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Ashcroft says more attacks may be planned

Ashcroft
Ashcroft: "These are long, prolonged activities."  


(CNN) -- With the investigation into last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington widening, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday he is concerned there may be more terrorist assaults planned against the United States.

"Frankly, I think we need to be careful and we need to understand that there is a risk," Ashcroft told CNN's "Larry King Live."

"The magnitude and nature of these attacks -- the coordination, the sophistication of these attacks -- indicate to me that they are not sort of random acts by people who are just angry. These are long, prolonged, planned activities."

Asked how concerned he is about "another attack," Ashcroft said, "Very."

Government sources told CNN Monday the hijackers left behind materials suggesting they had backup plans to carry out their missions that ended at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington last Tuesday. No details were given.

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The material was said to have been confiscated from one or more automobiles left at the airports where the hijackers began their suicide flights.

It was not immediately known whether those automobiles included the car at Logan Airport in Boston registered to terrorist Mohammed Atta, who was on the first jetliner that struck the World Trade Center.

Other planes were hijacked out of Newark and Washington-Dulles airports, and a rental car was left in Portland, Maine, where Atta boarded a commuter plane that morning to connect with his flight out of Boston.

Meanwhile, officials told CNN Monday a federal grand jury has been impaneled in New York to investigate the trade center attacks. The jury will meet at a courthouse in suburban White Plains because the justice complex in lower Manhattan remains closed because of the attacks, they said.

In a news conference Monday, FBI Director Robert Mueller rejected suggestions his agency dropped the ball and that at least two suspected hijackers had managed to get in the country despite being on "watch lists."

Mueller said there were "no warning signs" before the terrorist attacks.

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U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft tells CNN's Larry King that risks remain after the attacks (September 18)

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Mueller said he knew of one incident in which a name had been passed on, but that "individual or individuals" was already in the United States.

"It is very difficult, quite often, to find somebody once they're in the country," he said. "There were no warning signs that I'm aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country."

The 19 suspected hijackers identified by the Justice Department all have Middle Eastern roots -- as does Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, the man President Bush has labeled the "prime suspect" -- and the hunt for accomplices has turned up individuals with similar backgrounds.

Mueller said his agency is following up thousands of leads in the search for possible accomplices.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the massive international investigation is not focused solely on bin Laden, who is believed living in Afghanistan.

"We're going to follow the evidence trail. It's not just a single person," Rice said. "It's a large network. Clearly the trail points in that direction, but we aren't saying that that's all. There may be others. We want to be sure what we're looking at."

Elsewhere, technicians have examined the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from United Airlines Flight 93, the Boeing 757 that crashed in western Pennsylvania killing all 44 people on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent the so-called black boxes to the manufacturer, Honeywell International, because the cockpit voice recorder was damaged and the flight data recorder's software was not compatible with NTSB's software.

The FBI and Honeywell are not saying what information was recovered.

"Actually, all I can really say is our guys helped retrieve information off the recorders, and I really can't say what it was," said Ron Crotty of Honeywell.

The cockpit voice recorder records voices and other sounds in the cockpit. The flight data recorder measures a variety of data, including the plane's altitude, orientation to the ground, movement of the rudder pedal and other movements. Those measurements could indicate whether there was a fight for controls of the plane.

In phone calls to loved ones, passengers on the doomed jet indicated they planned to try to overpower the hijackers.

The two recorders from the crash of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, were recovered. An NTSB official said the cockpit voice recorder was damaged by fire.

The recorders from the planes that hit the World Trade Center towers have not been recovered.

In other developments:

-- Ashcroft said on CNN Monday night the changes he has asked Congress to strengthen terrorism laws would not infringe on the Constitution.

"We always have to be careful that the rights which America stands for are not sacrificed," Ashcroft said in an interview Monday for CNN's "Larry King Live." "But we also have to understand that in order for those rights to be enjoyed by citizens the citizens have to be protected."

-- Police and the FBI completed a grid search of area streets near the site of the World Trade Center looking for clues, said Barry Mawn, director of New York's FBI office.

The searchers found several clues, he said, but would not elaborate. Last week, a passport belonging to one of the hijackers was found in the vicinity of Vesey Street, near the World Trade Center. "It was a significant piece of evidence for us," Mawn said.

mueller
Mueller: "There were no warning signs."  

-- Salem Alhamzi and Khalid Al-Midhar, two of the suspected hijackers on the flight that slammed into the Pentagon, had been under U.S. surveillance before the attack, sources said. They also said there is evidence Al-Midhar was possibly connected to last October's attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

-- Mueller said the FBI and other agencies have a shortage of language experts and urged Americans who speak Arabic or Farsi to join and help in the investigation.

-- Forty hate crime investigations against individuals and institutions have started after reported attacks against Arab-American citizens and institutions, Mueller said, and the FBI is reaching out to leaders of the Arab-American community in each FBI field office across the country.

-- Ashcroft directed the U.S. Marshals Service to assign more than 300 deputies to assist FBI field offices in the probe, which has received 7,700 phone calls and 47,000 tips on the Internet. He also announced federal agents would be flying on commercial airplanes.

-- Law enforcement sources said five of the hijackers' names correlate with registration lists at U.S. military schools, but discrepancies with ages, spellings and other information makes it unclear if they are the same people.

Probe turns to New Jersey, Texas

Mueller said 49 people have been taken into custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service for alleged immigration violations and questioned.

Two of those detained are Mohammed Jaweed Azmath and Ayub Ali Khan, who authorities believe may have been intent on hijacking another plane last week. The two had been on a flight Tuesday from Newark, New Jersey, to San Antonio, Texas, that was safely diverted to St. Louis. They then headed by train for San Antonio, but were detained in Dallas, sources said.

Sources said the two men had box cutters on them -- instruments carried by at least some of the 19 hijackers on the four jets -- and had extensive knowledge of the terrorist network.

On Saturday, authorities raided an apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey, where Khan lived. Sources said others on a "watch list" established by the FBI may also have lived at that address.

Sources said more than 100 names are on the list, which has names of people who may have ties to or knowledge of the suspected hijackers and the attacks.

Jersey City is home to the mosque of Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, who is in prison for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Ashcroft and Mueller refused to say how many people have been arrested by the FBI, but law enforcement sources tell CNN four men are being held as material witnesses.

Few details are known about the four.

Sources said one of the individuals is Zacarias Moussauoi, who was arrested August 17 in Minnesota on a passport violation. Sources said he came into the United States in February on a student visa with plans to attend flight school.

He was in custody at the time of Tuesday's attacks, and authorities said he was not cooperating in the investigation.

According to sources, Moussauoi was studying at Airman Flight school in Norman, Oklahoma. Another person linked to bin Laden studied at the same school.

Another of the detainees is a man who was originally detained New York's John. F. Kennedy International Airport. He reportedly possessed a phony pilot's license.

A third man is a doctor who had been living in San Antonio, Texas. Authorities are investigating whether the doctor, who has not been named, is related to two of the suspected hijackers -- Nawaq Alhamzi and Salem Alhamzi -- who were on board the American Airlines flight that slammed into the Pentagon.

Investigators are also trying to determine whether Azmath and Khan were trying to reach the doctor after the attacks.

The doctor, sources said, attended the same flight school in Arizona as one of the suspected hijackers on board the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

There are no details on the fourth individual.

-- CNN Correspondents Kelli Arena, Susan Candiotti and Eileen O'Connor contributed to this report.







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