WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- More than 1,100 people have been arrested or detained in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the Justice Department said Thursday.
The detainees came to the attention of the FBI as agents conducted the massive probe, but none so far have been charged directly in the plot that led up to the attacks.
But Attorney General John Ashcroft has indicated several times that some of the 1,110 people who have been arrested or detained are considered terror suspects by the FBI, even though they have not been charged with terrorism.
Of those being held, 185 are charged with some kind of immigration impropriety. A "handful," according to FBI Director Robert Mueller, are being held on material witness warrants in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. The rest have been charged with relatively minor crimes.
The increasing numbers reflect the government's strategy of prosecuting everyone found to be in violation of a law as FBI agents investigate the Sept. 11 attacks.
Ashcroft said Wednesday the strategy resembled that of the late Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's campaign against organized crime.
"The Kennedy Justice Department, it is said, would arrest a mobster for spitting on the sidewalk, if it would aid in the war against organized crime," Ashcroft said, saying his war on terrorism would employ the same zero tolerance for any violation.
Ashcroft has created a "Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force" on the order of President Bush. The task force is coordinating government efforts to keep terrorist suspects out of the country, and to catch those suspects believed inisde the United States.
The Justice Department's task is complicated to some extent by the retirement of the No. 2 official in the FBI, Deputy Director Tom Pickard. Both Ashcroft and Mueller praised Pickard's 27-year service with the FBI, and there was no suggestion that he had been forced to step down.
But Pickard has been deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of the FBI, especially since the retirement last June of then-FBI Director Louis Freeh, and his absence will leave a significant gap at the top of the bureau.
Meanwhile, the scope of the terrorist threat continued to grow beyond Washington and New York, according to officials. Earlier this week, Ashcroft issued a general warning of continued terrorist attacks, the second such general warning in less than a month. The attorney general said the warning was based on credible, though not specific information.
California Gov. Gray Davis warned Thursday that he had received credible information of a threat against major California bridges. The threat was not unprecedented. State employees in West Virginia were taken from their regular jobs and placed on guard at the state's major bridges late last month following a similar alert.