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FBI Head: Get Used to Terrorist Alerts

A top U.S. law enforcement official said Americans should get used to the idea of being on high alert for terrorists for the foreseeable future.

FBI Director Mueller said he is pressed nearly every day by President Bush to make sure the agency is doing everything it can to prevent a repeat of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Mueller said, "The question is asked, 'can we stop every terrorist attack?' And the answer has to be, realistically, 'no.' But we can and are putting in place an aggressive but rigorously lawful program of disruption abroad and at home."

Mr. Mueller told a meeting of the Anti-Defamation League here in Washington that public vigilance will remain an essential part of homeland security for an indefinite period. "The threat against American interests," he said, "whether it be here or our embassies overseas, will remain high for a substantial period of time. It may be al-Qaida today, it may be Hezbollah tomorrow, it may be Hamas the day afterward. And we cannot, I think, rest on the assurance that other terrorist groups will not see the advantage of striking us in our homeland."

Another key component of homeland security is greater law enforcement cooperation with U.S. allies in the war on terrorism. Mr. Mueller said more than 275 FBI agents have been sent overseas since last September's attacks. He described the international cooperation as "excellent and unprecedented" and says the information exchanges have helped to prevent "a number of additional attacks that were planned since September 11."

"Terrorists," he said, "have shown that they are willing to go to great lengths to destroy America and we must be willing to go to even greater lengths to stop them. Our worldwide network must be more powerful, our financial commitment must be stronger and our techniques, training and technology must be more sophisticated. And our sense of urgency and intensity perhaps must be greater than it ever has been in the history of the FBI."

Director Mueller said the FBI has learned some important lessons from the September 11 conspiracy, including the enhanced ability of terrorists to keep a low profile once inside the United States and their use of hard to trace cell phones to communicate with each other.