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Facts and Figures 2003


Counterterrorism

Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia JTTF PatchCounterterrorism has always been a top priority for the FBI, but today it is the Bureau's overriding mission to prevent acts of terrorism before they happen. This effort is managed by the Counterterrorism Division at Headquarters and carried out by every individual field office, resident agency, and Legat. Headquarters provides a team of analysts who work to put together bits of information gathered by the field offices. Headquarters also administers a national threat warning system that allows the FBI to instantly distribute important bulletins to law enforcement agencies and public safety departments. "Flying Squads" provide specialized counterterrorism knowledge and experience, language capabilities, and analytical support as needed to FBI field offices and Legats.

The FBI's Counterterrorism Division collects, analyzes, and shares critical information and intelligence with the proper authorities to combat terrorism on three fronts: 1) international terrorism operations both within the United States and in support of extraterritorial investigations; 2) domestic terrorism operations; and 3) counterterrorism relating to both international and domestic terrorism.

An essential weapon in the battle against terrorists is the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). A National JTTF, located at Headquarters, includes representatives from the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Customs Service, Secret Service, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Additionally, there are 66 local Joint Terrorism Task Forces where representatives from federal agencies, state and local law enforcement personnel, and first responders work shoulder-to-shoulder to track down terrorists and prevent acts of terrorism in the US

For more information on the FBI's counterterrorism efforts, go to http://www.fbi.gov/terrorinfo/terrorism.htm

Counterterrorism Case: PENTTBOM
On the morning of September 11, 2001, at 8:45 a.m., hijacked American Airlines Flight #11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Twenty minutes later, another hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight #175, crashed into the South Tower. One hundred fifty-seven people were killed on the two planes, and thousands were killed in the towers and on the ground when the two towers collapsed. At 9:39 a.m., a third hijacked plane, American Airlines Flight #77, crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, killing 64 people on the plane and 125 on the ground. At 10:10 a.m., hijacked United Airlines Flight #93 crashed in Stony Creek Township, Pennsylvania, killing 44 passengers and crew.

NYC Command Post after September 11, 2001
The September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City drove FBI personnel from the New York Field Office. Agents and support personnel quickly stood up a temporary command center and worked closely with law enforcement and first responders in the hours following the attack.

Within minutes of these attacks, the FBI's Command Center, the Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC) was operational. SIOC provided analytical, logistical, and administrative support for the teams on the ground in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. A new command center in New York City had to be established because the FBI field office was too close to "ground zero." Evidence response teams and the FBI's Disaster Squad were deployed to the crash sites.

Efforts began as a search-and-rescue mission. As days passed, the crash sites became crime scenes, and the tedious process of evidence collection began. Focus shifted from rescue efforts to a large-scale, global terrorism investigation. The FBI quickly mobilized more than 7,000 employees to support the investigation - the most complex and comprehensive in its history. At the peak of the investigation, more than 6,000 Special Agents were working on the case. Over 250 Laboratory and other personnel and 20 Legats overseas were pursuing leads and coordinating investigative activities with their foreign counterparts.

FBI personnel worked around the clock, chasing down thousands upon thousands of leads and conducting hundreds of interviews. They searched through mountains of debris at ground zero and at the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island looking for clues, identifying remains, and examining vast amounts of evidence.

Several hundred Special Agents were sent around the world to pursue leads, to interview detained terrorist suspects in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and other locations, and to support the work of national and international partners.

FBI investigators found letters handwritten in Arabic in three separate locations. The first was in a suitcase of hijacker Mohamed Atta, which did not make the connection to American Airlines Flight #11; the second was in a vehicle parked at Dulles International Airport belonging to hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi; and the third was at the crash site in Pennsylvania. Translations of the letters indicate an alarming willingness to die on the part of the hijackers.

Flight voice and data recorders from Flight #93 confirmed that the passengers engaged in a fight for their lives with their four hijackers, saving the lives of unknown individuals on the ground.

Within a matter of days, the FBI identified the 19 hijackers using flight, credit card, banking, and other records. On October 10, the FBI announced a new "Most Wanted Terrorists List." On December 11, the Attorney General and FBI Director announced the indictment of Zacarias Moussaoui in connection with the attacks.

Counterterrorism Case: AHMED RESSAM
On December 14, 1999, Ahmed Ressam, a 34-year-old Algerian, was arrested at Port Angeles, Washington, attempting to enter the United States with components used to manufacture improvised explosive devices. He subsequently admitted that he planned to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on the eve of the Millennium 2000 celebrations.

