John Brennan Takes Questions on National Security at NYU

Uploaded by whitehouse on 14.02.2010

>> [Applause]
>> John Brennan: I think we have some time for some
questions, so I think if people want to raise your hands,
and then we have some microphones around,
I think I saw one hand up there first.
>> Shayana Kadidal: Thanks for being here today.
My name is Shayana Kadidal, I'm the head of the Guantanamo
Litigation Project.
>> John Brennan: Thank you.
I was going to ask everybody to introduce themselves and
identify their affiliation.
Thank you.
>> Shayana Kadidal: And thanks
again for being here and for hosting this.
My question for you is this: The biggest obstacle to closing
Guantanamo has been the Defense Department's, we believe,
very inflated stats about return to terrorism among people
released by the Bush Administration.
Their claim that almost 50 people have gone back to hostile
activities, a claim which he repeated this month.
Our statistics are more like under half a dozen people who
have gotten involved in anything approaching criminal activity.
So my question for you is what explains the gulf and if we
don't know, would you commit to sitting down with myself and
Professor Denbo, who has done a number of studies on this,
and all have security clearances and could do it in a classified
setting, to iron out our differences in terms of
individual names?
>> John Brennan: Okay.
Thank you.
In the previous administration, I think there were about 532
individuals from Guantanamo who were transferred.
And in this Administration we have transferred 48,
so that brings it up to about 580.
In a recent very rigorous interagency review that looked
at all intelligence sources, it was determined that the
recidivism rate of those who are known or suspected to be,
have reengaged in violent extremism,
comes out to 20 percent or so.
Slightly under.
Well, 20 percent.
And that's broken down, I think it's 9.
6 percent of those who are confirmed and/or 10.
6 and 9.
4 suspected.
This is based on all available intelligence information.
Is the number inflated?
It's very difficult to get precise figures on that.
People sometimes use that figure, 20 percent, and say, oh,
my goodness, one out of five detainees return to some type of
extremist activity.
You know, the American penal system,
the recidivism rate is up in about 50 percent or so as far as
return to crime.
Twenty percent isn't that bad.
Yet we know that several, many of those detainees have returned
and have engaged in not just extremism,
but terrorist attacks.
It is something that we have to look at very carefully.
We have tried to put in place in this Administration a more
rigorous review on the transfers.
There remain about 190 or so detainees in Guantanamo.
Hopefully all of those individuals will be transferred
or will go into prosecution either under Article 3 or
military commission.
I would be happy to take your information and relay it to the
people who follow this very closely,
but I think it was a very thorough review and again it's
broken down to between those known and suspected.
So the number of known recidivists on terrorism is
about 10 percent.
>> Omar Shahin: My name is Omar Shahin.
And the public relations director for Islamic Relief,
and the Chairman of North American Imams Federation.
First I would like to thank you for your comments
about Islamic Relief.
We as a Muslim community, I'll be honest, as always,
like always and direct to the point,
we as a Muslim community we live in this country and
we love this country.
Actually this country love on us.
Muslim community like any other community came to this country
to enjoy justice and freedom.
We feel that after September 11 we are not enjoying these
great values any more.
Also we feel that there is big lack of trust between Muslim
community and our government.
My question is if there anything being done by our government to
rebuild this trust?
Thank you.
>> John Brennan: I think President Obama said during his
campaign and has said since his inauguration that he is
determined to put America on a strong course.
That doesn't mean just on national security.
It means engagement.
It means to return to our core values as a country.
I was in the government 9-11 and it was a tremendous trauma for
this country, for this government,
unlike any we had ever seen before.
The reaction some people might say was over the
top in some areas.
But when you wonder about other threats -- and in the aftermath
of 9-11 we didn't know what we were facing in terms of WMD
attacks, other cells that might be out there.
And in an overabundance of caution implemented a number of
security measures and activities that upon reflection now we look
back after the heat of the battle has died down a bit and
we say they were excessive.
Reasonable people can disagree about that.
What President Obama is trying to do, though,
is now to take in to account, and which he does every day,
optimizing the security of the American people.
Every day he gets up he wants us to make sure people are safe and
secure from a number of different areas:
Health, education, and national security.
We have to get this balance right.
And I am here today to try to explain and describe how the
Administration sees the way forward.
