The attacks of September 11, 2001, were unprecedented. Nineteen hijackers seized multiple planes and used them as weapons to destroy the World Trade Center in New York and to attack Washington, DC. The United States retaliated by waging war against al-Qaida, its network of violent extremists, and those who provided them safehaven. We set out to destroy the terrorist enemy, using every instrument of national power – diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement, and financial and military tools – to disrupt and defeat the global network. We have also waged a war of ideas, confronting the ideology that drives the murderous agenda of the terrorists. As a result we have made significant strides in making America and its allies more secure:
Before 9/11, al-Qaida was in Afghanistan training thousands of would-be terrorists and planning attacks unfettered, while the Taliban provided safehaven and imposed a totalitarian religious regime on the Afghans. Today, Afghanistan is no longer a safehaven for al-Qaida, and there are no functioning al-Qaida training camps. Afghanistan is a strong partner in the War on Terror, and the Afghan people are free and are being led by their democratically elected President, with a National Assembly and new Constitution. As a result of a concerted international effort, key al-Qaida leaders and lieutenants have been killed, captured, or put on the run.
Before 9/11, Iraq was a designated state sponsor of terrorism, ruled by a tyrant, believed to hold weapons of mass destruction and was in violation of United Nations resolutions and sanctions. Today, Iraq is off the state sponsors list, governed by a duly elected representative government, and working to be fully integrated with the international community and a partner in the United Nations.
Before 9/11, Libya was a designated state sponsor of terrorism, seeking the capability to produce WMD. Today, Libya is off the state sponsors list and has renounced WMD.
Before 9/11, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were not taking active measures to combat support to terrorists. Today, they stand with the United States as key allies in opposition to terrorism and are making important efforts to deny safehaven and stem support to the global terrorist network.
Before 9/11, financiers of terrorism and terrorist financing networks went untouched and largely ignored by the international community. Today, we continue the aggressive worldwide campaign to disrupt terrorism financing, making it harder, costlier, and riskier for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups to raise and move money around the world.
Before 9/11, combating terrorism was treated largely as a law enforcement problem. Today, the United States is leading an international Coalition to take the fight to the terrorists and their supporters and acting preventatively, using all instruments of national power.
Before 9/11, there were barriers restricting the sharing of information between law enforcement and the intelligence community to counter terrorism. Today, with the passage and reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act and the creation of the National Counterterrorism Center, these walls no longer exist, and the United States continues to create a robust information sharing environment to ensure appropriate information sharing between the law enforcement and intelligence community and among Federal, State, local, and tribal authorities.
Before 9/11, homeland security consisted of a patchwork of efforts undertaken by disparate departments and agencies. Today, we have a comprehensive approach, consolidated under the Department of Homeland Security, including key strategies for maritime and aviation security.
Before 9/11, terrorism and WMD proliferation were treated largely as separate concerns. Today, we have a comprehensive strategy to combat WMD terrorism with domestic institutions to support its implementation, bolstered by an international framework (UNSCR 1540 and the Convention Against Nuclear Terrorism) and strategic partnerships (Proliferation Security Initiative and the newly unveiled Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism).
Before 9/11, the A.Q. Khan nuclear network was working in over three continents to provide North Korea, Iran, and Libya sensitive centrifuge technology and parts for their nuclear weapons programs and was poised to expand its services to other countries. Today, the network has been exposed and shut down. Each of its key members is in prison, under house arrest, or facing prosecution, and governments are acting individually and collectively to make it harder for similar networks to operate in the future.
Before 9/11, there were insufficient international standards for identity documents and no comprehensive use of tools to verify identities. Today, there are strong domestic and international standards for passport and travel document issuance, use of biometrics to verify identities of travelers, comprehensive screening of passengers at airports, and a National Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel.
Before 9/11, the United States, did not openly challenge repression and restricted liberties in the Arab world, prioritizing stability, yet stability was not the outcome --the lack of freedom in the region meant anger and resentment grew, radicalism thrived, and terrorists found willing recruits. Today, democracy and freedom are an integral part of the U.S. agenda globally, reflected in such initiatives as the G-8’s collaboration with the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) in the Partnership for Progress and a Common Future.
Before 9/11, throughout most of the broader Middle East and North Africa, democratic institutions and processes were, with the exception of Israel, largely weak or even nonexistent. Today, freely contested multiparty elections are more common and are increasingly accepted as the basis for legitimate government.
Before 9/11, the world did not act against the threat from violent Islamic extremism. Today, the world, including our Arab and Muslim partners and Muslim voices around the world, are rejecting the message, agenda, and tactics of the violent extremist movement.
Before 9/11, the protection of civil liberties was not systematically and comprehensively balanced in our counterterrorism efforts. Today, the Administration established first the President’s Board on Safeguarding Americans’ Civil Liberties and then, in coordination with Congress, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to ensure that all American citizens’ civil liberties are considered and respected in our counterterrorism efforts.
Though America and its allies are safer as a result of these achievements, we are not yet safe. We have important challenges ahead as we wage a long-term battle not just against terrorists, but against the ideology that supports their agenda. These challenges include:
Terrorist networks today are more dispersed and less centralized. They are more reliant on smaller cells inspired by a common ideology and less directed by a central command structure.
While the United States Government and its partners have thwarted many attacks, we have not been able to prevent them all. Terrorists have struck in many places throughout the world, from Bali to Beslan to Baghdad.
While we have substantially improved our air, land, sea, and border security, our Homeland is not immune from attack.
Terrorists have declared their intention to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to inflict even more catastrophic attacks against the United States and our allies, partners, and other interests around the world.
Some states, such as Syria and Iran, continue to harbor terrorists at home and sponsor terrorist activity abroad.
The ongoing fight for freedom in Iraq has been twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry.
Increasingly sophisticated use of the Internet and media has enabled the terrorist enemies to communicate, recruit, train, rally support, proselytize, and spread their propaganda without risking personal contact.