19 February 2004
17 February 2004
Focus also on sharing intelligence, halting organized crime
Robert Mueller, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says working with others, both within the United States and overseas, to prevent terrorism is that agency's top national security priority and, in support of that goal, will focus on counter-intelligence and protection against cyber-attacks. He also cited national and transnational organized crime as an area of primary importance.
Mueller spoke of the FBI's expanded role in coordinating intelligence sharing and law enforcement with its overseas counterparts at a February 17 briefing at the Foreign Press Center in Washington. He noted that 95 years ago, the bureau was started in the United States because there was a need for an agency that cut across the jurisdictional lines of cities, counties and states. "As the world gets smaller with cell phones, jet travel, the Internet," he said, "the niche for the bureau in the future is to work with our counterparts overseas to transcend those jurisdictional boundaries and ... do joint investigations."
Mueller noted that the FBI presence in other countries is through 46 legal attaché offices and that FBI agents, having no jurisdiction to operate by themselves outside the United States, only work in cooperation with the law enforcement agencies of those nations.
The United States and the world are safer now than before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the director said, due to the elimination of al-Qaida's sanctuary in Afghanistan and the arrest and detention of at least two-thirds of its leadership, severely limiting its ability to train, plan, organize and communicate. He praised the cooperative law enforcement efforts of the many countries that helped this happen.
In response to a question about possible connections between organized crime and terrorism, Mueller said criminal organizations can use their smuggling networks "for drugs one day, people the next day, and monies the third day ... we do have a concern that organizations could be used to smuggle individuals into the United States who would wish to undertake terrorist acts."
The director also said that, within the United States, the FBI is listing public corruption, civil rights, and white-collar crime among its top criminal investigation priorities.
Following is the transcript of the director's briefing:
FOREIGN PRESS CENTER
BRIEFING WITH ROBERT S. MUELLER, III
DIRECTOR - FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
TOPIC: COMBATING GLOBAL TERRORISM AND CRIME
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER
FEBRUARY 17, 2004
MR. DENIG: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. A warm welcome, also, to journalists assembled in our New York Foreign Press Center.
We are very pleased to be able to welcome to our podium this morning for his inaugural appearance, the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller. And we're especially pleased that he's here for what I think will be an important briefing, which is: Combating International Terrorism and Crime.
Director Mueller will have an opening statement to make and after that will be glad to take your questions.
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Thank you. Good morning everyone and again, thank you for having me today. It's a pleasure to be here.
I want to spend just a couple moments at the outset to talk about a couple of issues. I want to talk for a few moments on the FBI and some of the -- our focus in September 11th. I want to talk for a moment on the -- about the war on terrorism. And then I -- I want to spend a couple of moments talking about the future of the FBI in this globalized world in which we live today.
In the wake of September 11th, it was clear to us at the FBI that we had to focus our resources, focus our priorities, so that we knew what we had to address terrorism. We start with our Number One priority, which is counterterrorism -- assuring that there can never again or will never again be an attack such as we saw on September 11th.
And with that top priority, we have two others that relate to national security: The first is counterintelligence and the second is protecting the United States against cyber-attack. So those are our three top priorities in the national security arena after September 11th: Counterterrorism, counterintelligence and cyber.
With regard to our criminal priorities, public corruption and civil rights still are at the top of our list within the United States. But also we have as the number -- third criminal priority is national and transnational organized criminal groups. As the globe gets smaller, as we look at where we can fit in to address crime in the world, we see that we have some special facility to address international crime and its various manifestations.
Also, white-collar crime -- we have a number of cases now such as the Enron case, the -- Healthsouth -- a number of cases in which the losses to investors just defy description. And we must continue as we have in the past addressing those white-collar criminal cases.
And lastly, on the criminal side is violent crime, "significant violence" crime. Any of us in law enforcement who have the ability to help our state and local law enforcement to address homicides and violent crime in the cities have an obligation to do so, and we will continue to address that priority.
Two other priorities we recognized in the wake of September 11th: That we had to work much more closely with our state and local counterparts than, perhaps, we had in the past and to develop those relationships.
And finally, of utmost importance to us was to develop the Information Technology infrastructure that will enable us to be on the cutting edge of law enforcement in the future.
We established those priorities, and with those priorities come the training, the financing, the budget to support those priorities, and they have been in place since September 11th.
