Deputy Assistant Director J.T. Caruso
FBI Counterterrorism Division
Statement on Pentbomb
House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Def.
October 3, 2001
Good morning Mr. Chairman, Ms. Harman, and Members of the Subcommittee. On behalf
of the men and women of the FBI, I would like to commend you for your leadership
in combating terrorism and to pledge the full support and cooperation of the
FBI in your efforts.
Like all Americans, I am deeply saddened by the tragic events of September 11th.
The terrorist attacks we witnessed are among the most horrific crimes ever committed
against the citizens of this country. As you know, the FBI, in conjunction with
law enforcement and intelligence agencies throughout the United States and the
world, is in the midst of the largest, most complex and perhaps the most critical
criminal and terrorism investigation in our history.
Mr. Chairman, I am limited in what I can discuss today in an open forum. I do
not want to reveal any strategies planned, actions taken, or information received
by the FBI which may jeopardize the pending investigation. Numerous Committees
of the United States Congress, including this one, however, receive frequent
updates on the investigation from the FBI and other agencies. These updates
are provided in closed session which allows us to speak candidly about the sensitive
and classified aspects of this investigation. The FBI will continue to work
with you and your staff in this regard.
Within minutes of the September 11th attacks, the FBI's Command Center, called
the Strategic Information and Operations Center, or SIOC, was operational. Our
efforts began as a search and rescue mission, with SIOC providing multi-agency
analytical, logistical and administrative support for the teams on the ground
in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. Sadly, as days passed, the hope
of finding survivors amid the debris began to wane. The crash sites became crime
scenes and the tedious process of evidence collection began. The focus in SIOC
shifted from rescue efforts to a large scale, global terrorism investigation.
Members and staff of this Subcommittee have had the opportunity to visit SIOC
and to observe our operations in action. You were able to witness firsthand
the cooperation and coordination of every aspect of this investigation by and
between FBI Headquarters, our 56 field offices, and 32 other government agencies
present in the Command Center.
The SIOC currently operates with more than 500 personnel representing these
32 different agencies and their components. Criminal Division lawyers from the
Department of Justice are also working in SIOC both to facilitate obtaining
warrants and to continuously evaluate evidence.
The FBI recognizes that each agency represented in SIOC plays a critical role
in this investigation. We are all working side by side in the Command Center
setting investigative leads, responding to inquiries, and tracking the hijackers'
activities and contacts prior to September 11th. We have enlisted the professional
assistance of our state and local law enforcement partners across the nation
in two ways: first, through our 35 joint terrorism task forces and regional
task forces where federal, state and local law enforcement agencies partner
together on terrorism matters; and, second, through the electronic dissemination
of threat warnings and law enforcement intelligence to police agencies across
the nation. In this way, we reach approximately 18,000 law enforcement agencies
In addition, the FBI has dedicated significant resources to this investigation,
including 4,000 Special Agents and 3,000 support personnel. Over 250 Laboratory
personnel and related field personnel are deployed at the Pentagon and New York
crash sites. Thirty of the FBI's Legal Attache offices overseas are pursuing
leads and coordinating investigation with their foreign counterparts. This is
truly an investigation of global dimension. Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI
Director Mueller are present in the SIOC on a daily basis, actively overseeing
and directing this investigation.
To date, more than 238,000 tips and potential leads have been generated in this
investigation. Over 100,000 of those tips were received through the FBI's Internet
information form available on our website "www.ifccfbi.gov." Another
20,000 tips were received on the FBI's toll-free hotline at 1-866-483-5137.
The remainder have been generated through the dedicated efforts of the FBI field
As you know, the FBI has identified at least 19 hijackers aboard the four airliners
that crashed on September 11th into the North and South Towers of the World
Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and Stony Creek Township, Pennsylvania.
Last week, the FBI released a letter handwritten in Arabic found in three separate
locations: the first, in a suitcase of hijacker Mohammed Atta which did not
make the connection to American Airlines Flight #11 that crashed into the North
Tower of the World Trade Center; the second, in a vehicle parked at Dulles International
Airport belonging to hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi; and the third at the crash site
in Pennsylvania. Translations of the letter indicate an alarming willingness
to die on the part of the hijackers.
