Attorney General Ashcroft and Deputy Attorney General Thompson Announce
Reorganization and Mobilization of the Nation's Justice and Law Enforcement Resources November 8, 2001
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you.
Thank you, Deputy Attorney General Thompson. I want to take this opportunity in front of this unprecedented audience to thank you -- and I do it in front of people who have dedicated themselves to service. Your own dedicated and selfless service to the nation is mirrored in the lives of these with whom we meet today, and I'm grateful for it. Your heritage of justice involvement, spanning several decades now, is a model which I will seek to follow. You've been a courageous leader of this department, faithful servant to the president of the United States, and a dogged advocate of justice. We're all grateful for your effort. (Applause.)
I took it as a sign that we are making the difficult adjustments necessary for living with the threat of terrorism when "Saturday Night Live" decided to parody one of my press conferences this weekend. I don't know if you saw it or not -- I didn't -- but I'm told I was portrayed as urging Americans to go about their normal lives by doing everyday things like, quote, "going to the gas mask store." (Laughter.)
Accepting new realities, it is said, begins with laughter. Well, just as the American people have had to accept new challenges, I must now accept that Darrell Hammond does a reasonably accurate impression of me. (Laughter.)
I stand in awe here in this great hall, aware of our predecessors, who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of justice. We build on their heritage, the men and women who were the "trust busters" of the 20th century, who safeguarded our nation's internal security from fascists and communists; who declared a legal war on organized crime -- the mafia bosses and corrupt political machines; and who crusaded for every American's equality and civil rights. Their victories built the foundation upon which we now stand.
They helped to secure the liberties we must now safeguard from terrorism.
The Justice Department today may be more complex, but our mission must be just as clear as it was for our predecessors. On Sunday, it will be two months since the president's words -- in his words, "The nation was awakened to danger and called to defend freedom by a terrorist assault on our homeland."
The attacks of September 11th have redefined the mission of the Department of Justice. Defending our nation and defending the citizens of America against terrorist attacks is now our first and overriding priority. To fulfill this mission, we are devoting all the resources necessary to eliminate terrorist networks, to prevent terrorist attacks, and to bring to justice those who kill Americans in the name of murderous ideologies. We are engaged in an aggressive arrest and detention campaign of lawbreakers with a single objective: to get terrorists off the street before they can harm more Americans.
We have modeled our tactics after a previous Justice Department fighting a different threat in this same nation. The Justice Department of Robert F. Kennedy, it was said, would arrest a mobster for spitting on the sidewalk if it would help in the fight against organized crime. In the war on terror, it is the policy of this Department of Justice to be equally aggressive in protecting Americans. We will arrest and detain any suspected terrorist who has violated our laws. Suspects without links to terrorism or who are not guilty of violations of the law will not be detained. But terrorists who are in violation of the law will be convicted; in some cases they'll be deported; in all cases they'll be prevented from doing further harm to Americans.
In the Department of Justice's fight against terrorism, the American people have been our valued and trusted and indispensable ally. Our partners in state and law enforcement have been our eyes and ears and muscle on the ground.
For two months America has been subjected to constant terrorist threats based on credibly intelligence. Two periods of extremely high threat have passed. For two months we've endured the videotaped tauntings of Osama bin Laden.
For two months, Americans have had their lives disrupted, and law enforcement has had to work overtime, to say the least, through dozens of warnings to law enforcement, a deliberate campaign of terrorist disruption, tighter security and potential targets -- tighter security around potential targets -- and over a thousand arrests and detention.
This has only made America stronger. It has inspired us. It has united us. We now know that we can and will prevail. We cannot know with certainty what acts of terrorism our combined efforts have thwarted or prevented, but we have trusted the American people to act responsibly in the face of threats, and thanks to their patience and to their vigilance, we know this: We have not suffered another major terrorist attack.
