President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:
- Judy Ansley, Member, Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace
- Ann Begeman, Member, Surface Transportation Board
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:
Judy Ansley, Nominee for Member, Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace
Judy Ansley most recently served as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor at the National Security Council (NSC) from 2008 until January 20, 2009. Ms. Ansley previously served as Deputy National Security Advisor for Regional Affairs from 2007-2008, and began her service at the NSC in August 2005, as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs. Prior to her service at the NSC, Ms. Ansley served for over 20 years in various positions in the U.S. Senate. From 1999-2005, Ms. Ansley was a member of the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee, first as Deputy Staff Director, and then as Staff Director. From 1995-1999, Ms. Ansley was National Security Advisor to Senator John Warner of Virginia. Prior to that, Ms. Ansley was on the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, first as Special Assistant to the Vice Chairman, and then as Minority Staff Director, responsible for issues related to the national intelligence budget and congressional oversight of the U.S. intelligence community. Ms. Ansley began her Senate career in 1983 on the professional staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee, advising Members on foreign policy issues. Prior to her work in the Senate, Ms. Ansley was a Research Assistant in the Foreign Affairs Division of the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. Ms. Ansley holds an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a B.A. from Tufts University.
Ann Begeman, Nominee for Member, Surface Transportation Board
Ann Begeman has been the Minority Staff Director of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation since 2009. She rejoined the Commerce Committee in May 2009 as a Professional Staff Member after serving as the Legislative Director to Senator John McCain from 2004 to 2009. From 1995 to 2004, Ms. Begeman held several positions on the Commerce Committee, including Senior Professional Staff Member and Deputy Staff Director. In her time on the Committee, she has advised Members on multiple surface transportation issues, including rail, motor carrier, and pipeline safety matters, and has worked on many legislative initiatives, including the ICC Termination Act, which created the Surface Transportation Board; creation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; and legislation to improve pipeline safety. Prior to working on the Committee, she served as a Legislative Assistant for Senator Larry Pressler. From 1988-1992, Ms. Begeman also served as Senior Benefits Specialist at First American Bankshares, Inc. She received her B.S. in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota.
NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE:
Judith A. Ansley, of Massachusetts, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace for the remainder of the term expiring September 19, 2011, vice Ron Silver.
Judith A. Ansley, of Massachusetts, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace for a term of four years. (Reappointment)
Ann D. Begeman, of Virginia, to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board for a term expiring December 31, 2015, vice Charles D. Nottingham, term expiring.
Nils Maarten Parin Daulaire, of Virginia, to be Representative of the United States on the Executive Board of the World Health Organization, vice Joxel Garcia.
John A. Lancaster, of New York, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace for the remainder of the term expiring September 19, 2011, vice Kathleen Martinez.
John A. Lancaster, of New York, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace for a term of four years. (Reappointment)
Terry Lewis, of Michigan, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation for a term expiring December 17, 2011, vice C. William Swank, term expired.
WITHDRAWAL SENT TO THE SENATE:
Beatrice A. Hanson, of New York, to be Director of the Office for Victims of Crime, vice John W. Gillis, which was sent to the Senate on December 23, 2009.
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:
- Jerry Patterson, State Representative, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
- Alice T. Perry, State Representative, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force was established by an Executive Order signed by the President on October 5, 2010. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was selected to chair the Task Force. Each of the five Gulf State governors was asked to recommend an appointment to the panel. Today’s announcement names the two remaining choices for task force members. Mimi A. Drew of Florida, Dave Stewart of Alabama, and Garret Graves of Louisiana already have been appointed as State Representatives of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.
The task force’s mission is to coordinate efforts to implement restoration programs and projects in the Gulf Coast region. It also will coordinate with the Department of Health and Human Services on public health issues and with other federal agencies on ways to enhance the economic benefits that ecosystem restoration will bring to the region.
President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:
Jerry Patterson, Appointee for State Representative, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
Jerry Patterson is currently the Texas Land Commissioner, a statewide elected position he has held since 2002. As Land Commissioner, he has focused on developing new renewable energy sources, including wind, solar and geothermal, in addition to traditional oil and gas exploration and development. Prior to becoming Commissioner, Mr. Patterson was a Texas State Senator for District 11 (Harris, Galveston, Brazoria), where he worked on the state coastal management plan, as well as several other major legislative initiatives, in addition to chairing the Senate Veterans Affairs committee. In August 2007, he was named president of the Western States Land Commissioners Association. Mr. Patterson is a Vietnam veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps from 1970 until his retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1993. He received his undergraduate degree in History from Texas A&M University.
Alice T. Perry, Appointee for State Representative, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
Alice Perry has been the Assistant Director for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) since 2008. In this role, she serves as Policy Advisor to the agency’s executive director, and as MDEQ’s liaison with federal, state and local officials. Prior to working at MDEQ, she served as Director of Public Information and Policy Development at the Mississippi Department of Employment Security and before that was Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Haley Barbour and Chief of Staff to First Lady Marsha Barbour. From 1999-2003, Ms. Perry served as Director of Development for the Mississippi Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. She was also the Business Development Director at BFI Waste Systems of North America, and the first Solid Waste Division Manager for the City of Jackson, Mississippi. Previously, Ms. Perry served as Executive Director of Keep Jackson Beautiful. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Mississippi Natural Science Museum Foundation. Ms. Perry received her B.A. (1971) and Masters of Social Studies (1974) from Mississippi State University.
WEEKLY ADDRESS: The President and First Lady Extend Christmas Greeting and Urge Americans to Support the Troops and Their Families
WEEKLY ADDRESS: The President and First Lady Extend Christmas Greeting and Urge Americans to Support the Troops and Their Families
WASHINGTON – In this week’s address, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished families across the country a “Merry Christmas” and encouraged everyone to support the troops and their families this holiday season. Anyone can visit www.serve.gov to find ideas for what they can do to help our servicemen and women and their families.
Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
The White House
December 25, 2010
THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas, everybody. Michelle and I just wanted to take a moment today to send greetings from our family to yours.
THE FIRST LADY: This is one of our favorite times of year. And we’re so fortunate to be able to celebrate it together in this wonderful home.
This is the “People’s House.” So Barack and I try to open it to as many people as we can, especially during the holiday season.
This month, more than 100,000 Americans have passed through these halls. And the idea behind this year’s theme, “Simple Gifts,” is that the greatest blessings of all are the ones that don’t cost a thing – the comfort of spending time with loved ones…the freedoms we enjoy as Americans… and the joy we feel upon giving something of ourselves.
So in this time of family, friends, and good cheer; let’s also be sure to look out for those who are less fortunate, who’ve hit a run of bad luck, or who are hungry and alone this holiday season.
THE PRESIDENT: Because this is the season when we celebrate the simplest yet most profound gift of all: the birth of a child who devoted his life to a message of peace, love, and redemption. A message that says no matter who we are, we are called to love one another – we are our brother’s keeper, we are our sister’s keeper, our separate stories in this big and busy world are really one.
Today, we’re also thinking of those who can’t be home for the holidays – especially all our courageous countrymen serving overseas.
That’s the message I delivered when I visited our troops in Afghanistan a few weeks ago – that while you may be serving far from home, every American supports you and your families. We’re with you. And I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander in Chief.
Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen make up the finest fighting force in the history of the world. Just like their predecessors, they do extraordinary things in service to their country. What makes that all the more remarkable is that today’s military is an all-volunteer force – a force of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives.
