“Strengthening our Security by Adhering to our Values and Laws.”


John Brennan, who was Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, gave this lecture, entitled “Strengthening our Security by Adhering to our Values and Laws,” at Harvard Law School on September 16, 2011.

Key findings include:

1) Daniel Meltzer introduced Brennan, which included an overview of his CIA/NCTC career.

2) The objective of the lecture was to discern “how we have strengthened, and continue to strengthen, our national security by adhering to our values and our laws.

3) “The core of al-Qa’ida—its leadership based in Pakistan—though severely crippled, still retains the intent and capability to attack the United States and our allies.”

4) The Counterterrorism Strategy is governed by

A. The safety and security of the American people

B. Using every lawful tool and authority at our disposal

C. Being pragmatic, not rigid or ideological

D. Upholding the core values that define us as Americans, and that includes adhering to the rule of law

5) “In short, we must not cut corners by setting aside our values and flouting our laws, treating them like luxuries we cannot afford.”

6) “we are at war with al-Qa’ida.”

7) The scope of the conflict is defined as “The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al-Qa’ida as being restricted solely to “hot” battlefields like Afghanistan.  Because we are engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida, the United States takes the legal position that —in accordance with international law—we have the authority to take action against al-Qa’ida and its associated forces without doing a separate self-defense analysis each time.  And as President Obama has stated on numerous occasions, we reserve the right to take unilateral action if or when other governments are unwilling or unable to take the necessary actions themselves.”

8) “The prison at Guantánamo Bay undermines our national security, and our nation will be more secure the day when that prison is finally and responsibly closed.  For all of the reasons mentioned above, we will not send more individuals to the prison at Guantánamo.”

9) “Consistent with our laws and our values, the President unequivocally banned torture and other abusive interrogation techniques, rejecting the claim that these are effective means of interrogation.  Instead, we have focused on what works.  The President approved the creation of a High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, to bring together resources from across the government – experienced interrogators, subject matter experts, intelligence analysts, and linguists – to conduct or assist in the interrogation of those terrorists with the greatest intelligence value – both at home and overseas.  Through the HIG, we have brought together the capabilities that are essential to effective interrogation, and ensured they can be mobilized quickly and in a coordinated fashion.”

10) “it is the firm position of the Obama Administration that suspected terrorists arrested inside the United States will—in keeping with long-standing tradition—be processed through our Article III courts.  As they should be.  Our military does not patrol our streets or enforce our laws—nor should it.”

11) “helping such countries [Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan] build a robust legal framework, coupled with effective institutions to enforce them and the transparency and fairness to sustain them, can serve as one of our most effective weapons against groups like al-Qa’ida by eliminating the very chaos that organization needs to survive. ”


See the official transcript at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/16/remarks-john-o-brennan-strengthening-our-security-adhering-our-values-an


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