Rumsfeld, Mueller Warn of New Attacks

ByABC News
January 31, 2002, 6:02 PM

Jan. 31 -- Leaders of the nation's military and law enforcement forces warned that America will have to remain vigilant for "sleeper" terrorists at home and abroad for a long time, even as reports of a new threat against U.S. nuclear plants surfaced today.

FBI Director Robert Mueller and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned the nation in separate addresses today to be on constant alert and that terrorists could be planning attacks much worse than the terror of Sept. 11.

Underscoring the dire warnings, reports surfaced that the government last week warned nuclear power plants of a possible terrorist attack. On Jan. 23, the Nuclear Regulatory commission sent an advisory to operators of all 103 commercial nuclear reactors at 63 sites across the country that terrorists were planning an airplane attack on a power reactor.

The alert, government officials told The Associated Press, stemmed from information an al Qaeda representative gave during questioning. The NRC alert, said "the attack was already planned" and three people "already on the ground" were trying to recruit non-Arabs to take part, a government source told The Associated Press. But the alert stressed the al Qaeda operative's information had not been authenticated or corroborated. Similar reports have arisen in the past that have turned out to be unfounded.

In addition to the nuclear threat reports, CIA Director George Tenet sent a report to Congress saying that officials had found crude diagrams of nuclear weapons in a suspected al Qaeda safe house in Afghanistan. Other evidence uncovered in Afghanistan included diagrams of American nuclear power plants, but, the report said, it is unclear if an attack was planned.

Also, within the past 24 hours, the FBI has issued an advisory to public utilities across the country warning that a computer from an alleged associate of Osama bin Laden contained engineering information.

Al Qaeda Diminished, But Still Deadly

The latest threat reports come on top of news that al Qaeda may have targeted specific landmarks and facilities in the United States. At a press briefing in Washington, D.C., today, Mueller said that the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan had diminished the ability of bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist organization to launch a major attack, but that documents recovered from Afghanistan suggest the U.S. Capitol, Seattle's Space Needle and a portion of Los Angeles were potential terrorist targets.