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  • Louis J. Freeh
  • Director, FBI
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee
  • Washington, DC
  • May 16, 2001

Good afternoon, Chairman Stevens, Chairman Warner, Chairman Shelby, Chairman Gregg and Senator Hollings, Chairman Roberts, and other members of the Committees. I am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the threat of terrorism to the United States. It is a privilege to join with Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet for this panel. Over the past few years, the Central Intelligence Agency has become one of the FBI's strongest partners in preventing acts of terrorism and in bringing to justice international terrorists who commit acts of violence against U.S. citizens and interests. Many of our successes are their successes.

At the outset, I would like to recognize the Committees for undertaking this comprehensive series of hearings. Through these hearings, you have brought together the many agencies in the U.S. Government that are partners in dealing with both the response to acts of terrorism so that we might identify, apprehend, and prosecute those responsible for such acts, and with the consequences of terrorist acts so that we might mitigate the impact of these acts on individual victims, communities, and the Nation.

To help establish a framework for today's discussion, I would like to start by providing an assessment of the current international and domestic terrorist threat, a brief discussion of recent trends in terrorism, and a description of the FBI's Counterterrorism strategy being implemented under the leadership of Assistant Director Dale Watson, who heads our Counterterrorism Division. Finally, I would like to describe the Counterterrorism Initiative proposed in our 2002 budget request to Congress.

The threat of terrorism to the United States remains a concern. Over the past five years, the level of acts committed in the United States have increased steadily. There were two known or suspected terrorist acts recorded in the United States in 1995, three in 1996, four in 1997, five in 1998, and 12 in 1999. The 12 known or suspected acts in 1999 included two separate acts committed by lone domestic extremists in California and Indiana/Illinois, eight acts attributed to animal rights and environmental extremists, one bombing incident believed carried out by separatists in Puerto Rico, and one arson incident possibly committed by animal rights extremists or anarchists in Washington State. In addition to the 12 known or suspected terrorist acts in 1999, seven planned acts of terrorism were prevented in the United States during the year.

The FBI is currently investigating several criminal acts committed in the United States during 2000 and 2001 for possible designation as acts of terrorism.

The International Terrorist Situation

International terrorism involves violent acts, or acts dangerous to human life, that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state, and which are intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the police of a government, or affect the conduct of a government. Acts of international terrorism transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the intended persons they appear to intimidate, or the locale in which the perpetrators operate.

The United States continues to face a formidable challenge from international terrorism. The prevention of planned terrorist plots in the United States, Jordan, and Pakistan in December 1999 and the bombing of the U.S. S. Cole in Yemen in October 2000 underscore the range of threats to U.S. citizens and interests posed by international terrorists. In general terms, the international terrorist threat can be divided into three categories: loosely affiliated extremists operating under the radical international jihad movement, formal terrorist organizations, and state sponsors of terrorism. Each of these categories represents a threat to U.S. citizens and interests, both abroad and at home.

Loosely affiliated extremists. Loosely affiliated extremists, motivated by political or religious beliefs, may pose the most urgent threat to the United States. Within this category, Sunni Islamic extremists, such as Usama bin Laden and individuals affiliated with his Al-Qaeda organization, have demonstrated a willingness and capability to carry out attacks resulting in large-scale casualties and destruction against U.S. citizens, facilities, and interests, as demonstrated by the August 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa. Al-Qaeda is a well organized and financed criminal network comprised of structured, hierarchical cells in numerous countries around the world. However, the threat from Al-Qaeda is only part of the overall threat from the radical international jihad movement. This movement is comprised of individuals from varying nationalities, ethnic groups, tribes, races, and terrorist group members who work together in support of extremist Sunni goals. One of the primary Sunni goals is the removal of U.S. military forces from the Persian Gulf area, most notably Saudi Arabia. The single common element among these diverse individuals is their commitment to the radial international jihad movement, which includes a radicalized ideology and agenda for promoting the use of violence against the "enemies of Islam" in order to overthrow all governments which are not ruled by Sharia, or conservative Islamic law. A primary tactical objective of this movement is the planning and carrying out of large-scale, high-profile, high-casualty terrorist attacks against U.S. interests and citizens and those of our allies, worldwide.

