Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at the
Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism Law Enforcement Summit

Miami, Florida
June 11, 2007

Good afternoon.

I am pleased to be here and I want to extend my own welcome to all of our international partners represented here today.

Together, we have accomplished a great deal to protect the citizens of our respective nations over the past five-plus years since September 11th. Some of you visiting from other countries have suffered with terrorism for an even longer time. Whatever successes we have enjoyed in fighting terrorism is largely because we haven’t waited to act. In the U.S., I know that we began thinking through our response on the very day of the September 11th attacks.

Just before 7:00 that night, on the day that changed our way of life and our way of thinking, I was waiting for the return of Marine One – the helicopter carrying the President – to the South Lawn of the White House. I, along with others, stood outside the Oval Office 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 us. 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, we sat down rolled up our sleeves and we started to work.


I have a hard time remembering what I worked on as White House Counsel before that day. What I remember vividly is afterwards—the images of the burning World Trade Towers, desperate people jumping to their deaths and frantic good-bye phone calls between loved ones.

As shocking as these attacks were, however, imagine if the smoke over New York City that day had been that of a mushroom cloud- killing not just thousands, but tens, maybe hundreds of thousands. Imagine if the U.S. Government could no longer function in our capital city because it had been destroyed by a 10 kiloton blast. It is the job of the people in this room to picture such sickening scenarios. And it is our job to stop them from happening.

That’s why this battle against terrorism is fought on a clock that never stops, and why the partnerships among law enforcement officials, and between the law enforcement and the intelligence communities, are ones 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 – in this case the most unthinkable kind of attack – and to talk about what our network is doing to stop and ultimately defeat their network.

The threat of nuclear terrorism is all too real. We know, for example, that Al Qaeda has been trying to acquire or make nuclear weapons for over ten years. Indeed, Usama Bin Laden has indicated that he considers the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction to be an obligation for his followers. And the discovery of A.Q. Khan’s clandestine nuclear trafficking network demonstrates that the international black market for nuclear weaponry includes both buyers and sellers.

Acquisition of even a small nuclear weapon would provide terrorists with devastating destructive power: The Report of our 9/11 Commission points out that a trained nuclear engineer with an amount of highly enriched uranium or plutonium about the size of a grapefruit or an orange, together with commercially available material, could fashion a nuclear device that could fit in a van like the one Ramzi Yousef parked in the garage of the World Trade Center in 1993. Such a bomb would level Lower Manhattan.

The prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists is different than any other law enforcement or national security threat we face. This is not about catching the crook after the crime is committed. Rather, it is about prevention – and keeping weapons and the building blocks for them, accounted for, secure, outside of illicit markets, and away from terrorists.

Of course, if terrorists are successful in detonating a nuclear weapon in the United States, the Department will take the law enforcement lead in investigating the event and bringing responsible individuals and organizations to justice.

But I do not ever want to prosecute this type of crime. I want to work with you to prevent it from happening anywhere in the world. This mission is the challenge of our generation as law-enforcement and intelligence professionals, and we are here because we recognize what is at stake if we fail.

This is why, in facing this threat around the globe, it is essential that we take the many lessons we have learned after 9/11 in combating terrorism and apply these lessons to this broader issue of proliferation and the specific threat of nuclear terrorism.

The same concepts that apply to how we investigate terror organizations and plots – most importantly that of coordination and cooperation among law enforcement – must also be applied in combating the proliferation of WMD and their many components.

I acknowledge that we all have different law enforcement systems. Approximately 30 countries are represented at this conference, and that means 30 different legal systems.

But, communication, sharing and coordination are truly universal concepts. And they are the essence of what will ultimately make our network stronger than the terrorist network.

Lessons Learned from 9/11 in Targeting Terrorism

Over the past six years, the United States has evolved from a model where intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies were walled off for a variety of legal and cultural reasons to one where these camps now act in concert and in unison. We have taken that wall down and allowed for a much more robust flow of information. I want to talk about this essential change because it has been very effective. We are now able to realize the expertise and vast resources of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to an extent never before possible in this country.

These changes have enabled us to combat terrorists’ threats to the United States and the world in a far more effective way.

Just one example of this new way of doing business is the establishment of the National Security Division known as “NSD” at the Department of Justice. Its creation was recommended by the WMD commission and made a reality by the USA PATRIOT Act Improvement and Reauthorization, signed by President Bush in March of 2006.

The NSD brought the Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review and the Criminal Division's Counterterrorism and Counterespionage Sections under one authority, allowing the Department to fight threats to our national security more effectively.

