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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

In Short, There Appears to Be a Big Problem Here

August 04, 2004

There is a curious detail at the end of "Top Al Qaeda Suspect Caught in Pakistan" (July 30) that does not give me great confidence in the intelligence agencies of our country. According to the story, the suspect, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian from Zanzibar, has a number of aliases, among them Foopie or Fupi. Your article states, " 'We have no idea where that name came from,' said one former counter-terrorism official who has spent years investigating Ghailani."

In fact, the online wanted poster for this man gives his height as 5-foot-3 or 5-foot-4, indicating that he is short. The Kiswahili word for short is "fupi," thus this particular alias simply means Shorty. You would think that an intelligence agent "who has spent years investigating Ghailani" might have been able to figure this out for himself, wouldn't you?

Edward A. Alpers

Pacific Palisades

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