Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Washington, DC
November 3, 2011

Thank you, Lisa Monaco, for your kind words, for your outstanding leadership of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, and for your commitment to the goals we’ve gathered to discuss – and to advance. I’d also like to thank Ambassador Benjamin and Ambassador Mohsen for all that they have done to bring us together today.

Let me also thank my colleagues at the State Department for hosting this groundbreaking Forum. It’s a privilege to welcome so many distinguished leaders and partners – from nearly 30 countries around the world, as well as the United Nations and the European Union – to what I know will be an enlightening and productive two days.

On behalf of President Obama and the entire Administration, I’d also like to thank each of you for your participation in this conference – the very first of its kind, and the beginning of what I’m confident will be a series of ongoing discussions aimed at establishing best practices – and reinforcing our shared commitment to the rule of law – as we strive to address and overcome global terror threats. For each of us, this work is – and must continue to be – a priority.

In recent years, our nations have learned – in the most painful of ways – that, just as surely as our security interests are intertwined, our counterterrorism efforts must be integrated, as well. As global threats have continued to grow and evolve, our countries have stood together. And, far too often, we have grieved together. All around the world – from New York to London; from Lahore to Madrid; from Mumbai to Abuja – we have seen the devastating effects – and costs – of terrorism. Time and again, these acts of cowardice and hate have strengthened our collective resolve – to come together, to work together, and to seek out the most innovative and effective ways to confront, to prevent, and to combat global terror in all of its forms.

Today, our shared concerns have become our common cause. Your presence here is an affirmation of this fact – and a signal of your commitment to the rule of law. Not only must this commitment be sustained, it must be renewed each day – by using every appropriate tool and resource at our disposal, and by leveraging the tremendous strength of our partnerships to counter violent extremism.

It’s clear that the challenges we face as individual nations demand international action, as well as a comprehensive framework that will guide, enhance, and streamline our efforts – and allow us to build on the progress that so many of you are leading in regions across the world.

Throughout my tenure as Attorney General, I’ve had the chance to witness some of these efforts firsthand – and to travel to a number of the countries represented here to engage with my counterparts on the subject of counterterrorism. Repeatedly, I have been reminded that, especially in this time of urgent and increasingly complex challenges, our allegiance to the values of liberty, privacy, opportunity – and, above all, justice – has never been more essential. By adhering to these values, our ability to protect the citizens we serve – and to stand up for victims of terror around the world – is growing stronger each day. But our continued progress depends on our willingness to work together as partners, and to ensure that our perspectives and approaches – although they may differ at times – must never be allowed to distract us from our common objectives, or prevent us from fulfilling our collective responsibilities.

This is our charge, our imperative, and the strategic goal of this conference: not just to share insights and expertise, but to lay the groundwork for global counterterrorism cooperation, under a criminal justice framework, in the months and years to come; and to develop a blueprint for how our community of nations can uphold the rule of law – and bring the most proven and effective law enforcement tools to bear – in the fight against terrorism.

In pursuit of these objectives, I know you’ve set an ambitious agenda for the next two days. By working closely with one another, you’ll identify and share best practices for law enforcement, help each other to develop more robust criminal procedures, and recommend substantive criminal offenses that can help bring terrorists to justice – all while safeguarding the fundamental rights of those we serve. You’ll also explore ways to develop specialized skills; to build capacity through bilateral and multilateral partnerships; and to strengthen the law enforcement mechanisms, investigative strategies, and legal obligations that must animate any framework predicated on liberty, as well as the rule of law.

At every turn, I know you’ll be drawing on the achievements that have been made in recent years by countless counterterrorism and national security professionals from around the world. You’ll be relying on the insights of leaders – both in and beyond this room – who have devoted their careers to saving lives, to protecting public safety and human rights, and to prosecuting those who seek to undermine the values that bring us together.

There’s no denying that, this morning, we stand on the shoulders of many who have grappled with these issues for some time. And this conference represents a unique opportunity to take their efforts to a new level, and to confront changing threats – and carry forward key principles – on an unprecedented scale. So, make no mistake: the framework you establish here – and the legal toolkit that you develop – will serve as the blueprint for how we address terrorism through the criminal justice system not just today, but long into the future.

I know I speak for my colleagues across the Department of Justice when I say that I am honored to be a part of this effort. The United States is firmly committed to the rule of law approach reflected in the framework that you’re developing, and we remain dedicated to strengthening civilian courts around the world – which have proven their effectiveness in combating terrorism many times over.

Although the United States has the privilege of hosting this conference today, every country represented here has critically important contributions to make in advancing the important goals of this gathering. Each prosecutor, investigator, expert, analyst, and diplomatic leader has a unique perspective to share in indentifying the counterterrorism solutions we need. That’s why, despite the gravity of the challenges that lie ahead – and the seriousness of the threats that we face – as I look out over this crowd, I can’t help but feel optimistic about where this work – and the discussions you’re beginning this week – will take us from here.

Once again, thank you for your participation, your partnership, and your commitment to achieving security, opportunity, and justice for those we serve – and for many others around the world. I wish you a most productive conference. And I look forward – not only to hearing about what you’ll accomplish over the next two days, but also – to all that we will achieve, together, in the months and years ahead.

Thank you.