THE FIRST LADY: That’s right. As First Lady, I’ve had the honor to meet members of our military and their families on bases and in communities all across the country. I’ve gotten to know husbands and wives doing the parenting of two while their spouse is on another deployment…children trying their best in school but always wondering when mom or dad is coming home…patriots putting their lives on hold to help with a loved one’s recovery…or carry on the memory of a fallen hero.
When our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve, too. And they’re proud and glad to do it. But as long as that service keeps the rest of us safe, their sacrifice should also be our own. Even heroes can use a hand, especially during the holidays.
THE PRESIDENT: So we’re encouraging Americans to ask what you can do to support our troops and their families in this holiday season. For some ideas on how to get started, just visit Serve.gov.
THE FIRST LADY: You’ll see that you don’t need to be an expert in military life to give back to those who give so much to us. There are countless ways to contribute by harnessing your unique talents.
If you live near a base, you can reach out through your local school or church. If you don’t, you can volunteer with organizations that support military families. And anybody can send a care package or pre-paid calling card to the front lines, or give what’s sometimes the most important gift of all: simply saying “thank you.”
THE PRESIDENT: America’s brave servicemen and women represent a small fraction of our population. But they and the families who await their safe return carry far more than their fair share of the burden. They’ve done everything they’ve been asked to do. They’ve been everything we’ve asked them to be. And even as we speak, many are fighting halfway around the globe – in hopes that someday, our children and grandchildren won’t have to.
So let’s all remind them this holiday season that we’re thinking of them – and that America will forever be here for them, just as they’ve been there for us.
And on behalf of Michelle, Malia, Sasha…
THE FIRST LADY: and Bo…
THE PRESIDENT: and Bo…have a very Merry Christmas.
THE FIRST LADY: and an even happier New Year.
Statement by the Press Secretary, 12/27/2010
We are deeply concerned that a Russian judge today has indicated that for a second time Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev will be convicted. We are troubled by the allegations of serious due process violations, and what appears to be an abusive use of the legal system for improper ends. The apparent selective application of the law to these individuals undermines Russia’s reputation as a country committed to deepening the rule of law. The Russian government cannot nurture a modern economy without also developing an independent judiciary that serves as an instrument for furthering economic growth, ensuring equal treatment under the law, and advancing justice in a predictable and fair way.
The Obama administration stands in solidarity with the many people in the Russian government, in the legal system, and in civil society who are committed to strengthening the rule of law and deepening the commitment to universal values enshrined in the Russian constitution. Russia’s failure to keep this commitment to universal values, including the rule of law, impedes its own modernization and ability to deepen its ties with the United States.
President Obama has spoken frequently with President Medvedev about this case and others as part of their ongoing conversation about President Medvedev’s important campaign to strengthen the rule of law and modernize Russia’s political and economic system. We will continue to monitor closely the next stages in this case, including the fairness of the sentences and the review by higher courts during the appeals process.
Readout of Inter-Agency Coordination and Presidential Briefing on Holiday Threats This morning, John Brennan convened an inter-agency coordination call with Secretary Napolitano, DNI Clapper, NCTC Director Leiter, National Security Staff travelling with the President in Hawaii, and other representatives from the FBI, CIA, and the counterterrorism community. During the call, they reviewed our continued efforts to stay vigilant throughout the holiday season, and to coordinate with our foreign partners. Later this morning, President Obama received a briefing on our ongoing counter-terrorism efforts from National Security Staff Senior Director for Counterterrorism Nick Rasmussen and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes. The President was also briefed on the tragic traffic accident that took the lives of a number of American citizens in Egypt, and the U.S. government’s ongoing efforts to support the victims and their families.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 25, 2010 Statement by the President on the Terrorist Attack in Pakistan “I strongly condemn the outrageous terrorist attack in Khar, Pakistan. Killing innocent civilians outside a World Food Program distribution point is an affront to the people of Pakistan, and to all humanity. The United States stands with the people of Pakistan in this difficult time, and will strongly support Pakistan’s efforts to ensure greater peace, security and justice for its people.”
Statement by the Press Secretary
On Wednesday, December 22, 2010, the President signed into law:
S. 30, which makes it illegal to cause any caller identification service to knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.
S. 1275, which establishes a National Foundation on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition as a nonprofit corporation to promote participation by private organizations in the activities of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, and to promote private donations to support those activities.
S. 1405, which redesignates the Longfellow National Historic Site in Massachusetts, as the Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.
S. 1448, which authorizes 99-year leases on land held in trust for five Indian Tribes in the State of Oregon.
S. 1609, which authorizes the Department of Commerce to approve a single fishery cooperative for the longline catcher processor subsector in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Pacific cod fishery upon the request of licensees holding at least 80 percent of the licenses issued for that subsector.
S. 1774, which makes Hotaru Nakama Ferschke eligible for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident.
S. 2906, authorizes 99-year leases on land held in trust for the Kalispel Tribe and the Puyallup Tribe of Washington State.
S. 3199, which reauthorizes and expands authorized research and public health activities related to the early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss in newborns and infants.
S. 3794, which authorizes the General Services Administration to transfer Federal surplus property to State agencies for distribution to certain veterans-related organizations.
S. 3860, which requires reports on the management of Arlington National Cemetery.
S. 3984, which authorizes appropriations for museums and libraries through FY 2016, and extends programs administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
S. 3998, which extends through March 30, 2012, a pilot program for certain volunteer organizations that serve children to have fingerprint checks on applicants for positions as volunteers or employees processed through the Fingerprint Identification System of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
S. 4005, which authorizes the U.S. Government to apply for, and Federal courts to issue, restraining orders at any time before or after the initiation of forfeiture proceedings by a foreign nation in order to preserve the availability of property in the United States subject to civil or criminal forfeiture under foreign law.
S. 4010, which makes Shigeru Yamada eligible for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident.
H.R. 1061, which provides for the transfer of Federal and non-Federal land to the United States to be held in trust for the Hoh Indian Tribe of Washington State.
H.R. 2941, which Reauthorizes Johanna’s Law to increase public awareness and knowledge with respect to gynecologic cancers.
H.R. 4337, which modifies rules related to the tax treatment of regulated investment companies, including rules related to capital loss carryovers, dividends and other distributions, and excise taxes.
H.R. 5591, which designates the airport traffic control tower located at Spokane International Airport in Spokane, Washington, as the Ray Daves Airport Traffic Control Tower.
H.R. 6198, which makes technical corrections to the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.
H.R. 6278, which allows the District of Columbia to use Heritage Island and a portion of Kingman Island within the Anacostia River for recreational, environmental, or educational purposes in accordance with the Anacostia Waterfront Framework Plan and the Comprehensive Plan of the District of Columbia.
H.R. 6473, which extends through March 31, 2011, authorities to collect taxes that fund the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, make expenditures from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, and make grants to airports under the Airport Improvement Program.
H.R. 6516, which makes technical and conforming changes to the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010.
President Barack Obama Holds News Conference On Security, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ Hits and Misses Of Administration
BY THE PRESIDENT
South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
4:16 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Good afternoon. I know everybody is itching to get out of here and spend some time with their families. I am, too. I noticed some of you colleagues have been reporting from Hawaii over the last week. But I just wanted to say a few words about the progress that we’ve made on some important issues over these last few weeks.
A lot of folks in this town predicted that after the midterm elections, Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock. And instead, this has been a season of progress for the American people. That progress is reflecting — is a reflection of the message that voters sent in November — a message that said it’s time to find common ground on challenges facing our country. That’s a message that I will take to heart in the New Year, and I hope my Democratic and Republican friends will do the same.
