Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
at the Technologies for Public Safety In Critical
Incident Response Conference
New Orleans, LA
September 27, 2004 - 9:00 AM
Thank you, Superintendent [Eddie] Compass, for that introduction.
I begin with some reflections on science, which you may or may not find helpful. They come from some very creative thinkers in elementary school.
It is a pleasure to address the Critical Incident Technologies conference.
The first priority of government is to protect the lives and liberties of the people. This conference brings together some of our nation's best minds to ensure that the best technology is used for the benefit and safety of every American.
The United States Department of Justice is the federal government's chief enforcer of the law. We have the privilege and obligation to protect the rule of law and ensure the equal protection and safety of every citizen.
But whether it is the ATF, DEA, Marshal Service, U.S. Attorneys, or the FBI, every component of the Justice Department depends on the relationships and cooperation of our partners at the state and local level.
During this time of war, for instance, the FBI is our nation's domestic intelligence agency. But in the fight to detect, disrupt, and dismantle terrorist operations, the defense of America's liberty is the cause of every citizen. That is why the agents and leadership of the FBI have reached out to you for your help in this great cause.
We know that together, state, local, and federal law enforcement can achieve impressive results. Consider the record we have achieved these past three years:
Most important, we have not had a terrorist attack on American soil for more than three years. In the war against terror:
In confronting all of these challenges, state and local law enforcement joined with the Justice Department's bold, new strategy of prevention.
We have demonstrated that when law enforcement gets the resources and the tools, and works as a team, we can take career predators off the street, and we can make our communities safer.
I thank you.
These successes carry lessons for us all. These successes remind us how best to deploy technology to protect the public and to keep our freedoms secure.
All of our successes -- whether it is the fight against gun crime, illegal drugs, or the war against terrorism -- are predicated on setting the right priorities.
Our success has been built on an important distinction -- the distinction between efficiency and effectiveness. Some years ago, Peter Drucker, the eminent management guru, memorably described the importance of not confusing the two: "Efficiency is doing things right and effectiveness is doing the right things."
We are doing the right things. We have set clear goals that conform to the most effective ends of government: protection of the citizenry. We are using communication, cooperation, and coordination within law enforcement to find the best way to accomplish well-defined ends.
The wise use of technology has been integral to our successes.
I am pleased to discuss just some of the efforts the U.S. Department of Justice is making to provide even better tools and technologies to state and local officials. At a time when law enforcement is asked to do more than ever before, our hope is that teamwork and technology can help you respond more swiftly and surely to critical incidents -- incidents such as terrorist attacks.
At the top of the hierarchy of needs is intelligence and information sharing. As the last three years have proven, effective intelligence and information sharing are crucial to our success in the war against terrorism.
One of our most promising efforts to bring together state, local, and federal law enforcement is the development of the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan. It was produced through the efforts of the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative -- a consortium of 32 local, state, tribal, federal, and international justice organizations working together to overcome the barriers to justice information. Global Justice is establishing new relationships to agencies and new disciplines -- and at all levels of government -- while at the same time respecting privacy and security concerns.
As part of the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan, we are seeking to connect and share information through the sensitive-but-unclassified-information networks that the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security support and operate. At this time, these systems include:
By bringing these systems together, we will increase our ability to detect, deter, and dismantle terrorist cells and operations before they can attack.
In addition, information sharing and cooperation have been the driving force behind the creation of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). This system is helping us identify the guilty, solve old cases, and lock up the worst offenders for longer.
The National DNA Index now allows 175 participating laboratories from all 50 states, the U.S. Army Laboratory, the FBI Laboratory, and 18 countries to exchange DNA profiles across borders and oceans.
Since 1998, CODIS has aided more than 11,220 investigations and connected more than 8,200 forensic samples with convicted offenders.
The FBI is also involved in work to increase the capacity of its fingerprint system (IAFIS) and to make it more accessible to state and local law enforcement.
In addition, the Justice Department is working closely with the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and State, to improve and upgrade the tools we use to collect fingerprints from visitors seeking to enter our country and persons suspected of crimes. The increases in the speed of collection and the clarity of the fingerprint that will come from this research will pay great dividends. By preventing terrorists and other criminals from entering our country, we can stop terrorist acts, solve crimes more rapidly, and ensure public safety.
We know these tools will work. Over the last few years, we have seen DNA and forensic analysis move from theory to practice -- with DNA analysis now a powerful ally to our investigations and crime fighting.
Last week, I had the honor of announcing our first grants under the President's "Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology" Initiative. That Initiative seeks to provide $1 billion over five years to aid and improve the use of DNA analysis and to eliminate the backlogs at state and local labs.
The nearly $100 million in grants coming from the DNA initiative this month is nearly twice the amount of last year's funding. In addition, by the end of September, we will have awarded more than $50 million in grants to help make additional forensic science improvements in areas of critical need at the state and local level.
By strengthening our state and local networks of DNA and forensic analysis, we know we can catch criminals faster, put them in jail longer, and free up resources to focus on new frontiers in the fight against crime and terror.
The Justice Department's National Institute of Justice has also taken pioneering steps to:
Finally, the National Institute of Justice has undertaken research and development efforts in several other areas to help state and local law enforcement in the fight against terrorism.
For instance, agencies of the Justice Department and Homeland Security have been working together to build a national strategy to improve the capabilities and meet the needs of state and local bomb squads.
We are looking specifically at how to deal most effectively with bombs, suicide bombers, and radio-controlled explosive devices. More specifically, the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has been working hard to deal with the potential threat of improvised explosive devices. The National Institute of Justice is working to develop a versatile bomb robot that every bomb squad can afford.
We are committed to listening to the opinions of those who do the important work of public safety in our communities. NIJ recently worked with the National Bomb Squad Commander's Advisory Board to develop a national strategy to address the needs of our state and local bomb squads. Several current research and development projects were undertaken in direct response to this strategy. For example, we have begun:
NIJ has also provided grants for more than a dozen social science research projects to help us understand what motivates terrorists, how those motivations can help counter-terrorism operations, and which aspects of our society might be targeted next by terrorists.
All of these ideas hold great promise for the cause of justice and public safety -- and the potential to bring together federal, state, and local law enforcement to be even more effective and efficient in the defense of lives and liberties.
Unlike so many national gatherings, this conference is not focused on federal agencies, technology developers, or academic theory.
Instead, this conference focuses on state and local public safety practitioners. This conference is designed to help the people whose feet are on the street in the community, not those with their feet up on their desks inside the Beltway. I look forward to your findings and your ideas.
I thank you for your service. I am deeply appreciative of your efforts to ensure that we use the newest ideas to pursue the noblest ideals. Justice is a value that spurred our nation's founders to dare great deeds and brave overwhelming odds. It is also the value that is the foundation of America's bright future ahead.
It is our obligation and challenge, our privilege and our opportunity, to serve this great cause, to let it define the ends we pursue and shape the strategies and tools we use.
I want to thank NIJ Director Sarah Hart for her leadership and the National Institute of Justice staff for their dedicated work in these important areas. And I want to thank the Department of Homeland Security for their co-sponsorship of this event.
I look forward to our work together in the future and I thank you for all that we have already accomplished in this great cause.