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`They Are Still Trying to Kill Our People'

September 07, 2006|From the Associated Press

On the morning of September the 11th, 2001, our nation awoke to a nightmare attack. Nineteen men armed with box cutters took control of airplanes and turned them into missiles. They used them to kill nearly 3,000 innocent people.

We watched the twin towers collapse before our eyes, and it became instantly clear that we'd entered a new world and a dangerous new war.

The attacks of September the 11th horrified our nation. And amid the grief came new fears and urgent questions. Who had attacked us? What did they want? And what else were they planning?

Americans saw the destruction the terrorists had caused in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania, and they wondered if there were other terrorist cells in our midst poised to strike. They wondered if there was a second wave of attacks still to come.

With the twin towers and the Pentagon still smoldering, our country on edge, and a stream of intelligence coming in about potential new attacks, my administration faced immediate challenges. We had to respond to the attack on our country. We had to wage an unprecedented war against an enemy unlike any we had fought before. We had to find the terrorists hiding in America and across the world before they were able to strike our country again.

So in the early days and weeks after 9/11, I directed our government's senior national security officials to do everything in their power, within our laws, to prevent another attack.

Nearly five years have passed since those initial days of shock and sadness. And we are thankful that the terrorists have not succeeded in launching another attack on our soil.

This is not for the lack of desire or determination on the part of the enemy. As the recently foiled plot in London shows, the terrorists are still active, and they are still trying to strike America, and they are still trying to kill our people....

The terrorists who declared war on America represent no nation. They defend no territory. And they wear no uniform. They do not mass armies on borders or flotillas of warships on the high seas.

They operate in the shadows of society. They send small teams of operatives to infiltrate free nations. They live quietly among their victims. They conspire in secret. And then they strike without warning.

And in this new war, the most important source of information on where the terrorists are hiding and what they are planning is the terrorists themselves.

Captured terrorists have unique knowledge about how terrorist networks operate. They have knowledge of where their operatives are deployed and knowledge about what plots are underway.

This intelligence -- this is intelligence that cannot be found any other place. And our security depends on getting this kind of information.

To win the war on terror, we must be able to detain, question and, when appropriate, prosecute terrorists captured here in America and on the battlefields around the world....

Most of the enemy combatants we capture are held in Afghanistan or in Iraq where they're questioned by our military personnel. Many are released after questioning or turned over to local authorities if we determine that they do not pose a continuing threat and no longer have significant intelligence value. Others remain in American custody near the battlefield, to ensure that they don't return to the fight....

Some of these individuals are taken to the United States naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It's important for Americans and others across the world to understand the kind of people held at Guantanamo. These aren't common criminals or bystanders accidentally swept up on the battlefield.

We have in place a rigorous process to ensure those held at Guantanamo Bay belong at Guantanamo. Those held at Guantanamo include suspected bomb-makers, terrorist trainers, recruiters and facilitators, and potential suicide bombers. They are in our custody so that they cannot murder our people....

In addition to the terrorists held at Guantanamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.

This group includes individuals believed to be the key architects of the September the 11th attacks and attacks on the USS Cole [in 2000], an operative involved in the [1998] bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and individuals involved in other attacks that have taken the lives of innocent civilians across the world.

These are dangerous men, with unparalleled knowledge about terrorist networks and their plans of new attacks. The security of our nation and the lives of our citizens depend on our ability to learn what these terrorists know.

Many specifics of this program, including where these detainees have been held and the details of their confinement, cannot be divulged. Doing so would provide our enemies with information they could use to take retribution against our allies and harm our country....

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