ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 6:30 P.M. EST|
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
STATEMENT OF MARK CORALLO, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS,
REGARDING TRAC STUDY:
“The Department of Justice’s top priority is the prevention of future terrorist attacks. Federal, state, and local law enforcement are working together to deter, detect, and disrupt terrorist activities. Since September 11, this work has included not only the prosecution of overt terrorist acts, but also of cases to prevent potential terrorist activity.
“TRAC’s methodology and analysis simply is not compatible with the reality of the Justice Department’s efforts to prevent terror in the 21st century. In fact, the TRAC study ignores the value of early disruption of potential terrorist acts by proactive prosecution of terrorism-related targets on less serious charges. This strategy has proven to be an effective method of deterring and disrupting potential terrorist acts.
“Years ago, the government knew Al Capone was a powerful organized crime boss, yet we prosecuted him with tax evasion to remove him from the streets. Today, in order to protect the lives of Americans at the earliest opportunity, the government may charge potential terror suspects with lesser offenses to remove them from our communities. The fact that many terrorism investigations result in less serious charges does not mean the case is not terrorism-related. Moreover, pleas to these less serious charges often result in defendants who cooperate and provide invaluable information to the government -- information that can lead to the detection and prevention of other terrorism-related activity. The importance of cooperation in safeguarding America’s security cannot be overstated. For example, the six convicted defendants in the Buffalo cell - men who traveled to Afghanistan, trained in al Qaeda camps, and some of whom even admitted to meeting with Bin Laden and top al Qaeda terrorists - are cooperating and providing information as part of their plea agreements.
“Often, there is no clear line between terrorism and other criminal activity such as money laundering, identity theft, visa fraud, or immigration violations. So-called “sleepers” are difficult to identify as they seek to blend in with minimal illegal activity until they are activated. This Administration’s strategy of preventing terrorism has helped protect America for over two years since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Our commitment to preventing another attack on U.S. soil has not, and will not, waver.”
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
Since September 11, federal prosecutors have handled an increasing number of anti-terrorism cases, particularly involving immigration offenses, where the defendant is convicted, sentenced to time served, and then rendered to the custody of the Department of Homeland Security for deportation. In the Western District of North Carolina, for example, 49 Charlotte Airport employees, who were undocumented aliens, were convicted of identification document fraud, sentenced to time served, rendered to the custody of INS for administrative proceedings, and then immediately deported. The Sentencing Guidelines range for these offenses is relatively low, often resulting in time-served sentences. So while the actual sentences received in these cases may be minimal, the goal of ensuring airport security, so crucial to preventing terrorist acts, is being achieved.
Prior to 9/11, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) had only two terrorism-related case classification codes -- International Terrorism and Domestic Terrorism. Reflecting the new reality after 9/11, EOUSA added a case classification code for Terrorism-Related Hoaxes, then later added a code for Terrorist Financing and several codes for Anti-Terrorism (such as Identify Theft, Immigration, and Violent Crime) to capture activity intended to prevent or disrupt potential or actual terrorist threats where the offense conduct would not fall within one of the already-existing codes.
To ensure that data on all anti-terrorism cases are captured and included in our statistics, federal prosecutors were asked in 2002 to reclassify the appropriate pending cases and appropriate cases closed in Fiscal Year 2002 to reflect the new case classification codes. Accurate statistics are a high priority, and the Department will continue to take every reasonable step to ensure that proper reclassification is completed and that future data entries are complete and accurate.