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Federal Investigation into Terror Attacks Intensifies - 2001-09-19

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is warning governments who aid terrorists, as he visited the Pentagon for a first-hand look at the devastation there following last week's attack.

Mr. Ashcroft told reporters that foreign governments need to understand with what he called "crystal clarity" that the United States will not tolerate their support for terrorist networks. "It is pretty clear that the networks that conduct these kinds of events are harbored, supported, sustained and protected by a variety of foreign governments," he said. The attorney general did not name any specific countries.

The federal investigation into last week's attacks is intensifying. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has detained 75 people on immigration violations and is seeking another 200 individuals who may have information about the coordinated terrorist attack.

Some civil rights groups have expressed concern that the federal government's new legal powers aimed at tracking terrorists and their supporters in the United States could erode civil liberties.

Mr. Ashcroft said federal agents will keep those concerns in mind as they proceed with their investigation. "I'm deeply concerned about the civil liberties of all Americans," he stressed. "I'm especially concerned about the civil liberties of Arab-Americans and Middle Eastern Americans who are patriotic citizens, who lament and regret this loss perhaps as keenly or more keenly than any. But we will not fail to use any tool. We will not fail to use any tool that can promote apprehension and disruption of the networks that caused these damages and prevent a similar occurrence in the future."

Meanwhile federal investigators have also unveiled a new plan to battle money laundering, an issue that has taken on added significance in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks.

The U.S. Treasury and Justice departments are stepping up efforts to trace the financial networks that have been set up to support terrorist groups and organized crime.