June 30, 2004 – LAWFUEL – Miami B Attorney General John Ashcroft met today with the Southern District of Florida Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC) to discuss efforts to fight terrorism and to promote information sharing among federal, state, and local law enforcement. Attorney General Ashcroft is visiting with the nation=s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Councils to discuss our combined efforts to fight terror.
AWe are entering a season of symbolic events that could be attractive targets for terrorism. Credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that al Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States during this period, said Attorney General John Ashcroft. Any meeting with our local Advisory Councils, I am gathering valuable input from the members of the justice community with their feet on the street. These Advisory Councils are part of our frontline effort to share information, coordinate counterterrorism efforts, and keep America safe from another terrorist attack. They are critical to our war against terror. I wanted to take an opportunity to hear from them what tools are working and what tools they may still need as they work to protect America.
The U.S. intelligence community has identified the summer and fall as a period of increased risk in the U.S. based on a consistent stream of intelligence and because there are a number of symbolic events during this time period that may prove attractive targets for terrorists. Gathering specific intelligence is the foundation for effective counterterrorism strategies such as hardening targets, disrupting cells, elevating threat levels and alerting state and local law enforcement. Recently, the FBI asked their agents and our partners in state and local law enforcement to assist in gathering intelligence to improve our ability to counter this increased risk.
“There is nothing more important than keeping our country and our communities safe from terrorism. I am thrilled that Attorney General John Ashcroft took valuable time to meet with us as part of that paramount effort,” said U.S. Attorney Marcos Daniel Jiménez. “The meeting was very productive and beneficial.”
As part of the meeting, ATAC members discussed the prosecutorial and investigative tools needed in the war against terror, such as the USA PATRIOT Act, which has played a critical role in preventing a devastating attack on U.S. soil. The PATRIOT Act tore down the bureaucratic wall between intelligence and law enforcement, allowing vital information sharing. It also strengthened criminal penalties for terrorism, aided terrorism investigations, updated our counterterrorism laws to reflect new technologies, and brought to the war on terror the same tools effectively used against drug dealers and members of organized crime.
Nationwide, there are 93 Anti-Terrorism Advisory Councils (formerly known as Anti-Terrorism Task Forces) headed by the U.S. Attorneys in their federal judicial districts. Created by the Attorney General following the September 11th attacks, the ATACs coordinate anti-terrorism initiatives, initiate training programs, facilitate timely sharing of information, and support the Joint Terrorism Task Forces with operational aspects of terrorism investigations. The 93 ATACs are comprised of approximately 5,300 state and local law enforcement agencies that have joined with federal law enforcement organizations in the war on terrorism.