A top U.S. law enforcement official says that while the United States has made progress in the war on terrorism, future threats could include a combination of terrorists and organized crime.
Director Mueller says the FBI has made great strides in combating terrorism since the 2001 terrorist attacks. But he also says that Americans need to realize that the nature of the threat against the United States will probably change in the near future.
"The threat of today and of the future is a dangerous convergence of terrorist, intelligence and criminal groups all operating to a greater or lesser degree over the internet and through interconnected sophisticated networks," he said. "And in this environment, the traditional distinctions between organized crime, cyber crime, espionage and terrorism have broken down."
For example, Mr. Mueller says in some cases criminal groups are now laundering money for terrorists and that both the Russian Mafia and al-Qaida are separately involved in credit card fraud.
The FBI director told reporters at the National Press Club that these new threats will require a more sophisticated response from U.S. law enforcement agencies working with investigators from numerous countries around the world.
Mr. Mueller spoke one day after U.S. officials announced that an Ohio truck driver had pled guilty to providing material support to al-Qaida and scouting potential terrorist targets inside the United States including the Brooklyn Bridge.
The truck driver, Iyman Faris, is originally from Kashmir. He became a U.S. citizen in 1999 and met with senior al-Qaida leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan including Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Mohammed is now in U.S. custody overseas and Mr. Mueller says he has been cooperating with investigators searching for al-Qaida operatives in the United States.
"Every month since September 11 I think I grow more confident that we do know and have a handle on those in our communities around the country who might be prepared to undertake terrorist attacks," said Robert Mueller. "But the worst thing is not knowing those that you do not know."
Some members of Congress have criticized both the FBI and CIA for not doing more to detect the September 11 terrorist plot in advance. But Director Mueller says the FBI has made a "great deal of progress" since the attacks and is now in a much better position to defeat terrorist threats in the future.