- The Washington Times - Friday, November 9, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday ordered an unprecedented "wartime reorganization and mobilization" of the Justice Department aimed at allowing federal authorities to better defend America against any future terrorist strikes.
"Defending our nation and its citizens against terrorist attacks is now our first and overriding priority," said Mr. Ashcroft. "To fulfill this mission, we are devoting all the resources necessary to eliminate terrorist networks, prevent terrorist attacks and bring to justice all those who kill Americans in the name of murderous ideologies.
"We are engaged in an aggressive arrest-and-detention campaign of lawbreakers with a single objective: to get terrorists off the street before they can harm more Americans," he said.
The proposed reorganization calls for the transfer of 10 percent of those now assigned to offices in Washington D.C., to field offices nationwide as part of what the attorney general called a "carefully crafted blueprint" for the comprehensive reorganization of the department over the next five years.
Mr. Ashcroft said the war on terrorism would not be fought in Washington and that efforts would be made to refocus resources on "frontline positions."
The reorganization also includes a restructuring of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, which would split INS into two separate agencies one for border security and law enforcement and another for citizenship services, including the processing of 600,000 to 700,000 legal immigrants each year. Mr. Ashcroft said he expected a new INS plan to be released soon.
The plan also calls for a restructuring of the FBI's counterterrorism effort to allow the bureau to better guard against future attacks and to upgrade its ability to share intelligence with other law-enforcement agencies. An extensive review of the FBI has been under way since the September 11 attacks, including an assessment of the bureau's management and organization.
Mr. Ashcroft said yesterday he expected the FBI to make recommendations for specific reforms by the end of the year.
He also said that under the reorganization, department officials would be held accountable for individual performances, which would be measured by results; that efforts would be made to attract a diverse, high-quality work force and train them to be the best in the world; that the department would seek "a seamless relationship" with state and local law enforcement; and that it would make upgrades in information technology.
"We should not expect our budgets to give us limitless resources. We must protect Americans regardless of the level of resources provided by [the Office of Management and Budget] and Congress. We should take responsibility ourselves to find ways to get our jobs done," he said.
Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson was assigned to lead the reorganization effort.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department, yesterday applauded the reorganization but asked Mr. Ashcroft to encourage William Webster, a former director of both the FBI and the CIA, to "complete promptly" an ongoing review of FBI internal security procedures, which began in March, and then turn his attention to the FBI's counterterrorism performance prior to the attacks of September 11.
"I concur with your call for reform of the FBI and for prioritizing its counterterrorism mission, and look forward to hearing from you more specific proposals in that regard," said the Vermont Democrat. "You and [FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III] should devise a counterterrorism strategy that is based on lessons learned from recent experience. You cannot plan for the future effectively without knowing what went wrong in the past.
Congress has mandated that the Justice Department develop and implement strategic plans covering five-year periods.
The Clinton administration updated the 1997 strategic plan in 2000. When the Bush administration took over, the Justice Department reviewed the plan and was in the process of updating it to reflect the new administration's priorities when the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred.
Mr. Ashcroft, who announced the reorganization during a speech in the Justice Department's "Great Hall," called the plan "a blueprint for change."
"It is also a call to you the men and women of the Justice Department to embrace fully our new mission, to commit ourselves to rebuilding and remaking the department; to rededicate ourselves to the highest and most noble form of public service: the preservation of American lives and liberty," he said.


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