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New York, Friday, November 7, 2003
Ashcroft: We'll Keep Fighting Anti-Semitism, Terrorism
By DONNA DE LA CRUZ
"This administration believes that acts of anti-Semitism must be confronted, condemned and denounced," Ashcroft said in a keynote address at the Anti-Defamation League's national meeting. "As history shows, verbal attacks on the Jewish people are portends of more savage criminality to come," he added.
Ashcroft credited the ADL for standing up to hatred and bigotry and urged all Americans to do the same. "In this battle, every voice and every hand is needed to triumph over terrorism," he said. "It requires us to speak out in America for our highest values and to take our battle to the terrorists abroad."
Ashcroft touted his department's efforts at battling terrorism, saying terrorist cells across America have been dismantled. The Justice Department has charged 286 people with terrorism-related offenses, and has secured convictions or guilty pleas from 154 people.
More than $200 million of funds from organizations suspected of supporting terror has been seized and two-thirds of al-Qaida senior operatives have been captured or killed, Ashcroft told about 450 people gathered at the Plaza Hotel.
Ashcroft added that his department has not overlooked bias crimes committed against people of Middle Eastern descent. Since Sept. 11, Ashcroft said federal officials have investigated more than 525 incidents involving violence or threats of violence against people perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin.
"The Justice Department has assisted in 120 local prosecutions," he said. "And we have brought federal charges in 13 cases against 18 defendants."
Ashcroft also spoke at length about the benefits of the USA Patriot Act, passed overwhelmingly by Congress after Sept. 11.
It greatly expanded the government's surveillance and detention powers, and the attorney general said without the legislation, some people indicted for terrorism-related offenses might not have been detected by officials.
Ashcroft spoke on the second day of the three-day conference, celebrating the ADL's 90th anniversary.
The ADL was founded in 1913 by Chicago lawyer Sigmund Livingston, who saw a need for an organization to protect Jews from anti-Semitic acts. Abraham Foxman, [see panels at left] the ADL's national director, praised Ashcroft and President Bush for their efforts in fighting anti-Semitism.
"We the Jewish people feel more vulnerable today than we ever have since World War II, and the world is not a welcome place," Foxman said.
Earlier press release: Attorney General Ashcroft to Address 90th ADL National Meeting in New York City