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Ashcroft Remarks on DNA Taken from Detainees

Aired March 4, 2002 - 14:57   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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to hear from Tommy Franks in about three minutes time, live from Tampa, Florida, the vary latest on those two helicopter incidents -- nine Americans dead as a result of the fighting in Eastern Afghanistan.

But at this time I am going to go to Washington D.C., the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, right now talking about DNA samples taken from al Qaeda detainees in Cuba. This done yesterday, on Sunday. Here is John Ashcroft.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: ... those identifiers are valuable and to be understood as valuable and collected. I'm not prepared to indicate to you the extent to which those might be integrated or used with other DNA databases in the country.

QUESTION: Senator Leahy said some months ago that the federal government ought to require the states to include DNA analysis before someone is executed. Do you have a position on that or does the department have a position on that?

ASHCROFT: The department is assembling a response to Senator Leahy's request for comment on his bill. The response will be announced when it is appropriate.

I would indicate, though, that I believe that DNA, as I said in my remarks, has the potential not only of helping convict the guilty, but to make sure that we don't convict the innocent. And as a matter of principle, it is the policy of this Justice Department to support items which will provide a basis for us having a justice system which reaches the right conclusion: protecting the innocent as well as convicting the guilty.

QUESTION: General, we're coming up on a six-month anniversary of the September 11 attacks. I was wondering if, in your opinion, do you think that we've done enough to prevent any future catastrophic event?

ASHCROFT: We have taken a very serious set of steps to improve our development of information, and information is the best friend of prevention. We have begun to integrate at a far higher level of seriousness the efforts of state and local communities and law enforcement officials with the federal government. I spoke to a conference on terrorism in Florida this morning early, and then later today with the National Association of Counties, and we are integrating our effort and the ability to exchange information and gather intelligence with our state and local officials.

We are meeting on a regular basis with our counterparts in nations around the world to develop an understanding which will provide better information from and information exchange from those entities.

ASHCROFT: You'll note that the September 11 attack was a fragmented attack. It was planned in one area, trained in another area, undertaken in another area, and this fragmentation of the effort makes the interval for detection of these different things very difficult, because the interval is shorter in each space than if there was training, planning and execution all in one locality, which requires us to be far more cooperative and integrated in our approach.

Now to get to your question. We have done much to improve our position...

HEMMER: Attorney General John Ashcroft there, meeting with reporters there, the last question there coming up on the sixth month anniversary of September 11, it being March 11, it just about a week away.

The attorney general, also prior to that talking about DNA samples being taken from the detainees of Guantanamo Bay, 300 blood samples taken this past weekend there to be stored in a data bank and also to help investigators in their hunt and their search for al Qaeda members worldwide.

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