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US tracking radiation levels in Muslim areas

WASHINGTON -- A classified radiation monitoring program, conducted without warrants, has targeted private US property in an effort to prevent an Al Qaeda attack, federal law enforcement officials confirmed yesterday.

While declining to provide details, including the number of cities and sites monitored, the officials said the air monitoring took place since the Sept. 11 attacks and from publicly accessible areas -- which they said made warrants and court orders unnecessary.

US News and World Report first reported the program today. The magazine said the monitoring was conducted at more than 100 Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area -- including Maryland and Virginia suburbs -- and at least five other cities when threat levels had risen: Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Seattle.

The magazine said that at its peak, three vehicles in Washington monitored 120 sites a day, nearly all of them Muslim targets identified by the FBI. Targets included mosques, homes, and businesses, the magazine said.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American- Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights group, said yesterday that the program ''comes as a complete shock."

''This creates the appearance that Muslims are targeted simply for being Muslims. I don't think this is the message the government wants to send," he said.

Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman, said yesterday that the administration ''is very concerned with a growing body of sensitive reporting that continues to show Al Qaeda has a clear intention to . . . use chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear" weapons.

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