Senior Bush administration officials say the Justice Department and other agencies have been highly successful in thwarting terrorist attacks at home and abroad, reports the Washington Post. Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty told the American Enterprise Institute that the criminal courts have been a useful tool for prosecutors and the FBI in preventing suspected terrorists from furthering their plans, even if many cases have ended with mixed results or acquittals. “This higher risk of acquittals is one we acknowledge and accept,” McNulty said. He said prosecutors have secured 253 convictions against 435 defendants in terrorism-related cases with a “clear international connection.” The Post has reported that a computer analysis of Justice records showed that most defendants were charged with minor crimes unrelated to terrorism and nearly half had no demonstrated connection to terrorism or terrorists.
In a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Post, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the government has made “a significant amount of progress” in guarding against cataclysmic attacks and more limited operations, such as the Madrid commuter train bombings. He added that it “would be very, very hard to detect” a “lone wolf” terrorist, who trains and plans alone before carrying out an attack. “The hardest thing to determine is the purely domestic, self-motivated, self-initiating threat from the guy who never talks to anybody, just gets himself wound up over the Internet,” Chertoff said.