Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here today. And it’s a privilege to join Secretary [John] Kerry in welcoming you to this important ministerial.
I am honored to stand with you this week, here in Washington, as we reaffirm the ties that bind us to one another; as we reinforce our commitment to collaboration in the face of common challenges; and as we renew our determination to advance the work of countering violent extremism – both within our own countries and across the globe.
Let me begin by expressing my sympathy and support to Denmark and its people. After the tragic events in Copenhagen – and before that, Paris and Belgium – it is clear that we have no more critical task before us than that which brings us together today. And with the emergence of groups like ISIL, and the knowledge that some Americans – and some citizens of the nations you represent – are attempting to travel to countries like Syria and Iraq to take part in ongoing conflicts, the need for the global community to stand together in combating this threat has never been more apparent.
The Justice Department I am honored to lead is deeply engaged in this vital effort. The department’s constituent elements – and particularly the FBI and our prosecutors – are committed to investigating and bringing to justice American extremists who attempt to join terror groups abroad, and dedicated to working closely with their counterparts in all of your nations to counter terrorist travel and attacks.
In addition, the Justice Department is also committed to addressing the root causes of extremism. As you will hear over the next day, we have engaged in extensive outreach to communities here in the United States.
And through our Civil Rights Division, we are spearheading comprehensive efforts to reduce the likelihood that individuals will engage in violence based on extremist ideologies – by educating communities about violence risk factors; by eliminating conditions that lead to alienation and violent extremism; and by providing mental health services for at-risk youth.
All of these efforts have been vitally important in strengthening our work within the United States. But as you know, this is a global issue – and we have much to learn from all of the nations gathered here over the next two days.
In a globalized society that is more interconnected today than ever before, we have a mutual and compelling interest in developing shared strategies for confronting this threat. And we gain a strong and clear advantage when we leverage our resources in support of our common goals.
Today’s ministerial is an opportunity to do just that. It is a chance to make real and significant commitments – and to take concrete steps – toward improving the way we share information in the service of our mutual, global security.
This effort must take many forms. One is to prioritize our sharing of traveler information as a way to prevent would-be foreign fighters from going to Syria and Iraq in the first place. Another is to ensure that we have the capacity to track extremists whenever and wherever they return.
To that end, we are closely collaborating with all of you on a bilateral basis. But multilateral sharing is also critical. We are actively supporting Interpol’s Fusion Cell, which focuses on information-sharing relating to foreign fighters. In furtherance of this commitment, the Department of Justice will provide law enforcement personnel, including individuals from the FBI, to support this specialized office.
And there are three other commitments I suggest that we all make. First, that we all link our nation’s front line border control systems to Interpol’s databases, so that when passports are scanned they will hit against Interpol’s 24/7 system of notices for fugitives and suspects. This will be a key step in disrupting the travel of foreign terrorist fighters, as well as the travel of transnational criminals generally.
Indeed, in this regard, we need to consider additional ways in which we can share more information with each other—not just about known and suspected terrorists, but also about violent criminals—particularly those who may have been exposed to radicalization in prison or elsewhere.
Second, for the same reasons, we should redouble our commitment to contribute to, and scan against, Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Document Database.
Third, we should strengthen countries’ bilateral sharing efforts with the Justice Department’s Terrorist Screening Center, which provides partner countries with foreign terrorist fighter information in addition to information regarding known or suspected terrorists.
Our current and future partners in the collective effort against violent extremism and terrorism benefit from proactive, global watchlisting and screening of known or suspected terrorists at land borders, in maritime travel lanes, and aviation terminals. Sharing terrorist identity and encounter information, particularly regarding foreign fighters, helps to interdict, disrupt, and prevent acts of violence throughout the world.
These commonsense steps should be taken immediately by every nation represented here today.
Beyond these initiatives, our approach to this challenge must be founded on efforts to build mutual trust and respect – so we can commit to safe and effective data-sharing in service of our mutual security, in a manner that protects personal privacy. And as we move forward together, our efforts must continue to be guided by the same spirit of openness and inclusion that has brought this community of nations to Washington for this important summit.
We must be both innovative and aggressive in countering violent extremism and combating those who would sow intolerance, division, and hate – both within our borders, and alongside our partners on a global scale. And we must never lose sight of what violent extremists fear the most: the strength of our communities; the diversity of our populations engaged in common effort; and our enduring commitments to tolerance, freedom, justice, and the rule of law.
I thank you all, once again, for your leadership, your collaboration, and your friendship—in this effort, and over the many years I have been honored to serve alongside you. While my time as Attorney General is coming to a close, I know that my successor will be equally committed to this cause – and I look forward to everything that our nations will achieve together in the months and years to come.