Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Ashcroft
New York, New York
November 7, 2003 -- 11:00 am

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

Thank you, Abe [Foxman].

It is a pleasure to be here for the 90th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Anti-Defamation League. I see U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf of New York's Eastern District and U.S. Attorney Jim Comey, the president's nominee for Deputy Attorney General. I also see Alex Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Under Ralph Boyd and Alex Acosta, the Civil Rights Division over the past three years has set new records continually for prosecuting civil rights violations.

Since I knew I was traveling to New York, I thought I would share with you a handwritten letter my legal counselor, Chuck Rosenberg, received from his seven-year-old nephew, Scott, a native New Yorker.

Dear Chuck,
To help find Osama Bin Laden you should use German Shepherds because they have great sense of smell. You will need about nine thousand of them. But to find him you should get some of his clothes and let all the dogs sniff it. Good luck.
Scott Weitzner

This is a nation of problem solvers. We are a people who do not shirk from moral challenge. And besides, it really isn't a bad idea.

Scott's letter is a testament to our national spirit and the creativity and ingenuity that flourish in freedom. It is a testament to just how much our terrorist enemies underestimated the resources and resolve of the American people.

We are a mighty nation when we are stirred to defend justice and to defend freedom. We are a free people willing to be guided by our highest ideals and to reflect, repent, and act to better our world.

Ninety years ago, the founders of the Anti-Defamation League dedicated themselves to the noblest ideals. They vowed to use their time, their energy, and their earnings to stand against intolerance and to stand for freedom.

Our world has changed much over the past nine decades. And free nations and free peoples have learned many hard, bitter lessons about the cost of hate.

Today, in the morning of a new millennium, we can look back on almost a century of unfathomable evil. Voices of hate rose to power in great nations and millions were murdered in the name of totalitarian creeds -- communism, fascism, National Socialism. We look back and grieve. And with the hindsight of history, we ask ourselves, "What if one more voice had spoken out against hate and taken a stand against evil? Could it have made the difference?"

We cannot pierce time to save the innocent. We can only look to the future and vow, "Never again."

Through all the bitter lessons -- and all the senseless killing -- of the 20th Century, the ADL has committed itself to reminding those who have the courage to listen what the cost of moral indecision can be.

We, in this room, are united by our commitment to the future. At the United States Department of Justice, we are dedicated to detecting, disrupting, and dismantling the networks of terror.

We are waging this war guided by the rule of law, sworn to the principles of the Constitution, and committed to the dignity and freedom of every human being.

After September 11th, Al Qaeda did not expect decisive action or resolution. The networks of terror expected America to crumble and withdraw from the world. The terrorists believed this nation would retreat when lives were threatened and liberty was attacked.

We did not retreat … and we will not retreat.

Two years later, the terrorists are on the run. Their ranks are in retreat. Their resources are dwindling. Only their hatred and lust for revenge are on the rise.

Our nation's successes speak for themselves:

And the greatest testimony to our nation's success is that there have been no terrorist attacks in two years.

The nations of Iraq and Afghanistan -- once host to regimes of unrivalled terror and hatred toward America -- are now taking the first steps toward freedom and stability.

In this war on terror, the President has led a war of decisive force and quiet success. We have fought to exemplify this nation's founding vision of liberty and the rule of law. In all our actions, we have sought to show our respect for tolerance, justice, and the dignity of every human life.

Our enemies have placed themselves on the side of oppression and domination. They have launched a campaign against innocent men, women, and children. Where they have gained power, they have extinguished political and religious freedom. Where they have ruled, they have enslaved women, strangled education, and sought to kill Americans ... whenever and wherever they can.

As the Anti-Defamation League understands all too well, we must secure our victories against terrorism in a way that is consistent with the ideals that impel us to action.

In the days following September 11th, President Bush stood before the nation, not just to condemn the savagery of terrorism, but to speak out for tolerance, for freedom of religion, and for the dignity of every life.

A nation proves its commitment to the rule of law, not by how the law treats the powerful, but how the law protects the vulnerable.

The Department of Justice has been privileged to play a critical role in providing equal protection under the law for all.

Since September 11th, the Civil Rights Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Attorneys' offices have investigated more than 525 incidents involving violence or threats of violence against individuals perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin. The Justice Department has assisted in 120 local prosecutions. And we have brought federal charges in 13 cases against 18 defendants. Our conviction rate is 100 percent.

We have also sought to prevent future acts of terrorism through the effective and constitutional tools provided by the USA Patriot Act.

Following September 11th, Democrats and Republicans in Congress united and passed the Patriot Act with wide, bipartisan support -- a law that provides our nation with improved tools to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to preserve the life and liberties of the people.

