- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

The director of the FBI yesterday warned U.S. mayors of a "distinct possibility" of new terrorist attacks against U.S. cities six weeks after the Sept. 11 assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Robert S. Mueller III told the U.S. Conference of Mayors at a Washington meeting that the FBI is "pouring its heart and its soul into the investigation" of the suicide attacks and into finding those behind the spread of anthrax, but issued a dire warning of possible new strikes.
"We are assessing threats in real time and providing warnings to your cities and to the nation. And I must tell you that the threat level remains very high. More attempts and possible attacks are a distinct possibility," he said.
Mr. Mueller also said it is not yet clear if the sending of anthrax-laced letters to Florida, New York and Washington was the work of organized terrorists, but that the attacks were "clearly meant to terrorize a country already on the edge."
"Every resource that can be deployed is being deployed; every person who can be utilized is being utilized," he said, adding that 7,000 FBI agents and support personnel are "examining every scrap of evidence."
He gave no clue of what form any new attacks might take, but federal authorities have stepped up their vigil against possible car and truck bombers. Health officials have ordered renewed supplies of the vaccine against smallpox.
An extraordinary public warning issued Oct. 11 by the FBI of possible new terrorist attacks came in response to unspecified threats received from what authorities called a "credible source." Mr. Mueller said yesterday it was "conceivable, although there is no evidence necessarily to support it, that the advent of the anthrax attacks is what this source was talking about."
As Mr. Mueller spoke, more than 100 FBI agents continued to interview dozens of people in the Trenton, N.J., area, where three anthrax-laced letters sent to media outlets in New York and to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office at the U.S. Capitol were postmarked.
No search warrants have yet been issued, but agents along with U.S. Postal Service inspectors have seized several mail-drop boxes.
Agents also are checking hospitals, clinics, medical labs and pharmacies. Handwriting experts have scoured over the letters, and agents have examined the postal bar codes for clues.
The letters passed through a large mail center in Hamilton Township, about 20 miles northeast of Ewing, N.J., where the mail is collected from 46 post offices. Investigators said 13 of 23 samples taken from the Hamilton facility showed evidence of anthrax.
Letter carrier Teresa Heller, who contracted the skin form of anthrax, delivers and collects mail at more than 500 houses, apartments and businesses in the Ewing area. Investigators have not been able to tie her to a potential source, noting that she did not work Sept. 18 the day anthrax letters to NBC and the New York Post were postmarked. The letter to Mr. Daschle was postmarked Oct. 8.
Three persons have died so far from inhaled anthrax. Three others have been hospitalized after inhaling the bacteria. Seven have contracted the less lethal form of skin anthrax.
Mr. Mueller said agents have examined 3,700 separate pieces of evidence in "easily the largest and most comprehensive investigation in our history." He said, however, that beyond the investigation itself, his overriding priority is prevention making sure terrorists "do not succeed in striking America and America's cities again."
In a related matter, a Pakistani man detained on immigration charges in the FBI's ongoing probe died in his jail cell in New Jersey of an apparent heart condition.
Muhammed But, 55, was found early Tuesday on his bed in his cell at the Hudson County jail in Kearny, N.J. Tests of the man using nasal swabs and blood and tissue samples proved negative for anthrax, jail officials said..
"There is no anthrax involved," said Emily Hornaday, spokeswoman for the New Jersey division of criminal justice. "He died of natural causes." Mr. But had been in custody since Sept. 19.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide