- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III sees a rising threat from homegrown terrorists but cautions that foreign groups are far from vanquished and still consume more bureau resources.

“We have certainly hundreds” of people within the country that the bureau is investigating with varied levels of intensity, Mr. Mueller told reporters Wednesday. “But if you’re looking at terrorism across the board … we have several thousand cases.”

That includes not only criminal cases headed for prosecution, but also intelligence cases to gather information, he said.

With attention lately focused on the arrests of four groups of largely homegrown plotters in the past year in Miami; Atlanta; Toledo, Ohio; and Torrance, Calif., Mr. Mueller took pains to point out that al Qaeda and other international terrorists still represent a large threat.

“We’ve decimated al Qaeda’s leadership and taken away their sanctuary, but there are still individuals in the al Qaeda hierarchy who are capable of organizing, financing and supporting attacks in the United States or against United States interests around the world,” Mr. Mueller said.

“One cannot dismiss the potency of al Qaeda to undertake attacks,” he added, but now there also are groups here and in other countries “motivated by radical Islamist ideology to undertake actions on their own.”

Mr. Mueller added that many of the FBI’s domestic cases “may have ties overseas.”

The number of overall terrorist investigations has remained fairly static for the past two years after spiking immediately after the September 11, 2001, attacks and the passage of the USA Patriot Act, Mr. Mueller said.

FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole said, “Many, if not most, of those cases are dealing with material support for terrorism. These are not bomb throwers; these are people out there raising money or recruiting.”

With the rise of homegrown plots here and abroad, Mr. Mueller said, the bureau is putting some of the new resources it acquired after September 11 to work on trying “to identify the various stages of radicalization and … those who would be vulnerable to radicalization and those who would do the radicalization, so you could address them before they could engage” in attacks.

These include doubling the number of FBI intelligence analysts, tripling the number of linguists and putting analysts in all 56 bureau field offices. At the same time, the FBI has ramped up its regional joint terrorism task forces from 35 to 101 since 2001, expanding the number of federal, state and local agents assigned to them from 1,000 to nearly 4,000.

The FBI is looking at where radicalization can occur. Mr. Mueller said this was not necessarily in mosques but anywhere fundamentalism could be espoused by people or even one charismatic person, including gyms, schools, universities and prisons.

He added that the bureau had expanded its resources and transformed its anti-terrorism focus from after-the-fact arrests to prevention while “we’ve maintained our operational tempo” against public corruption, organized crime, civil rights, white-collar crime and gangs.

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