Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning, everyone. Before we begin today, I want to address the recent events in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina. The Department of Justice is aware of, and we are assessing, the incident that led to the death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte. We are in regular contact with local authorities as their investigation into the shooting begins to unfold. And on Monday, the Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As always, the Justice Department will be thorough, impartial and exhaustive in reaching a determination about this incident.
These tragic incidents have once again left Americans with feelings of sorrow, anger and uncertainty. They have once again highlighted – in the most vivid and painful terms – the real divisions that still persist in this nation between law enforcement and communities of color. And in Charlotte, they have once again led to widespread protest. Unfortunately, we saw several instances of violence during the protests and 12 police officers and a number of demonstrators were injured as a result. Protest is protected by our Constitution and is a vital instrument for raising issues and creating change. But when it turns violent, it undermines the very justice that it seeks to achieve and I urge those demonstrating in Charlotte to remain peaceful in their expressions of protest and concern.
At the Department of Justice, we are working tirelessly to build trust between law enforcement officers and the communities we serve and we will continue to do so. We will continue to forge dialogue between citizens and police officers. We will continue to do everything we can to give the brave men and women who wear the badge the tools and training they need to do their jobs safely, effectively and fairly. And we will continue to protect the rights and liberties of every American – no matter who they are, what they look like, or what uniform they wear.
I also want to take a moment to address recent developments regarding the bombings that occurred last weekend in New York City and New Jersey. Last night, the Department of Justice filed multiple charges against Ahmad Khan Rahami for conducting and attempting to conduct bombings in New York City and various locations in New Jersey.
Charges were filed in both the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. In the near future, it is our intention to bring the defendant to the federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, which has jurisdiction over the Manhattan neighborhood where more than 30 innocent people were wounded – and countless others were gravely endangered – by his bombs. I have full confidence that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, led by Preet Bharara, will succeed in bringing the defendant to justice for his heinous actions. And I know that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey, led by Paul Fishman, will also seek to hold the defendant accountable for his deplorable actions in their district.
These filings reflect the Justice Department's unwavering determination to find, capture and prosecute all those who attempt to commit or commit acts of terror against our nation. I want to thank my colleagues in the National Security Division, the U.S. Attorney's Offices, the FBI, the ATF and other parts of the Department for their tireless efforts over the last several days. I want to commend our local law enforcement partners and first responders for their vital contributions to this ongoing investigation. I applaud the citizens who played a crucial role in preventing further harm by alerting law enforcement when they discovered unexploded bombs. And I want to once again offer my prayers for the swift and full recovery of all the law enforcement officers and citizens who were harmed by the defendant's actions.
Thank you, David [Rivkin] for those kind words and for your outstanding leadership of the International Bar Association. And thanks to all of you for such a warm welcome. It is a pleasure to be here. And it is a privilege to join so many distinguished colleagues, devoted public servants and good friends as we gather to reaffirm our shared commitment to fostering international cooperation, upholding the rule of law and promoting justice and human rights around the world.
For 69 years, achieving those noble aims has been the mission of the International Bar Association (IBA). In the decades since you were founded to bolster the cooperative aims and timeless principles of the newly created United Nations, this organization has become an indispensable champion of human dignity and equal justice the world over. By providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and perspectives, you have created a community of lawyers that transcends the boundaries of nations and the barriers of language. By providing human rights training, you help your members to fight for rights and liberties in their home countries – especially in those nations where democracy is young and institutions are fragile. And by monitoring trials, investigating human rights abuses and advocating on behalf of judges and lawyers facing harassment or intimidation, you make clear that might does not make right – and that laws must not be the tools of repression, but the bulwarks of liberty. Through these and so many other efforts, the IBA has fought tirelessly so that all people around the world can enjoy the freedom, the dignity, the opportunity and – above all – the justice that is their birthright.
That work has never been more important. As information flows ever more freely around the world; as our economies are bound ever more closely together; as the threat from terrorists and cyber actors continues to grow without regard to national borders, those of us in the legal profession – especially those of us who serve in government – must acknowledge that our work to protect our people from harm, to fight crime and to secure justice increasingly requires international cooperation. Today, I would like to talk to you about four areas of the Justice Department’s work where this is certainly true: fighting terrorism; strengthening our cybersecurity; eradicating international corruption; and protecting the most vulnerable among us. Each of these goals is one of my top priorities as Attorney General and they are all in the core interest not only of the United States, but of others around the world. None of them can be achieved by the U.S. alone. They require us to work with other nations to strengthen international norms and to deepen international cooperation – and I am proud to say that in each of these vital areas, we are doing just that.
My highest concern as Attorney General of the United States is defending our nation and protecting our people – and citizens worldwide -- from terrorism. At the Department of Justice, we are working tirelessly to detect, deter and disrupt plots that target not only the U.S., but also nations around the globe. We are relentlessly investigating and prosecuting those who seek to harm innocent people. And we are using all of the resources at our disposal to prevent American citizens from traveling overseas to fight with groups like ISIL and then returning home or traveling elsewhere to commit further attacks. Since 2013, we have publicly charged more than 100 individuals for conduct related to foreign terrorist fighter or homegrown violent extremist activity and we have thwarted a number of plots on American soil.
These are all notable achievements, but they leave us with no illusions that we can successfully combat terrorism alone. That’s why we have been so committed to deepening international ties that allow us to share information, uncover plots against ourselves and our allies and ensure that violent extremists can find no safe haven on our shores or those of our partners. Through bodies like Interpol and Europol, we are sharing information on foreign fighters and their movements across borders, giving us a seamless view of those who might be planning an attack. We have provided a range of resources, including FBI agents, to Interpol’s Fusion Cell, which tracks terrorist training, planning and financing around the world. We have entered into information-sharing agreements with more than 45 nations in order to identify and follow suspected terrorists, providing Interpol with profiles on approximately 4,000 foreign terrorist fighters. And we have helped to establish the 24/7 cyber network, which now has more than 70 members. This rapid reaction system allows investigators to work with internet service providers to preserve valuable digital data before it disappears – exactly the kind of collaboration that the fight against terrorism demands.
