WASHINGTON - Federal agents are planning to fan out across the country this week in an effort to recruit U.S. businesses in the war on terror, urging companies to notify the government of suspicious customers.
Robert C. Bonner, commissioner of the Customs Service, said he had developed a list of about 100 items that authorities believe terrorists want to buy in the United States. Starting today, Bonner said, federal agents will visit the manufacturers, emphasize the need for vigilance and encourage them to inform the Customs Service at once if they are approached by anyone trying to buy these items for possibly illegal shipment abroad.
The terrorists' shopping list, the Customs Service says, includes missiles, grenades, grenade launchers and other munitions; aircraft parts; certain computer encryption devices; and components of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, as well as items that might be used to manufacture or deliver such weapons.
Officials said the list also included laboratory equipment needed to grow anthrax bacteria and grind down the spores; chemicals such as thiodiglycol, a precursor of mustard gas; and electronic timers known as krytrons, which can be used to trigger nuclear devices.
Customs agents will visit 300 companies in the next few months and "will start knocking on doors" today, Murphy said.