This is going to be tough.
It really will.
Because, let's face it, a lot of people will have very ignorant
feelings and will have prejudices and discriminations
that we have to erode.
We have to constantly work every day.
But this is not something that is going to be like a light
switch that you can switch on and off.
I think we're making a lot of progress as a nation.
I don't want us to slide back.
And I was very concerned after the attack in Fort Hood as well
as the December 25th attack that all of a sudden there were
people that went back into this fearful position that lashed
out, I think, not thinking through what was
reasonable and appropriate.
And so I think we have to maintain this dialogue to ensure
that we don't go back to an era when we look at people with
automatic suspicion at the same time that we have to do things
for our security.
Let's go over here this time.
Out there.
Hand up.
Yes, I think someone is coming over with the mic.
>> Samuel Mensuris: Thank you, Mr. Brennan.
My question is more based around the youth involvement.
I'm sorry, my name is Samuel Mensuris.
Thank you for your remarks and my question relates to the youth
involvement with President Obama's Administration.
One point that he made as President is to go to Cairo and
talk to all of the Muslims in the Middle East about what they
can do to better the situation.
But what about the youth in America?
>> John Brennan: In fact, I spent about three hours
yesterday with President Obama talking about a number of issues
with several other people from the White House.
And we talked about the issue of global engagement and
strategic communications.
And emphasizing the point, we all did,
that there is a global engagement strategy and
requirement but we need to make sure that we have the domestic
engagement is very much a part of it.
And we talked about in my address here this morning and
the need to continue to ensure that we are able to interact,
because not just reaching out to you for the sake of our own sort
of homeland security and the well-being of our country,
but you, and people who are represented here,
have your relationships and contacts and travel frequently
overseas, you need to be ambassadors in your own right,
in your communities, in your schools,
and as you travel and interact overseas.
As I said, this is hard but it requires constant attention.
And as we talked before with some of the leaders of the
community prior to my remarks this morning,
we talked about the importance of resources being
dedicated to it.
And also I will say one other thing on this issue.
After 9-11 our country really responded remarkably to the
attacks on 9-11 and we did amazing things to make
this country safer.
In this country it is a much less hospitable environment for
terrorists to carry out attacks here and that's why we have been
very fortunate because of very hard work that was done.
But we can't just be focusing on the finding terrorists and
extremists and stopping them from carrying out their attacks.
If we think about the process of extremism and becoming
extremists and terrorists, it's a continuum.
It starts somewhere.
I like to think that everybody is born into this world with a
certain amount of innocence to them.
And unfortunately sometimes as they go through life forces of
evil will bring them down a certain path.
We cannot have just the counterterrorism law enforcement
Homeland Security focusing on this because then we're just
looking at the end of the continuum where terrorism and
extremism and radicalization has already taken firm root.
We have to go upstream.
We have to look at those issues.
And we are trying to engage more and more with behavioral
scientists and other things.
What leads a person to join a gang?
What encourages a person to start that process toward
becoming a violent extremist, whether it's with a religious
banner or something else.
We need to address this in our systems and our societies and
our communities and so therefore I think what we're trying to do
in the Obama Administration is to reach out.
And the people that are here today from the
various parts of the
U. S. government are those representatives and those
ambassadors that hopefully it's going to take root.
You know?
Just like the movement that led to President Obama's election,
I'd like to think that we're going to feel this common shared
responsibility for addressing our security issues.
Over here.
Wait for the -- thank you.
>> Amir al-haj calli et suman: Thank you for
taking my question.
I'm Amir al-haj calli et suman from Cleveland, Ohio.
I want to thank Paul Matero for inviting us here.
I worked in law enforcement, public safety as a member of the
youth gang unit for ten years and I served as assistant safety
director in the city of Cleveland specifically around
gang intervention and prevention and worked with several Muslim
cultural specific groups that deal with prevention
and intervention.
And I think President Obama attended a gang summit we had
back in the early '90s back in Chicago and I was pleased to
hear your conveyance about strategic communication.
But many of us have been involved on the ground as
practitioners dealing with that kind of work and we found that
we would like to make sure that we are engaged in that strategic
communication with the Administration because of the
experience that we have.
We found that in the prior administration that there was
difficulty there even though there had been some
communication and some relationship.
