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Fact Sheet: Department of Justice Anti-Terrorism Efforts Since Sept. 11, 2001

WASHINGTON – The highest priority of the Department of Justice since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has been to protect Americans by preventing acts of terrorism.

The ability of the Department to identify and prosecute would-be terrorists, thereby thwarting their deadly plots, has improved dramatically over the past five years thanks to: a core set of structural reforms, the development of new law enforcement tools, and the discipline of a new mindset that values prevention and communication. Working side by side with other federal agencies, as well as state and local law enforcement, the Justice Department has not rested in its efforts to safeguard America – and to the credit of all who have stood watch, there has not been a terrorist attack on American soil in five years.

I. Protecting America Through Investigation and Prosecution

Prosecutors and civil attorneys at the Department of Justice have had great success in America's federal courtrooms since the attacks of Sept. 11, successfully identifying, prosecuting, and locking up hundreds of terrorists or would-be terrorists. As Attorney General Gonzales has said, "Prevention is the goal of all goals when it comes to terrorism because we simply cannot and will not wait for these particular crimes to occur before taking action."

Prosecuting and Incarcerating Terrorists

To disrupt terrorist threats, the Department has used a variety of charges in terrorism and terrorism-related prosecutions since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Charges have been brought in cases involving terrorist acts abroad against U.S. nationals; terrorist attacks against mass transportation systems; visa or document fraud; prohibitions against financing of terrorism; and participation in nuclear and weapons of mass destruction threats to the United States, among other charges.

Notable cases include:

II. Developing New and Maximizing Law Enforcement Tools to Disrupt Terror Plots

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it was clear law enforcement lacked the tools needed to detect and prevent terrorism. Terrorists possessed cutting-edge technology, while law enforcement struggled to use decades-old legal tools that could not keep up. In the past five years, the Justice Department worked closely with Congress to strengthen our nation's criminal laws against terror, to update the legal authorities needed to detect and disrupt terror, and to tear down the walls preventing intelligence and law enforcement from gathering, sharing, and "connecting the dots" that could be the key to protecting America from another attack. Some of the most significant changes in this area since Sept. 11 follow, including a discussion of the legal and constitutional affirmations given to these programs by federal courts.

Transforming the FBI To Meet the New Threat

Over the past five years, the FBI has fundamentally transformed its operations to cultivate detailed information on terrorism in America. In order to disrupt terrorists before they are able to strike, the FBI overhauled its counterterrorism operations, expanded intelligence capabilities, modernized business practices and technology, and improved coordination with its partners. Some of the most significant adjustments include:


The USA PATRIOT Act, which passed both Houses of the Congress with an overwhelming bipartisan majority and was signed into law by President Bush on Oct. 26, 2001, has been an integral part of the federal government's successful prosecution of the war against terrorism. Thanks to the Act, law enforcement has been able to identify terrorist operatives, dismantle terrorist cells, disrupt terrorist plots and capture terrorists before they have been able to strike. The expiring provisions of the Act, including critical information sharing provisions, were reauthorized on March 9, 2006, allowing investigators to continue to use these vital authorities. The USA PATRIOT Act provided vital enhancements to our ability to protect against terrorism and other serious crimes. The Act has helped protect America in the following ways:

Examples of the use of tools and information sharing provided by the USA PATRIOT Act include the following:

Using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as a Key Tool in the War on Terror

Since Sept. 11, 2001, use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has been a key tool in fulfilling the Department's mission to fight terrorism and protect our national security. Over the past five years, the Department has significantly increased the coverage obtained under FISA, reflecting both the increased focus on counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations and the improvement in the operation of the FISA process:

Utilizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program

Upheld in Court

In fighting a new kind of war requiring the use of new tools, inevitable legal challenges have been brought in our federal courts. On a number of occasions, the courts have upheld that the tools and methods we have used are consistent with the Constitution and the rule of law.

III. Establishing Partnerships To Keep America Safe

In order to defeat complex terrorist networks, the Department has increased its partnerships to enhance cooperation at every level of government to better prevent terrorist attacks. These efforts include:

Coordinating with Our State and Local Partners

Coordinating with Our International Counterparts

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Department has leveraged international law enforcement cooperation to prevent terrorists from freely roaming the globe and to bring them to justice. Principally in this area, the Department has:

IV. Combating the Dangerous Spread of Radicalization

Though the Department has achieved success on many fronts in the War on Terror, new fronts have emerged through the efforts of terrorists and terrorist sympathizers to radicalize others. These efforts are taking place on the Internet, in neighborhoods, and in prisons. The Department has established several programs to combat these new threats.

Curbing Radicalization in America's Prisons

The Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) understand the importance of controlling and preventing the recruitment of inmates in our federal prison facilities into terrorism. These efforts include:

Outreach to the Muslim, Arab and Sikh Communities

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the Department of Justice placed a strong focus on promoting cultural understanding of Arabs, Muslims and Sikhs, who became new targets of backlash discrimination. Federal law enforcement has worked hard on behalf of those who are, or are perceived to be, Muslim or of Arab, Middle-Eastern, or South Asian origin.

V. Protecting the Privacy and Civil Liberties of Americans

As an agency responsible for enforcing laws, the Department strives to be a model for ensuring that Americans' privacy and civil liberties are adequately protected in all of the Department's counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts.

VI. Looking Forward: Making America Safe

As the Attorney General has said, "We are safer today, but not yet safe." Despite tireless efforts by the Department at home and abroad to track, investigate, and prosecute terrorists; collaborate with state, local, and international law enforcement; and stem the tide of radicalization, the following are just some of the programs the Department is working to establish in the fight to prevent future terrorist attacks.

The Department of Justice's National Security Division

The USA PATRIOT Act Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 authorizes the Attorney General to reorganize the Department of Justice by placing the Department's primary national security elements under the leadership of a new Assistant Attorney General for National Security, fulfilling a recommendation of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Administration has made great progress in securing ports of entry and the border, implementing initiatives consistent with recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and increasing the number of Border Patrol agents. The President has proposed a comprehensive plan to address illegal immigration, which includes the following elements: