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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Ashcroft Addresses Council on Foreign Relations

Aired February 10, 2003 - 13:16   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go live to -- again to Washington, D.C., is that correct? To check in with Attorney General John Ashcraft (sic) who was talking before the Council of Foreign Relations -- let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: ... and freedom." I would add that progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom only flourish in the rule of law rather than the rule or reign of terror.

In order to fight and to defeat terrorism the Department of Justice has added a new paradigm to that of prosecution, and that new priority is the priority of prevention.

We are working to bridge gaps in our domestic law enforcement and security activities with greater cooperation and information sharing. We've broken down some of the artificial barriers separating needlessly our law enforcement and intelligence communities. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have united in unprecedented cooperation, committed to a common goal.

We have thought anew, and have acted anew in pursuit of this goal. It is necessary that we think anew and that we act anew.

The industrialist tells us that your system is perfectly designed to give you what you're getting. If you want to get something different, do something different: Change your system. My grandfather's wisdom put it this way, "I've sawed this board off three time and it's still too short."

(LAUGHTER)

Well, if you want to change the outcome, change the way you are doing things.

We have sought to act anew in pursuit of the goal of preserving and protecting freedom because we realize that we could ill-afford to have a repetition of that which had happened.

Since September 11, a coalition of 90 countries has come together in a fight against terrorism, and that emerging, building, strengthening coalition is changing the way the world does business.

We have come together because our nations share a commitment to the rule of law, supporting freedom of speech, religious tolerance, political democracy and equality between men and women. We have come together because the targets of terrorism are not buildings, people or even nations. The targets of terrorism are the shared values of free people.

It is these shared values and the institutions that protect and nurture them that are under attack by terrorists today. And as long as nations share a commitment to freedom, equality and justice, we will be, in fact we must be, partners in the struggle to defeat those who fear freedom, to defeat those who hate equality, to defeat those who mock justice.

Over the past year and a half I've heard a lot of discussion on these issues, and I've had an opportunity to meet with dozens of foreign leaders to discuss ways to enhance our joint law enforcement capabilities. And I have seen firsthand the strong partnerships that have been forged with freedom-loving nations throughout the world.

Today alone, for example, I will meet with officials from two of the world's great powers, both China and Great Britain. And we will discuss -- one meeting already having taken place and another yet to take place -- we will discuss our involvement together in assuring the opportunity of the rule of law to prevail over the reign of terror.

Some critics, however, misinterpret or mischaracterize our relationships with our allies, believing them to be strained, damaged or even believing them to have been broken, now nonexistent. Well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, another native Missourian, the reports of the demise of international cooperation in the war on terror have been exaggerated greatly.

Today, nearly 17 months after the attacks of September 11, our relationships with our foreign allies are stronger, not weaker. The bonds of sympathy and support hold firm. Indeed what began as expressions of compassion have been transformed into commitments to action, mutual activities of support for the rule of law.

Law enforcement agencies across Europe have joined with the United States to form partnerships that have enhanced the security of all of our nation. And let me just cite a few examples.

The United States has forged deep ties of cooperation with Switzerland, including a special working arrangement with the federal Department of Police and the Swiss Anti-Terrorism Task Force.

Since September 11, we have worked side-by-side with officials in Germany to track down terrorists. Just last month, German authorities arrested two suspects in Frankfurt as a part of an ongoing investigation coordinated by the FBI and German law enforcement.

Scores of formal U.S. requests for evidence that's needed in a wide variety of terrorism investigations, from bank records to witness interviews, these requests have been granted promptly by rule-of-law- respecting countries across Europe.

We've reached landmark information-sharing agreements with Europol. We have established points of contact among American law enforcement agencies and Europol and Eurojust. The United states has welcomed Europol officers who have been assigned to Washington, and we in turn have assigned U.S. prosecutors to serve as liaisons with Eurojust.

We have collaborated on terrorism threat assessments and identified several European-based terrorists and terrorist organizations. We have cooperated closely to freeze the assets of suspected terrorists and financiers in an effort to cut off terrorists' ability to fund terrorism.

We are also in the process of negotiating an unprecedented judicial cooperation agreement between the United States and the European Union.

Our partners in the war on terrorism extend far beyond Europe. We're working hand-in-hand with law enforcement officials from Pakistan to Colombia and from Canada to China.

Under the leadership of former Solicitor General of Canada Lawrence MacAuley, and now under the current leadership of Canadian Solicitor General Wayne Easter, Canadian law enforcement has been an indispensable and strong partner with the United States. Long before the attacks of September 11, Canada provided consistent and invaluable assistance to law enforcement officials in the United States, assistance that related to terrorism as well as other criminal, law and in law enforcement activities. And since the attacks, our nations have collaborated more closely than ever before to secure our borders and protect our citizens from the threat of terrorism.

COSTELLO: We're going to step away from the Council on Foreign Relations where we have been listening to Attorney General John Ashcroft talk about the cooperation internationally in the war on terror.

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