We have also located some of the flight recorders and voice data recorders and
are in the process of analyzing them for insights into what took place on board
those flights. With respect to United Airlines Flight #93 that crashed in Pennsylvania,
I can confirm that the passengers engaged in a fight for their lives with their
four hijackers and most likely saved the lives of unknown individuals on the
In addition to potential evidence collected at the scenes of these attacks,
the FBI is working tirelessly to "follow the money" associated with
the 19 hijackers. In the investigation of any terrorist organization, identifying
and tracing funds used to finance and fund the organizations is a critical step.
"Following the money" plays a key role in identifying those involved
in criminal activity, establishing links among them, and developing evidence
of their involvement in the activity. Locating, seizing, and/or freezing assets
tied to terrorist organizations plays a key role in cutting off the financial
lifeblood of these organizations and in not only dismantling the organization,
but in preventing future terrorist acts. Due to the international nature of
terrorist organizations, these investigations require considerable coordination
with foreign authorities as well as the CIA and the Intelligence Community to
ensure that the criminal investigation does not jeopardize or adversely impact
sensitive national security matters. This requires careful adherence to restrictions
separating criminal investigations from those involving national security and
classified intelligence matters.
In the course of this investigation, the level of cooperation by U.S. financial
institutions has been extraordinary. In all respects, the financial institutions
have gone to considerable lengths to provide subpoenaed information as expeditiously
as possible and have done everything possible within the legal framework to
provide any cooperation requested. To date, the federal government has frozen
approximately $6 million in assets both at home and abroad.
One of the inherent difficulties the FBI faces in high-profile investigations
such as this is the plethora of news article accounts -- some accurate, some
partially accurate, and some not accurate at all. I would like to comment on
some of the more prevalent reports regarding the September 11th attacks.
Early in the investigation, reports emerged that the FBI had detained two Middle
Eastern males found wearing Delta Airlines pilots' uniforms, carrying false
pilots' licenses as well as box cutters. These reports were untrue.
According to some media reports, two of the hijackers were on a so-called "FBI
Watch List" and were under active FBI surveillance at the time of the attacks.
Prior to the events of September 11, the FBI did not maintain a "watch
list" and none of the 19 hijackers were under surveillance. In the aftermath
of the attacks, the FBI compiled a list of those individuals who the FBI, through
investigation, determined may have some information about one or more of the
hijackers or about related activities. This list has grown to over 400 names.
It is important to note that these are persons the FBI is interested in interviewing;
they are not 400 suspected hijackers.
Just days ago, the FBI was reported to have foiled a terrorist plot to fly a
hijacked plane into the Sears Tower in Chicago. The FBI is unaware of any such
Media reports also contend that the FBI had advance warnings since 1995 of the
plot to hijack U.S. airliners. The FBI had no warnings about any hijack plots.
There was a widely publicized 1995 conspiracy in the Philippines to remotely
blow up 11 U.S. airliners over the Pacific Ocean but that plot was disrupted.
As is the practice, the information obtained during that investigation was widely
disseminated, even internationally, and thoroughly analyzed by multiple agencies.
It does not connect to the current case.
Most recently, the media has focused on an individual in Minneapolis who has
been detained since August 17 on immigration charges. It has been suggested
that this individual, Zacarias Moussaoui, was training to be the fifth hijacker
on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. Media accounts also suggest that
the FBI did not actively investigate Moussaoui until after the September 11th
attacks. The FBI conducted vigorous investigation of Moussaoui upon learning
of his detention in mid-August, to include seizing his computer, contacting
foreign officials for additional information, and seeking a number of authorities
under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to conduct further investigation.
In addition, information about Moussaoui was shared throughout the Intelligence
Community prior to September 11th. Although there was insufficient evidence
to establish that Moussaoui was an "agent" of a foreign power or terrorist
group as required for a FISA warrant, the FBI pursued all reasonable and lawful
investigative steps since mid-August.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and the Subcommittee for this opportunity
to address some of these media reports and to describe the extraordinary interagency
cooperation in this investigation. The FBI and its sister agencies are literally
working around the clock to determine the full scope of these terrorist acts,
to identify all those involved in planning, executing, and assisting in the
commission of these acts, and to bring those responsible to justice.
Even so, we at the FBI are clear as to our mission. Director Mueller has forcefully
and repeatedly articulated our number one priority: to do everything in our
power to prevent the occurrence of any additional terrorist acts. Mr. Chairman,
you and the American people can be assured that the FBI is committed to this
fight. To honor the memories of those who perished on September 11th, we must,
and we will, win this war on terrorism.