Formal terrorist organizations. The second category of international terrorist threat is made up of formal terrorist organizations. Typically, these autonomous, generally
transnational organizations have their own infrastructures, personnel, financial arrangements, and training facilities. These organizations are capable of planning and mounting terrorist campaigns on an international basis. A number of these organizations maintain operations and support networks in the United States. For example, extremist groups such as the Palestinian Hamas, the Irish Republican Army, the Egyptian Al-Gama Al-Islamiyya, and the Lebanese Hizballah have a presence in the United States whose members are primarily engaged in fund-raising, recruiting, and low-level intelligence gathering. In July 2000, an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation led to the arrests of 23 individuals alleged to be supporters of Hizballah in Charlotte, Concord, and Lexington, North Carolina. These individuals were charged with a variety of offenses, including providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, immigration and visa fraud, bribery of government officials, and money laundering.

Hizballah is responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other terrorist group, including the terrorist network of Usama bin Laden. Among the notorious acts committed by this group are the 1983 truck bombings of the United States Embassy and United States Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon, the 1984 bombing of the United States Embassy Annex in Beirut, and the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, during which United States Navy diver Robert Stehem, a passenger on the flight, was murdered by the hijackers. To date, however, Hizballah has not carried out a terrorist act in the United States.

State sponsors of terrorism. The third category of the international terrorist threat is comprised of state sponsors of terrorism, or countries that view terrorism as a tool of foreign policy. Presently, the Department of State lists seven countries as state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Syria, Cuba, and North Korea. Of these, Iran represents the greatest terrorist threat to the United States. Despite a moderation in its public anti-U.S. rhetoric since the election of Mohammed Khatemi as president, the Government of Iran remains controlled by conservative clerics opposed to reform and normalization of relations with Western countries. The Government of Iran continues to target dissidents living outside the country and supports financially and logistically anti-Western acts of terrorism by others. Syria has not been directly involved in conducting terrorist activities for a number of years; however, the country still provides safe haven to international terrorist groups and rogue extremists. Cuba and North Korea appear to have significantly reduced their direct involvement with terrorism due to the rapidly diminishing capacity of their economies to support such activities.

The Domestic Terrorism Threat

Domestic terrorist groups represent interests that span the full spectrum of political and economic viewpoints, as well as social issues and concerns. It is important to understand, however, that FBI investigations of domestic terrorist groups or individuals are not predicated upon social or political beliefs; rather, FBI investigations are based upon information regarding planned or actual criminal activity. The FBI views domestic terrorism as the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual that is based and operating entirely within the United States or its territories without foreign direction and which is committed against persons or property with the intent of intimidating or coercing a government or its population in furtherance of political or social objectives. The current domestic terrorist threat primarily comes from right-wing extremist groups, left-wing and Puerto Rican extremist groups, and special interest extremists.

Right-wing extremist groups. Fight-wing terrorist groups often adhere to the principles of racial supremacy and embrace antigovernment, antiregulatory beliefs. Generally, extremist right-wing groups engage in activity that is protected by constitutional guarantees of free speech and assembly. Law enforcement becomes involved when the volatile talk of these groups transgresses into unlawful action.

On the national level, formal right-wing hate groups, such as World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) and the Aryan Nations, represent a continuing terrorist threat. Although efforts have been made by some extremist groups to reduce openly racist rhetoric in order to appeal to a broader segment of the population and to focus increased attention on anti-government sentiment, racism-based hatred remains an integral component of these groups, core orientations.

