Justice News

Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks to the National Fusion Center Association
Alexandria, VA
United States
Thursday, November 9, 2017

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Mike for that kind introduction.  More importantly, thank you for your leadership at the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center and as President of the NFCA.  Thank you for more than 20 years of service in law enforcement.

I also want to thank Executive Director Glenn Archer for his leadership.  Glenn brings a business background to this job—and it has served him well.  Glenn is also a former F-16 pilot.  Now he’s helping fusion centers to fly to new heights.

And I want to thank Vice President Steve Hewitt—who serves as director of Utah’s fusion center.  You are doing terrific work.  Thank you for your 20 years with the Nashville Police Department, and for helping establish the Tennessee Fusion Center as well.

I’m honored to be with you for your tenth conference—with officers from nearly all 79 fusion centers, but representing all of them from New England to Guam.  I want to thank the Association for bringing together officers from around the country every year in order to build relationships and to share best practices. 

I also want to acknowledge the hard work of our FBI, the Marshals Service, and the DEA and ATF agents who are here with us.  Thank you for what you do.

On behalf of President Trump, I want to thank every single law enforcement officer in this room.  The President is a strong supporter of our law enforcement officers.  He ran for office as a law-and-order candidate—and that message resonated with the American people.  Now he is governing as a law-and-order president.

I want to congratulate Jay Moseley, Executive Director of the Alabama Fusion Center, for winning Fusion Center Director of the Year.  Thank you also for 16 years of service to the Alabama Counterdrug Program. Jay is also a proud veteran with 26 years of military service.  Jay, thank you so much for your service to this country at home and abroad.

Congratulations also to our two recipients of lifetime achievement awards: Lt. Col. Bart Johnson of New York and Russ Porter of Iowa.  Lt. Col. Johnson was one of the first to develop the idea of fusion centers. 

In recent years, nearly 200 FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force investigations have been created as a result of information provided through fusion centers.  And nearly 300 Terrorist Watchlist encounters reported through fusion centers have enhanced existing FBI terrorism cases. 

But before I say anything else, I want to take a moment to honor those we lost in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday.  I visited the church yesterday with Vice-President Pence, and I met with some of the families who were affected by this tragedy.  This horrible crime should inspire us in law enforcement to work harder than ever to keep people safe.

I have been in and around law enforcement for nearly 40 years.  I spent 14 years as a federal prosecutor, two years as Attorney General of my home state, and 20 years on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Now I have the honor to serve as Attorney General of the United States.

Over those four decades, I have come to understand that we must see our criminal justice system as a whole.  We have different roles, different laws, different lines of authority and different funding sources.  But we are all in this together.

From our police officers to our state law enforcement and forensic departments, to our local and state prosecutors, our judges and juries, to our prison system and to our probation and parole officers, we are one system.

During this period I have also seen our law enforcement reach higher and higher levels of tactical sophistication, partnership, and collaboration.  One of my highest goals is to continue and accelerate this progress.

At this Department of Justice, we always remember that 85 percent of the law enforcement officers in this country serve at the state and local levels.  It’s just simple arithmetic: we cannot succeed without you.  We will always have your back.

Law enforcement cooperation is what fusion centers are all about.

After 9/11, a lot of us did some soul searching.  Congress set up the 9/11 Commission, which identified a failure to “connect the dots,” and a “wall” between intelligence and law enforcement.  In other words, we weren’t getting the right information to the right people at the right time.

It was this recognition that led the states to create fusion centers.  State law enforcement had always conducted intelligence activities, but now we have a hub to organize, manage, and transmit this information.  It happened in red states, blue states, and purple states alike. 

We are living in the information age—and our network of criminal intelligence analysis has never been more important. 

Criminals communicate faster than ever, and we’ve got to keep up.  A terrorist in Alexandria, Egypt can contact a sympathizer in Alexandria, Virginia in a matter of seconds.  They can plot attacks that can be carried out in a matter of hours.

Thanks to shared intelligence, we can act quickly, too.  The arrest of a single drug courier in Columbus, Ohio can lead to a national and even international cartel take down.  A defendant with prescription drugs in New Hampshire can lead to a corrupt doctor or pharmacist in Miami—or even a website based in Thailand.