The home front has witnessed the opening battle in the war against terrorism, and America has emerged victorious. The opening battle has passed, but the war ahead will be long. The weeks, the months and years to come will impose additional burdens and will call for additional sacrifice.
Just as our service men and women are risking their lives to battle the enemy overseas, it falls to the men and women of Justice and law enforcement to lead America in the battle against the enemy at home. The war on terrorism has required adjustments by the American people, and so, too, we must adjust. Our new mission requires a new way of doing business. When terrorism threatens our future, we cannot afford to live in the past. We must focus on our core mission and responsibilities, understanding that the department will not be all things to all people. We cannot do everything we once did because lives now depend on us doing a few things very well. We must strive to maximize our potential, even as we recognize our limitations.
The men and women of the Justice Department are the finest legal minds and law enforcement officers in the world. But we cannot win this battle alone. We must forge new relationships of cooperation and trust with our partners in state and local law enforcement. Bureaucratic turf battles must cease when terrorists threaten the very ground beneath our feet.
Today I am announcing a wartime reorganization and mobilization of the nation's justice and law enforcement resources to meet the mission of the Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice's strategic plan for fiscal years 2001 to 2006 is a carefully crafted blueprint for the comprehensive reorganization of the department to meet our new antiterrorism mission. It is the product of close consultation with the deputy attorney general, whom I have asked to lead this effort. I have asked him to lead it with the assistance of the Strategic Management Council. This afternoon, I will discuss with the Strategic Management Council how we will develop necessary measures necessary to accomplish this plan's goals. I will submit this new strategic plan to Congress today.
The plan being announced today contains 10 new initiatives for the systematic reform and restructuring of the Department of Justice. It is a blueprint for change. It is also a call to you, the men and women of the Justice Department, to embrace fully our new mission; that we would together commit ourselves to rebuilding and remaking the department; to rededicate ourselves to the highest and most noble form of public service -- the preservation of American lives and liberty. The reforms and restructuring we must undertake in the next five years are designed, first and foremost, to sharpen the capacity of the Department of Justice to act deliberately and decisively in support of our mission.
Our first initiative is the elimination of waste and the retargeting of resources to fight against terrorism. In today's Justice Department, multiple agencies perform similar functions. Within six months, we must have in place a detailed plan to streamline, eliminate or consolidate duplicative functions. We should not expect our budgets to give us limitless resources. We must protect Americans, regardless of the level of the resources provided by OMB and Congress. We should take responsibility, ourselves, to find ways to get our jobs done.
Second: We will refocus our resources on frontline positions. The war on terrorism will not be fought in Washington but in the field, by agents, prosecutors, investigators and analysts. Our long- term goal is to transfer 10 percent of the current headquarters-based positions to the field -- to field offices, where citizens are served and where America is protected.
Our restructuring initiatives are demanding, and they're service oriented.
The third point of our plan challenges us to hold each other accountable. Performance should be measured by outcomes and results, not by inputs.
Fourth: We must attract a diverse, high-quality workforce to the department and train ourselves to be the best-trained and best and most talented workforce in the world.
Fifth: We must develop a seamless relationship with state and local law-enforcement agencies.
Sixth: We must have information technology from this decade, not from several generations ago, so that we can share intelligence and have the interoperability that a coordinated response to terrorism demands. Major city police departments are better equipped today than is the Justice Department.
Finally, the remaining points of our strategic plan mandate fundamental change in several of the most critical components of American justice and law enforcement, starting with the organization that is at the center of our counterterrorism effort, the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In its history, the FBI has been many things: the protector of our institutions when they were under assault from organized crime; the keeper of our security when it was threatened by international espionage; and the defender of our civil rights when they were denied to some Americans on the basis of their race, color or creed.
Today the American people call upon the Federal Bureau of Investigation to put prevention of terrorism at the center of its law- enforcement and national-security efforts. Since September the 11th, Director Mueller has been engaged in a thorough review of the FBI -- its management, its organization. Under the plan being announced today, the Strategic Management Council will develop and implement a series of reforms to and with the FBI. We expect preliminary recommendations for reform by the end of this year.
