President Bush summoned the entire cadre of U.S. attorneys to the White House Friday to hear new marching orders: no plea bargaining with violent, gun-wielding offenders.
Or, as the president put his message to criminals bluntly in a speech Thursday, "Pack a gun and we'll pack you away."All 93 U.S. attorneys were invited to Friday's meeting. Also on the president's agenda was a lunch with the heads of all federal law enforcement agencies.
Bush on Thursday sent Congress the legislative draft of the $1.2 billion anti-crime package that he outlined a month ago.
But to dramatize his commitment to fighting drugs and violent crime, Bush journeyed to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in steamy Glynco, Ga., to sign the transmittal document.
Most of the money - $1 billion - would go to expand federal prison capacity, but Bush also is intent on hiring 1,600 new prosecutors to work under the U.S. attorneys, and 825 new federal agents.
The U.S. Treasury-run center in Georgia trains police and investigators from every federal law enforcement agency except the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
"In a country where criminals threaten to erode the very liberties we hold so dear, you are domestic freedom fighters in the war on crime," Bush told trainees and several thousand others gathered on a 90-degree day for the event.
Bush said he has instructed Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who accompanied him to Georgia, "to advise America's federal prosecutors to end plea bargaining for violent federal firearms offenses.
"Our message to the common criminal is this: Pack a gun and we'll pack you away," he said.
He exhorted Congress to enact his plan to double the mandatory penalty for use of semiautomatic weapons in drug or violent crimes to 10 years.
But earlier, Bush advised a graduating Border Patrol officer, David Rivera, to remember that criminal suspects "should be treated with respect and given his rights or her rights, even though the evidence looks overwhelming."