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Monday, Feb. 03, 2003 at 12:42 PM
Late breaking news:
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WASHINGTON, February 3, 2003 - President Bush declared at a hastily called press conference today that he has new evidence proving Iraq was behind the explosion of the Space Shuttle. Citing sources he could not divulge without compromising intelligence methods, Bush alleged that three of the thirteen rats on board the flight as part of a scientific experiment had been briefed by Iraqi intelligence officers at a secret al Qaida training camp in early December, and provided with detailed information on how to bring down the space shuttle.
Asked by reporters how the rats accomplished their deadly mission, the president stated there are two theories presently under investigation: 1) that the rats carried explosive devices strapped to their tiny feet, and 2) that they staged an escape from their cages and took over the spacecraft using smuggled dissecting instruments stolen from laboratory personnel prior to the flight.
While the exact method used by the rats remains a matter of some speculation, the President said, there is no doubt that Iraq is behind the disaster. He declined to provide further details, but reaffirmed his disgust for Saddam Hussein and his determination to rid the world of evil.
It is uncertain at this time whether the evidence implicating the Iraqi rats will be part of the information presented to the UN Security Council by Secretary of State Colin Powell this Wednesday, but a high-ranking CIA analyst commented off the record that the new information was considerably stronger and a lot more convincing than material the administration had planned to present.
"This pretty much nails it," the analyst said, "this is truly the smoking gun tying Iraq to terrorist action against the United States. The quality of this new evidence is orders of magnitude greater than what we had fabrica ... uh, prepared for Secretary Powell's presentation. I'd be very surprised if this is not the centerpiece of Secretary Powell's pitch to the Security Council, and there's no doubt in my mind that the Council will authorize immediate military action by the US and its allies."
Shortly following the President's press conference, Republican lawmakers announced they will be conducting a probe into the screening practices used by NASA in its selection of the rats for the space mission. "We need to find out if NASA exercised due diligence in checking the backgrounds of the rats. If it turns out they didn't, the American people have our assurance that heads will roll," one Senator said. "It seems absurd that while airport security has been beefed up and INS registration made more draconian, three Iraqi-trained rats can just waltze aboard an American spacecraft and blow it up in mid-flight. We really need to get our priorities straight to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Democrats in Congress have promised to investigate exactly when the CIA developed its information on the rat plot, and why it wasn't shared with other agencies in time to avert the disaster. Said one congressman, "Had this intelligence been shared earlier, there may have been time to identify and apprehend the enemy rats. Under the Executive Order recently signed by the President, we could even have included an undercover cat as part of the mission payload to conduct covert assassinations of the little buggers."
In a related development, the CIA has announced plans to infiltrate experimental laboratories and eavesdrop on the conversations of suspect test animals. However, an official with the Homeland Security Agency said the threat is in fact much broader, including not only laboratory animals but also those in the wild. "It's ironic that we have the systems in place to know absolutely everything about every individual in this country, including when they last changed their underwear, but the animals - hell, they're all over the place, and we have no idea what they're up to."
The CIA program, to be known as Operation Rat Trap, will make extensive use of undercover agents, informants and high tech surveillance devices, but is temporarily on hold while the agency scrambles to recruit qualified individuals who have not only the required language skills, but also the physical characteristics necessary to be inconspicuous in all-animal environments. "We had many undercover agents who fit this bill back in the '40s and '50s," said one CIA official, "but all are long-retired. In recent years the Agency has consciously moved away from employing the lower species in an effort to give covert operations a more human face. As it turns out, this is just the opposite of what we needed."
News of the rats' involvement in the Space Shuttle disaster has raised alarm across a broad spectrum. Speaking at Liberty University, the Rev. Jerry Falwell warned that animals are an inherent threat to national security. "Homosexuality is rampant among the animal species," Falwell said. "Not only is such behavior an abomination before God, but it renders every animal a potential risk to national security because of the ease with which they could be blackmailed by our enemies and used as tools against our great nation." Pointing to the estimated 80 million house pets kept by Americans, Falwell said "They share our homes, our lives, and our deepest secrets, they play with our children, yet we never know what's going on in their perverted little minds or who they might be contacting when we let them out. This (shuttle) disaster is God's wake-up call, and divine punishment for condoning the homosexual and auto-erotic activity that takes place in the animal world. They're at it day and night - even in our own homes. It's disgusting and it's un-American."
No copyright Not The New York Times 2003
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