Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, gave the following speech at NYU School of Law this afternoon at this conference put on by the NYU Center for Law and Security on “Law and Strategy in an Era of Evolving Threats.” I will post video of all of sessions for which video is avaiable:
Remarks As Prepared for Delivery
By Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco
on America’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy
New York University School of Law
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Good afternoon—thank you so much, Andrew [Weissmann]. It’s always a good rule of thumb to have a friend introduce you, and Andrew and I go back a long way. We’re here today to discuss a critical topic at a critical time, and I’d like to thank everyone at NYU Law and the Center on Law and Security, especially Sam Rascoff and Zach Goldman, for inviting me to be part of this conference.
It strikes me that NYU’s motto is particularly appropriate for the topic at hand: Perstare et praestare. To persevere and to excel. That motto reflects how the men and women of the counterterrorism community approach their mission every day.
Protecting Americans at home and abroad is our first responsibility as a government, and the President’s first responsibility as Commander-in-Chief. My job as the President’s homeland security and counterterrorism advisor is to wake up every morning thinking about how to confront the array of transnational and unconventional threats our nation faces.
So many of you are drawn to this topic because of what happened 12 years ago in this proud city, and at the Pentagon and in the skies above Pennsylvania. For many in the NYU community, the attack wasn’t just a national tragedy, it was a personal trauma. You lived it. We can never forget the clouds of ash that blotted out a September sun, the twisted steel that scarred Lower Manhattan, or the gaping hole left in our hearts by the thousands we lost. That’s why, over the past 12 years and across two different administrations, thoughtful people have come together in settings like these to help shape the response to the many challenges—legal, ethical, strategic—that we have faced in confronting evolving threats. Events like these have helped to shape our national response, and today, I can tell you that this nation has developed an expertise in counterterrorism that is unequalled. We’ve persevered in our fight against extremism, and we’ve exceled at our mission to identify threats and prevent attacks.
Our approach reflects a comprehensive—and tailored—CT strategy; one that draws on all elements of our national power. This strategy must be precise and sustainable—it cannot rely on open-ended war that drains our resources and risks undermining national consensus on combatting terrorist organizations. As President Obama said in his speech at the National Defense University in May, “We must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” If we do that, I have no doubt that we can defend our nation and emerge even stronger.
We’re at a law school, so it’s appropriate to talk about the “theory of the case.” When it comes to confronting terrorism threats today, our theory of the case is about partnerships. This element of our strategy often gets lost in all the focus on direct action taken with drones or special operations forces. To succeed—and to be sustainable—we need an approach that goes beyond direct action. Our strategy reflects a commitment to partner with host nations, with allies, and across the expertise in our own government to confront an increasingly diverse and diffuse terrorist threat.