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18 April 2003

Mueller Reports "Great Strides" in Preventing Terrorist Attacks

(Describes usefulness of FBI interviews with Iraqis in the U.S.) (480)


By David Anthony Denny
Washington File Staff Writer


Washington -- The FBI has made great strides during the past several
months in preventing future acts of terrorism against the United
States and its interests abroad, and did so particularly during the
war with Iraq, its director said April 17 at a Washington press
conference.


Appearing with Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert
Mueller said the FBI had conducted almost 10,000 voluntary interviews
during the past month with current and former Iraqi citizens residing
in the United States. Those interviews, he said, resulted in about 250
FBI reports to the U.S. military of information potentially useful in
conducting operations in Iraq. The reports concerned weapons
production and storage facilities, underground bunkers, fiber optic
networks and detention and interrogation facilities, Mueller said. The
Defense Department said those reports were "timely, excellent,
relevant and [they] greatly assisted in bridging gaps in other
intelligence," according to Mueller.

Mueller said many of those interviewed had fled Iraq in fear of its
dictator, Saddam Hussein. They included scientists and engineers and
even former leaders in the Iraqi government, he said. The FBI
contacted them, he said, because of their possible knowledge of Iraqi
leadership, military facilities and support for terrorism. All of the
interviews were conducted "within the strict confines of the (U.S.)
Constitution," Mueller said, and "with the full respect for rights and
dignity."

Mueller said he knows of only two complaints to the FBI resulting from
the almost 10,000 interviews conducted. In many more instances, he
said, the bureau was contacted by Iraqi-Americans who called to
volunteer information and wanted to know why they had not yet been
contacted.

The FBI director also said that, in conjunction with the Justice
Department, the bureau has taken steps to respond to the looting of
Iraqi museums and other historical sites. The moves include sending
FBI agents to Iraq to assist with criminal investigations and issuing
Interpol alerts to all member nations concerning the potential sales
on black and open markets of stolen Iraqi art and artifacts, he said.

Furthermore, the FBI has more than 25 employees working on the
identification and analysis of documents seized by the military in
Iraq, Mueller said. The bureau's purpose is to identify any future
terrorist threats or links to Iraqi intelligence service activities,
he said.

Mueller said the FBI and also the CIA and the Department of Defense
are going through the documents as soon as they are received and
"taking whatever action is necessary to follow up on any lead that may
come out of those documents: whether it be a telephone number or an
address or some other item of information in the United States or
around the world, that ... may help us to prevent another terrorist
attack."

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)