Right-wing extremists continue to represent a serious terrorist threat. Two of the seven planned acts of terrorism prevented in 1999 were potentially large-scale, high-casualty attacks being planned by organized right-wing extremists. In December 1999, individuals associated with an anti-government group and who were planning to attack a large propane storage facility in Elk Grove, California, were arrested by the Sacramento Joint Terrorism Task Force. When arrested, these individuals were in possession of detonation cord, blasting caps, grenade hulls, weapons, and various chemicals, including ammonium nitrate. Also in 1999, the FBI interrupted plans by members of the Southeastern States Alliance -- an umbrella organization of militias in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and other southern states - to steal weapons from national guard armories in Central Florida, attack power lines in several states, and ambush federal law enforcement officers. The goal of this group was to create social and political chaos, thereby forcing the U.S. Government to declare martial law, an act the group believed would lead to a violent overthrow of the Government by the American people.

Left-wing and Puerto Rican extremist groups. The second category of domestic terrorists, left-wing groups, generally profess a revolutionary socialist doctrine and view themselves as protectors of the people against the "dehumanizing effects" of capitalism and imperialism. They aim to bring about change in the United States through revolution rather than through the established political process. From the 1960s to the 1980s, leftist-oriented extremist groups posed the most serious domestic terrorist threat to the United States. In the 1980s, however, the fortunes of the leftist movement changed dramatically as law enforcement dismantled the infrastructure of many of these groups and the fall of communism in Eastern Europe deprived the movement of its ideological foundation and patronage.

Terrorist groups seeking to secure full Puerto Rican independence from the United
States through violent means represent one of the remaining active vestiges of left-wing
terrorism. While these groups believe that bombings alone will not result in change, they view these acts of terrorism as a means by which to draw attention to their desire for independence. During the 1970s and 1980s numerous leftist groups, including extremist Puerto Rican separatist groups such as the Armed Forces for Puerto Rican National Liberation (FALN – Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional Puertorriquena), carried out bombings on the U.S. mainland, primarily in and around New York City. However, just as the leftist threat in general declined dramatically throughout the 1990s, the threat posed by Puerto Rican extremist groups to mainland U.S. communities decreased during the past decade.

Acts of terrorism continue to be perpetrated, however, by violent separatists in Puerto Rico. Three acts of terrorism and one suspected act of terrorism have taken place in various Puerto Rican locales during the past three years. These acts, including the March 1998 bombing of a super-aqueduct project in Arecibo, the bombings of bank offices in Rio Piedras and Santa Isabel in June 1998, and the bombing of a highway in Hato Rey, remain under investigation. The extremist Puerto Rican separatist group Los Macheteros is suspected in each of these attacks.

Anarchists and extremist socialist groups -- many of which, such as the Workers' World Party, Reclaim the Streets, and Carnival Against Capitalism -- have an international presence and, at times, also represent a potential threat in the United States. For example, anarchists, operating individually and in groups, caused much of the damage during the 1999 World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle.

Special interest extremists. Special interest terrorism differs from traditional right-wing and left-wing terrorism in that extremist special interest groups seek to resolve specific issues, rather than effect more widespread political change. Special interest extremists continue to conduct acts of politically motivated violence to force segments of society, including, the general public, to change attitudes about issues considered important to their causes. These groups occupy the extreme fringes of animal rights, pro-life, environmental, anti-nuclear, and other political and social movements. Some special interest extremists -- most notably within the animal rights and environmental movements -- have turned increasingly toward vandalism and terrorist activity in attempts to further their causes.

In recent years, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) -- an extremist animal rights movement -- has become one of the most active extremist elements in the United States. Despite the destructive aspects of ALF's operations, its operational philosophy discourages acts that harm "any animal, human and nonhuman." Animal rights groups in the United States, including ALF, have generally adhered to this mandate. A distinct but related group, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), claimed responsibility for the arson fires set at a Vail, Colorado, ski resort in October 1998 that destroyed eight separate structures and caused $12 million dollars in damages. In a communique issued after the fires, ELF claimed that the fires were in retaliation for the resort's planned expansion that would destroy the last remaining habitat in Colorado for the lynx. Eight of the terrorist incidents occurring in the United States during 1999 have been attributed to either ALF or ELF. Several additional acts committed during 2000 and 2001 are currently being reviewed for possible designation as terrorist incidents.

Current Trends in Terrorism

In addition to the activities of individuals and groups, two other factors, the growing interest in the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists and other groups and the potential use of the Internet and cyberspace to commit acts of terrorism, are factors that contribute to the current terrorist threat to the United States.

Weapons of mass destruction. The trend toward high-profile, high-impact attacks comes at a time when interest is growing among both international and domestic terrorist groups in acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD ). Currently, there is no credible information that a terrorist group has acquired, developed, or is planning to use chemical, biological, or radiological agents in the United States. However, there has been an increase in the number of cases or incidents involving use or threatened use of such agents in the United States. Between 1997 and 2000, the FBI investigated 779 WMD-related reports, generally involving individuals or small groups. The vast majority of these cases were found to be false or fabricated reports. The biological toxin ricin and the bacterial agent anthrax are emerging as the most prevalent agents involved in investigations. In 2000, 90 of II 5 biological threats investigated by the FBI involved threatened use of anthrax. While actual ricin toxin has been involved in a limited number of cases, anthrax agents have not been uncovered in any law enforcement investigation in the United States to date. Given the potential for inflicting large-scale injury or death, the efforts of international and domestic terrorists to acquire WMD remains a significant concern and priority of the FBI.

Terrorist use of emerging technology. Terrorist groups are increasingly using new information technology and the Internet to formulate plans, recruit members, communicate between cells and members, raise funds, and spread propaganda. Last year, in his statement on the Worldwide Threat in 2000, DCI Tenet testified before Congress that terrorist groups, "including Hizballah, Hamas, the Abu Nidal Organization, and bin Laden's Al-Queda Organization are using computerized files, e-mail, and encryption to support their operations." While these terrorist groups have not employed cyber-tools as a weapon to use against critical infrastructures, the reliance, accessibility, and expertise of these groups with computer and information technology networks and systems represents a clear warning sign.

Other terrorist groups, such as the Internet Black Tigers, who are reportedly affiliated with the Tamil Tigers, have engaged in attacks on foreign government web-sites and e-mail servers. During the unrest on the West Bank in the Fall of 2000, Israeli Government sites were subjected to e-mail flooding and "ping" attacks. These attacks allegedly originated with Islamic elements and were an attempt to inundate the systems with e-mail messages and degrade or deny services.

The FBI believes cyber-terrorism, the use of cyber-tools to shut down, degrade, or deny critical national infrastructures, such as energy, transportation, communications, or government services, for the purpose of coercing or intimidating a government or civilian population, is clearly an emerging threat for which its must develop prevention, deterrence, and response capabilities.

FBI Counterterrorism Jurisdiction and Role

The FBI is the lead federal agency for investigating terrorism. Under statutory authority granted by Title 28, United States Code, Section 533, the Attorney General has specifically assigned the FBI "lead agency responsibilities in investigating all crimes for which it has primary or concurrent jurisdiction and which involve terrorist activities or acts in preparation of terrorist activities within the statutory jurisdiction of the United States". In the United States, this would include the collection, coordination, analysis, management and dissemination of intelligence and criminal information as appropriate. If another federal agency identifies an individual who is engaged in terrorist activities or acts in preparation of terrorist activities, that agency is requested to promptly notify the FBI.

