2001 Conference: Message from John Ashcroft
Message from John Ashcroft
Attorney General of the United States
To the IACP Conference, Toronto, Ontario
October 30, 2001
I regret that I cannot be with you in person, but the ongoing demands of our war on terrorism force me to remain in Washington. I thank the leadership of the International Association of Chiefs of Police for the opportunity to address you. I extend a special thanks to our hosts and friends in Canadian law enforcement, who have been valued partners of the United States, particularly in these last few weeks.
On September 11, a turning point was reached in the administration of justice. The fight against terrorism is now the first and overriding priority of the Department of Justice. But our war against terrorism is not merely or primarily a criminal justice endeavor—it is the defense of our nation and of freedom-loving people everywhere.
Today, I am issuing a call to the leaders of law enforcement in the states, counties, and cities of America to become full partners with federal officials as we launch a new era in the fight against terrorism. No strategy to combat terrorism can hope to succeed if it does not include the front lines of law enforcement. No federal effort can hope to duplicate your knowledge of your communities. No Washington initiative can substitute for the day-to-day contact you have with individuals—including potential terrorists—who violate the law.
I understand the strain that your agencies are under in attempting to cope with the ongoing terrorist threat in addition to the day-to-day law enforcement responsibilities. At the Department we are working to open new lines of communication and new support systems to help relieve this burden while maintaining a united front against terrorists.
Within days of the September 11 attacks the Department of Justice began putting in place a framework designed to bring together federal, state, and local law enforcement in an unprecedented way. In a directive issued to each of our 94 United States attorneys, I instructed our federal prosecutors to form a national network of Anti-Terrorism Task Forces. Each of these task forces brings together state and local law enforcement with federal representatives of the FBI, INS, DEA, Customs Service, Marshals Service, and Secret Service.
To assist our state and local partners in the Anti-Terrorism Task Forces, I am making $9.3 million available in the following weeks. This money will be made available to state and local task force participants through the United States attorneys’ offices. We will provide about $100,000 per district as seed money to help state and local agencies put in place the pieces necessary to communicate effectively and cooperate closely. Obviously, this can meet only the most pressing of demands, whether it be for communications, intelligence sharing, or overtime pay, as local circumstances dictate.
The creation of our Anti-Terrorism Task Forces is an important beginning, but it is just a beginning. There is much more that can and will be done.
Last Friday, President Bush signed legislation that gives law enforcement important new weapons in the war on terrorism. Immediately after the legislation became law, I issued a series of directives to our U.S. attorneys and FBI field offices to begin to utilize these weapons. Law enforcement is now taking full advantage of new powers to gather intelligence, track terrorists, and subpoena evidence.
In the coming days, I will issue a second set of directives to shift the focus of law enforcement beyond prosecution of terrorists to the prevention of terrorist attacks. These directives will outline a framework of improved information sharing, information analysis, and coordination between federal, state, and local officials. In the days and weeks ahead, we will work to pull down the bureaucratic walls that often separate Washington law enforcement from state and local law enforcement—and federal agencies from one another.
We are grateful for the counsel and advice that we have received from you on how we can more effectively communicate and coordinate with you. As Director Mueller said yesterday—we want to be true partners with our colleagues in local law enforcement. We want to communicate with you more effectively. We want to do everything better, faster, and more efficiently. By working together will we win this war on terrorism.
With the cooperation of those of you on the front line, we will send a message to the terrorists among us: If you overstay your visa—even by one day—we will arrest you. If you violate a local law, you will be put in jail and kept in custody as long as possible. We will use every available statute. We will seek every prosecutorial advantage. We will use all our weapons within the law and under the Constitution to protect life and enhance security for America—and all freedom-loving nations.
Attorney General of the United States