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Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks at the Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Service for the Victims of Pan American Flight 103


Arlington, VA
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Kathy, for that kind introduction.  And thank your hard work in helping making this service possible.

I especially want to thank all of our law enforcement professionals who are here, including U.S. Attorney Liu for Washington, D.C., to Mike Munn, Jessie Gomez, and Dick Marquise of the FBI, and of course to Ed O’Callaghan, Jonathan Freimann, Brianna Edgar, Jerry Teresinski, and Heather Cartwright of our National Security Division, and so many others who are here from the Department of Justice.

I also want to take a moment to remember Frank Duggan, your attorney, whom we lost last month.  Everyone here knows that Frank was a tough and most able advocate for the victims of the Pan Am 103 attack.  He will be missed. 

I want to thank his widow, Faye, for being here during this difficult time.

On behalf of President Trump I want to offer my condolences to all of the families of the victims of the Pan Am 103 terrorist attack. 

Your strength today—and over these past 29 years—is an inspiration for the people of this country.

In particular I want to mention those of you who are part of the Department of Justice family. 

I want to mention Stephanie Bernstein, who just gave that beautiful invocation.  Stephanie lost her husband Michael, a DOJ attorney who was in Vienna on Department business. 

He had been working on deporting former Nazis from the United States—and he was on his way home to her.

Former U.S. Attorney Rick Hartunian lost his 21-year old sister Lynne.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Gannon lost her uncle Matthew.

Today we stop and pay them the tribute of remembering them—and all those whose names we just heard so beautifully recited.

But 29 years later, we continue to heal.

I believe that we owe it to the victims—and to you, their families—to ensure that justice is done.

And I am confident that we will.

I want to assure you that your loved ones are not forgotten—and neither are you.

Our investigators and prosecutors meet regularly in the United States, in Scotland, and elsewhere to advance the case and bring those responsible to justice.  They continue their efforts to gather witnesses and recover evidence from Libya. 

Despite challenging conditions, they are engaged with Libyan prosecutors and officials, and will continue their work as long as it takes.

Twenty-nine years ago, this was the deadliest terrorist attack on American civilians in our history. 

Two-hundred seventy innocent people from 22 countries were targeted for death by state-sponsored terrorists.  One-hundred eighty-nine were Americans traveling home for Christmas. 

The victims include a two-year old, a three-year old, and a couple on their honeymoon.

Every year on December 21, the men and women of the Department of Justice are honored to join you here. This day reminds us of what is at stake in the work that we do; it inspires us, and it renews our determination.

The first and most important job of any government is to protect the safety and the rights of its citizens. 

Terrorists target unarmed, unsuspecting, innocent people going about their lives—watching a soccer game, commuting to work, or flying home for Christmas.  Ours is the difficult task of staying one step ahead of them at all times. 

It is not enough to prosecute terrorism—we must prevent terrorism.

Over these last 29 years, terrorists have continued to target us. 

They have inflicted other attacks upon us and our allies, from San Bernardino to Boston, from the Pentagon—just a mile and a half away from this spot—to Orlando and London.

But at the same time, we have improved our law enforcement training and tactics, and we are more determined than ever to defeat terrorism— not to accommodate it, but to defeat it.

The Department of Justice has achieved a number of victories. We have secured convictions of more than 500 terrorists since 9/11.

And since 2013 alone, we have charged more than 145 foreign fighters, homegrown extremists, and ISIS supporters in more than 40 districts.  We are not letting up: the FBI currently has ongoing investigations in all 50 states.

In my time as Attorney General, nothing has impressed me more.

I meet with the FBI Director and his Counterterrorism team three mornings a week. We recognize the responsibility that we have.  We are determined to prevent as many attacks as possible. Of course, that is not easy.  We are not perfect, but we are working resolutely every single day to reach the highest levels of success. 

I am very impressed—amazed, really—at how effective our team has been in preventing attacks and prosecuting terrorists before they carry out their murderous aims.

Terrorists seek to intimidate us.  They seek to coerce us.  But they will fail.

The American people will not yield.

That is what we owe the victims. 

And that is what we owe you, their families: to bring terrorists to justice and ensure that other families don’t have to endure what you have suffered. President Trump and this Department will remain relentless in doing that.

I want to thank all of you for being here, and for your being relentless in honoring the memory of these 270 beautiful lives. 

God bless you all.

Updated December 21, 2017