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FBI Chief Warns Against Further Attacks - 2001-10-24

The head of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, says there is "a distinct possibility" of further terrorist attacks in the United States. Speaking at a meeting of the nation's mayors, Mr. Mueller also said no link has been established between a series of anthrax exposures and last month's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

FBI Director Mueller told a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors that there is no evidence yet linking the recent anthrax attacks with the terrorist incidents of September 11. "At this point it is not clear if the few confirmed anthrax exposures were motivated by organized terrorism," he said. "But these attacks were clearly meant to terrorize a country already on the edge."

Although Mr. Mueller could not rule out further terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, he said his agency is doing everything it can to prevent them. He said the FBI is making an unprecedented effort to investigate the September 11 attacks as well as the spate of anthrax exposures. "Every resource that can be deployed is being deployed," said Robert Mueller. "Every person who can be utilized is being utilized. We now have well over 7,000 FBI personnel involved, and that is about one in four employees. We are examining every scrap of evidence. In fact we have gathered - sometimes working on hands and knees in the rubble and mud of crash sites - more than 3,700 pieces of evidence. This is easily the largest and most comprehensive effort in our history."

Authorities are investigating anthrax cases in New York, New Jersey, Florida and here in Washington.

Two Washington postal workers and a tabloid newspaper employee in Florida have died of anthrax inhalation.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson also appeared before the nation's mayors to assure them his agency is doing all it can to respond to the anthrax scare.

He announced the immediate release of $3 million to those communities dealing with anthrax attacks. "The award will accelerate active surveillance detection and confirmation of anthrax cases," he said. "These actions will help improve our public health response capabilities."

Mr. Thompson says the government is also obtaining more anthrax antibiotics as well as 300 million doses of smallpox vaccines over the coming months to better treat victims of bioterror attacks.

Although smallpox - a highly contagious and deadly disease - was wiped out decades ago, officials fear terrorists could spread the disease.