If you look for a second at our success in the area of counterterrorism, our Number One priority, I can tell you that we are today, I believe, in the United States, and indeed around the world, far more safer than we were prior to September 11th. And that is attributable to three factors:
The first is taking away al-Qaida's sanctuary in Afghanistan, which has eliminated al-Qaida's ability to train. It's hampered the ability to communicate, plan and organize. So the first step in addressing terrorism in the form of al-Qaida was to take away the sanctuary in Afghanistan.
The second piece of that puzzle is the arrest and detention of at least two-thirds of the leaders of al-Qaida. And with the help of our counterparts overseas, whether it be in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or in Jakarta, Indonesia, detaining, arresting the likes the Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, Hambali, Abu Zubaida, Arab League-Baluchi, and a number of the others one can name, severely hurt al-Qaida and al-Qaida's ability to launch the type of attack that it launched on September 11th.
And the last piece of this puzzle for us, particularly in the United States, is to understand that in order to be successful against terrorism in the United States, it will take all of us working together and, in particular, I mean our state and local counterparts working with us on joint terrorism task forces.
Prior to September 11th, we had 34 joint terrorism task forces throughout the United States. We now have 84. And on those task forces are not just FBI agents, but Secret Service agents, DEA agents, agents from all across the federal law enforcement establishment, but also state and local law enforcement, all working together, shoulder to shoulder, to address terrorism. And we have been successful in addressing a number of cells, a number of groups in the United States who were supporters of al-Qaida and UBL [Usama bin Laden].
So we've been successful in making the country safer since September 11th because of those three steps that have been undertaken.
Lastly, when you look at where the Bureau is going to be in, say, the year 2010, one must start by recognizing that the FBI was started 95 years ago because persons believed that there needed to be an agency that cut across the jurisdictional lines of cities, counties and states within the United States. There needed to be an agency that could conduct investigations across those jurisdictional boundaries. And as the world gets smaller, with cell phones, jet travel, the Internet, again, the niche for the Bureau in the future is to work with our counterparts overseas to transcend those jurisdictional boundaries and with our counterparts overseas to do joint investigations.
The day is long past where any particular agency standing on its own can be successful. To be successful in the future, we must rely on the relationships we have not only with our state and local counterparts within the United States, but increasingly with our international counterparts overseas.
And with that, I'd be happy to answer what questions you have.
MR. DENIG: OK. We'll begin our questions with New York. New York, do you have your first question?
QUESTION: Yes, good morning. This is Mauzio Molinari from La Stampa Daily News. I'd like to ask you an opinion on the level of cooperation given by the European airline companies, for instance, Al Italia, on the U.S. request to have on board personnel with weapons for security reasons.
DIRECTOR MUELLER: I'm sorry; I didn't understand the last part of the question.
QUESTION: Yes, on the U.S. request to have on board on the planes personnel with weapons for security reasons. I mean, the Europeans are cooperating with this request or not? What's your judgment?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, we've had very good cooperation with a number of the European countries in addressing the threats that occurred over the holidays. Many of the countries took steps that they or the country itself believed was appropriate to the threat. But I would say that we've had very good cooperation over the last month, month-and-a-half, and we're looking forward to developing additional ways of cooperating that may well, I think, warrant, having air marshals on certain of the planes and certain of the routes.
As you may well know, this is in Tom Ridge's bailiwick, he has been discussing security on planes with the members of the European Union for the last six weeks -- actually for some time before that. But we've had very good cooperation. I expect that that will continue.
MR. DENIG: New York, do you have a second question?
QUESTION: Mr. Mueller, good morning. Thank you, sir, for this opportunity. My name is Abderrahim Foukara from Al-Jazeera television. I have a couple of questions. U.S.-based civil liberties organizations are saying that a number of Arab and Muslim people who were picked up after 9/11 have either disappeared or were deported. I was wondering if you could comment on that. I would also appreciate any statistics you may have.
And the second question is about President Bush's immigration proposal and if it does apply to illegal immigrants in this country from Arab and Muslim countries, and if there are any mechanisms that would make employees strictly adhere to the stipulations of the law to protect potential Arab and Muslim employees from discrimination. Thank you.
