Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at the Manhattan Institute:
Law Enforcement and the Prevention of Terrorism Five Years After 9/11

New York, New York
September 7, 2006

Good morning.

I am honored to be here in New York, to talk with you about our shared efforts to protect American neighborhoods and communities.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of the attacks on September 11, it is natural that Americans look back and take stock of where we are and what we have accomplished together as a nation. The President and others in his administration have spoken often, and will continue to speak, to the American people about the current threat of terrorism. I intend to talk about it today in the context of law enforcement cooperation.

But before I do, let me assure you that I have not forgotten about the need to address traditional, non- terrorism crime on the streets of our cities, towns and neighborhoods. I know all of you are well aware of the ongoing battle against traditional criminals in our country because you are the on the front line, day in and day out. We have not and will not lose sight of the need to assist you in the fight against the sexual predators, the drug dealers, and the gangs that terrorize law-abiding citizens in our communities.

I intend to continue to pursue more resources to help you, and I hope to be able to provide additional training, investigators and prosecutors to address traditional crimes. We must remember, however, that while there are more than 800,000 state and local law enforcement officials in this country, there are only 12,000 federal law enforcement officials. In a post 9/11 world, the number one priority of federal law enforcement agencies must be the prevention of another terrorist attack…a mission that I know you understand we all share.

No one can truly be free to pursue the American dream—even in neighborhoods free of drugs, gangs and violent crime—if they live in fear of a terrorist attack. All of us in government – in law enforcement , in intelligence and in the military – have accomplished a great deal to protect our neighborhoods over the past five years because we didn’t wait to act. We began thinking through our response on the very day of the attacks.

Five years ago on September 11th, just before 7:00 that night, I was waiting for the return of Marine One to the South Lawn of the White House. I stood outside the Oval Office with former Counselor to the President Karen Hughes, ready to meet the President and begin the work of defending America.

The President was purposeful when he arrived. His face was serious as he approached me and Karen. As he met us and then entered the White House he didn’t say a word – he just nodded his head slightly. We followed him into the Oval Office – which was being set up for his 8:30 address to the nation – and then into his private dining room.

There, the three of us sat down with Condi Rice, Andy Card and Ari Fleischer, rolled up our sleeves and we started to work.


This battle against terrorism is fought on a clock that never stops and our partnership is one that must never have gaps. You know this all too well. So I’m glad to have this chance to talk with all of you about what we are doing, together, to prevent terrorist attacks… what our network is doing to stop and ultimately defeat their network.

If there is one thing that all Americans will be thinking and saying when we mark a terrible anniversary on Monday, it will be the simple phrase “never again.” And the goal of “never again” cannot be achieved by the federal government alone, by any state government alone, or by any local police force alone. Our network of prevention is instead the key to protecting the American people.

When Vice President Cheney spoke to the Manhattan Institute in January, he pointed out that terrorists were at war with our country long before September 11th. They had killed American soldiers in Beirut in 1983 and in Mogadishu in 1993. They had bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. They had attacked the USS Cole in 2000. They had even struck our homeland once before, attempting to destroy the World Trade Center in 1993.

But it was on September 11th, 2001, that the United States of America said “enough,” “no more,” and “never again.”

Since then we have been on the offensive and we have made significant progress.

We’ve taken away the “home base” for al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We’ve destroyed training camps, cut off funding channels, and disrupted means of communication.

Architects of the September 11th attacks have been captured and interrogated… and we have learned vital information from them which has enabled us to prevent further attacks. As you heard the President announce yesterday, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Ramzi bin al Shibh today await justice at Guantanamo Bay.

We have disrupted plots and put homegrown radicals behind bars. As we all know, in early August, British authorities disrupted what would have been a major terrorist attack with massive casualties.

In that case, and in plot disruptions on our own soil involving homegrown radicals, we have seen the evolution of the threat since the destruction of al Qaeda’s home base.

Today, al Qaeda stays organized and active in cyberspace, where their ideology recruits, inspires and radicalizes others. Their virtual outreach – as you well know – is finding disaffected souls in neighborhoods, mosques, prisons and universities all over the world, including our own backyards.

