Department of Justice Seal

FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2005

Good Afternoon. I am joined today by the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Chris Wray; by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Paul McNulty; by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Dave Kelley; and by the Deputy Director of the FBI, John Pistole.

All Americans remember the images of September 11th, 2001, when nineteen men hijacked four commercial airplanes to commit the largest terrorist attack in our history. We also remember the heroes of that day - brave police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, National Guard troops, passengers on Flight 93, and everyday men and women who put themselves in harm's way to help others. Together with every American, they honored the thousands of victims with acts of ordinary goodwill and extraordinary patriotism.

In the wake of these horrific attacks, the U.S. Government, working with our allies, launched an unprecedented global investigation - the largest of its kind - to identify and bring to justice those who participated in this conspiracy to kill thousands of innocent lives.

As part of that effort, just a short while ago at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, Zacarias Moussaoui pled guilty to charges related to his role in the conspiracy that brought about the September 11th terrorist attacks. Specifically, Moussaoui pled guilty to:

Four of these charges authorize a maximum penalty of death, and as you know, we are seeking the death penalty in this case, for reasons that are spelled out in detail in the United States' 2002 notice of intent to seek the death penalty.

The fact that Moussaoui participated in this terrorist plot is no longer in doubt. In a chilling admission of guilt, Moussaoui confessed to his participation, including the following specific actions:

Moussaoui and his co-conspirators were responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents on September 11th - each one a son or daughter, father or mother, husband or wife. Families left without loved ones on that day grieved, and continue to grieve, tragic losses...and America grieved with them.

From that grief, however, emerged a steely resolve in the American people. And from resolve came decisive action by their government. The mission of the Justice Department was transformed to make the fight against terrorism our number one priority. And President Bush told U.S. Attorneys at the Justice Department that they would play an important role in the war on terror - prosecuting terrorists aggressively, but fairly and in keeping with the high standards of our system of justice.

We have acted fairly and patiently to bring Moussaoui to justice. A grand jury indicted Moussaoui in December 2001. He has received legal counsel. He has been heard numerous times in federal district court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and he has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court.

Moussaoui now joins shoe bomber Richard Reid, John Walker Lindh, and more than two hundred other individuals who have been convicted or pled guilty to terrorism-related charges since Nine-Eleven. With today's guilty plea, we now move to the penalty phase of this case on a schedule to be established by the judge.

The Justice Department will continue working to break up terrorist cells within our borders - as we have from Buffalo, New York, to Portland, Oregon - and to prosecute terrorists using every legal tool available.

Countless dedicated public servants have contributed to these successes in the war on terror. Today, I would like to recognize the team of investigators and prosecutors that made today's conviction possible. This team was assembled - and was hard at work, and was getting results - long before I became Attorney General, and they are the ones who deserve the credit for this conviction.

This team - working with many other federal, state, and local law enforcement officials across the country - has worked tirelessly on this and other terrorism cases. I thank them for their dedicated service. They have lived up to the Department's mission - to "enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States" - and they have earned the thanks of a grateful Nation.