First of all, I am glad that Democrats and Republicans came together to approve my top national security priority for this session of Congress — the New START treaty. This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify.
We’ll continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges — from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. And this treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them.
The strong, bipartisan vote in the Senate sends a powerful signal to the world that Republicans and Democrats stand together on behalf of our security. And I especially want to thank the outstanding work done by Vice President Joe Biden; the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator John Kerry; and the Ranking Republican, Senator Richard Lugar, for their extraordinary efforts.
In fact, I just got off the phone with Dick Lugar, and reminded him the first trip I ever took as senator — foreign trip — was with Dick Lugar to Russia, to look at nuclear facilities there. And I told him how much I appreciated the work he had done and that there was a direct line between that trip that we took together when I was a first-year senator and the results of the vote today on the floor.
This all speaks to a tradition of bipartisan support for strong American leadership around the world — and that’s a tradition that was reinforced by the fact that the New START treaty won the backing of our military and our allies abroad.
In the last few weeks, we also came together across party lines to pass a package of tax cuts and unemployment insurance that will spur jobs, businesses and growth. This package includes a payroll tax cut that means nearly every American family will get an average tax cut next year of about a thousand dollars delivered in their paychecks. It will make a difference for millions of students and parents and workers and people still looking for work. It’s led economists across the political spectrum to predict that the economy will grow faster than they originally thought next year.
In our ongoing struggle to perfect our union, we also overturned a 17-year-old law and a longstanding injustice by finally ending “don’t ask, don’t tell.” As I said earlier today, this is the right thing to do for our security; it’s the right thing to do, period.
In addition, we came together across party lines to pass a food safety bill — the biggest upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression. And I hope the House will soon join the Senate in passing a 9/11 health bill that will help cover the health care costs of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and residents who inhaled toxic air near the World Trade Center on that terrible morning and the days that followed.
So I think it’s fair to say that this has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades, and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years that we’ve had in generations.
That doesn’t mean that our business is finished. I am very disappointed Congress wasn’t able to pass the DREAM Act so we can stop punishing kids for the actions of their parents, and allow them to serve in the military or earn an education and contribute their talents to the country where they grew up.
I’m also disappointed we weren’t able to come together around a budget to fund our government over the long term. I expect we’ll have a robust debate about this when we return from the holidays — a debate that will have to answer an increasingly urgent question — and that is how do we cut spending that we don’t need while making investments that we do need — investments in education, research and development, innovation, and the things that are essential to grow our economy over the long run, create jobs, and compete with every other nation in the world. I look forward to hearing from folks on both sides of the aisle about how we can accomplish that goal.
If there’s any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it’s that we are not doomed to endless gridlock. We’ve shown, in the wake of the November elections, that we have the capacity not only to make progress, but to make progress together.
And I’m not naïve. I know there will be tough fights in the months ahead. But my hope heading into the New Year is that we can continue to heed the message of the American people and hold to a spirit of common purpose in 2011 and beyond. And if we do that, I’m convinced that we will lift up our middle class, we will rebuild our economy, and we will make our contribution to America’s greatness.
Finally, before I take questions, I want to send a message to all those Americans who are spending Christmas serving our nation in harm’s way. As I said in Afghanistan earlier this month, the American people stand united in our support and admiration for you. And in this holiday season, I’d ask the American people to keep our troops in your prayers, and lend a hand to those military families who have an empty seat at the table.
So with that, I’m going to take some questions. And I’m going to start with Caren Bohan.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You racked up a lot of wins in the last few weeks that a lot of people thought would be difficult to come by. Are you ready to call yourself the “Comeback Kid”? And also, as you look ahead to 2011, are you worried that bipartisan agreement will be a lot harder to reach on issues like deficit reduction and maybe even tax reform?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, as I said right after the midterm elections, we took a shellacking. And I take responsibility for that. But I think what’s happened over the last several weeks is not a victory for me, it’s a victory for the American people. And the lesson I hope that everybody takes from this is that it’s possible for Democrats and Republicans to have principled disagreements; to have some lengthy arguments but to ultimately find common ground to move the country forward.
That’s what we did with taxes. Those arguments have not gone away. I still believe that it doesn’t make sense for us to provide tax cuts to people like myself who don’t need them when our deficit and debts are growing. That’s a debate that’s going to continue into 2011, and I know the Republicans feel just as strongly on the other side of that.
I think that we’re still going to have disagreements in terms of spending priorities. It’s vital for us to make investments in education and research and development — all those things that create an innovative economy — while at the same time cutting those programs that just aren’t working. And there are going to be debates between the parties on those issues.
But what we’ve shown is that we don’t have to agree on a hundred percent to get things done that enhance the lives of families all across America. And if we can sustain that spirit, then regardless of how the politics play out in 2012, the American people will be better for it. And that’s my ultimate goal.
Q Thanks, Mr. President. Merry Christmas.
THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas.
Q I have a couple questions about “don’t ask, don’t tell.” First of all, congratulations. What was your conversation like with Marine Commandant Amos when he expressed to you his concerns and yet he said that he would abide by whatever — whatever the ruling was? Can you understand why he had the position he did? And then on the other hand, is it intellectually consistent to say that gay and lesbians should be able to fight and die for this country but they should not be able to marry the people they love?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I don’t want to go into detail about conversations in the Oval Office with my service chiefs. Jim Amos expressed the same concerns to me privately that he expressed publicly during his testimony. He said that there could be disruptions as a consequence of this. And what I said to him was that I was confident, looking at the history of the military with respect to racial integration, with respect to the inclusion of women in our armed forces, that that could be managed. And that was confirmed by the attitudinal studies that was done prior to this vote.
And what he assured me of — and what all the service chiefs have assured me of — is that regardless of their concerns about disruptions, they were confident that they could implement this policy without it affecting our military cohesion and good discipline and readiness. And I take them at their word. And I’ve spoken to them since the vote took place and they have all said that we are going to implement this smartly and swiftly, and they are confident that it will not have an effect on our military effectiveness.
So I’m very heartened by that. And I want to, again, give Bob Gates and Admiral Mullen enormous credit for having guided this process through in a way that preserves our primary responsibility to keep America safe and at the same time allows us to live up to our values.
With respect to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be able to get married, I’ve spoken about this recently. As I’ve said, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about.
At this point, what I’ve said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think — and I think that’s the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we’re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.
Q But the military does not recognize civil unions, right?
THE PRESIDENT: I understand. And as I said, this is going to be an issue that is not unique to the military — this is an issue that extends to all of our society, and I think we’re all going to have to have a conversation about it.
Q Thank you, Mr. President, and happy holidays.
THE PRESIDENT: Happy holidays.
Q Can you give us an update on that car that you talk about so much about being in the ditch? Can you give us an update as to where it is today? What kind of highway do you think it will be driving on in 2011? Who will really be behind the wheel, given the new makeup in Congress? And what do you think Republicans will be sipping and saying next year? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Dan, you gave some thought to that question, didn’t you?
Q I did. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I do think that the car is on level ground. I mean, the car is the economy. And I think we are past the crisis point in the economy, but we now have to pivot and focus on jobs and growth. And my singular focus over the next two years is not rescuing the economy from potential disaster, but rather jumpstarting the economy so that we actually start making a dent in the unemployment rate and we are equipping ourselves so that we can compete in the 21st century.
And that means we’ve got to focus on education, that means we have to focus on research and development, we have to focus on innovation. We have to make sure that in every sector, from manufacturing to clean energy to high-tech to biotech, that we recognize the private sector is going to be the driving force. And what the government can do is to make sure that we are a good partner with them, that we’re a facilitator; that in some cases, we’re a catalyst, when it’s a fledgling industry.
