- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 1, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday lashed out at critics of the Justice Department's aggressive anti-terrorist campaign, calling them "voices of negativism" who have sought unfairly to condemn the government.
"There have been a few voices who have criticized. Some have sought to condemn us with faulty facts or without facts at all. Others have simply rushed to judgment, almost eagerly assuming the worst of their government before they've had a chance to understand it at its best," said Mr. Ashcroft.
"But these voices of negativism cannot obscure the chorus of freedom that is the gathering force in the world today," he told U.S. attorneys from throughout the country gathered at an awards ceremony in Washington.
His comments were in response to a growing chorus of complaints from Congress, civil rights groups and the media about the Justice Department's use of sweeping investigative techniques and the detention of more than 600 people in a massive inquiry into the September 11 attacks on America.
Mr. Ashcroft said the Justice Department was "standing firm" in its commitment to defend the nation, noting that the United States is at war with terror.
"Our response has been to wage a deliberate campaign [of] arrest and detention of violators and suspected terrorists in order to protect American lives. We are removing suspected terrorists who violate the law from our streets. We have refocused our institutional priorities and resources," he said.
The attorney general said he did not know how many acts of terrorism have been prevented due to the department's aggressive campaign, but noted that there had been no new strikes since the September 11 attacks.
"Thanks to the vigilance of law enforcement, thanks to the patience of the American people, we know this: We have not suffered another major terrorist attack. The homefront has witnessed the opening battle in the war against terrorism, and America is victorious.
"We have trusted the American people to act responsibly and to face the threats, and that trust has paid off overwhelmingly in support of this great nation and our community, which must be secure," he said.
Mr. Ashcroft also said that the American public has been supportive of the department's actions, adding that the Justice Department would "never waver in its defense of the Constitution nor relent in its protection of the civil rights of Americans."
"The American spirit, which rose from the rabble of New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, knows no prejudice and it defies division by race, ethnicity or religion. The spirit which binds us and the values which define us will light our path as we identify and locate and incapacitate those who murder in the name of terror," he said.
Mr. Ashcroft said Justice Department officials, along with the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies, also had forged "new relationships of cooperation with state and local officials," and had created task forces to integrate the resources of the law enforcement community throughout the country.

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