Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Conyers, and distinguished members of the Committee – good morning, and thank you for this opportunity to discuss the critical work of our nation’s Department of Justice. As I have stated often, no aspect of our work is more important – or more urgent – than protecting the American people. This is our top priority – and our most fundamental responsibility.
Two days ago – with the death of Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda and the world’s most wanted terrorist – our nation made historic progress in fulfilling this responsibility, and in achieving justice for the nearly 3,000 innocent Americans who were murdered on September 11, 2001.
This achievement was the result of a steadfast, almost decade-long effort – one that spanned two administrations, and was advanced by many dedicated military and civilian leaders; intelligence and law enforcement officers; diplomats and policymakers; investigators, prosecutors and counterterrorism experts.
For the last two years, President Obama has made certain that efforts to kill or capture Osama bin Laden remained a central focus in our nation’s fight against terrorist threats. For the President’s National Security Team, achieving this goal has been at the forefront of our work, even as we continued – and strengthened – broader efforts to dismantle and defeat terrorist networks, and to use every tool available to combat national security threats both at home and abroad.
The Justice Department has played a vital role in this ongoing fight against terrorism. During the last two years, we have helped to identify and disrupt plots to attack New York City’s subway system – and to deploy weapons of mass destruction in Texas, Oregon, and Washington State. We have secured guilty pleas – as well as long sentences and, in many cases, actionable intelligence – from terrorists intent on harming our people, allies, and interests. And the Department has charged more defendants in federal court with the most serious terror-related offenses than in any two-year period in our nation’s history.
Through the use of robust military, intelligence, and law enforcement operations, this administration has sent a clear and unequivocal warning to those intent on harming the American people: you will pursued; and you will be brought to justice.
Although we all can be proud of Sunday’s successful operation – and we can all be encouraged by the way that thousands of Americans have joined together at this defining moment in our fight against terrorism – we cannot become complacent. This fight is far from over.
Just yesterday, I ordered the Department’s prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to be mindful that bin Laden’s death could result in retaliatory attacks in the Unites States or against our interests overseas. And I have instructed Department officials, as well as our state and local partners, to maintain focus on our highly effective counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts.
I also have reiterated what President Obama said on Sunday evening, that, “The United Sates is not – and never will be – at war with Islam…bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims…in many countries, including our own.”
We cannot – and we will not – lose sight of this fact. And I pledge that, at every level of today’s Justice Department, we will remain focused on our paramount obligation to protect the citizens we serve. Using every available resource and appropriate tool – including our federal court system – we will be vigilant against both international and domestic threats. And we will continue to utilize the critical authorities provided under the provisions of the Patriot Act, which I hope Congress will move promptly to reauthorize for a substantial period of time. On this issue, I want to thank Chairman Smith for his leadership and strong support.
Beyond our national security work, the Department will take steps to build on current efforts to combat violent crime and financial fraud; and to defend the rights of all Americans, especially the most vulnerable members of our society.
Let me say, finally, that our country – and the world – have just witnessed an historic moment. What we make of it now is up to us. Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice. A brutal terrorist will no longer be free to order the murder of innocent people across the globe. And just as we came together nearly a decade ago – in the aftermath of the most devastating attack in America’s history – we must come together again.
On 9/11, our nation was united as never before – by tragedy, by grief, and by a shared sense of loss. Today, we must be united by a collective resolve and a common purpose: to protect our homeland and our people; to honor the values that have made our nation great; and to build on the extraordinary record of progress that’s been achieved in protecting the people we are privileged to serve.
Once again, I want to thank you for this opportunity to discuss the Justice Department’s priorities, recent achievements, and future plans. I look forward to working with members of this Committee in the days ahead, and I’m now happy to answer any questions.