And that means that we’ve got to look at some of our old dogmas — both Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals — to think about what works. If there are regulations that are in place that are impeding innovation, let’s get rid of those regulations. Let’s make sure that we’re also protecting consumers, and we’re protecting the environment and protecting workers in the process. But let’s find ways to do business that helps business.
People were doubtful about the approach that we took to the auto industry, but that was an example of there may be occasions — certainly during crisis — where a timely intervention that’s limited and restricted can end up making a difference.
And so I think Democrats, Republicans, House, Senate, the White House — all of us have to be in a conversation with the private sector about what’s going to ensure that we can export and sell our products instead of just buying exports from someplace else. How do we make sure that the green technologies of the future are made here in America?
And how do we get all these profits that companies have been making since the economy recovered into productive investment and hiring? That’s a conversation that I had with the 20 CEOs who came here, and that’s a conversation I expect to continue in the months ahead.
But the answer about who drives — the American people are driving the car. They’re the ones who are going to be making an assessment as to whether we’re putting in place policies that are working for them. And both parties are going to be held accountable and I’m going to be held accountable if we take a wrong turn on that front.
Q And what will the Republicans be sipping? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You know, my sense is the Republicans recognize that with greater power is going to come greater responsibility. And some of the progress that I think we saw in the lame duck was a recognition on their part that people are going to be paying attention to what they’re doing, as well as what I’m doing and what the Democrats in Congress are doing.
Q Yes, sir. Mr. President, can you explain the anger and even outrage many Democrats felt when the tax cut bill extended tax cuts not just for the middle class but also for the wealthy? And is that a divide that you may be contributing to when you and the Vice President talk about “morally inappropriate” tax cuts for the wealthy?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, the frustration that people felt about that was frustration I share. I’ve said that before, and I’ll probably say it again. I don’t think that over the long run we can afford a series of tax breaks for people who are doing very well and don’t need it; were doing well when Bill Clinton was in office. They were still rich then, and they will still be rich if those tax cuts went away.
And so this is going to be a debate that we’re going to be having over the next couple of years because I guarantee you, as soon as the new Congress is sworn in, we’re going to have to have a conversation about how do we start balancing our budget, or at least getting to a point that’s sustainable when it comes to our deficit and our debt.
And that’s going to require us cutting programs that don’t work, but it also requires us to be honest about paying for the things that we think are important. If we think it’s important to make sure that our veterans are getting care that they need when they come back home from fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq, we can’t just salute and wish them well and have a Veterans Day Parade. We got to make sure that there are doctors and nurses and facilities for post-traumatic stress disorder — and that costs money.
If we say that education is going to be the single most important determinant for our children’s success and this country’s success in the 21st century, we can’t have schools that are laying off so many teachers that they start going to four days a week, as they’ve done in Hawaii, for example.
We’ve got to make sure that young people can afford to go to college. If we want to keep our competitive edge in innovation, well, we’ve got to invest in basic research — the same basic research that resulted in the Internet, the same basic research that invited — that resulted in GPS. All those things originated in research funded by the government.
So we are going to have to compare the option of maintaining the tax cuts for the wealthy permanently versus spending on these things that we think are important. And that’s a debate that I welcome. But I completely understand why not just Democrats but some Republicans might think that that part of the tax package we could have done without.
Having said that, I want to repeat — compromise, by definition, means taking some things you don’t like. And the overall package was the right one to ensure that this economy has the best possible chance to grow and create jobs. And there is no better anti-poverty program than an economy that’s growing. There is no better deficit-reduction program than an economy that is growing. And if the economy started contracting, as it might have had we not gotten this tax agreement, then the choices that we would have to make would be even tougher.
Q Sir, is there a divide between middle-class and wealthy Americans?
THE PRESIDENT: I think middle-class folks would confirm what the statistics say, which is that they have not seen a real increase in their incomes in a decade, while their costs have skyrocketed. That’s just a fact.
What is also a fact is that people in the top 1 percent, people in the top 1/10th of 1 percent, or 1/100th of 1 percent have a larger share of income and wealth than any time since the 1920s. Those are just facts. That’s not a feeling on the part of Democrats. Those are facts.
And something that’s always been the greatest strength of America is a thriving, booming middle class, where everybody has got a shot at the American Dream. And that should be our goal. That should be what we’re focused on. How are we creating opportunity for everybody? So that we celebrate wealth. We celebrate somebody like a Steve Jobs, who has created two or three different revolutionary products. We expect that person to be rich, and that’s a good thing. We want that incentive. That’s part of the free market.
But we also want to make sure that those of us who have been extraordinarily fortunate, that we’re contributing to the larger American community so that a whole bunch of other kids coming up are doing well. And that means schools that work and infrastructure like roads and airports that function, and it means colleges and universities that teach and aren’t restricted to just people who can afford it but are open to anybody with talent and a willingness to work. And that’s going to be I think part of the conversation that we’ve got to have over the next couple years.
Juan Carlos López.
Q Gracias, Presidente. Feliz Navidad.
THE PRESIDENT: Feliz Navidad.
Q Mr. President, you’ve been able to fulfill many of your promises. Immigration reform isn’t one of them. Just this last weekend, the DREAM Act failed cloture by five votes, and five Democrats didn’t support it; three Republicans did. How are you going to be able to keep your promise when the Republicans control the House when you haven’t been able to do so with Democrats controlling both the Senate and the House, and when Republicans say they want to focus on border security before they do anything on immigration?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say, there are a number of things that I wanted to get accomplished that we did not get accomplished. For example, collective bargaining for firefighters and public safety workers — that was something that I thought was important. We didn’t get it done. I’m disappointed in that. I think we’re still going to have to figure out how we work on energy, and that’s an area that I want to immediately engage with Republicans to figure out.
But I will tell you, maybe my biggest disappointment was this DREAM Act vote. You know, I get letters from kids all across the country — came here when they were five, came here when they were eight; their parents were undocumented. The kids didn’t know — kids are going to school like any other American kid, they’re growing up, they’re playing football, they’re going to class, they’re dreaming about college. And suddenly they come to 18, 19 years old and they realize even though I feel American, I am an American, the law doesn’t recognize me as an American. I’m willing to serve my country, I’m willing to fight for this country, I want to go to college and better myself — and I’m at risk of deportation.
And it is heartbreaking. That can’t be who we are, to have kids — our kids, classmates of our children — who are suddenly under this shadow of fear through no fault of their own. They didn’t break a law — they were kids.
So my hope and expectation is that, first of all, everybody understands I am determined and this administration is determined to get immigration reform done. It is the right thing to do. I think it involves securing our borders, and my administration has done more on border security than any administration in recent years. We have more of everything — ICE, Border Patrol, surveillance, you name it.
So we take border security seriously. And we take going after employers who are exploiting and using undocumented workers, we take that seriously. But we need to reform this immigration system so we are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants. And at minimum, we should be able to get the DREAM Act done.
And so I’m going to go back at it and I’m going to engage in Republicans who, I think, some of them, in their heart of hearts, know it’s the right thing to do, but they think the politics is tough for them.
Well, that may mean that we’ve got to change the politics. And I’ve got to spend some time talking to the American people, and others have to spend time talking to the American people, because I think that if the American people knew any of these kids — they probably do, they just may not know their status — they’d say, of course we want you. That’s who we are. That’s the better angels of our nature.
