Speech* of Deputy Attorney General
LARRY D. THOMPSON
To The International Bar Association
Fontainebleau Hotel - Miami, Florida
May 25, 2002
- INTRODUCTION/NEW PARADIGM
- I would like to acknowledge and thank Bruce Maloy for inviting me to be here with you today. Bruce and I have tried many cases together. He is always concerned about the profession and how we can better deliver legal services to respective clients.
- It is a pleasure to appear before such a distinguished group of lawyers.
- I'm here to talk a bit about the work of the DOJ - but no discussion of the work of the Department can begin without talking about the terrible events of September 11 and the effect they had on the Department.
- BUT -- before I talk about the Department of Justice, I believe it is very clear that the menace of terrorism knows no political or geographic borders.
- The events of 9/11 were not simply attacks on the U.S. Many of you present today from outside the U.S. may have lost one of your countrymen on 9/11. It was civilization itself that was targeted.
- And it is understood that the response to these terrorist attacks must come from all civilized nations.
- We are deeply appreciative of the military assistance we have received from a number of countries-as well as substantial cooperation from a number of others in providing intelligence and investigative support in our global war against terrorism.
- Much of our effort at DOJ is to prevent and disrupt potential terrorist attacks against the U.S.
- Although we have not suffered a terrorist attack since September 11, the threats to this country are very real.
- Every morning, there are briefings with the CIA and FBI to review credible threats.
- Terrorists have considered attacks in the U.S. against high-profile government or private facilities
- Famous landmarks
- U.S. infrastructure nodes such as airports, bridges, harbors, dams and financial centers.
We know that al-Qaida was working on efforts to acquire dangerous chemical agents and toxins.
Al-Qaida was pursuing a fairly sophisticated biological weapons research program.
We believe al-Qaida was seeking to acquire or develop a nuclear device - and maybe also pursuing a radioactive dispersal device or "dirty bomb."
The terrorists may try to launch attacks against chemical or nuclear industrial infrastructures of the U.S. to cause widespread toxic or radiological damage.
BUT al-Qaida has not been destroyed. Thousands of men went through the training camps.
We must continue to investigate and disrupt their activities.
We must deny their sources of financing and eliminate ability to hijack charitable organizations for charitable purposes.
BUT - THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS - THE THREATS ARE REAL; TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS LIKE AL-QAIDA HAVE NOT BEEN DESTROYED.
- We are living in historical times in the U.S. We are the first group of Americans to face potential mass murder as civilians by a foreign enemy on American soil.
EFFORTS TO FIGHT TERRORISMTo meet terrorist threats - and save the lives of Americans - DOJ has undertaken several steps.
- First, we have established special task forces nationwide to initiate and coordinate swift preemptive actions and responses by federal, state, and local law enforcement.
- The federal government does not have enough eyes, ears and feet available.
Second, we have substantially improved coordination between the FBI, INS, and our intelligence agencies.
Third, we are ensuring that the names of foreign nationals seeking entry to the United States are checked against law enforcement and intelligence databases for potential indications of terrorist associations or activities:
- Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Forces
- Student Visas.
Fourth, we are detaining foreign nationals with suspected links to terrorist organizations.
Fifth, we are conducting voluntary interviews with several thousand additional foreign nationals to gain information about potential terrorist operations in the United States.
Sixth, we are intensifying efforts to enforce judicial orders of eportation against fugitive aliens from certain countries.
Finally, we are reexamining and revising administrative regulations where appropriate.
CONCERNS / BALANCED MEASURES
- It is a fact that some critics have raised some concerns over these measures.
- As a public official - and as an attorney who, for many years, represented criminal defendants - I share the concern that the struggle against terrorism not change the essential character of our nation. But I want to assure you that none of these steps threatens our Constitution.
- Despite the gravity of the terrorist attacks and the threat of future attacks, all of the measures that we are bringing to bear are arrived at openly, in the sunlight of public attention, and are subject to judicial review.
- When you think about it, it is our very open, democratic and just society -- whose hallmark is our concern for civil rights -- that has made us the terrorists' target.
- Our freedoms are the envy of the world and the perennial winner in the global marketplace of values and ideas.
- It is precisely because the terrorists' ideology cannot compete in the open marketplace that they have turned to violence and horror. They attempt to achieve through mass murder what they will never be able to accomplish in a free exchange of ideas: to subvert our freedoms, freedoms for which millions of Americans have strained and sacrificed.
- We are certainly not the first nation to be assailed by terrorists bent on its destruction. Others who have responded to this challenge can help guide us to strike the right balance among competing liberty and security concerns. Although Israel has been the victim of repeated terrorist assaults, the Israeli Supreme Court has prohibited the use of "moderate physical pressure" by its investigators. In doing so, the Israeli court recognized a principal that applies equally to our own struggle: "This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual's liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and [add to] its strength and allow it to overcome its difficulties."
- This same reverence for civil rights inspired the Attorney General immediately after the terrorist attacks to challenge all of us in the Justice Department to "think outside the box" in fighting terrorism, but caution us: "Don't think outside the Constitution."
- We are duty bound to zealously represent our client. And our client is the American citizens.
- Our profession has contributed greatly to the welfare of this country and to its security in time of war. We have much to be proud of. But in practicing law, it is important to bear in mind as well the privileges - and obligations - of a lawyer, and lawyers understand and cherish the blessings that flow from a system of government based on respect for individual rights rather than fanaticism, spiritual corruption, or rule by fiat. In this we are the bulwark of our society against terror.
- I believe we are on the right track, but we will not be complacent. As Will Rogers once said, "Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there." And we will not just sit there. We will move aggressively to defeat terrorism wherever it exists and defend citizens' rights whenever they are threatened. I can assure you of that.
*NOTE: Mr. Thompson frequently speaks from notes and may depart from the speech as prepared. However, he stands behind the speech as presented in written format.