Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
Testimony Before the House Appropriations Committee
March 6, 2003
(Note: The Attorney General Often Deviates From Prepared Remarks)
Chairman Wolf, Ranking Member Serrano and Members of the Committee:
I am honored to be here today to present the President's budget request for the Department of Justice. The first and overarching priority of this budget - and of the Department of Justice - is to protect America from acts of terrorism and bring terrorists to justice. I thank you for your assistance in providing the Department of Justice with resources to confront this threat and to detect, disrupt, and destroy terrorism.
We have taken these resources - as well as the tools provided by President Bush, Congress, and the American people - and dedicated them to preventing future acts of terror. Today, America is better protected and better prepared to defeat terrorism.
Even as the men and women of the Justice Department continue to fight the war on terror, we do so within a framework of justice that upholds our other crucial responsibilities. We remain committed to combating corporate corruption, drug trafficking, and the unspeakably inhumane crime of human trafficking. We remain focused on preventing and prosecuting crimes against children, enforcing gun laws, and protecting the civil rights of all Americans.
The budget request I am here to discuss today will strengthen our capacity to fulfill all of these priorities. The President's budget requests $23.3 billion for the Department of Justice, including $19 billion in discretionary funding and $4.3 billion for the Department's mandatory and fee-funded accounts.
The fiscal year 2004 budget reflects the transfer of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Office of Domestic Preparedness, and a portion of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center and other Departmental resources to the newly created Department of Homeland Security. It reflects also the transfer of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the Justice Department.
Above all, this budget request reflects our intense focus on preventing acts of terrorism by identifying, disrupting, and dismantling terrorist networks. With the resources we have already been provided, we have built an integrated prevention strategy aimed at combating terrorism - and we are improving every day.
The attacks of September 11 made it clear that America's defense requires a new culture of prevention, nurtured by cooperation, built on coordination, and rooted in our Constitutional liberties. The excessive constraints imposed in the late 1970's - that erected barriers to cooperation among government agencies, segregated law enforcement and intelligence gathering, and prohibited information sharing - must be replaced systematically.
Today, Americans are safer because we have strengthened this culture of cooperation, and in so doing have transformed the rules of engagement for investigating and prosecuting terrorists within our borders. The Justice Department is fighting the war on terrorism by integrating, not separating, our law enforcement capacity, and integrating, not separating, our intelligence capabilities. The Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have set new integrated standards for cooperation and coordination. The FBI's domestic intelligence operations are strengthened substantially by the CIA's information sharing, intelligence analysis and operational coordination.
It is to the credit of this new ethic of cooperation - as well as an alert, vigilant, and supportive public - that we have not suffered another major terrorist attack in this country. The FBI indicates that since September 11th, 2001, over 100 terrorist plots have been disrupted.
Yet our survival and success in this long war on terrorism demands that we continuously adapt and improve our capabilities to protect America from a fanatical, ruthless enemy. I will continue to seek the assistance of Congress as we enhance a culture of prevention and ensure the resources of our government are dedicated to defending Americans.
Now, I would like to give you a brief overview of the results to date of our integrated prevention strategy.
First, we are gathering and cultivating detailed intelligence on terrorism in the U.S.:
Second, we are arresting and detaining potential terrorist threats:
Third, we are dismantling the terrorist financial network:
Fourth, we are disrupting potential terrorist travel:
Fifth, we are building our long-term counter-terrorism capacity:
These accomplishments demonstrate that our extensive FBI counter-terrorism operations now blend:
We have made tremendous progress, due in no small part to your continued leadership, but there is more to be done. The safety and security of America is in our hands and we must continue to anticipate and adapt to new and changing threats. To that end, the budget request includes an increase of $598.2 million for programs that support our mission to prevent and combat terrorism, including $516.2 million to enhance or complement the FBI's Counter-terrorism Program.
Even as we have concentrated our efforts and energy upon identifying, tracking, and dismantling terrorist networks, we have maintained a steady focus on our other crucial responsibilities. Our efforts to combat terrorism, coupled with our integrated prevention strategy, have enhanced enforcement of the law across the board.