Similar cooperation is essential to meeting yet another modern challenge that doesn’t stop at the water’s edge: the variety of threats we face in cyber space. Our growing reliance on the internet provides an abundance of enticing targets to wrongdoers – from criminals attempting to steal consumer data, to state-sponsored actors seeking to commit espionage or disable crucial infrastructure, to rogue hackers looking to sow mayhem. Preventing these incidents before they happen – and bringing perpetrators to justice when they do happen – requires increased cooperation among nations and the Justice Department is doing its part to advance that goal in a number of ways. The FBI’s Cyber Division recently created three new Cyber Assistant Legal Attaché positions in London, Ottawa and Canberra, allowing us to embed our personnel with foreign law enforcement agencies in order to streamline information sharing and further our cooperation on a range of cyber issues. Our Office of International Affairs has expanded the staff of its Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Modernization Project, a critical effort to keep pace with the increasing volume of requests for electronic evidence from foreign authorities. And we are strongly committed to our obligations under the Budapest Convention, a landmark agreement that established global cooperation on cyber issues as a core aspect of international relations in the 21st century. Working with international partners, we have succeeded in a number of notable cyber cases, including the takedown of a number of online marketplaces for drugs, firearms and other illegal goods; the shuttering of more than 200 websites that trafficked in child pornography; and the elimination of the Darkode hacking forum, an illicit online marketplace for the sale of malicious software and other tools of the cybercriminal’s trade.
Of course, in all of our efforts to counter both terrorism and cyber attacks, the United States is determined to protect privacy and civil liberties. This administration has taken a number of unprecedented steps to ensure that in our pursuit of security, we don’t undermine the very ideals that we are sworn to protect. In 2014, for instance, President Obama issued a presidential policy directive setting forth new principles for how the United States collects signals intelligence. Among other provisions, the directive requires us to review our intelligence decisions on an annual basis, ensuring regular scrutiny of how we safeguard the privacy of our people at the same time that we uphold their security – and, importantly, as President Obama stressed, the directive takes the “unprecedented step” of extending protections that previously applied only to the American people to people overseas as well. In addition, earlier this year, I had the privilege of traveling to Amsterdam to sign the “Umbrella” Agreement, which commits the European Union and the U.S. to protecting personal data when it is transferred for law enforcement and counterterrorism purposes.
The damage inflicted by international corruption may not be as visible as the harm done by terrorism or cyber incursions, but all of us here know that it is anything but a victimless crime. The Department of Justice is determined to work with our law enforcement counterparts around the world to ensure that the United States offers no shelter for the perpetrators – or the proceeds – of corruption. As all of you know, last May, we joined with our colleagues in Switzerland to indict nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives for illegally enriching themselves through the corruption of international soccer. Since then, we have indicted 16 more defendants and along with our Swiss partners, we remain committed to keeping the beautiful game free from the stain of corruption. In 2010, our Criminal Division established the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which has opened cases involving billions of dollars in criminal assets. Where possible, we use the funds forfeited by the Kleptocracy Initiative to benefit the people of the countries who were harmed and we will remain vigilant against those who seek to abuse positions of public trust for private gain.
Finally, the Department of Justice is working alongside our international partners to take a firm stand against one of the most appalling crimes of our time: human trafficking. Ending this heinous practice – which is nothing less than modern-day slavery – is not easy. It is a largely invisible crime, which makes it difficult to determine precisely how many millions of men, women and children are in its clutches. But we know that it occurs in countries around the world, including right here in the United States.
As in our counterterrorism operations, we have committed to sharing intelligence, combining resources and working through regional and international bodies to tighten the net against traffickers, resulting in operations like the one last June in the Ivory Coast, which arrested 25 suspects and rescued more than 75 children. And more and more nations are developing more stringent anti-trafficking measures within their borders. Here in the United States, the Justice Department has joined the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security in launching the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative, which assembles specialized units of attorneys and agents from across the federal government to more effectively apprehend traffickers, rescue victims and support survivors as they begin to reclaim their lives. We recently expanded this vital initiative and I pledge that the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously pursue those who treat other human beings as little more than means to be exploited.
Of course, we still have a long way to go before human trafficking is erased from our planet – just as we have a long way to go before terrorism is ended, cyber threats are neutralized and corruption no longer plagues our societies. But we have made tremendous progress by working together as an international community – and I believe that if we meet our obligations and continue to deepen that cooperation, our progress will only grow. I say “obligations” because as lawyers, we have a fundamental responsibility to serve justice above all else. And in our interconnected world, serving justice increasingly requires a global outlook. So I would ask all of you to continue to champion these issues in your home countries. Explore ways to ensure that our laws do a better job of thwarting terror; of protecting our networks; of upholding public integrity; and of safeguarding human dignity.
That is your calling as lawyers – and that is your duty as members of the International Bar Association. After all, the IBA was established amidst the ashes of the deadliest conflict in human history, the Second World War, a struggle that was in no small part the result of a failure of justice – both within nations and between them. The hope that gave rise to the IBA was that through closer ties between the world’s lawyers – through a transnational group devoted to the highest principles of justice – the world would never again suffer the kind of cataclysm it experienced in World War II. For 69 years, the IBA has kept faith with that sacred mission. And I am certain that by keeping faith with it today, we will continue our shared progress toward a brighter, a safer and a more just future for all. Thank you.
Attorney General of the United States