Forensic scientists from both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the FBI examined the evidence in this case. An FBI Laboratory Explosives Unit examiner compared evidence found in Ressam's motel room with items seized in Post Angeles. The RCMP Laboratory identified the presence of explosives and developed a DNA profile from a pair of pants and shoes recovered in Ressam's apartment. They also observed several holes in the pants that were consistent with an acid spill. With this information, the FBI Seattle Field Office examined Ressam's legs and discovered a large burn. At the trial, a doctor specializing in burns testified that the burn on Ressam's leg was consistent with an acid burn.

In the FBI Laboratory, a piece of hair was observed on a piece of clear tape inside one of the four time-delay fusing systems. The questioned hair was examined by the Trace Evidence Unit and determined to have the same microscopic characteristics as Ahmed Ressam's hairs.

Picture of the Khobar Towers burning
U.S. Embassy bombing, Nairobi, Kenya 1998

Latent prints developed on the four timing devices and a map of Los Angeles showing three airports circled were associated with Ressam. A date book, on which 13 of Ressam's fingerprints were developed, included the addresses of two bin Laden collaborators. It also contained the addresses of the firms that Ressam used to obtain the electronic components and precursor chemicals for the manufacturing of the explosives.

Additionally, credit card purchases at several electronics shops in Montreal, Canada, were discovered. An Explosives Unit examiner traveled to Canada and purchased the same items, demonstrating to the jury that Ressam could have purchased electronic components that were consistent with the components used in the construction of the time delay fusing systems recovered in the trunk of the rental vehicle.

After reviewing the items recovered in Montreal and Vancouver, the Explosives Unit examiner obtained several rolls of tape and a small piece of wire insulation for comparison. Subsequently, a forensic chemist determined that the packaging tape and clear tape recovered in Ressam's Montreal apartment were consistent in physical characteristics and chemical composition to those removed from the time-delay fusing systems. Accordingly, the pieces of tape removed from the four time delay fusing systems could have originated from the roll of packaging tape and clear tape recovered from Ressam's apartment. In addition, a small piece of wire insulation was recovered from the Vancouver motel room. The chemist determined that it was consistent in physical characteristics and chemical composition to the wires used in the time delay fusing systems.

Ahmed Ressam was tried and convicted in federal court of Conspiring to Commit an Act of International Terrorism and eight related charges. Ressam is scheduled to be sentenced in 2003.

Counterterrorism Case: ABORTION CLINIC ANTHRAX THREAT
In October and November, 2001, two waves of threat letters signed by the Army of God and claiming to contain anthrax were sent to abortion clinics and women's health centers. The first wave was sent through the US Postal Service; the second wave was sent by Federal Express. To date, the FBI Laboratory has received over 200 of these letters. Chemistry Unit personnel examined the powders and determined them to be flour and chalk dust. None tested positive for anthrax.

FBI experts made a positive link between fingerprints on threat letters and fingerprints belonging to Clayton Lee Waagner, a 45-year-old fugitive on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List. Waagner was arrested on December 3, 2001.

Counterterrorism Case: BOMBING OF THE USS COLE

On October 12, 2000, the US Navy destroyer USS Cole was attacked by suicide terrorists who steered a small boat alongside the ship as it was refueling in the Yemini port of Aden. The small boat then exploded, tearing a hole 40 feet wide near the waterline of the Cole and killing seventeen US sailors.

The FBI quickly deployed over 100 Agents from the Counterterrorism Division, the Laboratory, and various field offices to Aden. Then-Director Louis Freeh soon arrived to assess the situation and to meet with Yemen President Ali Abdallah Saleh. On November 29, a guidance document was signed between the US State Department and the Yemeni government setting protocols for questioning witnesses and suspects. FBI and Yemini investigators proceeded with interviews, and a large amount of physical evidence was shipped back to the FBI Laboratory for examination.

FBI photographers took pictures of the crime scene that assisted in identifying the victims and provided detailed photographic information regarding the impact of the explosion. Later, FBI personnel from the Explosives Unit, Investigative Support Section, and Special Photographic Unit, as well as Bomb Technicians and Agents from the New York and Jackson Field Offices, traveled to Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where the Cole had been brought, to examine the ship for additional evidence.
The extensive FBI investigation ultimately determined that members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network planned and carried out the bombing.

Picture of USS Cole's damage
Picture of the Oklahoma City bombing aftermath
USS Cole
The Oklahoma City bombing aftermath, April 1995

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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