For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 16, 2001
Attorney General Ashcroft
Smithsburg High School
11:23 A.M. EDT
ASHCROFT: During this past week, we've been dealing with the
impact of an assault on the United States and civilized people of the
world has come from a pervasive and substantial terrorist network.
It's a matter of the compound nature of
the tragedy to understand that nations from Argentina to Zimbabwe, from
A to Z, have lost hundreds of citizens in this tragedy. It
illustrates for us that terrorism is the enemy of human civilization.
Our effort is to develop all the
information we can about terrorism, the terrorists and the terrorists'
networks that have inflicted this injury on the United States and this
assault upon the people of the world and to do everything we can to
disrupt them and to put an end to their capacity. They have declared
war on the United States with an act of war, and the President has very
carefully noted that we consider it a responsibility to do everything
within our power to those interests that threaten the United States and
its' interests to end their capacity to do so.
Obviously, among the organizations that
have that capacity and have previously been involved in assaults
against the United States and its' interests is the network of Osama
bin Laden and the - and his network. It is important to note
that in recent months and years, a variety of terrorist organizations
have cooperated in networking together and that terrorism is an enemy
to civilized people.
We will be doing everything we
can. We have launched the largest single investigation in
the history of the United States. We have 4,000 active FBI
agents pursuing a wide variety of tips and understandings and
questions. We'll get to the bottom of this circumstance; but
we'll also develop an understanding of how we can prevent further
episodes, assaults on America and our people.
It's clear to me that we need to upgrade
and strengthen a number of laws in the United States. The
Congress has very appropriately expressed its thorough willingness to
provide for the President the resources that are appropriate in terms
of finances to conduct this effort. And I believe they will
cooperate to provide the enhanced law enforcement resources by way of
Let me indicate a few of the matters that
I believe will be in a package that we will carry to the Hill and ask
members of the Congress to assist us in this effort by enacting
authorizing legislation. I might add that I expect to be
involved with members of the Congress on the Hill this afternoon in
discussing these issues.
In terms of upgrading and strengthening
our capacity, let me say that we need to make sure that we have
assigned a high priority to the fight against
terrorism. There are areas of our laws and procedures which
give us better tools against organized crime, against illegal gambling,
for example, than we have against terrorists. We need to
make sure that we provide the maximum capacity against terrorists in
the United States.
We need, for instance, to make it - to
elevate the penalties for those who would harbor or assist terrorists,
to at least the same level as the penalties for those who would harbor
or assist those who have been involved in espionage. And
there are areas in which we need to just expand our capacity to surveil
those involved in terrorist activities. Telephone
surveillance has been limited historically to specific telephones,
rather than to people. So that if a telephone number changes
out of its home area, or if a person ceases using one telephone and
begins to use another telephone, we have to go back to court to get new
Most Americans, we all understand that you
can buy disposable telephones now, use them for a limited period of
time and throw them away. And it simply doesn't make sense to have the
surveillance authority associated with the hardware or with the phone
instead of with the person or the terrorist. And we're going
to ask Congress to help us with items like that.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to go to
the members of Congress, many of whom have called me and spoken to me
during this last week and indicated that they are eager to provide, a
basis for us to address the new challenges which we, indeed, are facing
as a result of this turning point in the history of the United
States. And we will develop the tools, strengthen our
capacity and persist in our investigation and effort to disrupt and to
make - and reduce the risk of reoccurrence in matters like this.
I thank you for this opportunity to speak
with you today and for the reporting you do on this
issue. Thank you.
11:29 A.M. EDT