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United States ‘far safer’ since 9/11

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The United States is "far safer" today against the possibility of a new terrorist attack than it was before the September 11 strikes that killed 3,000 people, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told a Senate committee yesterday.

Mr. Mueller, who took over the FBI just a week before al Qaeda terrorists slammed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and has overseen a massive reorganization of the bureau since that time, said federal, state and local law enforcement authorities have worked diligently to reduce the threat.

But citing the bombings this month in the London subway system and on a bus that killed at least 56 persons, Mr. Mueller noted there "probably is more that can be done.

"The fact of the matter is ... you can never protect 100 percent. And so you want to minimize, reduce those risks. We are doing everything we can to minimize, reduce those risks throughout the United States," he said. "We are sitting side by side with state and local law enforcement, understanding what is in the community, the threats in the community.

"And when we see a threat, we have moved quickly, I believe, to address those threats, either by prosecuting the individuals on material support, prosecuting the individuals for other criminal offenses, or in other cases where the person is here illegally, deporting the person where it is appropriate."

Mr. Mueller attributed the country's upgraded status against potential attacks to:

• The removal of the sanctuary al Qaeda used in Afghanistan, which he said gave the terrorist organization the ability to coordinate attacks.

• The successes of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, in working with their counterparts overseas to take down key members of the al Qaeda leadership.

• Improved cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

"Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Hambali -- a number of the leadership of al Qaeda has been removed as a potential source of managerial skill, organizational skill. And that is attributable to our brothers and sisters in other agencies, but it should not be overlooked," Mr. Mueller said.

The director also told the committee the FBI plans to institute a National Security Service within the bureau to integrate its intelligence and investigative missions to guard against future terrorists attacks.

In combining the bureau's counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence divisions, he said the FBI will develop a work force through initiatives, many of which are already in place.

"Those initiatives are designed to recruit, hire, train and retain investigative and intelligence professionals who have the skills necessary to the success of our national intelligence, national security programs," he said.

Mr. Mueller said the creation of a National Security Service within the FBI would enhance the FBI's ability to coordinate its national security activities with the newly created Director of National Intelligence (DNI) service, headed by John D. Negroponte, and other intelligence organizations.

"The single FBI official in charge of this service will be able to ensure that we direct our national security resources in coordination with the DNI and the attorney general," he said.

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