Significant reforms have also taken place at the FBI. Most recently, under Director Mueller’s leadership, the FBI created the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Directorate, which consolidated WMD and counter-proliferation initiatives. This new Directorate studies the consequences of a WMD attack, increases our level of preparedness, and would coordinate the Government’s response in the event of a WMD attack in the continental United States.

Joint Terrorism Task Forces provide a clear example of how the walls that used to divide U.S. law enforcement have been lowered, 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.

Last summer in Los Angeles, the efficacy of the JTTF structure was clear when a local officer police officer who worked in a JTTF connected the dots that led to the eventual arrest of radicals plotting to attack government buildings and synagogues in Los Angeles

That case, and others like it, 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 Los Angeles.

Here in the U.S. –– the federal government offers the best, most comprehensive databases where local law enforcement 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.

The recent disruption of the plot to blow up fuel tanks at JFK International Airport in New York, like the Fort Dix case several weeks before, provide further examples of the success that has come from sharing and collaboration among law enforcement. The investigations into both plots showed how our agents and prosecutors are refining their capability to detect and pre-empt such plots before they advance to an operational stage.

Applying these Lessons to Nuclear Terrorism

Part 1: International Cooperation

In dealing with the global threat of nuclear proliferation and terrorism, we have to apply this new paradigm of communication and coordination on an even broader scale. We must not only break down the walls between agencies, but we must also work to break down barriers among nations so that there can be a dynamic exchange of information between law enforcement and intelligence agencies on a worldwide scale.

Information sharing on this level is far more challenging, but it is also extraordinarily important. This fact is recognized among the G8 countries and is the subject of many discussions with my counterparts around the world. We are moving forward with these principles in mind: that information must be protected and legitimate privacy interests always respected, while, at the same time, avenues of information sharing must be followed, within our respective legal frameworks. Should a local customs official in one country encounter an export declaration that raises alarm bells, for example, that information should be able to be transmitted quickly to agencies in other nations where they can be in a position to intercept a suspicious import on a vessel or aircraft.

In other words, we all need to be in a position where there is a healthy flow of tactical information that allows us to take immediate action to neutralize a threat, intercept a shipment, or take other action with respect to Weapons of Mass Destruction.

To enhance the ability of the United States to render and receive assistance on a global basis in the struggle against nuclear terrorism, the Administration is supporting and promoting ratification packages for two key international treaties at the current time:

• One, President Bush has signed and will soon send to the Senate, the Nuclear Terrorism Convention, which requires State parties to criminalize a number of acts related to the misuse of radioactive materials or a nuclear explosive device. The treaty also provides a legal basis for international cooperation in the investigation, prosecution, and extradition of those who commit terrorist acts involving radioactive material or a nuclear device.

• And, two, the President has also signed and will soon send to the Senate, amendments to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. This treaty will establish new international norms for the physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities, including protection from sabotage.

These ongoing efforts complement the Proliferation Security Initiative, which was announced by the President in May 2003. This initiative builds on existing treaties, agreements, and export control regimes within the international community to prevent the proliferation of WMD, their delivery systems and related materials worldwide. The PSI has specifically led to the formation of bilateral ship-boarding agreements designed to facilitate the interdiction of WMD and related materials.

Part 2: Private / Scientific Sector Partnerships

We also need to look to the private sector as a partner in our efforts. Partnerships between the private sector and the government are critical if we hope to get advanced warnings of proliferation plots. The private sector and scientific communities are often our eyes and ears on these matters.

Among other things, we must expand our outreach efforts to research institutions, universities, as well as manufacturers and exporters of sensitive technology to educate them about export laws and to solicit their assistance in preventing illegal foreign acquisition of their products and technical data.

Such visits and outreach efforts often result in tips that lead to criminal investigations nationwide and worldwide. On a frequent basis, law enforcement in this country is contacted by companies who are targeted by foreign agents or arms brokers seeking to acquire their technology for illegal export abroad. These tips form the basis for some of our most robust investigations. We must continue on this path.

Part 3: Mobilize All Tools & Flexibility

We also have to be flexible in how we conduct law enforcement and intelligence operations. Just as we have increasingly shifted our terrorism investigations towards prevention rather than reaction, we must do the same in targeting weapons proliferators and illegal technology brokers.

In the United States over the past few years, we have dramatically enhanced our ability to target terrorist networks by using the full range of legal and intelligence tools in our arsenal. For example, we have made great use of our material support statutes. These statutes allow us to prosecute those who provide money and technical expertise to terrorists even before they can undertake an operation. At the same time, we have increasingly used basic immigration laws and financial crime statutes to target those who may also have a nexus to terrorism. These tools, which have not traditionally been used to combat terrorists, are now being applied in a manner that has allowed us to break up potential terror cells before they can mature.

