Transcript: Ashcroft, Mueller Discuss Terrorist Threat
Wednesday, May 26, 2004; 3:08 PM
Attorney General Ashcroft held a news briefing on the summer terrorist threat situation. The speakers at the briefing included U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
ASHCROFT: Good afternoon.
Today, Director Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Comey and I want to announce developments in the war on terror.
First, credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that Al Qaida plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months.
This disturbing intelligence indicates Al Qaida's specific intention to hit the United States hard.
Beyond this intelligence, Al Qaida's own public statements suggest that it's almost ready to attack the United States. Just after New Year's, Al Qaida announced openly that preparations for an attack on the United States were 70 percent complete.
After the March 11th attack in Madrid, Spain, an Al Qaida spokesman announced that 90 percent of the arrangements for an attack in the United States were complete.
The Madrid railway bombings were perceived by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida to have advanced their cause. Al Qaida may perceive that a large-scale attack in the United States this summer or fall would lead to similar consequences.
Several upcoming events over the next few months may suggest especially attractive targets for such an Al Qaida attack. These events include the G-8 Summit, hosted by the United States in Georgia, the Democratic Party Convention in Boston this summer, or the Republican Party Convention in New York City.
Second, in addition to making this announcement on the war on terror, we are seeking help from the American people. We ask our fellow citizens to be on the lookout for individuals, and in specific, for each of these seven individuals that are associated with Al Qaida. They all are sought in connection with the possible terrorist threats in the United States; they all pose a clear and present danger to America; they all should be considered armed and dangerous. And if anyone has any information about any one of them, please report it immediately to law enforcement.
Adnan Shukrijumah, for example, could be a future facilitator of terrorist attacks for Al Qaida. He speaks English well. He lived in the United States for years and has tried to get back into the United States using various passports.
ASHCROFT: We know that he has been involved in terrorist planning with senior Al Qaida leaders overseas and has scouted sites across America that might be vulnerable to terrorist attack.
We also ask for public assistance as we conduct interviews nationwide to gather intelligence to disrupt potential threats.
Now, a similar FBI-led interview program that was launched prior to the Iraq war developed valuable intelligence that protected American lives.
In addition, we ask citizens to be aware of their surroundings. Public awareness may cause terrorists to change their plans or targets, or cause terrorists to disrupt or delay their plans. If you see suspicious activity, report it to your local police department sheriff's office or to the FBI.
Third, let me say that the face of Al Qaida may be changing. It is possible Al Qaida will attempt to infiltrate young Middle Eastern extremists into America, as they did before September 11th. Al Qaida is a resilient and adaptable organization, known for altering tactics in the face of new security measures.
Intelligence sources suggest that ideal Al Qaida operatives may now be in their late 20s or early 30s and may travel with a family to lower their profile.
Our intelligence confirms Al Qaida is seeking recruits who can portray themselves as Europeans. Al Qaida also attracts Muslim extremists among many nationalities and ethnicities, including North Africans and South Asians, as well as recruiting young Muslim converts of any nationality inside target countries.
Fourth, the FBI has established a 2004 threat task force to focus on this developing threat over this summer and fall period.
ASHCROFT: The task force will coordinate our intelligence, analysis and field operations.
Analysts at FBI headquarters and in every field office are reviewing previously collected intelligence to re-analyze it and determine what additional information we need to collect in order to be best positioned to disrupt attacks.
We have asked the 84 joint terrorism task forces, that is our partners with state and local law enforcement, to collect specific information, to develop additional intelligence sources and to report that information to the 2004 threat task force for further analysis.
Director Mueller and I review personally the threat intelligence daily and it is shared throughout the government.
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