Justice News

Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks to the Institute of International and European Affairs
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thank you, Chairperson [Nora] Owen. I appreciate your kind words – and I want to thank you all for welcoming me this afternoon. It is a pleasure to be in Dublin – and to bring greetings from President Obama, who very much enjoyed his visit to this beautiful city just a few months ago.

I’m especially grateful for this opportunity to applaud the work that each of you – and the Institute’s growing network of international supporters – are leading to help strengthen the critical ties that bind the United States and Europe. In this time of unprecedented challenges and evolving global threats, the contributions of organizations like this one – and the importance of the discussion forum you provide – can hardly be overstated.

So, on behalf of my colleagues at the Department of Justice and across America’s government – I am grateful for your commitment to the priorities and values that our nations share. And I am proud to stand with you in confronting the challenges we continue to face.

During the two and a half years I’ve had the privilege of serving as my nation’s Attorney General, I have frequently had occasion to work hand-in-hand with – and to consult with and learn from – many of my counterparts on this side of the Atlantic. Just yesterday, I had the honor of appearing before members of the European Parliament to discuss the steps that we must take to improve law enforcement cooperation and information sharing between the United States and EU member states. And on Monday, I addressed a United Nations Symposium, convened by the Secretary General, to reinforce – and to build upon – our international efforts to combat terrorism.

Of course, I’ve also been fortunate to welcome many of your leaders and elected officials to Washington. And, together, we have extended a tradition of cooperation that stretches back nearly two and a half centuries – to the time when America was little more than a grand, improbable idea.

In 1772, before the American Colonies had declared their independence, members of the Irish Parliament were among those who graciously welcomed the envoy of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin, to this continent. Among the Irish people, the burgeoning American nation found a strong ally. After meeting with leaders here in Dublin, Franklin reported to his fello w patriots that the Irish were “ disposed to be friends of America. ” And he predicted – correctly – that, “By joining our interest with theirs, a more equitable treatment . . . migh t be obtained for both nations.”

Our interests – as well as our progress – have been joined ever since. Today, we can all be encouraged that ties between the United States and Ireland – as well as our bonds with nations across Europe – have never been stronger.

But I also know that we cannot – and must not – take these relationships for granted.

Even though – unlike President Obama, a distant, but very proud, son of Moneygall – I cannot trace my roots to the people of this Emerald Isle, I certainly recognize – and am consistently reminded – that the structure of the justice system I am honored to serve and to help lead owes a great deal to the sons and daughters of Erin.

The Irish body of law stretches back more than 700 years. From this foundation springs much of the basis for the principles that underlie the founding documents of the United States, as well as Ireland’s modern Republic – a commitment to liberty, to security, to privacy, to opportunity, and to justice.

As surely as our values are shared – and our histories intertwined -- the future progress of our nations is clearly, and permanently, connected. And today, the responsibility of extending our long legacy of collaboration – and of strengthening a partnership that dates back to the 18th century – falls squarely on our shoulders.

As transnational organized criminal networks and cyber crime have transcended national boundaries, so, too, must we be united in combating these threats. Of course, no aspect of this work is more important – or more urgent – than advancing the global fight against terrorism. Just last week, we observed the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks against the United States – a day when nearly 3,000 innocent victims, including 6 Irish citizens, and hundreds of Irish-Americans, were killed; and a stark reminder of the threats we face, and the vulnerabilities that are common to all nations.

Even though our efforts to thwart attacks, to investigate potential plots, and to vigorously prosecute terrorists have met with increasing success over the years, the need to remain vigilant – and to face these threats together – has never been more apparent. And we can all be encouraged – and proud – that the United States and Ireland have established a strong record of cooperation in carrying out this critical work.

Almost exactly two years ago – in September 2009 – an American woman named Jamie Paulin-Ramirez traveled, with her young child, to Ireland, intending to join a jihadist training camp and learn to carry out acts of violence.

Had she been allowed to proceed with her plans, the consequences could well have been deadly. But, thanks to a meticulous investigation that was carried out by my colleagues at the Justice Department – in close cooperation with Irish law enforcement – this woman was stopped. She voluntarily returned to the United States, to stand trial in federal court for supporting terrorism. And six months ago, she pleaded guilty.

This is merely one high-profile example of the type of cooperation that has become commonplace in our efforts to investigate and prosecute those who seek to do us harm. And it’s just one of hundreds of cases in recent years in which America’s criminal justice system has proven its effectiveness in combating terrorist threats.

As we chart our course for the days ahead, I want to assure you that America’s commitment to utilizing this system – and every other lawful counter-terrorism tool at our disposal – will continue; as will our dedication to being flexible, pragmatic, faithful to the rule of law, and dedicated to moving in a direction that is guided, not by fear – but by fact, by reason, and by our essential and enduring values.

As President Obama has acknowledged – and as many of your nations have lamented – in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks – there were times when, in an attempt to respond to terror threats, our government veered off course, and failed to live up to our most sacred principles.

But – as I hope you have seen – this administration has worked vigorously, and tirelessly, to turn the page on past mistakes and missteps. In fact, among the very first actions that President Obama took two and a half years ago was directing government leaders – not only to redouble our focus on preventing and combating terror threats, but also to return to an era in which the costs and benefits of every action taken in the name of national security were carefully weighed. He called us to work in close consultation with our allies – to rebuild the bonds of trust that had been frayed, and to renew and reaffirm America’s commitment to the rule of law and to the ideals that have strengthened our nation and sustained our most cherished international partnerships.

Today – although the struggle has been far more difficult than anyone might have predicted, and although some of you have not agreed with every decision this Administration has made – I am pleased to report that, as a nation, we have found our footing once again.

And I am especially proud of the contributions that the Department of Justice has made i n fulfilling our paramount responsibility: to protect the American people.

In meeting this obligation, the Justice Department has led with strength and by example. Even as we’ve confronted unprecedented, and increasingly sophisticated, national security threats, we’ve made historic progress – without giving in to fear, or compromising our values as Americans.

We have made critical revisions to detention and interrogation policies, renounced the use of torture, and strengthened our ability to bring terrorists to justice in our civilian courts. And despite the internal obstacles we have been forced to meet, we are continuing to work, and to engage the help of international partners, to advance efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.

This has long been part of a comprehensive international security plan – and the need for it has never been greater.

I am reminded of this unfortunate fact each morning as I begin each day with a briefing on the most urgent global terror threats. I know that – in distant countries, and within our own borders – there are people eager to, and actively plotting to, harm the citizens we serve.  

Like every person in this room, I am determined to defeat our enemies. I know we can, and I am certain we will.  But victory and security will not come easily. And they won’t come at all if we fail to meet national challenges with international solutions; or if we allow differences in perspective, in ideology, or methodology to divide us.

So, let us seize this moment of promise. Let us to stand together in common cause. And let us signal – to all the world – that our joint efforts to ensure security, opportunity, and justice for all will not only continue; they will expand; and they will succeed.

I look forward to working with you, to hearing from you today – and to all that we will accomplish, together. -Thank you.

Updated August 18, 2015