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Let me address the second part of the question first, and I'll tell you, I have to defer to my "brother" Tom Ridge at Homeland Security for an answer on the proposals with regard to immigration.
As to the first part of the question and those individuals that were detained in the wake of September 11th, those were -- in the course of doing the investigation as to who was responsible, and most particularly, as to who in the United States might be contemplating a second wave of attacks, we and other federal and state and local law enforcement agencies interviewed a number of people. And in the course of those interviews, they fell into three categories: One is, those who were detained. Every person who fell -- who was detained was detained for one of the three reasons: Either there were outstanding charges, federal, state and local, which warranted the detention; or secondly, there were outstanding immigration issues and the person was out of status and was detained by the then-Immigration Service, now ICE; or thirdly, there was a very limited grouping of people that were detained as material witnesses, and that group was taken before -- the individuals were taken before a judge who would monitor their testimony before the Grand Jury.
Those individuals have, almost of them have been -- their status has been resolved. Those who were, as I understand it, those who were detained by immigration, most of them have been deported. There was a rather lengthy report by the Inspector General on those individuals, and I think I would refer you to that for more of the details on the numbers and particularly on the numbers of those who may have been deported.
But I do want to emphasize in each of those cases, the detention was based on a legal authority. Let me say one other thing while I am talking about it and that is, you talk about Muslim-American, Arab-American individuals. Since September 11th, we have had substantial assistance and cooperation from the Muslim-American community, the Arab-American community, the Sikh-American community within the United States. And for that I am -- all of us are tremendously thankful. Special Agents In Charge around the country meet often with the leaders of the Muslim-American communities. I periodically meet with the leadership here in Washington.
And I want to add that from my view that 99.9 percent of Muslim-Americans, Arab Americans, Sikh-Americans are every bit as patriotic and supportive of the United States as any others of us here in the United States, and that has come out since September 11th.
MR. DENIG: Good. Let me remind you to please use the microphone. Identify yourself and your news organization. Let's start in the front here with Russia.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Andrei Sitov. I'm with Russian News Agency ITAR-TASS. Thank you, sir, for coming here and thanks to the Foreign Press Center for arranging this.
I obviously want to ask you about your cooperation with your Russian colleagues. It's been reported that a new agreement on cooperation is being prepared. It was supposed to be ready for signing sometime this spring. Can you tell us about that work? When and -- when do you expect the document to be signed? What will it include? How will it help improve the cooperation?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: I will have to get back to you on the document signing, but I'll tell you that our cooperation with Russia has cut across a number of, I think, programs, a number of areas, organized crime being one of them; trafficking in persons, yet another; and lastly, terrorism.
And we have very good cooperation with our Russian counterparts. We had a case in northern New Jersey -- an individual by the name of Laconi (ph), who was arrested some time ago, and that was the result of a cooperative investigation undertaken by our counterparts in the U.K., Russia, as well as our agencies here.
QUESTION: Do you still see issues of trust? Obviously, we used to be on the different side of the barricades during the Cold War. Do you still see lingering issues of trust between your agency and the Russian counterpart?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: I have not seen that in the investigations that I, either as a former prosecutor, undertook with my counterparts in Russia, nor in the investigations that we've undertaken more recently.
MR. DENIG: Let's go to Canada in the red sweater, please.
QUESTION: Director, thank you for coming. My name is Paul Koring I'm with The Globe and Mail of Canada.
On the Mahar Arar case, it's still unclear to me why, if there wasn't sufficient evidence or concern by the FBI or the U.S. authorities to continue holding or arrest Mahar Arar, why there needed to be such a special effort to arrange for his deportation back to Syria. Can you shed a little bit of light on this now that some of the dust has settled? Thank you.
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, not all of the dust has settled, (laughter) and I'm going to have to defer on that. There are a number of issues still outstanding with regard to that case.
MR. DENIG: OK, let's go to the gentleman by the pillar.
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Sir, Jesus Esquivel, Proceso magazine of Mexico. I have two questions. First, how you concerned about the problem of corruption in the border area with the drug cartels in order to secure the border to prevent a terrorist could enter the U.S. with arms. I'm talking about the case of the FBI contractor that was corrupted by the drug cartel in Juarez. And my second question to you is, do you really think the Mexican authorities are doing hard enough to secure the border on the Mexican side to prevent some terrorist to enter the U.S. territory?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, we have had a longstanding concern about corruption as a result of the monies that are often available to narcotics traffickers. We did have that one language contractor who was arrested, if I recall correctly. It may well have -- that case may well have been resolved.
