After 9/11, we are driven by two words: 'Never Again'

Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of MichiganWith the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, we pause to remember the victims. Events are scheduled throughout the country our state during September to honor their memory. But the best way to honor the victims is to prevent future attacks while maintaining the freedoms that make America worth protecting.

Nationally, the Department of Justice has played a vital role in preventing attacks. Since 2009 alone, the department has disrupted terrorist plots in Times Square, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Illinois and the state of Washington, all since 2009.

At the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, our National Security Unit works diligently with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to prosecute cases that threaten our national security. In the past 10 years, the office has prosecuted cases charging attempted acts of terrorism, terrorism financing, foreign agents, international cash smuggling, and export violations, among others. Our prosecutors use the criminal justice system as a tool to disrupt threats posed by violent extremists, who remain intent on killing Americans.

The ability of various agencies to work together in a crisis is essential to success. The U.S. Attorney's Office recently participated in the full-scale River Readiness Exercise, in which the U.S. Coast Guard and more than 60 other agencies from the U.S. and Canada responded to a simulated terrorist attack on the Detroit River. Like the other agencies, our personnel tested our own Critical Incident Response Plan to ensure that we are prepared to respond to a terrorist attack or other emergency.

Although we strive to thwart 100% of the plots against us, we know that violent extremists need to succeed only once. That is why we emphasize constant vigilance. Our citizens would be proud to see the diligence of federal prosecutors in Detroit as they work in relentless pursuit of public safety. We are driven by two words: "Never again."

But our prosecutors are also diligent in their care to comply with the procedural safeguards that ensure our constitutional rights. The work of our National Security Unit is among the most complex in the federal system. Our lawyers utilize the Classified Information Procedures Act to safeguard classified material while complying with the discovery rules that ensure fairness to defendants in court. We obtain legal process for surveillance techniques that receive scrutiny from lawmakers. And we comply with Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by obtaining appropriate court orders and warrants.

Federal law enforcement has also worked to protect our Muslim and Arab-American citizens, who are sometimes the victims of threats and hate crimes, wrongly blamed for the acts of others. We work to ensure that all Americans receive the full protections of the Constitution.

Since 9/11, there has been much debate about whether we must compromise our civil liberties to protect our nation from terrorists. As a prosecutor in this office before, during and after 9/11, I have seen that we can protect our nation without abandoning the essence of who we are. We have the legal tools we need to bring terrorists to justice while honoring the freedoms that make America great. If we lose our freedoms, then the terrorists have won. By preventing future attacks and preserving our core American values, we best honor those who lost their lives on 9/11.