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The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee
December 6, 2001
Mr. Chairman, Senator Hatch, members of the Judiciary Committee, thank you
for this opportunity to testify today. It is a pleasure to be back in the
United States Senate.
On the morning of September 11, as the United States came under attack, I
was in an airplane with several members of the Justice Department en route to
Milwaukee, in the skies over the Great Lakes. By the time we could return to
Washington, thousands of people had been murdered at the World Trade Center.
189 were dead at the Pentagon. Forty-four had crashed to the ground in
Pennsylvania. From that moment, at the command of the President of the United
States, I began to mobilize the resources of the Department of Justice toward
one single, over-arching and over-riding objective: to save innocent lives from
further acts of terrorism.
America's campaign to save innocent lives from terrorists is now 87 days
old. It has brought me back to this committee to report to you in accordance
with Congress's oversight role. I welcome this opportunity to clarify for you
and the American people how the Justice Department is working to protect
American lives while preserving American liberties.
Since those first terrible hours of September 11, America has faced a
choice that is as stark as the images that linger of that morning. One option
is to call September 11 a fluke, to believe it could never happen again, and to
live in a dream world that requires us to do nothing differently. The other
option is to fight back, to summon all our strength and all our resources and
devote ourselves to better ways to identify, disrupt and dismantle terrorist
Under the leadership of President Bush, America has made the choice to
fight terrorism -- not just for ourselves but for all civilized people. Since
September 11, through dozens of warnings to law enforcement, a deliberate
campaign of terrorist disruption, tighter security around potential targets, and
a preventative campaign of arrest and detention of lawbreakers, America has
grown stronger -- and safer -- in the face of terrorism.
Thanks to the vigilance of law enforcement and the patience of the American
people, we have not suffered another major terrorist attack. Still, we cannot
-- we must not -- allow ourselves to grow complacent. The reasons are apparent
to me each morning. My day begins with a review of the threats to Americans and
American interests that were received in the previous 24 hours. If ever there
were proof of the existence of evil in the world, it is in the pages of these
reports. They are a chilling daily chronicle of hatred of America by fanatics
who seek to extinguish freedom, enslave women, corrupt education and to kill
Americans wherever and whenever they can.
The terrorist enemy that threatens civilization today is unlike any we have
ever known. It slaughters thousands of innocents - a crime of war and a crime
against humanity. It seeks weapons of mass destruction and threatens their use
against America. No one should doubt the intent, nor the depth, of its
consuming, destructive hatred.
Terrorist operatives infiltrate our communities -- plotting, planning and
waiting to kill again. They enjoy the benefits of our free society even as they
commit themselves to our destruction. They exploit our openness - not randomly
or haphazardly - but by deliberate, premeditated design.
This is a seized al Qaeda training manual - a "how-to" guide for terrorists
- that instructs enemy operatives in the art of killing in a free society.
Prosecutors first made this manual public in the trial of the al Qaeda
terrorists who bombed U.S. embassies in Africa. We are posting several al Qaeda
lessons from this manual on our website today so Americans can know our enemy.
In this manual, al Qaeda terrorists are told how to use America's freedom
as a weapon against us. They are instructed to use the benefits of a free press
- newspapers, magazines and broadcasts - to stalk and kill their victims.
They are instructed to exploit our judicial process for the success of their
operations. Captured terrorists are taught to anticipate a series of questions
from authorities and, in each response, to lie - to lie about who they are, to
lie about what they are doing and to lie about who they know in order for the
operation to achieve its objective. Imprisoned terrorists are instructed to
concoct stories of torture and mistreatment at the hands of our officials. They
are directed to take advantage of any contact with the outside world to, quote,
"communicate with brothers outside prison and exchange information that may be
helpful to them in their work. The importance of mastering the art of hiding
messages is self-evident here."
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, we are at war with an enemy who
abuses individual rights as it abuses jet airliners: as weapons with which to
kill Americans. We have responded by redefining the mission of the Department
of Justice. Defending our nation and its citizens against terrorist attacks is
now our first and overriding priority.
We have launched the largest, most comprehensive criminal investigation in
world history to identify the killers of September 11 and to prevent further
terrorist attacks. Four thousand FBI agents are engaged with their
international counterparts in an unprecedented worldwide effort to detect,
disrupt and dismantle terrorist organizations.
We have created a national task force at the FBI to centralize control and
information sharing in our investigation. This task force has investigated
hundreds of thousands of leads, conducted over 500 searches, interviewed
thousands of witnesses and obtained numerous court- authorized surveillance
orders. Our prosecutors and agents have collected information and evidence from
countries throughout Europe and the Middle East.
Immediately following the September 11 attacks, the Bureau of Prisons acted
swiftly to intensify security precautions in connection with all al Qaeda and
other terrorist inmates, increasing perimeter security at a number of key
We have sought and received additional tools from Congress. Already, we
have begun to utilize many of these tools. Within hours of passage of the USA
PATRIOT Act, we made use of its provisions to begin enhanced information sharing
between the law-enforcement and intelligence communities. We have used the
provisions allowing nationwide search warrants for e-mail and subpoenas for
payment information. And we have used the Act to place those who access the
Internet through cable companies on the same footing as everyone else.
Just yesterday, at my request, the State Department designated 39 entities
as terrorist organizations pursuant to the USA PATRIOT Act.
We have waged a deliberate campaign of arrest and detention to remove
suspected terrorists who violate the law from our streets. Currently, we have
brought criminal charges against 110 individuals, of whom 60 are in federal
custody. The INS has detained 563 individuals on immigration violations.
