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Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Delivers Remarks to the Joint Terrorism Task Force


New York, NY
United States

NOTE: The remarks originally included a case that was scheduled to be sentenced but was continued, and so that case was removed from the speech. However, a reference to the case was inadvertently left in. As such, there is no extradition relating to the Chelsea bomber case.

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Geoff (Berman), for that kind introduction, and thank you for your leadership as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. And thank you also to United States Attorney Richard Donoghue from the Eastern District of New York.

It is wonderful to be in New York during the holiday season.  I’m told that this is the best time of year to visit—but I must say I am looking forward to Thanksgiving in Des Moines.

But before I say anything else, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that the law enforcement community is in mourning today.

Chicago police officer Samuel Jimenez was shot and killed during Monday’s shooting at Mercy hospital. Officer Jimenez had just joined the force in 2017 and he was only 28 years old.  He leaves behind a wife—his high school sweetheart—and three young children.

Officer Jimenez was on his way to respond to a different call when he heard of shots fired at the hospital.  Then he did what police officers do every day in America: he went toward the danger, so that the rest of us could run away from it.  He and his fellow officers saved a lot of lives that day.

This tragedy is another reminder of both the danger and the nobility of police work.  Today, as we prepare for Thanksgiving Day, we should all be especially grateful for our police officers.

It is an honor to be here in the J.O.C., where so many consequential law enforcement decisions have been made—so many decisions that have saved American lives.

This is where a number of terrorism investigations have begun—and it’s where security is monitored for events like the Thanksgiving Day parade or New Year’s Eve.

And it is an even greater honor to be with some of the most respected law enforcement leaders in the world.  Thank you to:

  • Commissioner O’Neill,
  • FBI Assistant Director in Charge, William Sweeney,
  • Deputy Commissioner Miller,
  • NYPD Chief Paul Ciorra,
  • Chief Owen Monaghan,
  • Ashan Benedict of ATF,
  • Michael Greco with the Marshals Service,
  • Troy Miller with CBP,
  • Director Frank Russo,
  • Phil Bartlett and our Postal Inspectors, and
  • Scott Sarafian with Secret Service.

It is an honor to be with all of you.

NYPD in particular has earned a reputation as perhaps the greatest police department on Earth.

There are more NYPD officers than there are members of the military in entire nations, like Belgium or Ireland.

But even more impressive than the quantity of your officers is the quality of your officers.

You are known all over the country for your Compstat program, which enables you to monitor crime rates in real time and to quickly reallocate officers when crime begins to rise.

And over the past three decades, your achievements have been staggering.  In 1990, there were 2,245 murders in New York City.  Last year there were 292.  Since 2000, burglaries are down by nearly two-thirds and robberies have been cut in half.  One weekend in October there were zero murders or shootings in New York City for the first time in 25 years.

These results are a testament to the effectiveness of NYPD, and of many people in this room.  You’ve been able to start a virtuous cycle of safety, prosperity—and more safety.  That is what we want to achieve all across America.

President Donald Trump is a lifelong New Yorker.  He invested in this city when its future was in doubt.  He bet on this city—and that proved to be a smart bet. 

The President witnessed New York’s transformation firsthand. I think that made his support for law enforcement even stronger.

One of his very first Executive Orders was to tell the Department of Justice to improve the safety of state and local law enforcement officers.  And over these past two years, we have followed that order.

Today I am announcing our next step to carry out that order.  Today I am announcing that the Department of Justice is providing $56 million in grant funding to support law enforcement all across America.

That includes $29 million for bulletproof vests, $12.2 million for body-worn cameras, and $2 million in health and safety research.

This is just a small way of saying thank you to the officers who take care of us every day.  We understand the sacrifices that you make—and so we want you to have the right equipment and the right training.

If anybody out there doesn’t appreciate the role of law enforcement officers in our society, then I would tell them to come to New York.

Earlier today I visited the 9/11 Memorial.  It was an extremely moving experience.

We all remember where we were when we heard the news.  I know I do.

Some of you were here.  Some of you were at Ground Zero.

It was the worst terrorist attack in American history and the most shocking attack on our soil since Pearl Harbor.  It led to the largest investigation in FBI history.

None of us have ever been the same.  Speaking for myself, 9/11 strengthened my appreciation for our servicemembers and our first responders and law enforcement officers.

More than 70 police officers were killed in New York City that day.  Dozens more died of illnesses related to their service at Ground Zero.  Some of you knew them.

The Department of Justice honors their memory and law enforcement holds them up as examples of our highest ideals.  They died in a rescue mission that saved thousands of lives.

We are indescribably proud of our federal officers.  But we recognize that the vast majority of the officers in American law enforcement is at the state and local levels.  We cannot succeed without you.

We’re at our best when we work together—and that’s what the JTTF is all about.

This is the oldest JTTF in America.  Today there are more than 100 JTTFs nationwide, including at least one in each of our FBI field offices.  The vast majority of these were created in response to 9/11.

This JTTF set the model for the rest to follow.  You bring together 500 employees from 50 different partner agencies.

And you’ve achieved so much for this city and for this country.

You investigated the 2007 JFK bomb plot, the 2009 Subway bomb plot, and the 2010 attempted bombing of Times Square.

And I am well aware that, under this administration, you’ve continued to have success in investigating terrorism.

Three times a week, I receive a threat briefing where the FBI and the National Security Division tell me about the national security investigations that we are working on in our United States Attorneys’ offices.  We’ve talked about the work done here.

People in this room have achieved successes that have made this country safer.

This February, prosecutors in Geoff’s office secured a life sentence for the Chelsea bomber, Ahmad Rahimi. He planted nine improvised explosive devices in New Jersey and New York, including two not far from here in Chelsea.  He detonated one of them and injured more than 30 people.  The bomb was so powerful that it launched a 100-pound dumpster more than 120 feet.  It shattered windows 400 feet away and three stories above ground level.

Another bomb here in Chelsea was rendered safe by law enforcement before it was detonated.

That investigation started right here in this room.

And so to all of the agents, officers, and the AUSAs who worked on this case—Emil Bove, Andrew DeFilippis, and Shawn Crowley—thank you for this outstanding work.

People in this room also worked to convict the Bangladeshi national who detonated a bomb near the Port Authority bus terminal last December. The explosion was caught on surveillance video and the defendant was found lying on the ground with parts of a pipe bomb on and around his body.  After he was arrested, he admitted that he detonated the bomb to express his support for ISIS.  He attempted to make the bomb as dangerous as he could and to target a public place during rush hour.

Just two weeks ago, thanks to the hard work of Geoff’s Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shawn Crowley, Rebekah Donaleski, and George Turner, he was convicted on six counts.  Now he is facing a potential life sentence.

These are terrific accomplishments.  The dangerous terrorists in these cases can’t hurt anyone now—and that’s because of your hard work.

But these cases are also a reminder that the terrorist threat is not going away on its own.  Sadly, our work is not finished.

Terrorists are going to continue to target us.  So we’ve got to keep targeting them—during this holiday season and all year round.

And so I want to assure all of you that this work remains the top priority of the Department of Justice.  We will not let up.

We will continue to support you with resources—like the grant funding that I mentioned—with personnel, and with intelligence.

I want to conclude with something a mentor of mine used to say every time he spoke to law enforcement, and I believe it too: we have your back, and you have our thanks.

National Security
Updated November 23, 2018