February 11, 2003

Statement for the Record of
Robert S. Mueller, III
Federal Bureau of Investigation

War on Terrorism

Before the
Select Committee on Intelligence of the
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.

Good morning Chairman Roberts, Vice-Chairman Rockefeller, and Members of the Committee. I would like to commend the Committee for placing a priority on holding this hearing and I welcome the opportunity to appear before you this morning. I believe it is critical that the American people be kept informed of what their government is doing to protect them from this nation's enemies.

As we enter the second year of the global war on terrorism, the United States and its allies have inflicted a series of significant defeats on al-Qaeda and its terrorist networks, both at home and abroad. The terrorist enemy, however, is far from defeated. Although our country's ultimate victory is not in doubt, we face a long war whose end is difficult to foresee. But make no mistake, Mr. Chairman, the enemies we face are resourceful, merciless, and fanatically committed to inflicting massive damage on our homeland, which they regard as the bastion of evil. In this war, there can be no compromise or negotiated settlement. Accordingly, the prevention of another terrorist attack remains the FBI's top priority as we strive to disrupt and destroy terrorism on our soil.

The FBI's efforts to identify and dismantle terrorist networks have yielded major successes over the past 17 months. We have charged 197 suspected terrorists with crimes—99 of whom have been convicted to date. We have also facilitated the deportation of 478 individuals with suspected links to terrorist groups. Moreover, our efforts have damaged terrorist networks and disrupted terrorist plots across the country:

Furthermore, we are successfully disrupting the sources of terrorist financing, including freezing $113 million from 62 organizations and conducting 70 investigations, 23 of which have resulted in convictions. Our investigations have also made it more difficult for suspicious NGOs to raise money and continue their operations. Donors are thinking twice about where they send their money—some questioning the integrity of the organization they are supporting and others fearful of being linked to an organization that may be under FBI scrutiny.

Despite these successes, the nature of the terrorist threat facing our country today is complex. International terrorists and their state sponsors have emerged as the primary threat to our security after decades in which the activities of domestic terrorist groups were a more imminent threat.

There is no question that al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks have proven adept at defending their organizations from US and international law enforcement efforts. As these terrorist organizations evolve and change their tactics, we, too, must be prepared to evolve. Accordingly, the FBI is undergoing momentous changes—including the incorporation of a more robust intelligence function—that will allow us to meet the terrorist threat head-on. I will briefly outline these changes, but first, Mr. Chairman, I will spend some time discussing the nature of the terrorist threat facing this country.


The al-Qaeda network will remain for the foreseeable future the most immediate and serious threat facing this country. Al-Qaeda is the most lethal of the groups associated with the Sunni jihadist cause, but it does not operate in a vacuum; many of the groups committed to international jihad—including the Egyptian al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya, Lebanese ‘Asbat al-Ansar, Somali al-Ittihad al-Islami, and Algerian Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC)—offer al-Qaeda varying degrees of support.

Despite the progress the US has made in disrupting the al-Qaeda network overseas and within our own country, the organization maintains the ability and the intent to inflict significant casualties in the US with little warning.

Our investigations suggest that al-Qaeda has developed a support infrastructure inside the US that would allow the network to mount another terrorist attack on US soil. Such an attack may rely on local individuals or use these local assets as support elements for teams arriving from outside the US. The al-Qaeda-affiliated group we arrested in Lackawanna, New York is one example of the type of support available to the al-Qaeda network. These US citizens received military training in an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda appears to be enhancing its support infrastructure in the US by boosting recruitment efforts. Al-Qaeda no doubt recognizes the operational advantage it can derive from recruiting US citizens who are much less likely to come to the attention of law enforcement and who also may be better able to invoke constitutional protections that can slow or limit investigative efforts. Al-Qaeda's successful attacks on September 11 suggest the organization could employ similar operational strategies in carrying out any future attack in the US, including cell members avoiding drawing attention to themselves and minimizing contact with militant Islamic groups in the US. They will also maintain strict operational and communications security.

We must not assume, however, that al-Qaeda will rely only on tried and true methods of attack. As attractive as a large-scale attack that produced mass casualties would be for al-Qaeda and as important as such an attack is to its credibility among its supporters and sympathizers, target vulnerability and the likelihood of success are increasingly important to the weakened organization. Indeed, the types of recent, smaller-scale operations al-Qaeda has directed and aided against a wide array of Western targets—such as in Mombassa, Bali, and Kuwait and against the French oil tanker off Yemen—could readily be reproduced in the US.

My greatest concern, Mr. Chairman, is that our enemies are trying to acquire dangerous new capabilities with which to harm Americans. Terrorists worldwide have ready access to information on chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear—or CBRN—weapons via the Internet. Acquisition of such weapons would be a huge morale boost for those seeking our destruction, while engendering widespread fear among Americans and our allies.

