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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Attorney General Delivers Remarks on Hate Crimes

Aired October 16, 2001 - 16:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We just received a pool video we want to show you: Attorney General John Ashcroft talking to a group of Muslim American leaders.

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: ... in St. Louis just to tell them we were meeting today. And they echoed what the vast majority of I think the people in our culture understand, that the nation has suffered a grave loss. But those who expressed their anger through ethnically or religiously motivated attacks would compound our loss significantly, injure the country further as well as injure individuals for whom we care and for whom we have great respect. And I'm grateful that that I believe is the understood tone by most individuals.

President Bush, FBI Director Mueller and I have tried to, on numerous occasions, talk in very clear and unmistakable language about how unacceptable threats are against individuals of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent, and against those who practice the Islamic faith, and that they will not be tolerated, and that such senseless acts violate federal law. They run counter to the very principles of equality and freedom upon which our nation is founded.

They -- such attacks are un-American and unlawful.

I want to thank the members of the Arab-American, Muslim and Sikh communities who have taken the time, you all, to share your ideas and your concerns here.

The Department of Justice is very strongly committed to investigating and prosecuting those who violate the law by attacking or disrespecting individuals in their communities.

We have established the civil rights -- in the civil rights division an initiative to combat post-terrorism discrimination. We are trying to ensure that all allegations of violence or discrimination are addressed promptly, they're addressed effectively.

Working in tandem with the civil rights division, the FBI and U.S. attorneys, and I might add local law enforcement authorities across America, who have been uniquely sensitive to this in a very pleasing way -- they have understood this problem -- we have opened over 170 hate crime investigations, cases involving killings, shootings, death threats. These are serious crimes. Arson. The destruction of mosques, places of worship. Two of the U.S. attorneys involved in these prosecutions are with us today. Jerry Diskin, the U.S. attorney for the western district of Washington. And Jerry, let's see...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over here.

ASHCROFT: There you are. Thank you.

Jerry and the folks in that particular district are digesting a tragedy of their own. Earlier -- well, late last week, one of the U.S. attorneys was brutally murdered as he was in his home, shot from outside the home. But he's here today.

Paul Warner, the U.S. attorney for Salt Lake City, has an important case, which is being prosecuted there.

There should be absolutely no mistake: The Department of Justice will not tolerate acts of violence or discrimination against people in this country based on their national origin, their race or their creed. That's it.

Obviously, I'm very pleased that you visitors have come. I'm pleased as well that Ralph Boyd, the assistant attorney general for civil rights -- it's his responsibility to guide the civil rights division -- is here.

Jonathan Chase, the acting director of community relations service, is here. Thank you. I know you've been active and working. You have reported to me, and I'm grateful.

Bob Jordan, the section chief of integrity in government and civil rights, from the criminal investigative division of the FBI. And Tom Reynolds, the FBI civil rights unit -- unit chief. Tom and Bob, thank you for being here.

I'm grateful to you, and we'll have a time now to discuss matters, and I'll be pleased to hear from you individually. And I want to thank the members of the news industry for coming and allowing us to have this time together. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ask you a question (OFF-MIKE), Mr. Attorney General, why -- why you all decided to release those pictures today?

ASHCROFT: We believe that there may be other envelopes, that this would kind of give people a hint, that if you see an envelope like this, that you don't recognize, you might want to be careful. Just a way of saying to individuals this is what these look like and you might have an opportunity to avoid a difficulty if you were to be careful, attentive, be alert. The things we've been saying for quite some time -- this is just a specific embodiment of what you might look for.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. WOODRUFF: Attorney General John Ashcroft just a short while ago meeting with Muslim American leaders to reassure them his department, the Justice Department doing, in his words, all it can to investigate hate crimes, alleged hate crimes. And there at the very end you heard a question from a reporter asking why the decision today to release the pictures of these letters that were sent to the news media and to Senator Tom Daschle with -- with what could be anthrax in them. And he said we want people to know what this looks like, because we think there could be other envelopes out there.

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