Attorney General November 9, 2001 Memorandum on Interviews Regarding International Terrorism
Office of the Attorney General
Washington, D.C. 20530
November 9, 2001
MEMORANDUM FOR ALL UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS
ALL MEMBERS OF THE ANTI-TERRORISM TASK FORCES
FROM: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
SUBJECT: Interviews Regarding International Terrorism
- Since September 11, 2001, the Department of Justice and our fellow law enforcement agencies in the federal government have undertaken an intensive campaign against the forces of terrorism. This campaign involves not only a traditional criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the September 11th terrorist attacks, but also a sustained and comprehensive effort to prevent terrorists from committing any further attacks against our country. In pursuit of these objectives, thousands of individuals have been interviewed and hundreds have been detained for various criminal violations.
- Federal resources have their limits, however, and we are finding that there are many more people to be interviewed than there are federal agents to conduct the interviews. We have compiled a list of individuals who have entered this country on non-immigrant visas who may be helpful in our effort to investigate the attacks of September 11th and to prevent future terrorism. The list was generated by taking a population of individuals and applying to that population a set of generic parameters. None of the persons on this list has been interviewed to date. It is important that we interview these individuals, as I believe that they are willing and able to provide information that could assist our campaign against terrorism. Just as our citizens regularly volunteer information and tips that help us solve criminal cases and enforce the law, we expect that these visitors can contribute significantly to our effort to protect the United States from further terrorism. I ask for your assistance in conducting these interviews.
- We have designed a process for coordinating these interviews throughout the country. First, the individuals on the list will be grouped by their addresses into 94 separate lists, one for each of the federal districts. Those 94 lists will then be distributed to the United States Attorneys, who will, in turn, coordinate the interviews with the members of the Anti-Terrorism Task Force in each district. The United States Attorneys will be responsible for assigning the interviews, providing the written guidance attached to this directive, collecting the reports of the interviews, and coordinating any follow-up investigation that results from the interviews. The United States Attorneys will coordinate these activities with the FBI Special Agents in Charge. The task force members will be responsible for conducting the interviews in accordance with the guidance, drafting and submitting a written report of each interview, and participating in follow-up investigation, as appropriate.
- I understand that it will be a complicated and time-consuming project to interview all of these individuals, especially in those districts where a large number of the individuals reside. I also recognize that locating many of these individuals will be a challenge and will often require districts to coordinate with each other to find those individuals who cannot be located in the district designated on the list. I will nonetheless instruct the United States Attorneys substantially to complete these interviews within 30 days.
- This is an ambitious schedule, but one mandated by the urgency of the mission. It has been clear since September 11th that further terrorist attacks against the United States are likely. That concern was heightened by the commencement of military action against the forces of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and it was underscored by my October 29, 2001, announcement that the government had received credible information of an impending terrorist attack. Given the immediacy of this threat to our national security, it is absolutely imperative that we in law enforcement do everything in our power to prevent any such attack. These interviews are a critical step in that effort, as they will provide information and leads that will help us identify and apprehend terrorists in our midst before they have an opportunity to cause more pain and suffering to the American people. These interviews must therefore be conducted as soon as possible.
- In asking for your assistance on this project, I want to be very clear about its objective. The objective is to collect any information that the individuals on this list may have regarding terrorist elements in this country and abroad. These individuals were selected for interviews because they fit the criteria of persons who might have knowledge of foreign-based terrorists, criteria that are shared by many of the persons -- both American citizens and visitors to our country -- who have provided valuable information and assistance to law enforcement in our anti-terrorism efforts since September 11th. These individuals were not selected in order to single out a particular ethnic or religious group, or to suggest that one ethnic or religious group is more prone to terrorism than another. I emphatically reject that proposition, and I want all to understand that there is no place for ethnic or religious stereotyping in this plan, or in this nation's campaign against terrorism. Nor were these individuals selected because they are suspected of any criminal activity, and, absent any other indication that they are criminals, they should not be treated as such. Instead, they should be treated with courtesy and respect, as potential witnesses and as sources of information.
- Attached to this directive is a memorandum providing clear guidance about the objectives and the procedures that will guide the implementation of this project. Please carefully read this guidance and closely coordinate your actions with the United States Attorney and the other members of the Anti-Terrorism Task Force in your jurisdiction.
- I appreciate your willingness to join forces with us in this important endeavor. The Department of Justice is proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its state, local and federal law enforcement partners in our country's war against terrorism. I am confident that, working together, we can prevail over the forces of terrorism and restore a sense of peace and security to our country.