FBI Director Robert Mueller told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today that the bureau is working hard to strengthen its counter-terrorism efforts to prevent another event like the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner.
Mueller listed several terrorist plots and threats that have been stopped in the past year, including the alleged bombing plans of airport shuttle driver Najibullah Zazi, who was arrested in Denver in September. But he said there are new threats from homegrown terrorists, extremists from new sanctuaries and lone offenders from the United States.
“We can and must do more in response to these threats,” Mueller said at the hearing on improving counter-terrorism efforts and communication between different government agencies. Read Mueller’s full prepared statement for the record here.
Senators on both sides of the aisle expressed concern about how the alleged Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was was able to board a Detroit-bound plane despite red flags that popped up on the Nigerian.
“How did someone who paid for an airline ticket with cash, who boarded without luggage for a winter trip to Detroit, and whose father had come to U.S. officials weeks before to warn that his son had become radicalized, board a flight for the United States with a valid visa?” Judiciary panel Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said at the hearing. Read his full statement for the record here.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the panel, said the attempted Christmas Day attack showed that the “War On Terrorism” is “still being waged.”
“It’s clear that eight years after 9/11, there are still holes in our counter-terrorism system,” Sessions said. He added: “We need to get this right.” Read Sessions’s full statement for the record here.
Mueller said there have been “some expansions” on the “no-fly list,” which includes the names of individuals with suspected terrorist ties. He said there are “several thousand” people on the list.
The FBI director also cited other improvements that the bureau has made, including the restructuring of the intelligence gathering groups in all of the field offices and the development of a team to help assess and standardize FBI intelligence-gathering programs.
“These changes are part and parcel of our ongoing campaign to ‘know our domain,’ as we say,” Mueller said in his prepared statement. “Domain awareness is a 360-degree understanding of all national security and criminal threats in any given city, community, or region. It is the aggregation of intelligence, to include what we already know and what we need to know, and the development of collection plans to find the best means to answer the unknowns. With this knowledge, we can identify emerging threats, allocate resources effectively, and identify new opportunities for intelligence collection and criminal prosecution.”