As I mentioned Burma, public corruption is our top criminal priority and it's public corruption and all of its iterations, including that along the border. And consequently, we work closely with the DEA and our Mexican counterparts to identify corruption on both sides of the border and certainly on our side of the border to assign appropriate resources to address public corruption.
We have a close working relationship with our counterparts on the other side of the border. There are always -- whichever side of the border you're on -- there are always wishes, desires that more would be done. And we continue to work with our counterparts in Mexico to address not only narcotics trafficking; but the smuggling of persons through -- over the border as well as the public corruption.
QUESTION: But do you see a clear connection between the drug cartels and terrorism in Mexico?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Drug cartels are like any, or many other criminal organizations. A smuggling organization can be used for drugs one day, people the next day and monies the third day. And so we undertake investigations, understanding that smuggling organizations can be used for each of those three -- narcotics trafficking, smuggling of persons and smuggling of monies. And in particular, when it comes to smuggling of persons, we do have a concern that organizations could be used to smuggle individuals into the United States who would wish to undertake terrorist acts here. And we are alert to that. We work with our customs and immigration counterparts on the border, both on this side of the border as well as on the other side of the border. And we have had some recent successes in identifying smuggling organizations and detaining, arresting and -- organizations, which operate on both sides of the border.
MR. DENIG: OK, let's go to Egypt in the third row, please.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Khaled Dawoud from Egypt's Al-Ahram Newspaper. I just wondered, actually, maybe you mentioned it during your commencement, whether you had a reaction to Congressman Peter King's accusations that 80-to-85 percent of the mosques here in the United States are being controlled by extremists, and that [the] Muslim community is not cooperating properly with the U.S. authorities.
And my second question, sir, is whether you've felt any change in the attitude of other countries towards cooperation in terrorism following the Iraq war? I mean like Syria, for example, I mean, or other countries who opposed the war. Are they still cooperation as much as the Qaida issue and terrorism?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, as to the first issue, I had not heard of that statement made by the congressman and I would reaffirm what I said before, that we have had very good cooperation from the Muslim-American community, and I anticipate that to continue.
On the issue of cooperation after the Iraq war, I have seen no drop in cooperation by those countries who may have opposed the war. I have visited a number of them since the conclusion of the hostilities in Iraq and if anything, the cooperation is enhanced. I was in London and Paris -- was it last week? -- I guess it was last week or the week before, and the relationship between our agencies and our counterparts in both France and in the U.K. could not be better.
MR. DENIG: Let's go to the first row here, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Director. This is Javier Garza from El-Heraldo in Mexico City. This past -- the past Orange alert over the holidays, there was very active involvement of some U.S. law enforcement officials in Mexico, from Homeland Security, Transportation Security. To what extent is the activity of FBI agents in Mexico when it comes to, you know, responding to this -- these threats or this heightened securities? Is it an ongoing involvement? Is it heightened during an Orange threat? And how is it heightened? What exactly is the involvement of the FBI in Mexico and for how long?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, we have a rather substantial legal attaché office in Mexico, with a number of smaller offices -- in Mexico City and a number of smaller offices throughout Mexico, and they -- FBI agents who are in the legal attaché office have no jurisdiction to operate by themselves within Mexico, and so work with and cooperate with their counterparts. When you have an alert such as we saw over the holiday season, we would be working very closely with our counterparts to assure that any threat to, in this case it was airlines, is thwarted; to make certain that Mexican citizens as well as U.S. citizens on these will flights will fly safely.
And yes, there was heightened activity during that period of time because there was a heightened - there were heightened threats. But again, I would emphasize that the activity is done in conjunction with our counterparts in Mexico.
MR. DENIG: OK, let's go to India in the second row here, please -- the middle of the second row.