And so one thing I hope people have seen during this lame duck — I am persistent. I am persistent. If I believe in something strongly, I stay on it. And I believe strongly in this.
And I am happy to engage with the Republicans about — if they’ve got ideas about more on border security, I’m happy to have that conversation. And I think that it is absolutely appropriate for the American people to expect that we don’t have porous borders and anybody can come in here any time. That is entirely legitimate.
But I also think about those kids. And I want to do right by them, and I think the country is going to want to do right by them, as well.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Merry Christmas.
THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas.
Q Guantanamo, sir. I understand a draft of an executive order is being prepared for you, and I don’t expect you to comment then on that –
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q It hasn’t gotten to you yet.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q But it makes me wonder where you are, sir, at about the two-year mark on Guantanamo, when closing it was one of your initial priorities, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Obviously, we haven’t gotten it closed. And let me just step back and explain that the reason for wanting to close Guantanamo was because my number one priority is keeping the American people safe. One of the most powerful tools we have to keep the American people safe is not providing al Qaeda and jihadists recruiting tools for fledgling terrorists.
And Guantanamo is probably the number one recruitment tool that is used by these jihadist organizations. And we see it in the websites that they put up. We see it in the messages that they’re delivering.
And so my belief is that we can keep the American people safe, go after those who would engage in terrorism. And my administration has been as aggressive in going after al Qaeda as any administration out there. And we’ve seen progress, as I noted during the Afghan review.
Every intelligence report that we’re seeing shows that al Qaeda is more hunkered down than they have been since the original invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, that they have reduced financing capacity, reduced operational capacity. It is much more difficult for their top folks to communicate, and a lot of those top folks can’t communicate because they’re underground now.
But it is important for us, even as we’re going aggressively after the bad guys, to make sure that we’re also living up to our values and our ideals and our principles. And that’s what closing Guantanamo is about — not because I think that the people who are running Guantanamo are doing a bad job, but rather because it’s become a symbol. And I think we can do just as good of a job housing them somewhere else.
Now, to the issue you had about the review. You’re right, I won’t comment right now on a review that I have not received yet. I can tell you that over the last two years, despite not having closed Guantanamo, we’ve been trying to put our battle against terrorists within a legal structure that is consistent with our history of rule of law. And we’ve succeeded on a number of fronts.
One of the toughest problems is what to do with people that we know are dangerous, that we know are — have engaged in terrorist activity, are proclaimed enemies of the United States, but because of the manner in which they were originally captured, the circumstances right after 9/11 in which they are interrogated, it becomes difficult to try them whether in an Article III court or in a military commission.
Releasing them at this stage could potentially create greater danger for the American people. And so how do we manage that? And that’s what this team has been looking at. Are there ways for us to make sure these folks have lawyers, to make sure that these folks have the opportunity to challenge their detention — but at the same time, making sure that we are not simply releasing folks who could do us grievous harm and have shown a capacity and willingness to engage in brutal attacks in the past.
And so when I get that report, I’m sure that I’ll have more comments on it. The bottom line is, is that striking this balance between our security and making sure that we are consistent with our values and our Constitution is not an easy task, but ultimately that’s what’s required for practical reasons.
Because the more people are reminded of what makes America special — the fact that we stand for something beyond just our economic power or our military might, but we have these core ideals that we observe even when it’s hard — that’s one of our most powerful weapons. And I want to make sure that we don’t lose that weapon in what is a serious struggle.
So with that, everybody, I want to wish you all a merry Christmas. Happy holidays. Happy New Year. See you in 2011.
Fact Sheet on Security Enhancements
Statement By John Brennan on Holiday Security
As Prepared for Delivery
As we enter the peak of another holiday season, the homeland security, law enforcement, and intelligence communities are collectively focused on doing everything they can to prevent terrorists from disrupting the safety and security of Americans as they travel, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy holiday festivities both at home and abroad.
We remain vigilant to attempts by al-Qa’ida and other terrorist organizations to carry out cowardly attacks against innocent men, women, and children, and we are working very closely with other governments to share all threat information immediately and to coordinate closely our counterterrorism and security activities. These international partnerships are critically important to our ability to identify would-be terrorists and to thwart their plans before they are able to act.
In response to President Obama’s direction, senior officials from departments and agencies met yesterday at the White House to review the latest threat reporting and to coordinate security and counterterrorism plans that will be in place during the holiday season.
Protecting the American people from the scourge of terrorism is an ongoing and constantly evolving process. It is the goal of the counterterrorism community to stay several steps ahead of our terrorist adversaries so that we can stop terrorists dead in their tracks before they are able to carry out either small scale or potentially devastating attacks. That is what the President has directed, that is what the American people rightly expect and deserve, and that is what we are bound and determined to do.
Finally, President Obama has been provided an update on the many steps that have been taken over the past year to enhance our counterterrorism capabilities as a result of the after-action reviews on several terrorism and security-related incidents, including the tragic shooting at Fort Hood, Texas; the attempted bombings of passenger and cargo aircraft as well as of Times Square in New York City; and a variety of arrests and disruptions of terrorist plots in the homeland.
Post-Fort Hood Security Enhancements
Strengthened Cooperation Between DOD and FBI
The Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have standardized, streamlined and strengthened the processes and written procedures governing the investigation of individuals serving in or associated with the military who may pose a security threat, including the sharing of information between the two organizations about such threats. This will streamline information sharing and coordination between the FBI and all components of DOD, and will ensure that all counterterrorism investigators from both departments have all available information to further their investigations.
Thorough Analysis of CT Information
The FBI established a process that ensures a more thorough analysis of certain information available to the counterterrorism (CT) community about potential terrorist-related threats, particularly those that affect multiple equities inside and outside the FBI. The FBI has moved to ensure that it has allocated the necessary resources to accomplish that goal.
Improved Information Technology
The Government deployed specific, targeted technological enhancements to facilitate the automation of data correlation of counterterrorism-related information.
The FBI developed enhanced training programs for all counterterrorism personnel, including for detailees assigned from other departments to its Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs). The FBI has ensured that all personnel assigned to its JTTFs have received this enhanced training.
Post-December 25 Security Enhancements
Clarified Analytic Responsibility
The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued new guidance to clarify the counterterrorism responsibilities of each IC analytic component. This clarification will ensure that each member of the CT community has a clearly defined mission, ensuring an appropriate level of redundancy and accountability for threat warning and response but without creating gaps in coverage.
Established Pursuit Groups
The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) established analytic “Pursuit Groups” to identify, pursue and track information and connect disparate pieces of intelligence that could lead to discovery of threats aimed against the U.S. Homeland or our interests abroad. These programs are aimed at ensuring that the full range of analytic tools and expertise are brought to bear on tracking and uncovering any such threats, including internal coordination to ensure suspected terrorists and their identities are expeditiously processed for inclusion on the watchlist.
Improving Information Technology
Consistent with the need to protect information from unauthorized disclosure, we continue to develop and deploy enhanced information technology tools that assist analysts in correlating disparate pieces of data, helping them to be both more efficient and more effective at identifying and connecting relevant terrorist threat information. The intelligence community is coordinating an IC-wide infrastructure that aggregates and analyzes data across agencies and networks, including the development of software that allows CT personnel to conduct “Google-like” searches across databases they are authorized to access. These technological enhancements, the implementation of which are time and resource intensive, are in various stages of development – some have been deployed, while others are in the pilot stages.
Enhancing Analytic Tradecraft
ODNI has developed new analytic training courses to enhance the rigor and raise the standard of tradecraft of intelligence analysis, with particular emphasis on uncovering and preventing terrorist plots. We are now in the process of deploying these pilot courses to train our CT analysts.
