Two months after the attacks on the United States, the authorities still have no hard evidence linking anyone directly to the terrorplot.
There is a strong suspicion that other sleeper cells are in the US ready to launch new attacks, but there is no good information on who these people might be or what their plans are.
Some 1,200 people have been rounded up by the police, but most appear to have been caught for minor crimes or immigration violations. The sweep, in turn, has provoked concern among civil liberties advocates because the suspects have not been named, the reasons for their detention have not been disclosed, and even their whereabouts in many cases have been withheld from lawyers and family members.
This week, John Ashcroft, the US Attorney General, tried to claim a victory because a vague – and controversial – terror alert he issued at the beginning of last week did not lead to any attacks. But he had to admit his staff were flying blind. "We cannot know with certainty what acts of terrorism our combined efforts have thwarted or prevented," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Ashcroft has been heavily criticised for pushing through a radical law-and-order agenda. Last month, he won sweeping new powers of surveillance and detention from Congress, and this week it was revealed he had authorised eavesdropping on private conversations between detainees and their lawyers.
Frustration over the investigation has become so intense that some law enforcement officials have talked about administering the "truth drug" sodium pentothal to suspects to try to get information. Some columnists from respectable publications have begun to wonder whether torture would be justified. One such commentator, Tucker Carlson, said: "Torture is bad. But keep in mind, some things are worse."
There are only five prime suspects, and, in all cases, they have refused to talk.Reuse content