QUESTION: Parasuram with the Press Trust of India. There was a time when the CIA used to operate abroad, the FBI within the United States. I was wondering whether you could give, obviously the FBI has now expanded abroad -- operates in many countries. I wonder whether you could give us some indication of the external operations abroad. How big are your operations abroad?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, today we have, I believe, 46 legal attaché offices around the world. Congress has authorized an additional five. And we are different from the CIA in the sense that our role overseas is to intersect with our law enforcement counterparts. And as I said earlier, with the globe getting smaller, with crimes crossing borders, it doesn't make any difference if it's trafficking in persons, it could be terrorism, it could be narcotics trafficking or cyber, the ability to work closely and coordinate with our counterparts overseas is absolutely important to the success of investigations.
We had an investigation recently where a scientific team in Antarctica had its servers hacked into, and you cannot not go down to Antarctica except, I think, once a year. It's not an easy place to get to so you don't send agents down there to do the ordinary investigation. But we were able to determine that the intrusion came from a server from a company outside of Pittsburgh, which had been used by two individuals in Bucharest, Romania, who launched the attacks.
And I use that as an indication of the types of crimes now that hopscotch across countries, where you need the mutual respect, the training and the capacity to undertake those investigations as the type of investigation that we will increasingly become involved with. And our legal attaché offices overseas develop those relationships with our counterparts that will enable us to successfully handle those investigations.
Another aspect of this is training. We have a national academy that has 250 in each class, and a good, a substantial portion of each class comes from law enforcement agencies around the world. We have four of those classes a year. We graduate 1,000 students. And I'm not certain how many ... are from foreign countries, but a substantial percentage come from law enforcement entities around the world. And it is that training together, working together, that enables us to build these relationships that are so important in law enforcement.
MR. DENIG: Yes, let's go to the third row, the gentleman in the middle, please.
QUESTION: Khalid Hasan, Daily Times, Lahore, Pakistan.
Mr. Mueller, I would like you to tell me what is the nature of your -- what sort of physical presence does the FBI have in Pakistan, and what is the nature, extent and level of your cooperation with the Pakistan?
And secondly, it has been said that al-Qaida really now is more a generic term than the name of something real because it has been said by responsible U.S. officials that the infrastructure of al-Qaida has been destroyed, they have no base any longer, they can't transact business, they can't transfer money, and Usama bin Laden, in case he is still around, he can't even make a phone call or make a hot cup of tea without being detected by one of the satellites up there.
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, I'm not going to talk to that last part about the tea and the satellites. (Laughter.)
But as to the first part, in Pakistan, we have a very small presence. We have a legal attaché office, which a legal -- a legal attaché and, you know, several assistant attachés. I will tell you that the press in Pakistan claims we have a much more substantial presence than is actually there. And we, as we do in every country, work under the auspices, or with our counterparts under the -- under their jurisdiction. So our presence in Pakistan is not much different than it is in many of the countries in Europe or South America or elsewhere.
As to al-Qaida, I mean, one talks about al-Qaida, if one means Usama bin Laden, but I think it's fair to say, as I stated in my opening remarks, that, yes, the sanctuary in Afghanistan has been taken away from al-Qaida and al-Qaida is more fragmented. But there are groups in many countries, cells who follow the preachings of al-Qaida and UBL. And, yes, it is far more difficult for them to operate; but nonetheless, there are a number of them that do operate.
We've seen the bombings in Morocco. We've seen the bombings in Indonesia, the bombings in Saudi Arabia, Mombassa, even after Afghanistan was taken away as a sanctuary, and consequently, while, yes, the unified structure that one saw in Afghanistan prior to our going in there is no longer unified -- you don't have the training camps that you had there -- nonetheless, there are fragmented operations around the world which -- about which all of us must be concerned.
MR. DENIG: Yeah, let's take the lady in the third row, please, in the middle.
QUESTION: Good morning. My name is Jilma Prada, from Panama, El Panama America. What are the major concerns that your legal attachés have reported from Panama, if some?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, I would have to go back and look. I don't know off the top of my head any particular concerns. I can tell you in Central and South America, we still -- we work with our counterparts to address the drug problem by the cartels. And also, we're not unaware of the substantial communities, Middle Eastern communities in South and Central America, and we are -- we, along with our counterparts in various countries there, are alert to any possibilities of terrorism finding their way into these communities or utilizing these communities for recruiting of terrorists or of financing of terrorist organizations.
MR. DENIG: Let's go to Helsinki, Finland in the back there, middle. Thanks.