We have investigated more than 250 incidents of retaliatory violence and
threats against Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, Sikh Americans and South Asian
Since September 11, the Customs Service and Border Patrol have been at
their highest state of alert. All vehicles and persons entering the country are
subjected to the highest level of scrutiny. Working with the State Department,
we have imposed new screening requirements on certain applicants for
non-immigrant visas. At the direction of the President, we have created a
Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force to ensure that we do everything we can to
prevent terrorists from entering the country, and to locate and remove those who
We have prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law individuals who waste
precious law enforcement resources through anthrax hoaxes.
We have offered non-citizens willing to come forward with valuable
information a chance to live in this country and one day become citizens.
We have forged new cooperative agreements with Canada to protect our common
borders and the economic prosperity they sustain.
We have embarked on a wartime reorganization of the Department of Justice.
We are transferring resources and personnel to the field offices where citizens
are served and protected. The INS is being restructured to better perform its
service and border security responsibilities. Under Director Bob Mueller, the
FBI is undergoing an historic reorganization to put the prevention of terrorism
at the center of its law enforcement and national security efforts.
Outside Washington, we are forging new relationships of cooperation with
state and local law enforcement.
We have created 93 Anti-Terrorism Task Forces - one in each U.S. Attorney's
district - to integrate the communications and activities of local, state and
federal law enforcement.
In all these ways and more, the Department of Justice has sought to prevent
terrorism with reason, careful balance and excruciating attention to detail.
Some of our critics, I regret to say, have shown less affection for detail.
Their bold declarations of so-called fact have quickly dissolved, upon
inspection, into vague conjecture. Charges of "kangaroo courts" and "shredding
the Constitution" give new meaning to the term, "the fog of war."
Since lives and liberties depend upon clarity, not obfuscation, and reason,
not hyperbole, let me take this opportunity today to be clear: Each action
taken by the Department of Justice, as well as the war crimes commissions
considered by the President and the Department of Defense, is carefully drawn to
target a narrow class of individuals -- terrorists. Our legal powers are
targeted at terrorists. Our investigation is focused on terrorists. Our
prevention strategy targets the terrorist threat.
Since 1983, the United States government has defined terrorists as those
who perpetrate premeditated, politically motivated violence against noncombatant
targets. My message to America this morning, then, is this: If you fit this
definition of a terrorist, fear the United States, for you will lose your
We need honest, reasoned debate; not fearmongering. To those who pit
Americans against immigrants, and citizens against non-citizens; to those who
scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty; my message is this:
Your tactics only aid terrorists - for they erode our national unity and
diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to
America's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the
face of evil.
Our efforts have been carefully crafted to avoid infringing on
constitutional rights while saving American lives. We have engaged in a
deliberate campaign of arrest and detention of law breakers. All persons being
detained have the right to contact their lawyers and their families. Out of
respect for their privacy, and concern for saving lives, we will not publicize
the names of those detained.
We have the authority to monitor the conversations of 16 of the 158,000
federal inmates and their attorneys because we suspect that these communications
are facilitating acts of terrorism. Each prisoner has been told in advance his
conversations will be monitored. None of the information that is protected by
attorney-client privilege may be used for prosecution. Information will only be
used to stop impending terrorist acts and save American lives.
We have asked a very limited number of individuals - visitors to our
country holding passports from countries with active Al Qaeda operations - to
speak voluntarily to law enforcement. We are forcing them to do nothing. We
are merely asking them to do the right thing: to willingly disclose information
they may have of terrorist threats to the lives and safety of all people in the
Throughout all our activities since September 11, we have kept Congress
informed of our continuing efforts to protect the American people. Beginning
with a classified briefing by Director Mueller and me on the very evening of
September 11, the Justice Department has briefed members of the House, the
Senate and their staffs on more than 100 occasions.
We have worked with Congress in the belief and recognition that no single
branch of government alone can stop terrorism. We have consulted with members
out of respect for the separation of powers that is the basis of our system of
government. However, Congress' power of oversight is not without limits. The
Constitution specifically delegates to the President the authority to "take care
that the laws are faithfully executed." And perhaps most importantly, the
Constitution vests the President with the extraordinary and sole authority as
Commander-in-Chief to lead our nation in times of war.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, not long ago I had the privilege
of sitting where you now sit. I have the greatest reverence and respect for
the constitutional responsibilities you shoulder. I will continue to consult
with Congress so that you may fulfill your constitutional responsibilities. In
some areas, however, I cannot and will not consult you.
The advice I give to the President, whether in his role as
Commander-in-Chief or in any other capacity, is privileged and confidential. I
cannot and will not divulge the contents, the context, or even the existence of
such advice to anyone - including Congress - unless the President instructs me
to do so. I cannot and will not divulge information, nor do I believe that
anyone here would wish me to divulge information, that will damage the national
security of the United States, the safety of its citizens or our efforts to
ensure the same in an ongoing investigation.
As Attorney General, it is my responsibility - at the direction of the
President - to exercise those core executive powers the Constitution so
designates. The law enforcement initiatives undertaken by the Department of
Justice, those individuals we arrest, detain or seek to interview, fall under
these core executive powers. In addition, the President's authority to
establish war-crimes commissions arises out of his power as Commander in Chief.
For centuries, Congress has recognized this authority and the Supreme Court has
never held that any Congress may limit it.
In accordance with over two hundred years of historical and legal
precedent, the executive branch is now exercising its core Constitutional powers
in the interest of saving the lives of Americans. I trust that Congress will
respect the proper limits of Executive Branch consultation that I am duty-bound
to uphold. I trust, as well, that Congress will respect this President's
authority to wage war on terrorism and defend our nation and its citizens with
all the power vested in him by the Constitution and entrusted to him by the