March 24, 2006

Changed FBI would not miss terror warnings: Mueller

By Jeff Franks

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The FBI has changed since the 9/11
attacks and would not miss warnings like those it had about
September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, now on trial for
his life, FBI Director Robert Mueller said on Friday.

He said every "counterterror" lead was now followed and the
FBI, CIA and other members of the intelligence community were
fully sharing information in a way they could not before.

"A lot of things have changed in the FBI since September
11," Mueller said at a speech to the Houston Forum Club.

Moussaoui has denied involvement in the September 11, 2001
hijacking attacks on New York and Washington but said he was to
take part in a second wave of attacks on the White House. He
has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is on trial in Virginia to
determine whether he will be sentenced to death.

FBI agent Harry Samit testified this week he arrested
Moussaoui in August 2001 on suspicion he was involved in a
hijacking plot, but his superiors thwarted efforts to get a
search warrant because they had no information linking
Moussaoui to an extremist group.

Now, Mueller said, "We understand the necessity of having
centralized data bases, the necessity of looking at every
counterterror lead and making sure every lead is pursued."

He said the Patriot Act and court rulings had broken down
barriers within the FBI and between it and other agencies so
that information was regularly shared.

"The Patriot Act has broken down the walls," he said. "In
large part, before September 11, 2001, we were hampered in our
ability to undertake the kind of aggressive type of
investigations that we are currently doing today."

Patriot Act critics say the law has removed protections
against government spying on U.S. citizens, but Mueller said
the FBI was careful not to abuse its growing power.

"We are watchful. As we receive new tools, whether it be
under the Patriot Act or otherwise, we assure that those tools
are not abused and that we maintain our allegiance to the
Constitution, the appropriate statutes and the Attorney
General's guidelines," he said.

When asked about recent disclosures that President George
W. Bush authorized surveillance of international phone calls
and e-mails without search warrants, Mueller declined to

"It's something that's classified I'd rather not get into,"
he said.