Attorney General Jeff Sessions told members of law enforcement just a few blocks from the site of Tuesday’s deadly terror attack in lower Manhattan that the U.S. justice system can and will prosecute suspected terrorists like the man charged with the truck attack.
“Terrorists should know: This administration will use all lawful tools at our disposal. … If anyone has any doubt about that, they can ask the more than 500 criminals whom the Department of Justice has convicted of terrorism-related offenses since 9/11,” Sessions said on Thursday.
“First of all, we need to keep potentially dangerous people from getting into this country,” Sessions outlined. “Second, we need access to electronic evidence with court approval. And third, we need to lawfully, aggressively surveil non-citizen terrorists overseas.”
Sessions defended keeping “dozens of enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay” detention center, President Trump’s executive order banning travel from Muslim-majority countries and getting technology companies to cooperate with investigations.
“Too often, technology companies refuse to cooperate with law enforcement or even to comply with court orders,” he continued. “Over just the past year, the FBI was unable to open access to nearly 7,500 mobile devices submitted to its Computer Analysis and Response Team, even though there was court orders or legal authority to do so. We can only imagine what the consequences of not getting that information will be.
“We know, for example, that the terrorist who targeted an event in Garland, Texas in 2015 sent more than 100 instant messages to a terrorist overseas—just on the morning of the attack. What we don’t know, however, is what he said—because those messages are encrypted.”
Sessions also called for Congress to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which enables the United States to surveil overseas.
“Today, with the international terrorist threat decentralized and increasingly online, it is more important than ever that we have this capability,” Sessions said. “Frequently, terrorists abroad plot against this country and are in contact with other terrorists in the United States. This is the key to prevention. We want to stop terrorist attacks before they occur.
“I know that Section 702 has its critics. … So I want to be clear about this: Section 702 does not permit the targeting of any American anywhere, or even a foreigner who is likely in the United States.”
The attorney general’s visit to New York City was planned prior to the violence on Tuesday when Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov allegedly used a rental truck to kill eight people on a bike path.
Sessions called the attack “the deadliest attack on New York since 9/11.”