Watchlist Process Improvements and Enhanced Targeting
The Administration has revised and modified the criteria used to create terrorist watchlists, including enhancements to the process by which names are added to the No-Fly and Selectee Lists. Further, the Administration expanded the use of Terrorist Screening Database records to ensure the safety of the traveling public. In addition, TSA fulfilled a key 9/11 Commission recommendation by implementing the Secure Flight program, which matches passengers against terrorist watchlists for all flights within or bound for the U.S.. NCTC has also established an enhancement group and expanded its research of and access to relevant databases to enhance records of known or suspected terrorists.
Deploying Advanced Imaging Technology
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) accelerated deployment of Advanced Imaging Technology, and has now deployed nearly 500 machines at over 75 domestic airports.
Real Time Watchlist Information
DHS and FBI launched the Watchlist Service, a new technical mechanism to transmit data from the Terrorist Screening Database, operated by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, to DHS in real time. In addition to bolstering security, this system also achieves efficiencies by creating a centralized service for transmitting information to DHS instead of maintaining separate connections to multiple organizations within DHS.
Advances in Cargo Screening
In 2010, as required by the 9/11 Act, 100 percent of all cargo transported on passenger aircraft that depart U.S. airports is being screened commensurate with screening of passenger checked baggage. TSA’s Certified Cargo Screening Program strengthens security by certifying more than 1,000 entities responsible for conducting cargo screening throughout the supply chain, minimizing the impact on the movement of commerce. In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in coordination with the World Customs Organization, launched Operation Global Shield in 2010, an unprecedented multilateral law enforcement effort aimed at combating the illicit cross-border diversion and trafficking of precursor chemicals for making improvised explosive devices by monitoring their cross-border movements.
Following the thwarted terrorist plot to conceal and ship explosive devices on cargo aircraft bound for the United States in October 2010, DHS took a number of additional steps to further strengthen supply chain security. These steps included adapting inbound cargo targeting rules to reflect the latest intelligence and ordering a ground halt on all cargo coming from Yemen and Somalia; prohibiting high risk cargo on passenger aircraft; prohibiting toner and ink cartridges over 16 ounces on passenger aircraft – in both carry-on bags and checked bags – on domestic and international flights in-bound to the United States, as well as on certain inbound international air cargo shipments; and implementing additional and enhanced screening of all cargo identified as high risk.
DHS is also working closely with industry and international partners to expedite the receipt of advanced cargo data for international flights to the United States prior to departure in order to identify and screen items based on risk and current intelligence before they are airborne. In December 2010, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the air cargo industry launched a new joint technology pilot project to enhance the sharing of electronic shipping information to improve the identification of high-risk shipments.
Accelerated and expanded deployment of new technologies
Through the Recovery Act, TSA accelerated the deployment of a series of new technologies to airports around the country designed to detect the next generation of threats, including Advanced Imaging Technology units, Explosive Detection Systems, Explosives Trace Detection units, Advanced Technology X-Ray systems, and Bottled Liquid Scanners.
Strengthening International Aviation Security
DHS coordinated an unprecedented international commitment to enhance global aviation security. Through its participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), DHS secured: (1) a joint declaration committing member states to improving aviation security; (2) a new aviation security strategy framework that emphasizes the use of advanced screening technology and use of evolving security measures to defeat an adapting threat; and (3) a commitment to enhance global security standards, including the screening of cargo and airport workers.
2010 Information Sharing Counterterrorism Highlights
Information sharing across the federal government has increased significantly and productively since 9/11 and continues to improve every day. The Intelligence Community (IC) is cooperating with homeland security, law enforcement, and other key partners around the globe to fuse domestic and foreign intelligence in an effort to identify and disrupt homeland threats posed by alleged extremists. Below are several examples of terrorism prosecutions and / or thwarted plots that reflect such information sharing.
February 22: Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to several federal terrorism violations in connection with his role in an al-Q’aida plot to bomb the New York subway system in September 2009. Two of his associates, Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay, both U.S. citizens, were indicted on February 25 for their respective roles in the plot. Ahmedzay later pleaded guilty. A subsequent indictment in July charged Adnan El-Shukrijumah and other senior members of al-Q’aida for their alleged roles in recruiting Zazi, Medunjanin and Ahmedzay to carry out the attacks on the New York subway.
March 18: David Coleman Headley, a U.S. citizen and Chicago, Ill resident, pleaded guilty to a dozen federal terrorism violations, admitting to helping plan the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed more than 160 people, as well as later plotting to attack a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Headley admitted he attended Lashkar-e-Tayyiba training camps in Pakistan on five occasions and traveled to India five times to surveil targets on behalf of Lashkar. He also admitted that he conspired with accused terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri and others in plotting an attack on the Danish newspaper.
March 26: Raja Lahrasib Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen and Chicago, Ill., resident, was arrested on federal charges for allegedly attempting to provide funds overseas to al-Qa’ida. Khan was charged with two counts of providing material support to terrorism.
April 2: A superseding indictment was unsealed charging Colleen R. LaRose, aka “Jihad Jane,” and Jamie Paulin Ramirez, both U.S. citizens, with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists in connection with their alleged travels to Europe to participate in violent jihad. LaRose was further charged with conspiring to murder an individual in Sweden and working with others to recruit individuals via the Internet to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe.
April 30: An indictment of Wesam el-Hanafi and Sabirhan Hasanoff, both U.S. citizens, was unsealed in federal court. The two were charged with conspiring to provide material support, including computer advice and assistance, to al-Qa’ida in Yemen.
May 4: Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and other federal crimes for attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, N.Y. on the evening of May 1, 2010. Shahzad pleaded guilty to all ten counts of the indictment on June 21, 2010, admitting that he received explosives training from the Tehrik-e-Taliban in Pakistan and received funds for the operation from a co-conspirator in Pakistan. In October, he was sentenced to life in prison.
May 19: Khalid Ouazzani pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qa’ida. Ouazzani swore an oath of allegiance to al-Qa’ida in 2008, personally provided more than $23,000 to al-Qa’ida and performed other tasks on behalf of the terrorist organization.
June 3: Barry Walter Bujol Jr., a U.S. citizen and Texas resident, was arrested and indicted on charges of attempting to provide material support to al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as a result of his alleged efforts to travel to Yemen to join AQAP as a foreign fighter and to provide AQAP with currency, GPS devices, and U.S. military publications.
June 5: Mohamed Hamoud Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, both U.S. citizens, were arrested on charges of conspiring to kill, maim and kidnap persons abroad. The defendants allegedly conspired to go to Somalia, where they intended to join al-Shabaab and wage violent jihad
June 9: Syed Hashmi, charged with providing material support to al-Qa’ida and providing military gear to others who transported the gear to al-Q’aida associates in Pakistan, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty in April.
August 5: Four separate indictments were unsealed in Minnesota, Alabama and California charging 14 individuals with terrorism violations for providing money, personnel and services to al-Shabaab. Among those charged were Omar Hammami, a U.S. citizen and former resident of Alabama, and Jehad Mostafa, a U.S. citizen and former resident of San Diego, both of whom have allegedly joined al-Shabaab and risen to prominence in the organization.
September 1: A criminal complaint was unsealed charging Hakimullah Mehsud, the self-proclaimed emir of the Pakistani Taliban for his alleged involvement in the murder of seven American citizens on Dec. 30, 2009 at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. The complaint charged Mehsud with conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against U.S. citizens abroad.
September 19: Sami Samir Hassoun was arrested by FBI agents after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosive device outside a nightclub in Chicago.
