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Ashcroft: Time is extremely important in these terror probes

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 4, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST:  So, is it a big deal when you see these two guys seated together?  

Now, we had that news that FBI Director Comey wanted to make an announce, presumably to say, yes, this was a terror event, what went down in San Bernardino, California.  Then we hear later on Loretta Lynch, the attorney general, was going to be there.  The appearance seemed to be of baby- sitting or watching him.  

Now, that`s a quick leap that many -- many reporters make, and you know reporters.  They can be horrible human beings.  

Doesn`t former Attorney General John Ashcroft know that?  He joins us right now.

Mr. Attorney General, I guess it immediately triggers suspicion the administration wanted to dial Comey back on the terrorism thing.  Do you think that was the case?  

JOHN ASHCROFT, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I have no way of knowing.  

Let me just say that, in 9/11 circumstances, Robert Mueller and I were together, and it was to indicate that far more than the FBI was being committed to the investigation.  The Justice Department had a robust set of additional resources, including the Immigration and Naturalization Services at that time...

CAVUTO:  OK.  

ASHCROFT:  ... the U.S. Marshals Service.

So, I don`t think you can draw anything from it.  I would hope that it signaled that not just the FBI, but all the resources that might otherwise be involved in preventing an additional occurrence would be devoted to this effort to stop this kind of abuse.

CAVUTO:  Well, you know, what seated that, as you know, Mr. Attorney General, this notion that the administration seemed very reluctant early on to call this terrorism, not so much the FBI or the FBI director.

And, then, lo and behold, the FBI is going to make a statement.  Obviously, he has to clear that through the attorney general.  I don`t know procedure.  
You know it better than I.  And then she appears with him.  

You don`t read anything into that and accept at face value that they`re both in synch on dealing with this?  

ASHCROFT:  Well, I would hope they`re both in synch on dealing with it.  

CAVUTO:  OK.  

ASHCROFT:  I would expect them to be in synch on dealing with it.  

There`s no way of knowing whether there were controls or other efforts made to manage the -- quote -- "message."

CAVUTO:  All right.  All right.  

You`re always a class act, even when I try to push you into something controversial.  

Let me ask you as well about what Chris Christie was talking about, sir, this notion that there was an intelligence communication breakdown, and if that is the case, it would be very akin to what we saw prior to 9/11, where agencies weren`t talking to each other.  

We developed Homeland Security to make sure that sort of thing didn`t happen.  But it has stumbled.  We saw it with the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston, that national officials, the FBI and others, NSA, weren`t communicating to the local police force.  We certainly saw it in Paris.

We have seen it in London. We have seen it played out, that it is a problem.  Is it a problem, a big problem?  

ASHCROFT:  Well, communication is always a problem, and time is of the essence in these matters.  

CAVUTO:  Yes.  

ASHCROFT:  And the quicker you develop the full range of authorities to bring them to bear in an investigation, the more likely you are to be able to learn what you need to prevent the next occurrence.  

And so characterizing this as a terrorism investigation really helps, because it gives you access to a kind of intelligence that would come through previous FISA records and through the use of intelligence material that might not otherwise be available.  

It makes you -- gives you access to cooperation with certain foreign sources that wouldn`t otherwise be cooperative.  So, it`s very important that you have a terrorism investigation when you have an act which is arguably, and which appears to be, manifestly terrorist in nature.  

So -- and if you wait until the investigation is over to deploy these additional tools, that`s self-defeating.  So, when you have -- we had the tradecraft here of terrorism, the stockpiling, the destruction of the digital trail, the audit trail, the -- and, frankly, the announcement of all these things may actually keep cooperators to destroy other things that might provide the trail to them.  

So, the strategy, the strategic effort that is made in these investigations and how much is said and not said can really make a difference in terms of whether or not you can stop the next one.  

CAVUTO:  All right.  

You know, I wanted to get your thoughts on Hussam Ayloush.  He is the L.A.
director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, better known as CAIR.  And he spoke to CNN that we`re, that is the United States, partly responsible for Islamic terrorism.

I want you to react to this.  This is from CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUSSAM AYLOUSH, LOS ANGELES DIRECTOR, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC
RELATIONS:  Let`s not forget that some of our own foreign policy as Americans, as the West, have fueled that extremism.  

When we support cruel leaders in Egypt or other places, when we support dictatorships, repressive regimes around the world that push people over to the edge, then they became extremists, then they become terrorists, we are partly responsible.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO:  Isn`t that blaming the victim again?  Didn`t we do that after 9/11?  

ASHCROFT:  Well, you know, our president has really said that America is the problem, not the solution, in so many cases, and apologizing and saying that we are not the agent of liberty and freedom.  

Of course, liberty and freedom are not part of the inventory of things respected by ISIL.  They don`t like liberty.  They don`t want freedom.  
They want Sharia law.  They want its imposition.  They make no apology for that

And if you read carefully what ISIS is about, it`s about an interpretation of the Muslim religion that was -- is well over 1,000 years old and it`s very literal.  It`s about decapitation.  It`s about amputation.  It`s about crucifixion.  And it`s about provoking a cataclysmic end to the world.  

And this is not our fault.  This is something that is believed by this group of individuals.  And they are attracted by it and want to participate in having it come true.  The rest of the world, and many Muslims are not part of that, but for us to deny that that`s what it is, is for us to stick our head in the sand and stick it in pretty deeply.  

CAVUTO:  John Ashcroft, good seeing you.  Thank you very much.  

ASHCROFT:  My honor.  

CAVUTO:  All right.  

END

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