QUESTION: Jyri Raivio, Newspaper Helsingen Sanomat, Finland. Are you happy with the domestic legal tools you have in your work, meaning that are you happy with the USA Patriot Act? Would you advocate some changes in that law?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: I think the Patriot Act has been instrumental in making this country safer, and indeed assisting the safety of other countries because it has broken down the walls between the intelligence and the law enforcement communities. If you do not have all the facts in front of you, it is very difficult to see the full picture. And the Patriot Act and subsequent rulings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court have broken down those walls and enabled us to share intelligence in ways that we could not in the past.
If you look back five to 10 years, maybe 10 years ago, it made some sense to have a foreign intelligence organization and a domestic intelligence law enforcement organization because rarely were the threats from overseas. In this day and age, the threat from overseas can, as you will see on September 11th, the plotting and planning was initiated in Afghanistan. I mean, a number of the individuals used Hamburg as a home base, and the attack was in the United States. And so the threats come from abroad. And you need to integrate the information from abroad with the domestic information in order to be successful. We have done that and the Patriot Act has helped. It has been tremendously helpful.
There are a couple of other tools that would be helpful, administrative subpoenas, allowing us to subpoena certain records that are more difficult for us to come by, which we've requested Congress to approve. But generally, those provisions of the Patriot Act have been tremendously helpful, not only for us, but also enabling us to share information with our counterparts overseas.
MR. DENIG: Let's go to Kuwait, second row here, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Ron Baygents, Kuwait News Agency. Could you just reassess how the cooperation has been in the Arab and Muslim world in the last two-and-a-half years, as sort of a trend? Has it been better and better up to this moment? Is it back and forth? And how challenging is that for you today? And could you perhaps mention a few countries that you have felt have cooperated especially well?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, if I do that, it's like honoring a person, or two or three, and there are about five or 10 in the room, and you always miss somebody, so I'm not necessarily pick on a country. I will tell you it's gotten better. And it's gotten better over the last several years, particularly since -- quite obviously since September 11th because I think persons around the world recognize the numbers of women and children who were killed in those senseless acts and do not want to see that happen again anywhere in the world.
There are certain countries in which there have been terrorist attacks. And those terrorist attacks have led those countries to increase their cooperation dramatically, not only on exchanging information but most particularly, on addressing the financing of terrorism. If you take the money away from terrorists, they cannot operate. They cannot fund their operations. They also often [have] families and the like, and if they don't have a job, then they have to be funded by somebody or some organization. And so addressing the financing is tremendously important to cut out the underpinnings of terrorism. And we have seen substantial increased assistance in addressing the finance of terrorism throughout the Middle East.
MR. DENIG: Let's go to the second row there, please.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you. José Lopez of the Notimex News Agency. Sir, the killing of young women in the Ciudad Juarez, in the border city of Juarez has become an issue of growing attention, both in the U.S. and Mexico. Just recently, a couple of Hollywood stars were there to participate in a demonstration, but also in Congress where some people are requesting a bigger role of the FBI in this issue. Can you tell us what is involvement of the FBI in this case right now, and would you have considered a bigger role in the investigation or have offered more assistance to the Mexican Government?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: We have participated in training along with the, if I recall correctly, the El Paso Police Department, assistance in training, but are also ready to assist in other ways. There have been discussions and we will say as the investigations continue, where there are some areas which we can provide additional assistance, we are willing to do so.
QUESTION: Could you be more specific?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: No. Not this time.
MR. DENIG: First row, first lady in black.
QUESTION: Thank you. Florence Rossignol with Canadian Television, CTV. You mentioned that the FBI is always on the alert for the second wave of attack. Given the increased security over the holidays, do you think that we avoided the second wave of attacks?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: We had a very -- I think everybody did, but we in particular, in the wake of -- immediately in the wake of September 11th, [needed] to understand what happened on those planes, quickly, because understanding what happened on the planes might give you intelligence on what you could expect down the road -- and certainly on September 11th, we knew that four planes had been destroyed and the passengers killed. But we had no way at that point of knowing how it occurred and who was behind it.
As the weeks went on, we were able to identify the 19 hijackers and learned something about their activities in the United States, but there always was, certainly in those early weeks and months, substantial concern that, while we may have identified the 19 on these planes, there might be another 19 in the United States ready and willing to undertake such attacks as soon as we put the planes up in the air.