September 23: Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced in New York to 86 years in prison for attempted murder and assault on FBI agents and military officers in Afghanistan. In 2008, Siddiqui was detained in Afghanistan by local authorities who found documents in her possession that referred to “a mass casualty attack,” and “dirty bomb” and that listed various U.S. landmarks.
October 18: James Cromitie, David Williams, Onita Williams, and Laguerre Payen were convicted in New York of several terrorism violations stemming from their efforts to detonate explosives near a synagogue and Jewish community center in the Bronx, N.Y. and also plotting to shoot down military planes at the New York Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., with surface-to-air missiles.
October 19: Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a Jordanian national, who was arrested in September 2009 for attempting to detonate an explosive-laden vehicle at Fountain Place in downtown Dallas, Texas, was sentenced to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction
October 20: Zachary Adam Chesser, a U.S. citizen and Virginia resident, pleaded guilty to charges of communicating threats against the writers of the “South Park” television show, soliciting violent jihadists to desensitize law enforcement and attempting to provide material support to al-Shabaab. Chesser, who allegedly communicated with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, attempted to travel twice to serve as a foreign fighter for al-Shabaab and repeatedly encouraged violent jihadists to kill U.S. citizens.
October 27: Farooque Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, was arrested on charges of assisting others whom he believed to be members of al-Qa’ida in planning multiple bombings at Metrorail stations in the Washington, D.C. area.
October 29: Two packages, each containing a bomb, were discovered on separate cargo planes as a result of intelligence received from Saudi Arabia. The packages, bound from Yemen to Chicago, Ill, were discovered en route during stopovers in England and Dubai. AQAP claimed responsibility for the plot.
November 26: Mohamed Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was arrested on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in connection with a plot to detonate what he believed to be a vehicle bomb at the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Portland, Ore.
December 8: Antonio Martinez (aka Muhammad Hussain), a U.S. citizen, was arrested on charges of attempting to murder federal officials and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in connection with a plot to detonate what he believed to be a vehicle bomb at an Armed Forces recruiting center in Catonsville, Md..
December 15: Abdul Kadir was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a plot to bomb JFK International Airport in Queens, N.Y. In August 2010, Kadir and co-defendant Russell Defreitas were convicted of conspiring to attack JFK International Airport by exploding fuel tanks and the fuel pipeline under the airport. Another defendant, Abdel Nur, pleaded guilty before trial. A fourth alleged member of the plot, Kareem Ibrahim, faces trial on the same charges.
Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 3082
On Wednesday, December 22, 2010, the President signed into law:
H.R. 3082, which provides FY 2011 appropriations through Friday, March 4, 2011, for continuing projects and activities of the Federal Government by further amending Public Law (P.L.) 111-242, the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011. In addition, H.R. 3082 extends authority for current surface transportation programs to ensure that State departments of transportation and local transit agencies will be able to continue their ongoing infrastructure investments.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND THE VICE PRESIDENT AT SIGNING OF THE DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL REPEAL ACT OF 2010
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND THE VICE PRESIDENT
AT SIGNING OF THE
DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL REPEAL ACT OF 2010
Department of Interior
9:10 A.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hey, folks, how are you? (Applause.) It’s a good day. (Applause.) It’s a real good day. As some of my colleagues can tell you, this is a long time in coming. But I am happy it’s here.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. Please be seated.
It was a great five-star general and President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once said, “Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness and consideration, and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.”
By repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” today, we take a big step toward fostering justice, fairness and consideration, and that real cooperation President Eisenhower spoke of.
This fulfills an important campaign promise the President and I made, and many here on this stage made, and many of you have fought for, for a long time, in repealing a policy that actually weakens our national security, diminished our ability to have military readiness, and violates the fundamental American principle of fairness and equality — that exact same set of principles that brave gay men and women will now be able to openly defend around the world. (Applause.)
It is both morally and militarily simply the right thing to do. And it’s particularly important that this result was fully supported by those within the military who are charged with implementing it. And I want to pay particular respect, just as a personal note — as we used to say, I used to be allowed to say in the Senate, a point of personal privilege — Admiral Mullen, you’re a stand-up guy. (Applause.) I think they like you. (Applause.)
He already has enough power. Don’t — (laughter.)
And it couldn’t have been done without these men and women leading our military. And certainly it could not have been done without the steady, dedicated and persistent leadership of the President of the United States. (Applause.)
Mr. President, by signing this bill, you will be linking military might with an abiding sense of justice. You’ll be projecting power by promoting fairness, and making the United States military as strong as they can be at a time we need it to be the strongest.
Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America, the Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Yes, we did! Yes, we did! Yes, we did!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! Yes, we did.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you, Mr. President!
THE PRESIDENT: You are welcome. (Applause.)
This is a good day.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, it is!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You rock, President Obama!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, thank you, thank you. (Laughter.)
You know, I am just overwhelmed. This is a very good day. (Applause.) And I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage, but each and every one of you who have been working so hard on this, members of my staff who worked so hard on this. I couldn’t be prouder.
Sixty-six years ago, in the dense, snow-covered forests of Western Europe, Allied Forces were beating back a massive assault in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. And in the final days of fighting, a regiment in the 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army came under fire. The men were traveling along a narrow trail. They were exposed and they were vulnerable. Hundreds of soldiers were cut down by the enemy.
And during the firefight, a private named Lloyd Corwin tumbled 40 feet down the deep side of a ravine. And dazed and trapped, he was as good as dead. But one soldier, a friend, turned back. And with shells landing around him, amid smoke and chaos and the screams of wounded men, this soldier, this friend, scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safer ground.
For the rest of his years, Lloyd credited this soldier, this friend, named Andy Lee, with saving his life, knowing he would never have made it out alone. It was a full four decades after the war, when the two friends reunited in their golden years, that Lloyd learned that the man who saved his life, his friend Andy, was gay. He had no idea. And he didn’t much care. Lloyd knew what mattered. He knew what had kept him alive; what made it possible for him to come home and start a family and live the rest of his life. It was his friend.
And Lloyd’s son is with us today. And he knew that valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race or by gender or by religion or by creed; that what made it possible for him to survive the battlefields of Europe is the reason that we are here today. (Applause.) That’s the reason we are here today. (Applause.)
So this morning, I am proud to sign a law that will bring an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (Applause.) It is a law — this law I’m about to sign will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend.
No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military -– regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance -– because they happen to be gay. No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love. (Applause.)
As Admiral Mike Mullen has said, “Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.” (Applause.)
That’s why I believe this is the right thing to do for our military. That’s why I believe it is the right thing to do, period.
Now, many fought long and hard to reach this day. I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans who put conviction ahead of politics to get this done together. (Applause. I want to recognize Nancy Pelosi — (applause) — Steny Hoyer – (applause) — and Harry Reid. (Applause.)
Today we’re marking an historic milestone, but also the culmination of two of the most productive years in the history of Congress, in no small part because of their leadership. And so we are very grateful to them. (Applause.)
I want to thank Joe Lieberman — (applause) — and Susan Collins. (Applause.) And I think Carl Levin is still working — (laughter) — but I want to add Carl Levin. (Applause.) They held their shoulders to the wheel in the Senate. I am so proud of Susan Davis, who’s on the stage. (Applause.) And a guy you might know — Barney Frank. (Applause.) They kept up the fight in the House. And I’ve got to acknowledge Patrick Murphy, a veteran himself, who helped lead the way in Congress. (Applause.)
