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Fbi checks out huffman { September 13 2001 }

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Florida officials support FBI investigation efforts
Thursday, September 13, 2001 | Updated: 1:00 a.m.

By Joe Black
Alligator Staff Writer

Florida emergency management officials have shifted their efforts from being on alert and ready to being supportive of the FBI and its efforts to find the terrorists responsible for Tuesday’s attacks, the state’s law enforcement commissioner said Wednesday.

Law enforcement commissioner Tim Moore, who was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to head emergency operations in the state, maintained that no Floridian was in any danger, and there was no indication of public safety threats Wednesday.

However, he would not comment on any of the FBI’s several investigations in the state, which include possible links between a South Florida aviation school and two men who trained there and may have been involved in the terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

“We want to do our job in supporting and helping the FBI in any way that we can,” said Moore.

On Wednesday afternoon, the FBI office in Miami sent out a national bulletin for law enforcement officials to be on the lookout for vehicles with either of two license plate numbers, one of which belonged to a former flight school student, Mohamed Atta.

Atta, 33, was reported to have attended the Huffman Aviation school in Venice. His last known address was in Coral Springs, and records show he previously held a driver’s license in Egypt.

Coral Springs Police Department spokesman Sgt. Rich Nicorvo said officers staked out the address that matched Atta’s, but would not say why.

He said Coral Springs officers were at the residence for “a significant amount of time, leaving [Tuesday] night.” Nicorvo added FBI agents were at the residence for a shorter length of time.

FBI agents were conducting interviews and sought search warrants in southern Florida and in Daytona Beach amid evidence that suspected sympathizers of Atta, The Associated Press reported.

Allegations also have been made that Indian River County Sheriff’s deputies and the FBI took a man into custody that may have links to the Tuesday attacks.

A spokesman for the office would not confirm or deny that any arrests have been made. He routed all questions to the FBI, which would not release any information. No reports were filed.

Pete Kersey, crime prevention officer with the Indian River Sheriff’s Office, said his office has been working closely with the FBI in all its efforts in the county. He had no further comment.

Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan said Wednesday morning that Florida is not the only state with continuing investigations, but he would not expand on that statement.

He suggested that Florida is in no different a position than any other place around the United States.

“This is going to be arguably the largest investigation in the history of the United States, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were warrants being served in places all over the country,” he said.

Shortly following the four crashes around the United States on Tuesday, Gov. Jeb Bush closed down the Capitol building in Tallahassee and issued an executive order placing Florida in a state of emergency.

Traditionally used during times of natural disasters, such as the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Bush’s declaration designates Moore as a person with broad-based authority to direct all state law enforcement activities and release necessary funding in the case of any backlashes in Florida.

Bush said Wednesday that all offices are fully functional and state business is continuing as usual. However, increased security was apparent throughout the Capitol as members of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team roamed the area.

Metal detectors were put in place in all entrances to the Capitol and its hallways – usually buzzing with visitors, media and politicians – which were nearly vacant throughout the day.

Bush has not spoken with his brother, President George W. Bush, since the incident, he said after giving blood at the Capitol Plaza.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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