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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
FBI 'admits' terror warning failure
FBI Director Robert Mueller with a board listing the FBI's priorities
Mueller: who knows what could have happened?
The director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has acknowledged that investigators might have been able to uncover part of the plot that led to the terror attacks of 11 September.

In what is believed to be the first time a US official has admitted this, Robert Mueller said if all the clues had been put together, "who is to say" what could have been discovered.

Around 3,000 people died in the 11 September attacks
The new FBI will focus primarily on preventing terror attacks
Mr Mueller was speaking after announcing measures to restructure the FBI following criticism of its handling of intelligence reports prior to last year's attacks.

The shake-up - one of the most far-reaching in the history of the bureau - is intended to shift the focus of the FBI away from fighting everyday crime to combating terrorism.

On Thursday, US officials are to announce further measures to allow the FBI to monitor internet sites, libraries and religious institutions without the need of evidence of criminal activity.

Connecting the dots

One of the main criticisms levelled against the FBI came from a field agent in Minneapolis who complained that FBI headquarters in Washington ignored information about Zacarias Moussaoui, who is alleged to have been involved in planning the 11 September attacks.


You no longer have to be doing something wrong in order to get that FBI knock on the door

Laura W Murphy, American Civil Liberties Union
In her criticism, Coleen Rowley said that agents in Minneapolis unsuccessfully appealed for a search warrant for Mr Moussaoui's computer after he was arrested at a local flying school.

The FBI is also under fire for its failure to act on information from field agents in Phoenix, which might have given clues about the terrorist attacks.

Acknowledging the FBI's failure to make the connection, Mr Mueller said: "I can't say for sure that there wasn't the possibility that we would have come across some lead that would have led us to the hijackers."

The FBI head said: "It is of critical importance that we have that connection of dots to prevent another attack."

New powers

The revamped FBI is to take on an extra 1,600 agents and develop closer ties with its overseas counterpart - the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

US Attorney General John Ashcroft has described the plans as "shifting the FBI's structure, culture and mission to one of preventing terrorism".

Zacarias Moussaoui
An FBI agent warned of terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui
On Thursday, the justice department is unveiling guidelines to relax restrictions on FBI surveillance of people and data even before evidence of any involvement in criminal activity.

The new guidelines will allow FBI agents to enter public places and forums to observe, develop leads and to investigate.

The current restrictions - in place since the 1970s - do not permit surveillance that is not related to a specific lead or offence.

Human rights groups have expressed alarm at what they see as an effort by the US administration to curtail civil liberties in the name of improving counter-terrorism activities.

"These new guidelines say to the American people that you no longer have to be doing something wrong in order to get that FBI knock on the door," said Laura W Murphy, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
FBI shake-up
Does the bureau revamp make you feel safer?

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30 May 02 | Americas
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