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Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks to the National Fusion Center Association Alexandria, VA


Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Mike for that kind introduction.  More importantly, thank you for your leadership running Northern California’s HIDTA and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center.  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 has a business background and a military background and he is using both to help law enforcement become more effective.

Thank you to: The Alexandria Police Department Color Guard for the Presentation of the Colors, Colonel Gary Settle of the Virginia State Police, and Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown.

I’m honored to be with you again this year for your eleventh conference—with officers from nearly all 79 fusion centers, from New England to Guam—to build relationships and to share best practices.

I am also pleased to hear that my home state of Alabama is well-represented here today: John Bennett, Alison Duncan, Matt Payne, and Incumbent Fusion Center Director of the Year, Jay Moseley. Congratulations!

On behalf of President Trump, I want to thank every single law enforcement officer in this room—state, federal, and local.

The President is a strong supporter of our law enforcement officers, and he has made public safety the top priority of this administration.

His very first order to me after I was sworn in was to “back the blue” and to be a force multiplier, a facilitator, for our state and local law enforcement.

That is the how law enforcement works best.  When we work together—we get results.

For example, later today I will be going to Quantico to thank the FBI agents and analysts who helped us apprehend a suspect in the pipe bombing case last Friday.

But they didn’t do it alone.  We also had the help of state and local law enforcement in Florida, Delaware, New York, and California, just to name a few.

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.

To reduce crime, to make America safer, it’s just simple arithmetic: we cannot succeed without you.

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.

Over my four decades in law enforcement I have also seen our officers reach higher and higher levels of community based policing, tactical sophistication, partnership, and collaboration.  One of my highest goals has been to continue and accelerate this progress.

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.

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

In recent years, nearly 200 FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force investigations, many worldwide in scope, 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.

I expect that your work will only become more important in the years ahead.  Terrorists and criminals have found borders to be a great advantage to their evil enterprises.

In the information age, 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. And nation states like China, Russia and Iran bring enormous resources to illegal activists also. As you know, we are fighting back together. Failure is not an option.

Thanks to shared intelligence, we can act quickly, too.

Many of you have a story that proves just that.

Two months ago in Orange County—in Mike’s home state of California—a local officer pulled over a car for expired tags.  The officer quickly found reason for suspicion and searched the vehicle.  The searched turned up two devices covered in shrapnel—so he called in the sheriff’s bomb squad and the fusion center.

The fusion center relayed the facts to the Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force, which sent two officers to the scene.  They determined that they were IEDs.

The driver was arrested and is in custody of the sheriff.

And, a few years ago in Colorado, Lakewood police were called to a mall where someone had placed suspicious devices that looked like IEDs.  They called the JTTF, who sent in ATF agents to investigate.

The ATF agents sent their findings to the local fusion center, and the fusion center found out about another suspicious device not far from the mall.

They also found out that the suspect was already in custody of the state police for drunk driving.  An investigation quickly found another device in his truck and in his home—as well as internet searches about how to make bombs.

Thanks to this fabulous law enforcement teamwork, now he’s spending 20 years in the slammer.

A fusion center in North Carolina helped the FBI find a group of radical Islamic terrorists.  Now they are behind bars and their leader is spending 18 years in jail for material support of terrorism.

These stories are a testament to the role that fusion centers play—and the role that information-sharing more broadly plays in law enforcement.

We know that many of the gangs we are targeting coordinate across state lines and national borders.

MS-13, for example, 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 underage girl smuggled across our Southern Border and the sex trafficking ring 2,000 miles away in Toledo, for example.

President Trump told me on my first day on the job to dismantle transnational organized crime like MS-13.  We are faithfully executing that order, and law enforcement cooperation has been central to our efforts.

Last month I announced a transnational organized crime Task Force of experienced prosecutors who will coordinate our efforts to take five criminal groups, which we have designated as our top transnational organized crime threats, off the streets:

    MS-13
    Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, or CJNG,
    the Sinaloa Cartel
    Clan del Golfo, and
    Lebanese Hezbollah.
    

Each one of these groups has sophisticated methods of coordination and sharing information—and so we must have even better coordination than they do.

That’s what the new Task Force will help give us.  It will bring together experienced federal prosecutors from our Criminal Division and from across America to share leads and best practices. We will relentlessly target, weaken and destroy these groups. We will prioritize our work to that—and with a whole of government approach.

As every fusion center represented here today can tell you: small cases can become national or even international cases very quickly.

I am also announcing today that our Bureau of Justice Assistance has worked with the Major City Chiefs Association to produce a Violent Crime Reduction Operations Guide.

Reducing violent crime has been my top priority as Attorney General.  From day one I said that our goals are to reduce violent crime, homicides, opioid prescriptions, and overdose deaths.

We have already begun to achieve all four of these goals.

This new handbook will provide best practices about what works and what doesn’t.  It will help us combine the expertise and broad jurisdiction of our federal agents with the 85 percent of law officers who serve at the state and local levels.  That’s getting the right information to the right people.

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.  And I am very encouraged. Enthused, really.

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.

We can never allow local or international criminals or terrorists to undermine the safety and legal heritage of our great country.

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

You can be certain about this: we have your backs—and you have our thanks.

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