General John Ashcroft
September 19, 2001
QUESTION: (Off mike) -- what the source of the money was for the hijackers?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Let me first say that this tangled, charred situation is
one that has been a difficult work environment for heroic individuals who have
been doing an outstanding job of coordinating their efforts and working together.
I want to thank those individuals who, without regard, in many instances, to
their own safety and security, and certainly working through fatigue and through
discomfort in very, very serious conditions, have done a wonderful job.
My heart goes out to the families. My first response at this site is obviously
a response of anger, and then it's a response of sympathy to the victims and
to their families. And then it's a response of making a -- renewing a commitment
to make sure that the network of individuals responsible for this would be brought
to justice and would pay the price.
And we will intensify in every respect all that we can do, not only to understand
and pursue and identify and to punish those individuals who were responsible
and the network associated with it, but we will take every possible action to
make sure that this kind of injury and assault on America and on its freedom
does not happen again.
QUESTION: Have you identified --
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: He -- you had another question, which I frankly --
QUESTION: I'm happy to restate it, sir. My question is -- well, it's actually twofold.
How far have you moved along in identifying exactly what happened and who these
-- all these people are?
And the first question I had asked you was the source of the funding. Have you
made any progress in identifying who was behind the money, how much it took,
and how the network was financed?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I think it's fair to say that we are making progress on
a variety of fronts, including the kinds of -- some progress on fronts like
you mentioned. But for me to begin to discuss particular evidence is premature
at this time.
QUESTION: Can you tell us if -- can you confirm that there were criminal charges filed
against some individuals in connection with the investigation in Detroit yesterday?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: It's my understanding that criminal charges were filed against
individuals who were apprehended in the process of the FBI following a series
of leads related to these incidents. And the affidavits and materials filed
in the court speak for themselves.
It is a process that we are pursuing with intensity and we will continue to
pursue with every ounce of our energy, to disrupt any potential that we possibly
can of any individual or group of individuals or part of any network to similarly
inflict additional injury upon the United States or our citizens.
QUESTION: What if those individuals are connected to the individuals who perpetrated
last week's attacks?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: The statements which were made in the documents associated
with the arrests and the charges contain all of the statements that we're prepared
to make at this time.
QUESTION: Sir, these are your first criminal charges in connection with this case at
all. Can you characterize for us how significant these three people may have
been in the overall scheme of the plot?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I think it would be far too early to indicate that this
is some sort of major breakthrough in the case.
But we are going to pursue every lead, and we will prosecute every infraction.
We will intensify efforts.
You know, yesterday I announced that in all U.S. attorneys' offices across the
nation there will be anti-terrorism task forces.
It will be their responsibility to identify violators associated with these
networks and terrorist organizations, and any violation will be prosecuted.
QUESTION: Is there evidence that foreign governments may have provided support for those
who carried out the hijackings and the attacks?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: It's pretty clear that the networks that conduct these kinds
of events are harbored and supported, sustained, protected by a variety of foreign
governments. And it's time for those governments to understand with
crystal clarity that the United States of America will not tolerate that kind
of support for networks that would inflict this kind of damage on the American
QUESTION: Does that include Iraq when you speak of nations that are harboring and aiding?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I think the statement speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Just one question on the immigration rule from yesterday already raising concerns
among civil rights groups.
Are you already invoking the emergency clause of that order that will allow
you to keep detainees indefinitely before they've been charged?
Are you already invoking that?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: When circumstances require us to use the full force and
effect of the order, we will do so.
I make no apology -- I make no apology for being forceful in our enforcing the
law and requiring adherence to the law.
This investigation will pursue violators and use every tool available to us
to curtail and prevent and disrupt any effort to further inflict this kind of
damage on the United States or our citizens.
QUESTION: Mr. Ashcroft, yesterday you said you can't rule out that there may have been
a fifth plane. Why can't you rule out, and have you moved any farther to --
in the investigation in terms of being able to conclude that there was another
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I would repeat today that we cannot rule out that there
may have been additional aircraft targeted.
We cannot rule that out. And that's the extent of the comment that I would make
on that at this time.
STAFF: Last question, please.
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Must have been it. Thank you. Thank you.
QUESTION: Can you assure -- the ACLU held a news conference today expressing concern
about civil liberties in the package that you're going to propose. Can you assure
people that privacy rights and civil libertarian rights won't be eroded?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I'm deeply concerned about the civil liberties of all Americans.
I'm especially concerned about the civil liberties of Arab Americans and Middle
Eastern Americans who are patriotic citizens, who lament and regret this loss,
perhaps as keenly or more keenly than any, and whose commitment to the strict
enforcement and pursuit of these networks of terror that inflict this kind of
injury is as strong as any.
We will conduct this effort to investigate and to prosecute with strict regard
for every safeguard of the United States Constitution.
But we will not fail to use any tool -- we will not fail to use any tool --
that can promote the apprehension, the disruption of the networks that caused
these damages, and prevent a similar occurrence in the future.