Speech: Ambassador Gardner’s Address to the U.S. and EU Joint Security Workshop (March 23, 2016)

Anthony Luzzatto Gardner, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union

Good morning.  I want to thank Rob Wainwright and his staff for working with the United States and the European Commission to organize this first ever joint EU and US security workshop.

I also want to thank Commissioner Avramopoulos and all of the staff at DG Home for their extraordinary cooperation in arranging and hosting this workshop.  And thank you also to all of the participants and presenters, particularly those who traveled quite far to share their experience and engage in discussions with colleagues from the United States and Europe.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to be with you at Europol today, as you reflect on what you have shared and learned over the past two days.

Yesterday’s attacks in Brussels remind us how vital it is that we cooperate with each other on issues of security and law enforcement.  With targets like the airport and a metro station close to European Union buildings, the victims like the terrorists are surely international, as our response must be.

As we consider together our next steps in strengthening cooperation on security, I want to take a moment to remind ourselves why we are here.

Bertrand Naverret trained as a lawyer, but gave up his law practice to work as a carpenter and surf the waves off Cap Breton.

On November 13, 2015, Bertand was tragically murdered by terrorists in Paris while attending a concert at the Bataclan.  He was 38 years old.

Sierra Clayborn graduated university in 2010 and worked as an environmental health specialist.  Her Facebook profile photo revealed the red, white and blue filter so many added following the Paris terrorist attacks to show support.

On December 2, 2015, she was shot to death in San Bernardino, California, along with 13 other people in what is being investigated as a terrorist act. Sierra was 27 years old.

No one would assert the United States or countries within the European Union have been insulated from terrorist attacks on our homelands.  We’ve all witnessed these types of heinous, criminal acts before, as the brutal attacks in Brussels remind us yet again.

The images you will see during the rest of my remarks are those of more victims.

I will not identify them, however, as French victims or American ones. Or as Belgian, Dutch, or from anywhere else.  Because they aren’t victims from one country, they are victims for all of us.

They are victims of what President Obama has called “a new phase” of the terrorist threat.  As the President noted, the new strategy of terrorists is to become multilateral and turn our own citizens against us — alone or in cooperation with imported assassins. Even when our citizens seemingly act alone, they may very well have been directed or supported by outside, evil influences.

As most of you are quite well aware, there have been very few truly “domestic” terrorist attacks in the past couple of years within the EU.  The 2014 murders at the Jewish Museum in Brussels were perpetrated by a French national, who previously had traveled to Syria and back to France, through several countries, using a method many of you know as “broken travel,” to avoid surveillance and detection.

The murders over one year ago at Charlie Hebdo involved French citizens using firearms obtained in Belgium.

And the terrorist attacker on the Thalys train in August 2015 was Moroccan, who traveled from France to Belgium to obtain firearms and board the train.  He previously lived in Paris, Vienna, Cologne, as well as Brussels and was known to Spanish authorities as being connected to Islamic radicals.

Terrorists are now working multilaterally.  We must do the same.

And all of you are part of the effort.  You have taken time to sit together over the last few days to discuss solutions and efforts we can undertake together to protect our mutual security.

Our efforts to investigate and prevent terrorist attacks must be seamless.  Information obtained through our investigations must be shared with other countries as needed and appropriate.  Our attitude must be: “if I know something that can protect your country from terrorism, I need to tell you.”

How far is that approach from that of national law enforcement agencies that kept information to themselves, sealed off by borders, not even sharing with neighbors?

The United States recognizes the importance of critical information sharing and has committed resources right here at Europol and throughout Europe to further transnational investigations.  Since the November 13 attacks in Paris, U.S. law enforcement agencies provided thousands of investigative leads to French and Belgian investigators.  In turn, we have received information that could well lead us to disrupt potential terrorist attacks in the U.S. as well.

As all of you know, Europol inaugurated the European Counter Terrorism Centre in January, adding to the dedication of the EU in combatting ISIL and others that want to do us harm.  The ECTC will surely become a center of excellence, similar to the successful European Cybercrime Centre.

In the U.S., we have our experience establishing the National Counterterrorism Center after the attacks of 9/11 and have learned more than a few valuable lessons. We stand ready to provide any requested technical assistance, best practices, or other support to ECTC.

The challenge then is to bridge the next gap.  If we are overcoming decades of reluctance within law enforcement to share information, can we take the leap toward more operational coordination worldwide?

I believe we can.  Already, U.S. law enforcement is a part of the JOT MARE effort underway here at Europol and we have coordinated numerous multilateral operations in cybercrime through EC3.

The United States will continue to work with Europol to defeat human smuggling networks to help address the migrant crisis.  We should move this to the next level of operational cooperation so we disrupt and dismantle these criminal organizations in origin and source countries.

U.S. law enforcement is making the commitment with the secondment of a special agent to the European Migrant Smuggling Centre.

The engagement of Turkey remains a huge priority and we urge Europol’s integration of Turkey into these efforts through an operational agreement, beyond the current strategic one already in place.

Terrorist financing through U.S. companies, such as Western Union and MoneyGram, will continue to be a focus for U.S. law enforcement and the identification of travel and other activities financed by these transfers should be operationalized to identify targets and associates of terrorists before attacks occur. A dedicated financial intelligence cell within ECTC, similar to the coordinated effort post-Paris, could be a useful tool to advance the concept.

We should leverage our liaison officers in origin and transit countries to disrupt and dismantle these organizations.  In one country, the U.S. may have a significant and robust presence, while in another it may be France or the UK which is particularly well-placed.  We could create a network of our own, police from different countries working side by side in a task-force like environment, using our connectivity to these countries to achieve security for our own.

I wish I could say definitively that 2016 will be a year free from terrorist attacks in Europe or the United States.  What I can say is we are far closer to a multilateral strategy and effort to defeat terrorism.

We must not forget what happened to Bertrand, Sierra and the many other victims of terrorist acts. Failure to share information that could save innocent lives is simply not an option. And this coming year, I will continue my efforts to further this work.