Those are hypothetical stories.  But a lot of people in this room could tell real-life stories just like them.  For example, I heard about the case where a man from Illinois said repeatedly on Facebook that he wanted to kill cops.  A woman from Alabama saw it and told police.  Alabama law enforcement, through our fusion center, told police in Illinois, who then got a warrant and went to his house.  They found an illegal weapon as well as a homemade shooting range.  The man was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.  Just imagine if he had been able to act on his threats.  That woman saved lives—and our fusion centers helped her do that.

I have also heard about how Jay and the Alabama Fusion Center gave information in 2014 to the DEA’s New Orleans field office that led to the take down of more than 38 suspects in a transnational drug trafficking scheme.  Thirty-five law enforcement agencies in Alabama worked together to seize more than 200 pounds of deadly synthetic drugs, 19 guns, and half a million dollars in cash.   There’s no doubt that saved lives.

We need to do more work like that.  More than 20,000 Americans were killed by synthetic drugs last year.  Stopping this epidemic is a top priority for this Department and for the Trump Administration—and we need all hands on deck.  That is why today I am announcing that the DEA will place an emergency restriction on all forms and analogues of fentanyl, making them controlled substances.  This will give us one more tool to go after drug traffickers who try to get around our laws.  And you can help us stay one step ahead of them. I appreciate this important and complex work by the DEA.

We also know about the teenager in North Carolina who pledged allegiance to ISIS.  He planned to carry out a mass shooting at a nightclub or a concert.  When he began behaving strangely, his father—a Marine captain and a patriot—called police and told them what was happening.  With the help of the fusion center in Raleigh, information got to the FBI, which then opened an investigation.  Soon the young man tried to pay an undercover FBI agent to kill his parents for trying to thwart his plans.  He was arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and now he is spending the rest of his life behind bars.

These stories are a testament to the role that fusion centers play—and that information-sharing more broadly plays in law enforcement.  There is no doubt that the most effective law enforcement plans require that our departments focus on the most dangerous criminals.  This requires intelligence- and sharing.  This principle is the key to our core DOJ policy: Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).

That is where law enforcement must go.  It works.  The alpha criminal must be identified and stopped—this reduces crime.  Our goal is not to fill prisons, our goal is to reduce crime.

If we do have the right information in a usable form, swiftly accessible- bad criminals are at greater risk, and our officers are safer.  That’s a key reason for the Trump Administration and the Department of Justice.

We are taking action to encourage more information-sharing in so-called sanctuary jurisdictions.  Some cities, counties, and states across America intentionally limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.  Some even release convicted criminals who are wanted by ICE.  That makes all of us less safe—especially law enforcement. Some of these criminals came here as drug cartel agents to distribute drugs and others for the express purpose of committing crimes here.  An alien illegally here who commits another crime should surely be deported.  That has been a bipartisan agreement.  By placing conditions on a number of our grants, the Department is providing more incentives for these jurisdictions to share information with us. But we don’t want to withhold funds; we want a partnership of common interests.

Let me repeat my call to all law enforcement.  Let’s dismantle MS-13.  We have hurt them badly before, and we can and will hit them harder now.

We know that many of the gangs we are targeting coordinate across state lines and national borders.  We’ve got to coordinate, too.  MS-13 is based in El Salvador, but has members in 40 states.  Enhanced information sharing and collaborative partnerships can help us connect the dots between the gang leader in Los Angeles and the hit carried out in Boston—between the girl smuggled across our Southern Border and the sex trafficking ring in Toledo.

MS-13 and other gangs are recruiting among the unaccompanied kids who come across our porous Southern border.  Some of these kids come here looking for their family members who live in places like Chicago, New Jersey, and Northern Virginia.  And, unfortunately, recruitment efforts have been successful, ruining these young lives and spreading crime across America.  Law enforcement in our border states must remain in close contact with law enforcement across this country.  Otherwise, gangs will continue to recruit and threats to our security will spread.

But once again, our fusion centers have done their part.  I heard about the case in September where an analyst at Boston’s fusion center connected an arrest of a local MS-13 member with a homicide in New Jersey 11 days before.  That’s great work—and that is a clear example of how information sharing helps us take on MS-13.

Perhaps the best way to improve information sharing, however, is by improving relationships.

I have made it my personal mission to strengthen relationships between the Department and our state and local law enforcement partners. 

Sharing information is what fusion centers are all about.  It’s also what this conference is about.  I hope you’ll all get to know one another better and share your experiences.  I wish all of you success and I hope that when you return home, you will be better trained and better connected than ever before.  This country is depending on you—and we appreciate and support what you do.

Thank you once again for choosing to do this noble work.  God bless you all.

Updated December 11, 2017