Posted: 5/20/2002 9:51:35 AM EDT
[b]"Cheney said Sunday he sees ``a real possibility'' that walk-in suicide bombers may hit the United States if those who have
attacked Israel succeed in changing the situation in the Middle East.[/b]
FBI Chief Says Suicide Bombers Likely Will Hit U.S.
By RON FOURNIER
.c The Associated Press
ALEXANDRIA, VA. (May 20) - It is inevitable that suicide bombers like those who have attacked Israeli restaurants and buses will strike the United States, FBI Director Robert Mueller said Monday as the White House answered criticism with fresh terrorism warnings.
''There will be another terrorist attack. We will not be able to stop it,'' Mueller told the National Association of District Attorneys meeting in suburban Alexandria, Va. ''It's something we all live with.''
Responding to U.S. intelligence and political pressure, the White House in recent days has increased the volume of warnings while spelling out a wider range of scary scenarios.
Mueller's sobering predictions - ''I wish I could be more optimistic'' - came one day after Vice President Dick Cheney said it was almost a certainty the United States would be attacked again by terrorists.
And, in a reminder of America's lingering vulnerabilities, the Justice Department's inspector general said Monday that the system for tracking foreign students is ''significantly flawed'' and won't be fixed by a January deadline.
Three of the Sept. 11 hijackers held student visas.
Under fire for its handling of terrorism intelligence before the September attacks, the Bush administration is fighting Democratic-led efforts to have an independent commission rather than existing congressional intelligence committees study its performance.
Calling for a commission, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., said various branches of government possessed information last summer about the Sept. 11 terrorists. ''Unfortunately, these and perhaps other documents were not compiled in a manner that enabled our counterterrorism experts to use them most effectively,'' he said.
Signals are mixed about the potential for a second attack.
The latest intelligence shows a marked increase in activity by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network over the past few weeks, suggesting new attacks may again be in the offing, said a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
And yet the White House has not elevated the level of alert from ''code yellow'' and has no plan to do so, several officials said. Yellow means there is a significant risk of attack, unchanged since the color-coded system was established in mid-March.
The intelligence is coming from a variety of sources and doesn't conclusively point to a particular target, date or method of attack, the U.S. official said. While some reports do contain specifics about attacks in the works, that information generally hasn't been corroborated, the official said.
There is an element of politics to the administration's warnings, officials acknowledged.
Stung by criticism, Bush advisers argued privately Monday that their terrorism warnings issued before Sept. 11 were not heard by the public and are now being conveniently forgotten by critics.
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