At the same time the Department has fought the war on terror, we have addressed other core missions:
First, the Department of Justice has taken decisive action to combat corporate corruption and punish corporate law-breakers. The relentless work of the Corporate Fraud Task Force, chaired by Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, has resulted in:
The Department is committed to ensuring a marketplace of integrity and restoring the confidence of American investors. To that end the FY 2004 budget requests $24.5 million to support the Corporate Fraud Task Force.
Second, the Department of Justice has continued to fight the scourge of illegal drugs. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration, we have:
-Increased the seizures of drug assets from major drug trafficking organizations by 20 percent;
-Dismantled 305 drug trafficking organizations in 2002 alone;
-More than doubled the amount of heroin seizures from 2000 to 2002; and
-Attacked the nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism, including bringing charges in San Diego against individuals for conspiring to trade heroin and hashish for anti-aircraft missiles, which were allegedly intended to be sold to al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.
These threats call us even more urgently to action as we continue to battle drug-related crime. The FY 2004 budget request includes $117.9 million to augment our efforts to reduce the availability of illegal drugs, to identify and dismantle drug trafficking organizations, and to support drug treatment.
Third, the Department of Justice has prevented and prosecuted crimes against children by:
The Department remains steadfast in its commitment to protect and defend America's children. Along with the $2.5 million set aside to develop a nationwide AMBER alert, the proposed budget provides $3.6 million to support the Innocent Images National Initiative, and $13 million to support the ATF's Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative.
Fourth, the Department of Justice has protected increasingly Americans from gun crime. In the first two years of this Administration's Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative to combat gun crime, we have:
-In Philadelphia, robberies at gunpoint dropped 11 percent, and the homicide rate is the lowest it has been since 1985; and
-In Kansas City, the murder rate dropped 23 percent, to its lowest level in three decades. This reduction translates to 27 real people whose lives have been saved.
U.S. Attorneys have:
Fifth, the Department of Justice has protected vigorously the civil rights of all Americans by:
-Securing the conviction of Zachary Rolnik for violating the civil rights of Dr. James J. Zogby, the president of the Arab-American Institute; and
-Securing the guilty plea of Earl Leslie Krugel for conspiracy to manufacture and detonate bombs at a mosque and a field office of United States Congressman Darrell Issa of California.
-More than doubled the number of trafficking prosecutions - and doubled the number of convictions - over the previous two years;
-Successfully convicted 36 defendants in sex trafficking prosecutions - three times the number of sex traffickers prosecuted in the previous two years; and
-Initiated investigations into human trafficking in 46 states and in all United States territories.
Chairman Wolf, the Justice Department shares your commitment to eradicating the scourge of human trafficking, and we will continue our aggressive efforts to protect the victims of trafficking and bring to justice those who violate their human dignity. I would also like to note that I regularly raise the human trafficking issue in discussions with my foreign counterparts.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, the overarching priority of this budget is to defend Americans from the threat of terrorism. As we work to achieve this objective, we will not relent in our efforts to defend Americans from any threat to freedom, be it illegal drugs, human trafficking, or child exploitation. The budget request I have highlighted today builds upon the firm foundation laid down by Congress in the days and weeks following the September 11 attacks - a foundation of resolve, backed by resources; of American strength, backed by American purpose.
Let me close by quoting Stephen Flatow, whose daughter, Alisa, was a 20-year-old American student killed in Israel when a terrorist drove a van full of explosives into the bus she was riding:
"When you know the resources of your government are
committed to right the wrong committed against your
daughter, that instills you with a sense of awe. As a father,
you can't ask for anything more."
As a nation, we demand nothing less. Securing our homeland and safeguarding the lives and liberties of our citizens is the responsibility with which history has charged us. Chairman Wolf, members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to testify today and to reiterate the commitment of this Justice Department, in the words of Stephen Flatow, "to right the wrong" committed against America, to pursue justice, and to defend freedom.
I thank you for your leadership and your support, and for all you do to secure and to serve the American people. Now, I would be pleased to answer questions.