Federal News Service
HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE COMMERCE, JUSTICE, STATE AND THE JUDICIARY SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE SUBJECT: THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
CHAIRED BY: SENATOR JUDD GREGG (R-NH)
WITNESSES: ROBERT S. MUELLER III, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION;
LAURIE EKSTRAND, DIRECTOR, HOMELAND SECURITY AND JUSTICE ISSUES, GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE;
RANDOLPH HITE, DIRECTOR, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ARCHITECTURE AND SYSTEMS ISSUES, GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE;
GLENN FINE, INSPECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
LOCATION: 192 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.
SEN. HERB KOHL (D-WI): Thank you, Senator Gregg.
Director Mueller, in light of the recent terrorist attacks at four train stations in Madrid, the security of our own mass transportation system has been called into question. Yesterday, Secretary Ridge announced a new plan to secure our rail system. This effort would include rapid deployment teams which could be deployed to vulnerable rail systems and stations with bomb sniffing dogs. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security will accelerate a pilot program to test equipment for screening passengers and luggage for explosives.
How much confidence do you have in the effectiveness of this proposal to protect against terrorist attacks? How long do you believe it will take to get this program up and running and what role will the FBI be playing to help protect our transportation infrastructure, Director Mueller?
MR. MUELLER: The plan proposed by the Department of Homeland Security will go some ways in hardening our transportation, the rail transportation. I will tell you that, in the past, even prior to the announcement of the new initiative yesterday from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Homeland Security, ourselves and others have worked closely with both the railroads-but most particularly, the subway systems, particularly New York, Washington DC, Boston, elsewhere, Los Angeles, Chicago, to assure heightened protection of those particular targets.
So, as to the first part of the question, yes, the new initiative, that will go some ways again to deterring terrorists from attacking the rail systems because of the heightened security. We have learned both from our experience, from gathering information from around the world and more particularly from our discussions with detainees who were familiar with al Qaeda's thinking that enhanced deterrence deters terrorist attacks and they look for the softer targets.
So, yes, yesterday is yet another step in protecting the rail systems as well as the subways. But the fact of the matter is that, while it goes some substantial ways, one cannot have a failsafe system as we saw in Madrid, two weeks ago. And yes, we are protecting the subways in the various cities I mentioned in conjunction with the transport authorities and the local police but it is not a failsafe system.
As we develop these proposals, we work with the Department of Homeland Security to assure that we have the integrated response to assure that, whatever threat information we have, is immediately passed on to not only the Department of Homeland Security but to the transport authorities or the police departments in the cities that may be threatened. If there is a more general threat, that also is provided basically through two means of communication. The one means is through the Department of Homeland Security advisors throughout the United States and in each of our cities, our major cities. And the second is through the FBI and law enforcement to each of our joint terrorism task forces, of which there are 84 around the country.
SEN. KOHL: Thank you. Director Mueller, current law requires all domestic manufacturers of explosives to mark their products with identifying information. This allows investigators to determine the origin of the explosives and aids them in tracking down criminals. Imported explosives, however, do not have to carry such markings. In 2002, the United States imported 14,900 metric tons of prepared explosives. Without markings, law enforcement is at a distinct disadvantage in investigating crimes involving foreign made explosives. The Justice Department is working on regulations that would require importers to mark explosives when they enter the country but these regulations have not been finalized.
What effect does this loophole have on our ability to effectively investigate crimes involving explosives and would you support legislation that would require appropriate markings to be placed on all imported explosives?
MR. MUELLER: Well, I do believe markings assist investigators in solving the crime so to speak in determining the sourcing of the components in any explosive device and will assist in determining who is responsible for any act using such a device. And so, yes, I think markings are helpful. I will tell you that, in many cases overseas and actually domestically, our laboratory can identify a sourcing of a particular explosive just because of the vast knowledge that they've gained over a number of years as to the manufacturers of various components and their identifying data. But that is not the same as the markings we have domestically.
With regard to the support of that, again, that would be an administration position and I would have to defer to the department as to exactly what position they're taking on a specific piece of legislation.
SEN. KOHL: Would you like to see personally all imported explosives to be marked?
MR. MUELLER: I think markings are helpful to the investigator and the laboratory technician who is trying to identify the sourcing of that explosive.
SEN. KOHL: All right. Director Mueller, the media has reported that biological threats may have played a role in the cancellation of numerous commercial flights in December and January. When asked at a hearing last month, Secretary Ridge admitted that our airline security procedures cannot currently protect against these types of biological threats. Secretary Ridge suggested that the best way to prevent such attacks is to concentrate on going after the people who may launch such an attack. A terrorist watchlist is vital to our national security. The FBI, through the creation of the Terrorist Screening Center, known as TSC, is partially responsible for creating a single integrated terrorist watchlist.
In a recent interview, you said that this integrated list would be completed by March. Is the TSC list fully operational today with the completely integrated watchlist? And if it is not, when can we expect such a list to be fully integrated and operational?
MR. MUELLER: The Terrorist Screening Center was first established on December 1st of last year and what it brought together was individuals and access to the databases of all the watch lists-there are approximately 12 -- in a variety of agencies in the government. What it brought together at that time was the ability, when there was a hit on the watchlist, to thereafter determine whether it was valid and then the follow-up with action through the Joint Terrorism Task Forces or through the border agencies.
In the meantime, since December 1st, 2003, while that has been operating, the Terrorism Screening Center has been working with each of the agencies that had a relevant watchlist to import its data in a way that assures that the name of a person is a valid name, that there is identifying information that supports it and there is a basis for having the person on a terrorist watchlist. I can tell you that the State Department has a list of easily over 100,000, not just terrorists, but others whom they want to bar from the country. So extracting those names is a substantial process and assuring that there is a basis for that name going onto the watchlist is also a very extensive process.
We are about half-way through that process at this point. We have a consolidated watchlist but we do not have all of the watchlist name in it because we are going through that screening process and I expect it to be finished by this summer.
SEN. KOHL: Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you.