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Ashcroft: War on terror needs cooperation

Flanked by local police officials, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said at a news conference Wednesday that winning the war against terrorism will require the cooperation of the entire law enforcement community.

Ashcroft outlined many successes in the war against terrorism and alluded to a few areas that need improving during the 30-minute news conference at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa.

Ashcroft emphasized that the FBI must continue changing from an organization that solves crimes to one that also has the ability to anticipate what crimes are about to occur.

That requires maintaining and improving the flow of information between federal agencies and local and state law enforcement.

Before the news conference, Ashcroft met with members of the local antiterrorism task force. Similar task forces were created throughout the country in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to help gather intelligence and improve communication between agencies. Ashcroft praised Florida's task forces as models for the rest of the country.

Ashcroft also swung through Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta to meet with similar regional antiterrorism task forces Wednesday. In Tampa, he also visited the federal courthouse and MacDill Air Force Base.

Nationwide, terrorism-related investigations have led to 99 convictions, 458 deportations and 62 organizations having their assets frozen, Ashcroft said. As successes, he pointed to the arrest of alleged terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui and the convictions of John Walker Lindh and Richard Reid, the al-Qaida-trained shoe bomber thwarted on an American Airlines flight.

Ashcroft also was pleased that the U.S. Senate passed the new Homeland Security Act late Tuesday. Ashcroft said it "begins a new era of cooperation, coordination and ability to harmonize all we do" to prevent terrorism.

The new Department of Homeland Security merges 22 diverse agencies with 170,000 employees and combined budgets of about $40-billion. It will be the largest federal reorganization since the Defense Department was created in 1947.

"Cooperation is essential to defeat, disrupt and delay terrorism in the United States," he said.

_ The Associated Press contributed to this report.