Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS


John Ashcroft's News Conference in London

Aired December 12, 2001 - 05:50   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take you right to U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft holding a news conference in London.

Let's listen in.

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: And I thank him for his most hospitable welcome and for his understanding of the nature of terrorism, especially a redefined approach to terrorism which, at least in our awareness in the United States, is something that we've learned more than we wanted to learn about in ways that we didn't want to learn about it but we have learned about it.

Now obviously the United Kingdom has had experience with terrorism in ways that have been firsthand for a longer period than the United States of America. But the acts of September 11 have taught us something about the international nature of terrorist activities, that the training frequently takes place in one jurisdiction, that the development and planning of an operation takes place in another jurisdiction and the operation itself might be executed in a third or fourth jurisdiction. Given this span of jurisdictions and the variety of national contacts with the -- with the continuity of the terrorist effort, it makes it very important for us to have the capacity to cooperate both in preventing terrorist attacks and finally in developing a capacity to prosecute those who perpetrate acts of terrorism at the peril of innocent citizens.

The terrorist attack, which we describe as an attack on the United States on September 11, turned out to be an attack on a broad number of countries who citizens were destroyed in that attack. I mean 79 United Kingdom victims, at least our understanding is is that count, which may make it one of the largest terrorist attacks ever on the United Kingdom, took place in the United States. And the loss of life there is something that we are keenly aware of and sensitive to. We do not want to be a country in which not only are our own residents unsafe but in which our visitors are unsafe. And we want to do everything we can to fight terrorism.

I was very pleased yesterday that our Secretary of State Colin Powell was here with Prime Minister Tony Blair to mark the three month period since the September 11 attacks, and to commend and to thank and express the appreciation of the United States of America to the United Kingdom for its cooperation and its understanding and its team effort to curtail the impact of international terrorism. Terrorism is not confined to a single country or a group of countries. In October of this last year, we publicized a most wanted list from the Justice Department as part of a worldwide assault on terror. It lists 22 known terrorists who are responsible for acts, and most of the acts for which they were responsible took place outside the United States, but we know that these individuals will -- have, in many cases, been linked to the organizations which perpetrated the acts of September 11. And the president of the United States has with clarity stated the position of the United States is that the war is broader on terrorism than simply a war to eradicate the specific individuals responsible for the terrorist acts of September 11, that those who harbor terrorists, those who provide a base for terrorism, those who in -- as a matter of fact perpetrate terrorist acts that threaten the interests of the United States around the world are the subject of our effort. And we will continue to work hard to make sure that we provide a context for greater security.

I want to -- I had the opportunity this morning, with Home Secretary David Blunkett, to express my deep appreciation for the fact that we believe that the relationship between the United States law enforcement authorities, both the FBI, the Drug Enforcement administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, the variety of law enforcement, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, law enforcement individuals and the like, including others from outside the Justice Department, and the United Kingdom is a commendable model of cooperation between mature, independent sovereigns. And there are ways in which we can work together and do work together respecting the sovereignty and independence and dignity of each of the nations.

The new Scotland Yard officials, the British constabularies and British Secret Service have extensive experience with terrorism and they can provide for us a much needed understanding. They have been proactive in their cooperation with the United States, and I personally want to extend my appreciation.

Nine Scotland Yard officers, for example, testified and gave critical evidence at the trials of the al Qaeda terrorists who bombed U.S. embassies in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi in 1998. Their assistance was extremely valuable in obtaining conviction of all the four al Qaeda terrorists regarding those particular bombings that have completed the trial in New York.

All the investigative leads we have asked our British colleagues to track down, particularly in the identification of emerging threats, have been expertly and relentlessly pursued and we are grateful.

In particular, before I take questions, I want to express my gratitude to the United Kingdom and to Home Secretary David Blunkett for their cooperation with an extradition request we have for Lofti Raissi. Mr. Raissi is currently charged with making false statements in connection with records he submitted for a pilot's license in the United States, but he is obviously the subject of an inquiry related to September the 11th. And we appreciate the dispatch and cooperation of the Home Secretary in helping the United States again achieve its objectives of justice.

With that in mind, let me just express my appreciation to you and be available for questions.

Yes, sir.

RICHARD BEESON (ph), "THE TIMES": Richard Beeson (ph) from "The Times." On the question of Mr. Raissi, Mr. Ashcroft, I was wondering if you could tell us if you are hopeful that this case will lead to an extradition to the United States? And also on the case of Mr. Moussaoui, which you announced details of in Washington yesterday, I believe he lived in London for some time, have the British authorities assisted in that prosecution and provided evidence or any back up to the trial you expect in that case?

ASHCROFT: Thank you very much. We do have a pending request for extradition of Mr. Raissi and believe that that matter is being handled with appropriate dispatch and regard for the appropriate procedures.

Secondly, with Zacarias Moussaoui, an individual who is a French citizen of -- but who went to school here in the United Kingdom, came to the United States, we have received the cooperation of United Kingdom authorities in inquiries we have made regarding his time here.

Yes, sir.

GITAHARI BESEED (ph): Hi, Gitahari Beseed (ph). Two questions, if you'll forgive me. One, have you heard anything of the reports that Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar have asked associates of them to kill them, a report in one Pakistani newspaper today? And secondly, whether there's a danger because of your decision to seek the death penalty with terrorist suspects that it could make extradition from European countries of other terrorist suspects very difficult?

ASHCROFT: First of all, I can't give you anything other than what I've read in the newspapers. And sometimes I can rely on that information, sometimes I can't. So I -- so I in all candor, I don't know that it works the same way here as it does in the United States, sometimes you can. It's sort of like politicians, sometimes you can rely on them, sometimes you can't.

On the second, each case is dealt with independently in regard to extradition from various countries. And we have in the last several months, frankly, been favored with high levels of cooperation, particularly by European nations in extraditions. I can think of the French having satisfied two of our requests in regard to one defendant named Inhorn (ph) and another defendant named Kopp, both of them very serious cases for which we were grateful in that cooperation. The United Kingdom has been a model partner to the United States in law enforcement issues, but we understand that case by case defines the way in which we operate in the universe of extraditions.

Sir, in the back, yes.

CALLAWAY: We will continue to monitor the comments of U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft speaking from London this morning. He's on a tour of several European cities, meeting with officials and -- on the investigation into the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. Stating that the British cooperation has been a model of cooperation between nations, and he gave a litany of ways that British officials and authorities have participated in the terrorist investigation. Of course, Ashcroft will head on to Madrid, Berlin, Brussels and Rome. And we will bring you any news that comes out of this news conference going on in London this morning.




Back to the top