Terrorism more threatening than technology

Terrorism, not failing computers, poses the greatest threat to Americans who are overseas when 2000 arrives, State Department officials said Monday.

Computer problems are more likely to produce "glitches" than disasters, said Bonnie Cohen, undersecretary of State for management. But there is credible information stating that terrorists and "millennium cults" are targeting Americans who are overseas around New Year's Day.

Computer problems might disrupt communications, transportation and other services, State officials said. By themselves, those problems would not be disastrous. But terrorists are believed to be ready to exploit computer problems and the attention focused on the new millennium to call attention to their political goals, State Department officials said during a press conference.

The State Department will be ready to help to evacuate Americans in life-threatening situations, Cohen said. U.S. diplomats can help individuals evacuate, arrange charters for groups or call for military evacuations in dire situations.

Beginning at 6 a.m. EST on Dec. 31, hundreds of State employees at embassies and installations worldwide will be watching as the new year arrives and reporting back to Washington, D.C., on whatever happens.

Once reports have been verified, the department will post information on the arrival of the new millennium on its World Wide Web site, at www.state.gov, Cohen said.

The department encourages people who are concerned about countries or friends and relatives overseas to check the Web site rather than call the State Department.

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