FBI To Step Up Terrorism Fight

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Faced with an increased threat of terrorism, the Clinton administration reportedly plans to transfer 500 agents to the FBI's counterterrorism force. According to The Wall Street Journal, the White House will notify Congress of these reassignments later this week. "I tend to suspect that an announcement like this can be tinged with political overtones, especially in an election year," reports TIME's Elaine Shannon. "The Justice Department is highly politicized and is trying to help Clinton win re-election." The move comes as the bureau investigates three high-profile cases of apparent or possible terrorism: the June 25 truck bombing that killed 19 U.S. airmen in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; the July 17 explosion of TWA Flight 800 that killed 230 people, and the July 27 pipe bombing in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park that killed a woman and injured more than 100. FBI Director Louis Freeh told Congress last month that with an increased counterterrorism workload, "we are being spread very thin. We could double the amount of people we have in our counterterrorism program and probably still not be where we need to be if this current trend continues." Shannon says that while the proposal will grant the FBI a much-needed increase in its foreign presence, more changes are necessary. "Bodies alone won't solve the problems facing the FBI," Shannon reports. "They need better intelligence gathering, which is not just a function of agents. They need a better alliance with foreign governments and with the CIA in terms of gathering information." Shannon says those changes are possible, but another, the ability to tap multiple cellular phones of potential terrorists, is unlikely. "The FBI needs changes in the anti-terrorism law to allow it to use roving wiretaps against potential terrorists," Shannon says. "Congress refused to give it that power because the right-wing was wary of increasing the FBI's power. That's unlikely to change." -- Josh Dubow