No two terror cells or plots are alike. Some are directly linked to al Qaeda, some are inspired by the ideology and seek actual ties with the group after they begin plotting, and some are simply inspired by the hatred without the ability to organize internationally. But there is a clear trend in al Qaeda’s efforts to recruit terrorists who already live in the countries targeted for attack.

Recently, we’ve seen would-be terrorists who were – at the very least – inspired by al Qaeda’s ideology in London and Madrid, in Los Angeles, Toledo, Miami and Atlanta.

Some homegrown terrorists have stronger ties to al Qaeda than others, but they all appear to be part of a well-organized and flexible global network of terror bound by fanaticism, by a terrible common cause of murder and destruction.

It takes a network to defeat a network. Our network, bound by the common cause of stopping the terrorists, is a formidable force, one that will ultimately prevail in this war.

A successful network must have three primary characteristics:

First, outstanding coordination of partners and resources. Second, constant flexibility. And third, perhaps most important, an infinite passion to prevail. We take the terrorist threat so seriously because we recognize that their network possesses those characteristics.

Fortunately, our network has them, too.


First, let’s talk about coordination – theirs and ours.

As I mentioned before, the Internet has enabled our enemy to reach out to a global audience of potential terrorists. With a reduced ability to recruit and train on a home base, radical websites and the periodic release of key messages from al Qaeda leadership seek to find and encourage network membership all over the world.

They’ve put other modern technologies to use as well: Cell phones keep the terrorist network in touch, an inexpensive and universally available form of information-sharing and collaboration that knows no borders.

They use digital cameras to document potential targets – creating surveillance files that can be easily and widely shared. Their research, contained on something as small as a thumb-drive or CD, is easily slipped in a pocket or an envelope – for travel or shipping and eventual sharing with partners all over the globe.

As Commissioner Andy Hayman knows, technology has been integral to terrorist communications. Information shared about target locations, such as New York or Washington, can be sent over the internet in a matter of moments to cities in the United States, the United Kingdom or around the globe. In a recent case, our network disrupted theirs. We must imagine, however, that digital research is traveling from city to city every single day as terrorist partners help one another pursue their horrific goals.

Coordination within our network is both national and international, aided by advanced technology as well. And since terrorists only have to succeed once and our efforts have to succeed every time, our coordination has to be even better than theirs.

Last month’s disruption of the UK bomb plot highlights the success of international cooperation. Our prosecutors train one another and share and protect one another’s sensitive intelligence. The level of cooperation between the United States and our foreign counterparts is outstanding and is truly the untold story of the war on terror.

At home, as you know, we have dramatically improved collaboration among federal, state and local intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The Patriot Act officially brought down the wall between intelligence and law enforcement investigations, but our respect for one another and our shared purpose of protecting American citizens has been just as important in bringing down the wall in practice – in establishing a new mentality of constant sharing and communicating.

I’m extremely proud of our teamwork and mutual respect; I hope everyone in this room today who works in law enforcement is as well.

Joint Terrorism Task Forces are perhaps the best example of how the walls that used to divide us are simply gone, how law enforcement and intelligence are woven together like one continuous piece of fabric.

In JTTFs, federal, state and local officials work side-by-side, as one seamless team, sharing access to data and working together on analysis – because it is easier to connect the dots when all of those dots are shared on common ground.

JTTFs are the “eyes and ears” of communities around the country, and since September 11th we have increased the number of JTTFs from 35 to 103.

Chief Bratton, from Los Angeles, can attest to how well the JTTF structure works. Because it was a local officer in your area who worked in a JTTF who connected the dots that led to the eventual arrest of radicals plotting to attack government buildings and synagogues in Los Angeles last August. Chief Timoney, you also saw the effectiveness of the JTTF structure because of the work done to disrupt the cell targeting Miami in Liberty City.

These cases are good examples of what happens when resources are pooled and partners with specific skill-sets work together. A local cop is uniquely equipped to notice when something just isn't right in their own communities, and to aggressively follow-up -- when robberies are really the means to accomplish something else ... as was done in the case of those gas station hold-ups in LA. or as was done in Charlotte, North Carolina when local law enforcement observed vans being loaded with cigarettes which led to uncovering a Hizballah cell; or in Western Washington when local law enforcement observed individuals in remote locations shooting guns which led to uncovering the planning of a terrorist training camp.