Our strategic plan also restructures the Immigration and Naturalization Service, consistent with the president's goal of separating the function of serving and the function of enforcing. Of course, we have the responsibility to protect the borders of the United States, as well. Commissioner Zigler has already begun -- launched substantial effort, devoted significant resources to the development of a strategy of reforming the INS, and I expect that plan soon to be unveiled.
As a nation of immigrants, the United States will continue to welcome America's friends. But we will not allow our welcome to be abused by America's enemies. In the war on terrorism, the restructured Immigration and Naturalization Service will focus on preventing aliens who engage in or support terrorist activity from entering our country. It will lead the campaign to detain, prosecute or deport terrorist aliens who are already inside the nations's borders.
In either case, the Department of Justice will not allow terrorists to use our hospitality as a weapon against the American people.
The department's Office of Justice Programs and grant management system also will be fundamentally restructured to meet our new antiterrorism mission. I will submit a plan for restructuring our grant programs to Congress within a month. Not only will we make our grant process more efficient, more accountable, we will target our resources to maximize the public benefit. State and local law enforcement, victims' groups, and others on the frontlines in the war against terrorism will have improved access to services and information from this Justice Department.
And while we tackle the institutional barriers to the realization of our antiterrorism mission, we will address the legal and cultural barriers as well.
In his remarks, Deputy Attorney General Thompson will describe the actions we are taking today to implement new tools passed by Congress in the USA Patriot Act. This landmark antiterrorism legislation contains provisions that begin to break down the barriers to information sharing, to communication and cooperation between and within the intelligence and law enforcement communities.
Today I am issuing a series of directives to the Department of Justice component heads requesting that they review information in their possession that may now be shared with other federal agencies, and to do so where appropriate. I have also directed that components assess their intelligence-analysis capabilities, improve those analysis capabilities, where necessary, and coordinate their efforts with other affected federal agencies and with state and local law enforcement officials.
In this war on terror, information sharing and cooperation are critical to our strategic mission and to our victory. Terrorists live in the shadows, under the cover of darkness. In order to identify, capture, to incapacitate them, law enforcement investigators and intelligence agents must be able to work cooperatively. Under our new antiterrorism mandate, there will be maximum dissemination, to the fullest extent permitted by law, of appropriate terrorist-related information to all federal officials engaged in the common fight against terrorism.
Such dissemination will occur regardless of whether the source of information is a criminal investigation or a counterintelligence investigation. The Department of Justice is fully committed to breaking down the bureaucratic and cultural barriers that prevent meaningful coordination and cooperation between criminal law enforcement and the counterintelligence operations, both within the department and between the department and other federal intelligence agencies.
In just a short time -- two months on Sunday -- the men and women of American justice and law enforcement have risen once again to answer the call to duty. I thank you -- the nation thanks you -- for the sacrifices that you have made and for your willingness to defend freedom with the law. Like the men and women of World War II, the greatest generation, your sacrifice and that of your families is a testimony to the American spirit -- a quiet but determined show of faith in the rightness of our cause, the endurance of freedom, and the certainty of justice.
At the conclusion of World War II came the reckoning at Nuremburg. Former Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson led the prosecution of 21 Nazi defendants for crimes against their countrymen, against their neighbors -- indeed, crimes against humanity. All pleaded not guilty. Some claimed that they were merely following orders. Others disputed the jurisdiction of the court. But Jackson successfully argued their guilt with a sense of urgency born of a civilization threatened by a new force of evil. "The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating," said Jackson, "that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated."
It is now as it was then. A calculated, malignant, and devastating evil has arisen in the world. Civilization cannot ignore the wrongs that have been done. America will not tolerate their being repeated. Justice has a new mission -- a new calling against an old evil.
I thank you for your hard work. I thank you for your leadership. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)