Justice Department Helps Coalition Intel Effort
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 18, 2003 The U.S. Justice Department worked aggressively to both develop intelligence that the coalition against Saddam Hussein could use and to protect the United States from terrorist attack, said Attorney General John Ashcroft April 17.
At a news conference Ashcroft said the Justice Department's Iraqi Task Force had a three-prong strategy.
The first was to gather intelligence from Iraqis in the United States. The second was to eliminate the Iraqi Intelligence Service's presence in the United States, and the third was to disrupt potential attacks by other terrorists. Ashcroft said these attacks "might have been launched in conjunction with the elevated activity in Iraq."
The FBI, the investigative arm of the Justice Department, interviewed nearly 10,000 Iraqis living in the United States to develop intelligence to identify threats to America and to assist coalition forces. The Iraqi Task Force conducted voluntary interviews with U.S.-based Iraqis in order to obtain counterintelligence information and intelligence data, the attorney general said.
The task force also used the interview process to identify backlash threats to Iraqis in the United States.
"The cooperation of the Iraqi-American people was essential to our efforts to secure and safeguard our nation at this critical time," Ashcroft said. "The Department of Justice greatly appreciates the assistance and the cooperation of the Iraqi community here in the United States."
FBI Director Robert Mueller said the response of the Iraqi- American community was "overwhelmingly positive." He said FBI agents developed around 250 reports that the agency delivered to the Defense Department. These reports covered such items as locating weapons production and storage facilities, underground bunkers, fiber optic networks and Iraqi detention and interrogation facilities.
Mueller said DoD officials have corroborated the information the FBI provided them. He said DoD officials thought, "the information was timely, excellent, relevant and greatly assisted in bridging gaps in other intelligence."
The second prong of the Justice strategy was to expel or arrest all known Iraqi intelligence officials within the United States. "This included five Iraqi officials with diplomatic status who were declared persona non grata and expelled from the country," Ashcroft said. "One individual was arrested and charged with acting as an agent of the Iraqi Intelligence Service."
That individual was Raed Rokan al-Anbuke, the son of a former Iraqi diplomat. He was arrested April 14 and charged with working in New York as an agent of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, Ashcroft said. He noted the Justice Department has taken action "against all known officials" of that service."
Finally, the Justice Department countered potential counterterrorism threats during the Iraqi conflict. "Using all the tools at our disposal, including provisions of the USA Patriot Act, we have brought charges against 21 individuals as a result of our stepped-up efforts in the time period before and during the conflict with Iraq," Ashcroft said.
In addition to the three-pronged strategy of the task force, the FBI is also helping coalition forces deal with the looting that occurred in Iraq.
"Over the last week, we at the FBI have undertaken steps to address the reported widespread looting of Iraqi museums and other historical sites," Mueller said. "These steps include sending FBI agents to Iraq to assist with criminal investigations, issuing Interpol alerts to all member nations regarding the potential sale of stolen Iraqi art and artifacts on both the open and the black markets, and then assisting with the recovery of any such stolen items."
FBI agents are also reviewing documents from Iraq to locate and extract any potentially valuable intelligence information, Mueller said. This review is to identify any future terrorist threats to the United States and its allies or for other links to Iraqi intelligence activities.