I am sure many of you know that I spent part of my summer traveling across the country speaking about the Patriot Act, explaining what it does and does not do.

No group can better understand the challenge of overcoming and combating unfair characterizations than the Anti-Defamation League. Yet consistently that is what we have had to overcome with a law that has accomplished a great deal of good for the safety and security of our nation.

The Patriot Act does three things:

First, it closes the gaping holes in the government's ability to collect vital intelligence information on terrorist enterprises.

Second, the Patriot Act updates our anti-terrorism laws to meet the challenges of new technology and new threats.

Third, with these critical new investigative tools provided by the Patriot Act, law enforcement can share information and cooperate better with each other. From prosecutors to intelligence agents, the Patriot Act allows the forces of law enforcement to "connect the dots" and uncover terrorist plots before they are launched.

Such information sharing coupled with decisive action has already led to results.

Earlier this year, we indicted eight members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist network -- the group responsible for murdering more than 100 innocent victims in Israel and areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Among those charged was Professor Sami Amin Al-Arian, who resided in the United States. His indictment would not have been possible if intelligence could not be shared with law enforcement.

Thanks to the hard work of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, just a few weeks ago, the last two remaining defendants in custody in the Portland cell pleaded guilty:

Jeffrey Battle understood the importance of the Patriot Act. Listen to the recorded conversation between Battle and an FBI informant on May 8, 2002. In a conversation unsealed in court, Battle explained why his enterprise was not as organized as he thought it should have been (quote):

". . . because we don't have support. Everybody's scared to give up any money to help us. You know what I'm saying? Because that law that Bush wrote about, you know, supporting terrorism, whatever, the whole thing ... Everybody's scared ... He made a law that says for instance I left out of the country and I fought, right, but I wasn't able to afford a ticket but you bought my plane ticket, you gave me the money to do it… By me going and me fighting and doing what they can, by this new law, they can come and take you and put you in jail."

Just a few days ago, Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for providing material support to Al Qaeda and for conspiring to provide the terrorist organization with information about possible U.S. targets for attack.

The Faris case shows just how law enforcement and intelligence can work hand in hand to protect national security after the PATRIOT Act. Intelligence helped us to identify and locate Faris. Law enforcement secured his cooperation, and we then brought criminal charges against him in an Article III court. In the process, Faris not only pleaded guilty, but he provided valuable information and corroborated intelligence from Al Qaeda detainees about potential terrorist operations, including some in the United States.

These are just a few examples of the outstanding work being done by our nation's justice community to save lives and protect our liberties.

All this work is done under the constant watchfulness of the judiciary and the careful oversight of Congress. That is why, for the past two years, we have consistently won the support of the American people in the war on terror.

And that is why no court has found a violation or an abuse of civil liberties in conjunction with the Patriot Act.

As the Washington Post recently reported, quote, "Sen. Dianne Feinstein . . . said that her office has received 21,434 letters opposing the act, but more than half cite provisions that have not been enacted or sent to Congress by the Bush Administration. The rest, she said, largely concern security measures governing items mailed to the United States from abroad -- not provisions of the Patriot Act. 'I have never had a single abuse of the Patriot Act reported to me,' she said . . . Feinstein said that when her office asked the ACLU for examples, 'They had none.'"

I believe we have fought this war successfully because President Bush is a leader of action guided by moral clarity. The Anti-Defamation League knows President Bush's record well. When Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad used the APEC forum to issue anti-Semitic lies, President Bush condemned him publicly.

This administration believes that acts of anti-Semitism must be confronted, condemned, and denounced. After touring Auschwitz, President Bush stated unequivocally, quote: "When we find anti-Semitism, whether it be in Europe or anywhere else, mankind must come together to fight such dark impulses." As history shows, verbal attacks on the Jewish people are portends of more savage criminality to come.

Our battle against terrorism and for freedom is not over. Our successes have only increased Al Qaeda's desperation to strike our open and free society.

This moral conflict between right and wrong, justice and injustice, good and evil is ongoing. This is a struggle in which every human being must choose sides. There are no neutral bystanders in our war against terrorism and murder.

In the coming years, as the memories and pain of September 11th recede, it is our charge to remind others of the cost of inaction and moral indecision. The ADL has proven time and again its ability to warn of the dangers to the innocent when the good and truehearted do not band together to oppose hate.

In this battle, every voice and every hand is needed to triumph over terrorism. It requires us to speak out in America for our highest values and to take our battle to the terrorists abroad.

Most importantly, this cause of our time requires us to cultivate in our hearts and our homes our dedication to justice, so the generations to come can look back and say: They did not live for themselves. They lived lives of sacrifice and toil, and they turned back the forces of darkness to let freedom flourish for those yet to come.

Thank you. And God bless America.