I also want to commend our military leadership. Ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a topic in my first meeting with Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, and the Joint Chiefs. (Applause.) We talked about how to end this policy. We talked about how success in both passing and implementing this change depended on working closely with the Pentagon. And that’s what we did.
And two years later, I’m confident that history will remember well the courage and the vision of Secretary Gates — (applause) — of Admiral Mike Mullen, who spoke from the heart and said what he believed was right — (applause) — of General James Cartwright, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and Deputy Secretary William Lynn, who is here. (Applause.) Also, the authors of the Pentagon’s review, Jeh Johnson and General Carter Ham, who did outstanding and meticulous work – (applause) — and all those who laid the groundwork for this transition.
And finally, I want to express my gratitude to the men and women in this room who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Services. (Applause.) I want to thank all the patriots who are here today, all of them who were forced to hang up their uniforms as a result of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — but who never stopped fighting for this country, and who rallied and who marched and fought for change. I want to thank everyone here who stood with them in that fight.
Because of these efforts, in the coming days we will begin the process laid out by this law. Now, the old policy remains in effect until Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and I certify the military’s readiness to implement the repeal. And it’s especially important for service members to remember that. But I have spoken to every one of the service chiefs and they are all committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently. We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done. (Applause.)
Now, with any change, there’s some apprehension. That’s natural. But as Commander-in-Chief, I am certain that we can effect this transition in a way that only strengthens our military readiness; that people will look back on this moment and wonder why it was ever a source of controversy in the first place.
I have every confidence in the professionalism and patriotism of our service members. Just as they have adapted and grown stronger with each of the other changes, I know they will do so again. I know that Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, as well as the vast majority of service members themselves, share this view. And they share it based on their own experiences, including the experience of serving with dedicated, duty-bound service members who were also gay.
As one special operations warfighter said during the Pentagon’s review — this was one of my favorites — it echoes the experience of Lloyd Corwin decades earlier: “We have a gay guy in the unit. He’s big, he’s mean, he kills lots of bad guys.” (Laughter.) “No one cared that he was gay.” (Laughter.) And I think that sums up perfectly the situation. (Applause.)
Finally, I want to speak directly to the gay men and women currently serving in our military. For a long time your service has demanded a particular kind of sacrifice. You’ve been asked to carry the added burden of secrecy and isolation. And all the while, you’ve put your lives on the line for the freedoms and privileges of citizenship that are not fully granted to you.
You’re not the first to have carried this burden, for while today marks the end of a particular struggle that has lasted almost two decades, this is a moment more than two centuries in the making.
There will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country; their service has been obscured in history. It’s been lost to prejudices that have waned in our own lifetimes. But at every turn, every crossroads in our past, we know gay Americans fought just as hard, gave just as much to protect this nation and the ideals for which it stands.
There can be little doubt there were gay soldiers who fought for American independence, who consecrated the ground at Gettysburg, who manned the trenches along the Western Front, who stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima. Their names are etched into the walls of our memorials. Their headstones dot the grounds at Arlington.
And so, as the first generation to serve openly in our Armed Forces, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models to all who come after. And I know that you will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honor, just as you have every other mission with which you’ve been charged.
And you need to look no further than the servicemen and women in this room — distinguished officers like former Navy Commander Zoe Dunning. (Applause.) Marines like Eric Alva, one of the first Americans to be injured in Iraq. (Applause.) Leaders like Captain Jonathan Hopkins, who led a platoon into northern Iraq during the initial invasion, quelling an ethnic riot, earning a Bronze Star with valor. (Applause.) He was discharged, only to receive emails and letters from his soldiers saying they had known he was gay all along — (laughter) — and thought that he was the best commander they ever had. (Applause.)
There are a lot of stories like these — stories that only underscore the importance of enlisting the service of all who are willing to fight for this country. That’s why I hope those soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have been discharged under this discriminatory policy will seek to reenlist once the repeal is implemented. (Applause.)
That is why I say to all Americans, gay or straight, who want nothing more than to defend this country in uniform: Your country needs you, your country wants you, and we will be honored to welcome you into the ranks of the finest military the world has ever known. (Applause.)
Some of you remembered I visited Afghanistan just a few weeks ago. And while I was walking along the rope line — it was a big crowd, about 3,000 — a young woman in uniform was shaking my hand and other people were grabbing and taking pictures. And she pulled me into a hug and she whispered in my ear, “Get ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ done.” (Laughter and applause.) And I said to her, “I promise you I will.” (Applause.)
For we are not a nation that says, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We are a nation that says, “Out of many, we are one.” (Applause.) We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. (Applause.) Those are the ideals that generations have fought for. Those are the ideals that we uphold today. And now, it is my honor to sign this bill into law. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you, Mr. President!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We’re here, Mr. President. Enlist us now. (Laughter.)
(The bill is signed.)
THE PRESIDENT: This is done. (Applause.)
END 9:35 A.M. EST
NATIONAL STALKING AWARENESS MONTH, 2011
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PROCLAMATION
Stalking is a serious and pervasive crime that affects millions of Americans each year in communities throughout our country. Though we have gained a better understanding of stalking and its prevalence since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, this dangerous and criminal behavior is still often mischaracterized as harmless. During Stalking Awareness Month, we acknowledge the seriousness of stalking, we recognize its impact on victims, and we recommit to reducing its incidence. Persistent stalking and harassment can lead to serious consequences for victims, whose lives may be upended by fear. Some victims may be forced to take extreme measures to protect themselves, such as changing jobs, relocating to a new home, or even assuming a new identity. Stalking can happen to anyone, and most victims are stalked by someone they know. Young adults are particularly vulnerable, and women are at greater risk for stalking victimization than men. Stalking can be a difficult crime to recognize. The majority of survivors do not report stalking victimization to the police, in part because perpetrators use a variety of tactics to intimidate and harass their victims. Increasingly, stalkers use modern technology to monitor and torment their victims, and one in four victims report some form of cyberstalking — such as threatening emails or instant messaging — as part of their harassment. My Administration is working across the Federal Government to protect victims of violence and enable survivors to break the cycle of abuse or harassment. Stalking affects too many Americans to remain a hidden crime, and a strong stand is required in order to both support victims and hold perpetrators accountable. As a Nation, we have made progress, but much work remains to respond to this criminal behavior. We must work together to educate the public about the potentially deadly nature of stalking, to encourage victims to seek help, to inform criminal justice professionals about the intersection of stalking and other dangerous crimes, and to support law enforcement in their efforts.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 2011 as National Stalking Awareness Month. I call on all Americans to learn to recognize the signs of stalking, acknowledge stalking as a serious crime, and urge those impacted not to be afraid to speak out or ask for help. Let us also resolve to support victims and survivors, and to create communities that are secure and supportive for all Americans.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand thistwenty-first day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.
Statement by the President on Today’s FCC Vote on Net Neutrality
Today’s decision will help preserve the free and open nature of the Internet while encouraging innovation, protecting consumer choice, and defending free speech. Throughout this process, parties on all sides of this issue – from consumer groups to technology companies to broadband providers – came together to make their voices heard. This decision is an important component of our overall strategy to advance American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.
As a candidate for President, I pledged to preserve the freedom and openness that have allowed the Internet to become a transformative and powerful platform for speech and expression. That’s a pledge I’ll continue to keep as President. As technology and the market continue to evolve at a rapid pace, my Administration will remain vigilant and see to it that innovation is allowed to flourish, that consumers are protected from abuse, and that the democratic spirit of the Internet remains intact.
I congratulate the FCC, its Chairman, Julius Genachowski, and Congressman Henry Waxman for their work achieving this important goal today.