In addition, the FBI's role as a lead agency for investigating terrorism matters is supported by various Presidential Decision Directives (PDD). For example:

  • PDD-3 9 sets forth the U.S. counterterrorism policy and outlines the FBI's jurisdictional responsibilities in relation to terrorism: "unless otherwise specified by the Attorney General, the FBI shall have lead responsibility for operational response to terrorist incidents that take place within U.S. territory or that occur in international waters and do not involve the flag vessel of a foreign country. Within this role, the FBI functions as the on-scene manager for the U.S. Government." Moreover, "the FBI shall have lead responsibility for investigating terrorist acts planned or carried out by foreign or domestic terrorist groups in the U.S. or which are directed at U.S. citizens or institutions abroad."
  • PDD-62 grants the Department of Justice, acting through the FBI, lead agency or operational response authority to a incident.
  • PDD-63 directs that the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) serve as a national critical infrastructure threat assessment, warning, vulnerability, and law enforcement investigation and response entity and that its mission "will include providing timely warnings of intentional threats, comprehensive analyses and law enforcement investigation and response." Under the directive, the Department of Justice/FBI have been given the responsibility for the Emergency Law Enforcement Services Sector. Helping assure the security of law enforcement agencies across the United States greatly increases preparedness to deal with terrorist incidents.
  • PDD-77 set forth requirements for returning suspected terrorists to stand trial in the United States.

Various statutes give the FBI authority to investigate terrorist crimes committed overseas. Chief among these are the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which created a new section in the U.S. Criminal Code for Hostage Taking, and the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Anti-terrorism Act of 1986, which established a new statute pertaining to terrorist acts conducted abroad against U.S. nationals and/or its interests (Extraterritorial Terrorism Statute).

FBI Counterterrorism Strategy

The strategic goal of the FBI's Counterterrorism Program is to identify, prevent, deter, and respond to acts of terrorism. In the area of responding to terrorist incidents after they occur, the FBI, with the support of the Congress and the Administration, has greatly improved its crisis response capabilities since the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. One can look to such investigative successes, as the indictment of 22 individuals in connection with the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 to understand the FBI's far reaching capability to respond to terrorist incidents abroad as well as at home.

Even though the FBI has realized successes in responding to acts of terrorism, the FBI recognizes that the underlying political/religious/social movements which produced recent acts of terrorism are beyond its control- therefore, the FBI will never be able to prevent all acts of terrorism. International terrorists have demonstrated their willingness and ability to strike against citizens and facilities of the United States not only in foreign lands, but also here at home. Fast-paced global changes, such as the widespread growth in international trade and commerce; greater international openness and exchange of ideas brought about by improvements in communications and the Internet; shifts in the balance of political/social/economic forces in developing and established countries; and a growing international financial dependence, among others, continue to present the FBI with new challenges in the area of terrorism prevention.

In an effort to keep pace with the changing terrorist threat to the United States, the FBI is implementing a new management and operational initiative to further strengthen its ability to combat terrorism. This initiative, referred to as MAXCAP05, has as its goal the achievement by Fiscal Year 2005 of five core competencies or capacities for its Counterterrorism Program: investigative, intelligence, communications, liaison, and program management.

  • Investigative Capacity is the extent to which each FBI Field Office is appropriately staffed, trained, equipped, and managed to prevent and effectively respond to acts of terrorism based on the known terrorist threat in that field office.
  • Intelligence Capacity is the ability to produce, use, and appropriately disseminate on a timely basis strategic, operational, and tactical Counterterrorism intelligence products.
  • Communications Capacity is the capability to fully utilize and integrate FBI resources throughout the Bureau in support of Counterterrorism programs and initiatives through the use of appropriate information technology.
  • Liaison Capacity is the capacity to prioritize, establish, and maintain sound and productive relationships with external counterparts in the intelligence community, law enforcement communities, other federal agencies, defense establishments, foreign services, private industry and non-governmental organizations, State and local agencies, legislative and executive bodies, the media, and academia to obtain maximum information and support.
  • Program Management Capacity is the capacity to effectively direct, measure, and manage the Counterterrorism Program's progress toward identifying and achieving its core competencies.

