, 2004, and analyzes the Beslan terrorist attack with a view toward gleaning lessons for potential attacks on schools in the United States. While the ultimate conclusion of the report is that such attacks pose no immediate threat to the U.S., the bulletin details “several items that law enforcement, school administration and security personnel may consider when developing school security and emergency response plans.”
According to the Department of Justice Program Office, the Obama administration blocked out these recommendations, citing a “deliberative process exemption,” which Judicial Watch is appealing.
Operational details discussed in the bulletin regarding the raid on the Beslan school include transportation, techniques for overcoming security, prepositioning of weapons and explosives, terrorist surveillance and planning, controlling hostages by separating children from parents and teachers, and terrorist efforts to thwart Russian government counterterrorism techniques and teams. The bulletin highlights Russian failures at the scene include failing to implement a comprehensive response plan and failing to establish an effective cordon around the school during the incident. The bulletin closes with the observation that “Emergency medical treatment for children is significantly different from adults and should be factored into any plan or exercise.”
Previously, Judicial Watch uncovered a Defense Intelligence Agency document detailing al-Qaida’s 1998 activities in Chechnya, which included a “direct route to Chechnya from Pakistan and Afghanistan through Turkey and Azerbaijan.”
“The alleged purpose of the intelligence briefing was to glean information to help protect school children from a potential terrorist attack. What sense does it make for the Obama administration to keep secret the bulletin’s important recommendations for schools and emergency responders? The Chechen terrorists behind Beslan have been tied to al-Qaida. Importantly, these terrorists groups in Chechnya first used many of the terrorists techniques that became widely adopted elsewhere, such as IED’s and the use of women suicide bombers,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
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