We need to apply this same approach to the counter-proliferation arena in order to better combat this threat. If we don’t have sufficient evidence to arrest a known weapons technology broker on smuggling or export charges, we need to take a look at their immigration status or their financial transactions to see if they have committed other crimes. We need to be creative and flexible if we are to prevent proliferation plots from maturing to full-scale threats.

Export Enforcement as One Key Tool

One area that I want to focus on in particular is export control. Effective export controls are critical to countering the proliferation of nuclear weapons, their delivery systems and related technologies.

These enforcement mechanisms are specifically designed to curb the illegal export of military items, sensitive technology and other equipment, many of which have direct applications in the development of nuclear weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction.

In the post 9/11 world, keeping restricted technology from falling into the wrong hands has never been more important. The technology in question includes military and dual-use equipment, components, data, and other technical expertise. These materials are extremely sensitive and, by law, cannot be exported from the United States without government approval. In the wrong hands, this technology could be used to inflict serious harm on innocent civilians anywhere around the globe, not to mention U.S. allies, U.S. troops overseas, or, ultimately, Americans at home.

Your presence here today is not an academic exercise. We know that terrorist organizations and rogue states are actively seeking to acquire this kind of technology from the United States to advance their weapons systems, and in some cases, their WMD programs. They rarely seek complete weapons systems from the U.S., but rather focus on seemingly innocuous components that they can use as building blocks. Many have targeted our government, private industries, and universities as sources of this material or information. Our cases clearly reflect this.

In recent past, the Justice Department has prosecuted independent arms brokers and foreign agents for attempting to illegally acquire component parts for nuclear weapons systems; guidance systems for rockets and missiles, as well as base ingredients for chemical and biological weapons. In the past several months alone, the Department has charged defendants with illegally supplying missile technology, military night vision data, fighter jet components, and military helicopter data to foreign nations.

Let me give you one recent example:

Federal prosecutors in the District of Columbia recently had a case involving the illegal export of something called a triggered spark gap. This small piece of advanced technology is normally used in medical devices to help doctors break up kidney stones. However, triggered spark gaps also have military applications. Specifically, they can be used to detonate nuclear warheads. The export of these items to certain countries is restricted by the U.S. government -- for good reason.

In the case in question, defendants in South Africa and elsewhere attempted to purchase hundreds of these items from a medical supplier in the United States. They represented that the items were going to be put to medical use in hospitals in South Africa. In reality, these goods were to be illegally diverted from South Africa to recipients in another nation for suspected military or nuclear end-use.

Thanks to the outstanding cooperation between South African authorities and U.S. law enforcement agencies, we were able to thwart this nuclear proliferation attempt. The only nuclear triggers that made it to their intended destination had been previously rendered inert by law enforcement, and one of the key defendants in the case was arrested in Colorado, pleaded guilty and was ultimately sentenced to prison.

Because these cases deal with advanced technology and because so many different federal agencies can have jurisdiction, investigating and prosecuting these cases can be extremely complex and time-consuming.

In order to more fully respond to this pressing national security threat, the Justice Department is preparing a national export enforcement initiative that will harness the counter-proliferation assets of the law enforcement and intelligence communities to improve the detection, investigation, and prosecution of persons and corporations violating U.S. export control laws.

One of the key elements of the initiative will be to provide our federal prosecutors with the assistance, training and expertise they need to undertake these specialized prosecutions.

The Department has already taken several steps in this regard. Last month, our National Security Division held a national export control conference, where our federal prosecutors were provided instruction and guidance on export control cases. Trainers from the Justice Department and the relevant investigative agents were on hand to provide comprehensive prosecutorial instruction.

Furthermore, the Department has also recently appointed its first National Export Control Coordinator for the Department to be responsible for, among other things, the development of comprehensive training materials for prosecutors nationwide. This person will also be responsible for coordinating with the many other U.S. law enforcement, licensing and intelligence agencies that play a role in export enforcement.

In the coming months, we will be taking additional steps to move this initiative forward. We know there is a substantial demand by terrorists and rogue regimes for restricted U.S. technology, including nuclear weapons components. And we expect no decrease in that demand in the near future.

It would be the ultimate irony if a foreign terrorist organization intent on harming the United States was able to obtain and use sensitive U.S. weapons components in carrying out such an attack.


In conclusion, as the Attorney General I am concerned about the safety of America and our allies, and as a father I am concerned about the world my sons will inherit.

We have seen the disturbing truth that the terrorist network does not seem to tire.

But our network, as President Bush 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.

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 honor 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 guide you in these important efforts.