We came to believe that our investigations were such -- thorough and to believe that, to the extent that there was an attempted, or a planned second attack in weeks or months afterwards, that we had successfully thwarted it. But that was for a period of time. We were always conscious of the desire of al-Qaida to attack, not only Americans overseas, but Americans within the United States.
And so we are still as active as we have been before in identifying those in the United States who would be supporting al-Qaida or other terrorist groups -- and groups, Hamas, Hezbollah, just to mention two, identifying them and interrupting their recruiting, their financing of terrorism when we find them operating within the United States.
MR. DENIG: Let's go to Syria in the middle there, please.
QUESTION: [Zaher Imadi, Public TV and Radio of Syria] Yes, sir. Thank you for putting the emphasis on the patriotism of the Arab and Muslim community in the United States.
My question is that, I have read, on my visit to Detroit several weeks ago, some stories from the Arab community here. It seems to me like they need -- or they are looking for new assurances the protection of their civil rights, the continuation of that protection would continue. Can you tell me about, or put more emphasis on the, or elaborate on the measures that you are taking in order to maintain that protection of their civil rights?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, even in the hours after September 11th, you would recognize that there would be -- there might be some in the United States who would want to take individual retribution against Arab-Americans or Muslim-Americans and we immediately sent word out to our Special Agents In Charge to be alert to any such charges and to immediately follow up and investigate them thoroughly and aggressively.
We reached out to the Muslim-American community, the Arab-American community, to make certain that we were immediately alerted to any such occurrences. Over the two, two-and-a-half years since September 11th, unfortunately, there have been such occurrences. Every one has been thoroughly investigated. There have been a number of persons who have been indicted, tried and convicted for such acts. And when we hear about it, we will investigate. When we investigate and find evidence of a violation of the federal civil rights laws, we will prosecute. And when we prosecute, we will convict and they will go to jail. That has happened in the past and will continue to happen if such occurrences repeat themselves.
MR. DENIG: Let's take the gentleman in black and white there, please -- black and white shirt.
QUESTION: Emad Mekay with Inter Press Service and also for on the story for Al-Sharq Al Aswat Newspaper from Saudi Arabia. Sir, there were some reports that the FBI extradited some suspected terrorists to countries that are on the State Department's list of human rights violators, many of them experienced torture in those countries. What's your reaction to those reports, sir?
And also, there are huge debate now over the lack of enough intelligence on the front of the weapons of mass destructions. Have you received any, would you say, faulty intelligence from countries in the Middle East that have been helping you with the -- with the war on terror?
And finally, sir, if you could rate for us the level of cooperation you have received from Israel on the war on terror. Thank you.
DIRECTOR MUELLER: That was three questions.
MR. DENIG: Answer as many as you like.
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, on the first one, those are just reports, and I'm not going to dignify them by getting into details we don't -- when we extradite people, we extradite them back to the United States.
On the issue of weapons of mass destruction, one of our great concerns, as I think any intelligence or law enforcement agency has, is weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists, or those who have no restraints on using them. We, but most particularly the CIA, working with counterparts overseas, work hard to identify proliferators and to utilize all means possible to stop proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
And lastly, we have a relationship with our counterparts in Israel that is similar to our relationship with our counterparts in Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or elsewhere in the Middle East. We cooperate on issues of terrorism.
MR. DENIG: Last question. Let's go to Bulgaria in the second row here, please.
QUESTION: [Iada Galina Gabroska with Dnevnik from Bulgaria] Mr. Mueller, thank you for the possibility to see you, to talk with you. My country is on the crossroads between the Middle East and the West. And recently, we have many problems. Does FBI will open as soon as possible any field office in Bulgaria? And what types of criminality you see there?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Well, unfortunately, I think Bulgaria suffers from some of the problems that a number of European countries, Central European countries do: trafficking in persons, narcotics trafficking, organized crime. We work with our counterparts in Bulgaria.
In terms of a permanent office down the road, my hope is that we would be able to expand to Bulgaria and a number of other countries as we look to address these international organized criminal problems in a way that makes us useful to our counterparts overseas and enables us to assist our counterparts in such a way that we can jointly address those problems that, not just Bulgaria, but a number of other countries in Europe as well as the United States face.
So thank you very much folks.
MR. DENIG: Thank you very much.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)