Department of Justice Seal

Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
European Union Luncheon
September 14, 2002

(Note: The Attorney General Often Deviates From Prepared Remarks)

It is my pleasure to be here today, and to have this opportunity to address such a distinguished group of men and women dedicated to the cause of justice. This is my fourth trip to the European continent as United States Attorney General, and with each trip I feel less and less like a Missouri preacher’s son and more and more like a statesman.

Of course, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once said that the first requirement of a statesman is that he be dull.

And former United States Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed added that a statesman is a successful politician who is dead.

Hopefully, I will prove myself a statesman in neither of these respects today.

It is a particular honor – and, I think, appropriate – to be meeting with you, my European colleagues, this week, the week marking the solemn anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Today is an opportunity for me, on behalf of all the people of the United States of America, to express our thanks for the extraordinary support you have extended us over the past year.

From the first hours following the attacks, America’s grief was Europe’s grief and our defiance was your defiance. The words uttered by European Commission President Romano Prodi the day following the attacks could just as easily have been uttered in Washington: "We shall not allow terrorism to triumph. We shall not allow terrorism to divide the world, as its perpetrators intend it to. We deny them this victory."

This sense of resolve, expressed so forcefully and so well in the days following the attacks, cannot be allowed to diminish as September 11, 2001 dissolves into memory. The cloud that darkened the world that day has not passed. The evil that ruptured the peace of that morning has not been vanquished.

The targets of terrorism are not buildings, peoples, or even nations. The targets of terrorism are values. And our countries are partners in shared values. We share a commitment to freedom, to equality, to justice. As long as we are partners in these values, we will be – we must be – partners in the struggle to defeat those who fear freedom, who hate equality, and who mock justice.

The partnership to defeat terrorism that we have forged in the past year has enhanced the safety and security of all of our nations. I will submit to you that, during this period, the European Union and the United States has successfully completed the first phase in adjusting to the post-September world of international terrorism. We have thought anew and fought anew, both on a bilateral and multilateral level, and laid important foundations in three areas: How we communicate law enforcement information with one another; how we can coordinate law enforcement operations; and how we bring terrorists and other criminals to justice.

First, in order to facilitate the efficient exchange of information that could help prevent future terrorist acts, the United States and the European Union have established points of contact between U.S. law enforcement and EUROPOL and EUROJUST. We were particularly pleased to welcome, earlier this month, the EUROPOL liaison officers who have been assigned to Washington. In the same spirit, we have assigned United States prosecutors to serve in a liaison capacity with EUROJUST. We have also entered into an agreement to share strategic data between the United States and EUROPOL, and have collaborated on terrorism threat assessments.

In the area of joint action, the United States and the European Union have cooperated closely to freeze the assets of suspected terrorists and those who finance terrorist activity. Over the past year, the United States and the European Union have joined together in designating as terrorists several European-based terrorists and organizations. The United States and the European Union have encouraged also the employment of other law enforcement tools to disrupt terrorist financing, working together to facilitate the commencement of forfeiture actions and money laundering prosecutions.

In the area of bringing terrorists and other international criminals to justice, we have laid additional new groundwork. Together, we are discussing the possibility of an unprecedented agreement on extradition and mutual legal assistance between the European Union and the United States. Our teams of experts have held intensive negotiations both here and in Washington, and I fully expect that they will continue their progress in the coming months. The issues are, of course, not simple ones, nor do I necessarily predict easy resolutions. But the discussions are, I am informed, yielding important insights, and possible ways forward.

We have taken the first crucial steps towards strengthening a culture of cooperation between the United States and the European Union, but our work is not yet finished. The key to success in this global war on terrorism is information sharing. We now know that al Qaeda deliberately exploited the seams in our homeland defenses. Al Qaeda fragmented its operations to prevent the United States from grasping the magnitude of the threat. The terrorists trained in Afghanistan, planned their operation here in Europe and elsewhere, financed their activities from the Middle East, and executed their attacks in the United States.

It is thereby essential that we implement vigorously these new structures and open lines of communication to protect our collective nations against future attacks. We must, for example, work together to harmonize our approach to data preservation and protection. The United States does not require private companies to retain data for definite periods of time. Neither does the United States require data destruction within certain time periods. Mandated data destruction means that critical records – such as phone or email – could be unavailable to law enforcement agencies, thereby seriously undercutting their ability to detect and prevent terrorist activity and other international crime.

It is vital that we come to an agreement on data protection issues in the law enforcement field. EUROPOL, for instance, is unable to share personal data with American law enforcement. Our liaison officers cannot work effectively unless information flows freely between and among our law enforcement agencies.

The free exchange of information gives us the capacity to gather disparate pieces of intelligence together to form a comprehensive picture of the terrorist threat. By sharing our intelligence, we can turn the terrorists’ tactics against them, assembling from fragmented pieces of evidence a prevention strategy that targets al Qaeda root and branch. Our collective defense requires a renewed ethic of justice, nurtured by cooperation and coordination. We cannot afford to wait for terrorists to execute their plans: the potential death toll is too high; the consequences too great.

September 11 alerted all of us to our vulnerabilities, but it also reinforced our shared values. Our nations – standing together – send a message that resonates the world over. We are nations that value justice and freedom. We will not abide an assault on these values. As partners, we must continue to take every step at our discretion, use every tool at our disposal, and employ every authority under the law to prevent terrorism and preserve the freedom and justice that we cherish.

Eighteen years ago, Ronald Reagan come to this continent, and on a windy point in Southern France, marked the 40th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy.

Eighteen years ago, President Reagan came to this continent and reaffirmed the bonds of the new and the old worlds. "We are bound today by what bound us forty years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs," Ronald Reagan said. "We were with you then; we are with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny in our destiny."

One year ago, on September 12, 2001, European Commission President Romano Prodi returned President Reagan’s sentiment. "In the darkest hours of European history, the Americans stood by us," President Prodi said. "We stand by them now."

On behalf of the American people, I thank you for your friendship and your solidarity on that day, today, and in the days to come. Standing apart, we cannot succeed in defeating terrorism. But standing together, we cannot fail.

Thank you very much.

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