As we think about where the next attack might come, al-Qaeda will probably continue to favor spectacular attacks that meet several criteria: high symbolic value, mass casualties, severe damage to the US economy, and maximum psychological trauma. Based on al-Qaeda's previous pattern, the organization may attempt to destroy objectives it has targeted in the past. On the basis of these criteria, we judge that al-Qaeda's highest priority targets are high-profile government or private facilities, commercial airliners, famous landmarks, and critical infrastructure such as energy-production facilities and transportation nodes.

Mr. Chairman, you no doubt are familiar with reports from a few months ago that highlighted possible attacks against symbols of US economic power. We believe such targets are high on al-Qaeda's list because of the economic disruption such attacks would cause.

Al-Qaeda is also eyeing transportation and energy infrastructures—the destruction of which could cripple the US economy, create fear and panic, and cause mass casualties.

Be assured, Mr. Chairman, that our focus on al-Qaeda and ideologically similar groups has not diverted our intelligence and investigative efforts from the potential threats from groups like HAMAS and Lebanese Hizballah. Both of these groups have significant US-based infrastructure that gives them the capability to launch terrorist attacks inside the US. At the moment, neither group appears to have sufficient incentive to abandon their current fundraising and recruitment activities in the US in favor of violence.

Mr. Chairman, although the most serious terrorist threat is from non-state actors, we remain vigilant against the potential threat posed by state sponsors of terrorism. The seven countries designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Cuba, and North Korea—remain active in the US and continue to support terrorist groups that have targeted Americans.

Although Iran remains a significant concern for its continued financial and logistical support of terrorism, Iraq has moved to the top of my list. As we previously briefed this Committee, Iraq's WMD program poses a clear threat to our national security, a threat that will certainly increase in the event of future military action against Iraq. Baghdad has the capability and, we presume, the will to use biological, chemical, or radiological weapons against US domestic targets in the event of a US invasion. We are also concerned about terrorist organizations with direct ties to Iraq—such as the Iranian dissident group, Mujahidin-e Khalq, and the Palestinian Abu Nidal Organization.

Mr. Chairman, let me wrap up my discussion of the nature of the terrorist threat to the US by speaking briefly about domestic terrorism. The events of September 11 have rightly shifted our focus to international terrorist groups operating inside the US but not to the exclusion of domestic groups that threaten the safety of Americans. As defined by the Patriot Act, domestic terrorism encompasses dangerous activities within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States that violate US criminal laws and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government, or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. Domestic terrorists have committed the vast majority of terrorist attacks against the continental US.

The threat of domestic terrorists launching large-scale attacks that inflict mass casualties is low compared with that of international terrorist groups. This is due, in part, to longstanding law enforcement efforts against many of these groups. Here are just a few examples:


Mr. Chairman, let me spend some time, now, outlining specific steps the FBI is taking to enhance our ability to combat the vital threats to the United States that I have just shared with the Committee. We have dedicated ourselves to learning the lesson of the 9/11 attacks perpetrated by al-Qaeda and to using that knowledge to root out terrorist networks of all types in the United States.

To effectively wage this war against terror, we have augmented our counterterrorism resources and are making organizational enhancements to focus our priorities. To give new focus to analysis, last year I created an Analysis Branch in the Counterterrorism Division and assigned it the mission of producing strategic assessments of the terrorism threat to the United States. To date, the Analysis Branch has produced nearly 30 in-depth analytical assessments, including the FBI's first comprehensive assessment of the terrorist threat to the homeland. In addition, our analysts have produced more than 200 articles for the FBI Presidential Report, a product we created for the President and senior White House officials.

I have taken a number of other actions I believe will make the FBI a more flexible, more responsive agency in our war against terrorism:

The counterterrorism measures I have just described essentially complete the first phase of our intelligence program. We are now beginning the second phase that will focus on expanding and enhancing our ability to collect, analyze, and disseminate intelligence.

If we are to defeat terrorists and their supporters, a wide range of organizations must work together. I am committed to the closest possible cooperation with the Intelligence Community and other government agencies. Accordingly, I strongly support the President's initiative to establish a Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) that will merge and analyze terrorist-related information collected domestically and abroad. This initiative will be crucially important to the success of our mission in the FBI, and it will take us to the next level in being able to prevent another terrorist attack on our nation.


Mr. Chairman, although the bulk of my statements today have focused on the terrorist threats facing this country, let me emphasize that we are not ignoring the serious threat from foreign intelligence services and their assets, who are dedicated to using any means necessary to obtain strategic information from the United States. Accordingly, I would like to take a few moments to lay out the FBI's five strategic objectives for the Counterintelligence program.

Let me conclude by saying that the nature of the threat facing the US homeland continues to evolve. The FBI is tackling this threat head-on. In order to successfully continue to do so, we, as an organization, must be flexible enough to adapt our mission and our resources to stay one step ahead of our enemies. Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I can assure this Committee and the American people that the men and women of the FBI recognize the need to adapt and are, in fact, transforming the FBI into a world-class intelligence agency.

I thank you for your attention and look forward to your questions.

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