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13 September 2001

Text: Attorney General Ashcroft Briefs Sept. 13 on Terrorist Attacks

(Speeds benefits process; denounces threats against Arabs,
Muslims)(1300)
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced September 13 that the
Justice Department will work to speed the delivery of benefits to
survivors of police and rescue personnel killed in the line of duty
during the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Ashcroft also said the Justice Department has deployed hundreds of
additional federal agents to assist in security efforts at the
nation's airports.
Commenting on reports of violence directed against Arab-Americans and
other minority groups in the aftermath of the attacks in New York City
and Washington, Ashcroft said, "We must not descend to the level of
those who perpetrated Tuesday's violence by targeting individuals
based on their race, their religion, or their national origin."
With respect to the investigation into the attacks, Ashcroft expressed
gratitude at the support provided by law enforcement agencies in
countries around the world. He said the Federal Bureau of
Investigation is pursuing more than 3,000 possible leads on the case.
Following is the text of Ashcroft's remarks, as prepared for delivery:
(begin text)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Attorney General John Ashcroft
Washington, DC
Prepared Remarks
Press Availability
September 13, 2001
September 11, 2001 was a day of unspeakable violence and outrage, but
also a day of heroism and sacrifice. As endangered and terrified men
and women struggled to make their way out of burning, collapsing
buildings, firemen, police officers and emergency rescue personnel
struggled to make their way in.
Many - we don't know how many yet - never made it out.
Even as we continue to hold out hope that more of these brave
Americans will be found alive, it is my duty as Attorney General to
begin the process of providing relief to the families of public safety
officers who sacrificed so that others might survive the attacks of
September 11.
The Public Safety Officers' Benefits Act of 1976 provides for
approximately $150,000 in benefits to the families of law enforcement
officers, firemen, emergency response squad members and ambulance crew
members who are killed in the line of duty.
This morning, President Bush directed me immediately to implement
procedures streamlining the application and approval process of claims
for benefits under this act.
Pursuant to the President's directive, the Department of Justice this
morning has taken the following actions to expedite the delivery of
benefits to public safety officers' families:
First, the existing regulations under the Public Safety Officers
Benefits Act require that officers' families and employing agencies
fill out individual forms certifying that the officer was killed in
the line of duty, that no disqualifying circumstances were present,
and that the officer was, in fact, related to the family members
seeking benefits.
These regulations direct the Bureau of Justice Assistance to give
substantial weight to evidence presented by Federal, state and local
agencies and to resolve in favor of payment any reasonable doubt
concerning the circumstances of the officer's permanent disability or
death.
In view of the unprecedented loss of life and debilitating injuries to
public safety officers, I have directed, pursuant to President Bush's
request, that this process be streamlined.
I am directing the Office of Justice Programs to exercise the full
scope of its discretion under the statute and regulations to accept
applications, consider evidence justifying claims and to process
prompt payment of benefits.
In cases in which benefits are sought by survivors of officers killed
in the line of duty on September 11, I am directing that blanket
certifications from executives of public safety agencies be considered
as evidence of eligibility without requiring further individualized
documentation.
In addition, the family claim form will be abbreviated.
Second, the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs is
immediately making available additional resources to see that the
claims of fallen officers' families are processed as quickly as
possible.
-- Staff are being brought in to New York and elsewhere to assist with
case processing.
-- A separate computer data base is being established to expedite and
monitor case processing.
-- Lawyers from the Office of Justice Programs are immediately
reviewing all cases from New York.
-- Office of Justice Programs staff are also being sent to New York to
assist with family contacts and the assembly of claim packages,
including the gathering of pertinent records.
-- Office of Justice Programs representatives will be available
on-site, if requested, to pre-certify claim packages as complete.
These representatives will also work with the Treasury Department to
expedite payments to families once claims are approved.
The provision of benefits is an insufficient but necessary response on
behalf of the American people to the unknown number of firemen, law
enforcement officers and medical rescue personnel who died answering
the call of their fellow citizens on September 11.
It is President Bush's and my hope that the actions being announced
today will provide a measure of relief to the husbands and wives and
children left behind.
And I know that it is the nation's hope that this assistance will
stand as a gesture of our inexpressible gratitude, as well as a small
tribute to the honor of their sacrifice.
Today, I announced with the Treasury Department a step that has been
taken to provide additional security at airports across the country.
As airports re-open and resume air travel, there will be a
substantially increased security presence on the ground at designated
security checkpoints throughout the country.
The Departments of Justice and Treasury have deployed hundreds of
agents of the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Border Patrol, and U.S.
Customs as part of a broad effort by federal law enforcement
authorities to provide a larger police presence at airports in
addition to the heightened security procedures already put into
effect.
We will take all necessary precautions to protect American travelers.
Lastly, our nation calls on us to be at our best in order to prevail
in these very difficult times.
Since Tuesday the Justice Department has received reports of violence
and threats of violence against Arab-Americans and other Americans of
Middle Eastern and South Asian descents.
We must not descend to the level of those who perpetrated Tuesday's
violence by targeting individuals based on their race, their religion,
or their national origin.
Such reports of violence and threats are in direct opposition to the
very principles and laws of the United States and will not be
tolerated.
I now have a few updates with regard to the ongoing investigation:
-- Legal attaches around the world are receiving enormous cooperation
from law enforcement authorities in their host countries in the
process of following up on leads. We have also received numerous
offers for help from other countries if needed. We are grateful for
the assistance being offered.
-- With regard to federal law enforcement personnel casualties. There
is one FBI agent assigned to the New York field office who is missing.
Three U.S. Marshals who are assigned to the Southern District of New
York sustained minor injuries. We are also in the process of
collecting information nationwide regarding loss of life and
casualties among law enforcement personnel.
-- As of this morning the FBI's leads hotline has received 2,055 phone
calls. Some of the leads have been helpful to the investigation. The
leads website has received more than 22,700 suggested tips.
-- The FBI is working over 3,000 leads.
-- None of the black boxes has been recovered yet, however we believe
retrieval of the black box at the Somerset County is most feasible in
the short term.
-- The total number of hijackers on the four planes that crashed was
at least 18.
(end text)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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