The federal government offers the best, most comprehensive databases where local cops can find out if their gut instincts are correct. When a good “nose” for foul play is working side-by-side with a comprehensive source of intelligence, dots are connected and our network is performing at its best. Coordination leads to victory, one plot disruption at a time.


Next, flexibility.

In the terrorist network, this means changing, quickly, the location and coordination of training when the home base is dismantled. It means recognizing that shoe bombs don’t work, so liquid explosives need to be developed.

Five years ago it meant using boxcutters and the element of surprise.

Our enemy is creative and sharp. They learn from their mistakes and literally brainstorm, every day, about new ways to surprise us, new ways to destroy us. Their imaginations are evil, but also nimble – which is a deadly combination.

This flexible approach is embraced by all terrorist followers. So dedicated are they to their cause that they will adjust to whatever environment and circumstance they face to continue forth with their goals.

Our network is nimble as well. We brainstorm, too, about what the enemy might do next and how we can stop them. We employ experts who strive to forecast the terrorists’ depraved creativity.

We watch, closely, how their network is evolving and we make adjustments to our tactics and focus accordingly. For example, right now, we know that local police departments are in the best position to identify homegrown radicals, so our network will be led by you on that front; we are flexible enough to shift leads as needed.

When necessary, we have developed tools to increase our flexibility. The Terrorist Surveillance Program helped us to quickly adapt to a situation in which we needed to collect intelligence quickly, from sources and technologies that we had never mined before.

We also quickly changed the way we looked at the traditional equation of criminal justice, which used to be:

*A crime is committed.

*An investigation ensues.

*An arrest is made.

*Prosecution finishes the story.

We had to change this storyline for terrorists because we cannot, we will not, wait for terrorist acts to be committed before apprehending and prosecuting these criminals.

We seek to arrest them for the crime of plotting to commit terrorist acts against our country or for other crimes that they are committing as part of their plot development.

Flexibility even within this new equation is crucial because no two cases are the same and decisions about when to arrest are difficult ones that must be made on a case-by-case basis by career professionals using their best judgment – keeping in mind that we need to protect sensitive intelligence sources and methods and sometimes rely upon foreign evidence in making a case.

I think that our network’s flexibility when it comes to investigation and prosecution has been successful, but I will note that there is one thing that we won’t be flexible on, and that’s adherence to civil liberties and the rule of law. We can be adaptable in our fight, but our Constitution is always the stable ground from which we spring.


I want to conclude my remarks with a discussion of passion: theirs and ours. Because it is this element of our networks that will be a test of wills… and our will to save lives and freedom simply must prevail over their will to destroy them.

Their network is bound by ideological fanaticism… by hate and a desire to destroy our way of life so that their beliefs can prevail over the world’s people.

Our network is bound by what may be more simply described as the love of justice and a desire to protect what we know is good.

We are motivated by our love of freedom. Our love for our children. And by a deeply-held belief that our beloved country is the beacon of hope for the world because of its embrace of liberty. We have an inherent sense that what our Founding Fathers established here is something very much worth protecting

Their network does not tire. Their passion is an infinite fuel that we have seen burning for decades.

And our network, as the President has often said, will not tire, will not falter, and will not fail. Because our passion is actually deeper than theirs, and our defense of freedom will be eternal.

I had a chance, last week, to visit for the second time the front-lines of the war on terror in Iraq. And the steadfast resolve of our men and women in uniform, as well as our civil servants who are there to help the Iraqi people stand up their new government, was inspirational.

These men and women work in a dangerous environment, with daily temperatures well over 100 degrees. They are away from their families. But everyone I met was energetic and proud…so proud to serve a country that has given us all so much. The Americans on the front lines believe what they are doing is important, so important that they are willing to risk their lives for the mission. Just being in their presence made this grandson of immigrants so incredibly proud to be an American.

To have seen these men and women at work in Iraq, and every day here at home in the ranks of law enforcement, is to know that we will prevail in this decisive ideological struggle.

During a previous, world-wide ideological struggle, Winston Churchill’s passion and dedication in the midst of a war was evident in these words:

“Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

In our jobs, in our network, never giving in means we steadfastly pursue the goal, every day, of preventing terrorism, of protecting free and innocent souls.

Our network will prevail. And I’m proud to serve in it, side-by-side with all of you.

Thank you. May God bless you and may he continue to bless this great nation.