A top U.S. law enforcement official says federal investigators are probing more than 100 complaints of alleged hate crimes against Muslim, Arab and Sikh Americans in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
FBI Director Robert Mueller made the announcement at a Washington news conference after thanking local law enforcement officials from around the country for moving quickly to investigate incidents targeting Arab and Muslim-Americans. "Vigilante attacks against Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Americans continue to escalate," he said. "Yesterday alone, the FBI initiated 15 new investigations possibly linked to the September 11th attacks, which brings the total to 120 investigations we have opened under the hate crimes statute."
So-called hate crimes are attacks motivated by racial, ethnic, religious, or gender prejudice that are prohibited under federal law.
On the investigation into the terrorist attacks, FBI Director Mueller says the agency has now collected an unprecedented 260,000 potential leads and tips from the public. He also says U.S. officials have frozen about $6-million in assets both in the United States and abroad of bank accounts linked to terrorist organizations.
Legislation making it easier to crack down on those who provide financial assistance to terrorists is making its way through the Congress.
In addition, lawmakers are also slowly moving toward action on anti-terrorism laws that would make it easier for law enforcement to detain suspected terrorists and monitor their communications.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is urging lawmakers to act quickly. "Our laws governing terrorism should reflect the priority that the American people give to the fight against terrorism," he said. "And the American people expect us to give this fight the highest priority. Second, we will propose no change in the law that damages constitutional rights and protections that Americans hold dear."
Congress has not moved as fast as the administration would like on the anti-terrorism legislation because of concerns that sweeping new laws might restrict some civil liberties. However, a major stumbling block was removed this week when the administration and lawmakers agreed to give authorities the power to detain non-citizens suspected of terrorist activities for seven days without filing charges. Attorney General Ashcroft had wanted the power to detain suspects indefinitely.