Manhattan The FBI is better prepared today to deal with terrorism than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, agency Director Robert Mueller said Tuesday -- the same day the commission investigating the terrorist attacks said the FBI for years failed to understand and react to such threats.
"We in the FBI have committed ourselves to making the fundamental changes necessary to combat evolving threats that target our country," Mueller told about 2,600 people in a speech at Kansas State University, part of the Landon Lecture Series.
"We have made progress and we will continue to meet -- and to defeat -- all threats against the security of our nation and its citizens," he said.
The commission investigating the attacks, meeting in Washington, heard Tuesday from Mueller's predecessor, Louis J. Freeh, and Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft. In a written report, it said the FBI, working with the CIA, might have uncovered the terrorist plot.
The report criticized the FBI for what it called a failure to reorganize and respond to the growing threat of terrorism.
Mueller, who became the director a week before the al-Qaida attacks, said he "looks forward" to testifying before the commission today.
Most of Mueller's speech Tuesday focused on what the FBI has done to improve itself since the attacks. "Immediately following 9-11, the FBI's No. 1 priority became the prevention of terrorist attacks. This required a systematic approach examining all aspects of bureau operations," he said.
For instance, he said investigations of terrorist threats previously were centered in the FBI field office where they began, along with all information and records pertaining to the case.
"This made it difficult to see connections and patterns. Now the FBI operates under centralized management of our counterterrorism program," he said. "The result is better coordination within the FBI and between the FBI and our law enforcement and intelligence counterparts."
The agency also has upgraded its technology. The commission staff report said the agency had an information system that was outdated before it was installed, further hampering efforts to battle terrorism.
"We have made significant progress in upgrading our information technology to improve our ability to search for information, analyze it, draw connections and share it both inside the bureau and outside with our partners," Mueller said.
The FBI also has reworked its administration to make it "more efficient and more responsive" and has increased recruiting efforts, particularly for people with backgrounds in computer science, Middle Eastern studies or foreign languages.
"Essential to predicting and preventing future terrorist attacking is improving our intelligence analysis," Mueller said.
He said the FBI has doubled the number of agents and analysts in counterterrorism and added about 450 translators. Also, special units were created to deal with terrorist threats.