Tags: FBI | Director: | Signs | Terrorists | Want | Take | Advantage

FBI Director: No Signs Terrorists Want to Take Advantage After Katrina

Wednesday, 21 September 2005 12:00 AM

U.S. intelligence agencies have not detected any signs that terrorists are planning attacks because of Hurricane Katrina despite weaknesses the storm exposed in disaster readiness, FBI Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday.

"We have not seen any indication that terrorists see this as a unique opportunity or that this would in any way trigger an attack that perhaps was not in the staging process before," Mueller told reporters at a briefing at FBI headquarters.

While many federal resources have been diverted to the Gulf Coast, Mueller said the FBI has not let down its guard.

The FBI has sent 350 to 400 of its 12,000 agents to the New Orleans area to help local police and monitor billions of dollars in federal reconstruction contracts.

Even as the storm approached the Gulf Coast, Mueller told agents in the FBI's 56 field offices to keep their eyes on their primary terror-fighting mission and be aware that would-be attackers might consider the country vulnerable.

The Homeland Security Department last year issued an analysis that found terrorists would be unlikely to strike during a hurricane because of the extreme weather conditions and a storm's unpredictability. But if al-Qaida or other groups already had plans to attack elsewhere in the country, they could time it to the hurricane, seeking to capitalize on the strain on emergency response and security forces, the analysis said.

Katrina heavily damaged two of the four floors of the building that houses the FBI's office in New Orleans, but no evidence in current investigations was lost, Mueller said.

The FBI also has beefed up the number of agents for fraud investigations related to the rebuilding effort. The bill to the government for Katrina so far is $62 billion and some estimates of the final cost top $200 billion.

"We want to make sure it's spent on rebuilding and not otherwise," Mueller said. The bureau has opened an unspecified number of procurement fraud cases, FBI spokesman Stephen Kodak said.

The FBI has received 180 calls to a telephone tip line, 1-800-225-5324, in less than a week, Mueller said.

The bureau also has opened 31 criminal investigations of Web sites that are soliciting hurricane relief donations, with some indictments expected soon, Mueller said. Agents have looked at 3,100 of the 4,600 Web sites that have sprung up since the storm, he said.

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U.S. intelligence agencies have not detected any signs that terrorists are planning attacks because of Hurricane Katrina despite weaknesses the storm exposed in disaster readiness, FBI Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday. "We have not seen any indication that...
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2005-00-21
Wednesday, 21 September 2005 12:00 AM
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