Terror Threads

Orange County is famous for its myriad devotees to action sports. The county boasts surfers, wakeboarders, scuba divers, snowboarders, skiers, skaters and mountain climbers. Action Sports Retailer magazine has its headquarters in Laguna Beach. Stores like the North Face at Triangle Square and REI in Santa Ana and Mission Viejo sell all manner of Gore-Tex clothing for the serious adventurer.

Action-sports gear and clothing are increasingly popular nationwide. In fact, the stuff is getting so popular that that U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan are finding al-Qaida fighters—supposedly viciously anti-all things American—sporting the very latest off-the-rack cold-weather clothes available at fine western outlets.

"The fighters who are captured are brought in wearing expensive North Face gear, top-of-the-line American hiking boots and Gore-Tex clothing," wrote a Special Forces soldier in a July e-mail to retired U.S. Army Colonel David Hackworth just after returning from Afghanistan. "According to one source, they appear to have just 'gone on a shopping spree at REI.'"

The al-Qaida clothing is "much nicer gear than what American troops have been issued," added the soldier.

Gear such as that made by the North Face, based in San Leandro, is billed as "the premier supplier of authentic, innovative and technically advanced exploration apparel, footwear, equipment and accessories." Glancing through its latest catalog, the high-powered quasi-military ad copy makes it easy to forget the company caters to yuppie sports enthusiasts, not hardened warriors bent on killing Americans:

•Rubicon Glove ($90): "An all-mountain assault glove designed for warmth and protection [in] ice climbing, mountaineering, skiing and snowboarding."

•Himalayan Mitt ($99): "Our best defense against the coldest conditions."

•Katahdin GTX Boot ($180): "Fully waterproof Gore-Tex midweight boot, ideal for five- to seven-day treks carrying loads in excess of 50 pounds."

•Baltoro Jacket ($499): "An extremely effective tool to pack along for winter mountaineering pursuits."

•Himalayan Suit ($1,000): "The warmest suit on the planet, geared specifically for high mountain Himalayan and Arctic assaults."

Hackworth, a highly respected veteran of the wars in Korea and Vietnam, posted the e-mail on www.sftt.org, the website of the nonprofit veterans group Soldiers for the Truth. The soldier went on to detail the wily and brutal tactics of the al-Qaida guerrillas still fighting in Afghanistan. Its author, whose identity is unknown, also described how the al-Qaida fighters had no shortage of high-tech assault rifles, ammunition and GPS devices.

At least they haven't gotten their hands on a George Foreman Fat Busting Grill . . . yet.


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