Thursday, December 04, 2008

FBI helping India gather evidence on Mumbai attacks

WASHINGTON: US Attorney General Michael Mukasey says FBI agents are working with Indian police to provide assistance and gather evidence about

the Mumbai terror attacks, but would not confirm whether FBI is also working with Pakistan.

He didn't know the nature of the request from the Indian government, but "the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) is looking into any evidence it can get," Mukasey told reporters at the Justice Department on Wednesday.

Asked if the US agency charged with tracking from international and domestic terrorists to spies on US soil was also working with the Pakistani government on the Mumbai attacks, he said: "I can't comment on that."

Mukasey also declined comment on if there was any indication that the people involved in the Mumbai attack had any contact with people in the US or if Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based terrorist group that is prime suspect, "is planning attacks on Indian allies or outside of India."

Asked if the US had any intelligence or any other indication about the attack, the top US law officer said: "I can't comment on that."

Asked about the lessons learned from what happened in India, Mukasey cited the need to get the best intelligence possible about where attacks might occur and to increase security appropriately. "It's obviously a horrible incident, a horrific incident, nothing we ever want to see happen here."

"And to the extent it's an object lesson, it's an object lesson in maintaining vigilance and in the need for surveillance, electronic surveillance and other kinds of surveillance and the need for protection," he said.

Declining to comment on the performance of Indian authorities, Mukasey said: "As far as the performance of the Indian authorities, I'm not in a position to comment on that."

"I'm confident that the people who respond to events like this in the United States are well trained, well disciplined and well able to respond fully," he said.

But "It's impossible to fully protect every target. Total security is an impossibility," he added.

"You try to anticipate and to get the best, essentially the best in the way of intelligence that you can get so that you can anticipate where the events might occur and provide security in those places. But you can't provide universal security,"

Asked if the state of US surveillance techniques would have picked up something like the Indian attack in advance if it was going to happen in the US, Mukasey said: "I can't conjecture in that way, I really can't."

Mukasey said he believes the US has jurisdiction in cases of violence against Americans in connection with acts of terrorism. Six Americans were killed in the attacks at two luxury hotels and other landmarks.

"It's not a question of my desire. We have jurisdiction. I believe we have jurisdiction over violence committed against Americans in connection with acts of terrorism like this."

Mukasey said he did not yet have enough details to say whether any charges eventually would be brought in the US.

"I don't yet have that level of detail and I don't think I could share it if I had it. I know, I mean, I can confirm finally that the FBI is over there, that they're working with the Indian police on gathering evidence."

FBI helping India gather evidence on Mumbai attacks
Times of India, India