The FBI recently completed a field-wide assessment of investigative capacity. This assessment has been used to establish operational priorities. More importantly, the baseline assessments can serve as a starting point upon which progress towards achieving core competencies can be measured. Field office assessments will be updated semiannually.

2002 Counterterrorism Budget Request

For FY 200 1, the FBI is requesting increases totaling $32,059,000 and 42 positions (8 agents) to improve and enhance existing counterterrorism capabilities and operations.

2002 Winter Olympics Preparation. The 2002 Winter Olympic Games have been designated a National Special Security Event. Consistent with FBI lead-agency responsibilities for intelligence collection and crisis management as contained in PDD-39 and PDD-62, the FBI is working closely with the United State Secret Service and other federal, state, and local law enforcement and consequence management agencies to plan for security and public safety issues for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games that will be hosted by Salt Lake City, Utah.

For FY 2002, the FBI requests increases totaling $12,302,000 for 2002 Winter Olympic Games deployment. The funding requested will cover travel, per diem, vehicle lease, utilities, telecommunications, and FBI overtime costs for the planned deployment of over 800 FBI personnel for the event period. The Salt Lake City games will be conducted at 20 official Olympic venues spread over a 6,000 square mile area. Olympic competition will take place simultaneously at 10 venues in 3 major cities and 6 remote mountain resort areas.

Recurring Security Services. The FBI is committed to implementing the security standards contained in the June 1995 Department of Justice report entitled,
"Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities." For FY 2002, the FBI requests an increase of $2,020,000 to acquire contract guard services for six stand-alone field office facilities where GSA does not provide such service ($1,600,000), replace an outdated closed-circuit television (CCTV) security system at FBI Headquarters ($320,000), and replace three guard booths at FBI Headquarters to facilitate new visitor identification procedures ($100,000).

Incident Response Readiness. Consistent with the provisions of PDD-62, the FBI initiated a long-term program in FY 2000 to develop law enforcement capabilities for the technical resolution of a weapons of mass destruction incident involving chemical, biological, or radiological threats or devices. Initial funding for this effort was provided through an interagency agreement with the Department of Defense. For FY 2002, the FBI requests 42 positions (8 agents) and $17,737,000 to support ongoing efforts in the areas of threat assessment, diagnostics, and advanced render safe equipment.

In addition to the FBI's Counterterrorism initiative for FY 2002, there is funding proposed within another Department of Justice program that is considered important to the FBI's ongoing counterterrorism efforts.

State and Local Bomb Technician Equipment. Within the funding proposed for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), $ 10,000,000 is included to continue an FBI Laboratorymanaged program of training and equipping approximately 386 accredited State and local bomb squads located in communities throughout the United States.

Continuation of funding for this program will ensure State and local bomb squads are properly trained and equipped for dealing with traditional improvised and explosive devices, as well as the initial response to devices that may be used by terrorists or others to release chemical or biological agents. Through this program, the FBI has provided State and local bomb squads with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) protective search suits, real-time x-ray devices, multi-gas monitoring systems, portable radiation detectors, and computers to access the Chemical and Biological Organisms - Law Enforcement database through the Law Enforcement On-line (LEO) program. This initiative compliments the State and local bomb technician training and accreditation program that the FBI Laboratory provides at the Hazardous Devices School, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.


Combating terrorism is a priority of the FBI. Through the support of the Administration and the Congress, the FBI has been able to greatly improve its crisis response capabilities to respond to such acts when and wherever they occur. The management and operational strategy that the FBI is implementing will further improve its capacity to counter terrorism. We believe this strategy will allow the FBI to continually refine, adjust, and upgrade our response capacities in the face of new threats and groups. Also, this strategy recognizes and emphasizes the importance of the capacity for gathering and sharing intelligence on a timely basis with other agencies involved in countering terrorism. The strategy places a premium on the importance of establishing and maintaining communications and liaison with our federal, State, and local partners. Finally, the strategy emphasizes the effective management and allocation of program resources provided by the Congress.

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