What I would like to see, and I think I can speak on behalf of
the colleagues that I work with quite closely,
is more emphasis on what you just said about those that are
practitioners and experts in the field who have experience and
can address that issue about what transform or what creates
the kind of mentality that leads to some of the things that we
have to deal with today, not only in the United States,
but throughout the world.
>> John Brennan: I think your point is an absolutely right one.
And it does take a village.
And I have looked at these issues that beguile us as a
nation, whether it be on terrorism or other issues,
how do you make progress against some seemingly
intractable problems.
And it really does take work at the grassroots level as well as
at the very strategic level.
But they need to be working in concert with one another
as opposed to at odds.
And I sort of equate it to as we deal with issues of poverty or
illiteracy, you need the Peace Corps approach but you also need
the World Bank approach.
You need to have people who are gaining that practical
experience and working with people so we understand and can
make that progress on the ground.
But we also need to have a strategic framework that we can
ensure that we're marching together in the right direction.
It is a tough, tough challenge to try to bring that together.
But the more people who are engaged in it at that grassroots
level, the people who have that experience and can then
transition from maybe a law enforcement career,
to a community engagement career,
or something that is going to be working with the community,
I think we need more of that cross fertilization because it
enriches, I think, all of us to gain that experience.
Yes, right here.
>> Chloe Brier: Chloe Brier, The Interfaith Center
of New York and
St. Mary's Episcopal Church. Thank you so much for your comments underscoring the
importance of interfaith relations,
also for your work to close Guantanamo.
Several of us from many faith traditions served at ground zero
after 9-11 with the Red Cross doing chaplaincy work.
Some of us, I would say, are disappointed with the way our
elected officials have turned down the opportunity to have a
trial for one of the people who is responsible,
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
And my question to you is if what some perceive as a
not-in-my-back-yard scenario, or at least and cowardly otherwise
might be turned around, is it possible we might get that trial
back here in New York City?
>> John Brennan: Clearly this is an issue that the people here in
this city feel very strongly about and frequently they have
very different views on the issue about whether or not
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed should be tried in this city.
There is an obvious need to take into account a number of
different factors as far as support from the local community
for this, the funding requirements.
There are dependencies that will determine when that trial is
going to start and where it's going to start.
The important thing to keep in mind is that we need to bring
these people to justice.
That's what this country is all about.
It was such a heinous act of murder on that day when nearly
3, 000 people died that we need to bring Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
to justice in an American court.
There are constitutional requirements as far as venue is
concerned and where he can be tried whether it be here in New
York, Pennsylvania or Virginia.
And the Southern District of New York has had, you know,
tremendous experience and success in trying
these terrorists.
And the Administration, the Attorney General and others,
are trying to push this forward as best we can.
But again the dependencies are there.
Where is the funding going to come from in order to provide
the necessary security.
We need nonobstructionism from certain elements within the
government in order to move forward on this.
These are very difficult challenges.
And people have frequently polar opposite views on this and feel
very, very strongly about the issue about whether or not
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed should be tried in an Article 3 court or
in a military commission.
I think we probably all have our own views on that.
As well as where the venue should be.
We're trying to work our way through it and there are some
stiff winds that are blowing in it that are delaying bringing
this man to justice.
That's the important thing.
And I have had extensive conversations with people within
the government, also here in New York,
and I'm hoping that this is going to be resolved for the
sake of the victims and their families of the 9-11 tragedy.
Yes, over here.
Over here and then we'll go over here.
>> Dalia Mahmoud: Hi, thank you for coming.
My name is Dalia Mahmoud with the Muslim Public Affairs
Council of New York City.
My question, I really appreciate what you said in recognizing
that Muslim Americans have been victims of prejudice and hate,
those who have hate in their heart.
And oftentimes that is very much fueled by perceptions in the
media and by, you know, terminology such as war on
terror and Islamic terrorism and so forth.
Is there anything specifically that is being discussed
currently in terms of revising that type of language and the
use of it by our Administration?
>> John Brennan: I think, as I mentioned in my remarks,
we're trying to be very careful and precise in our use of
language because I think the language we use and the images
we project really do have resonance.
That's why I don't use the term jihadist to refer to terrorists.
It gives them the religious legitimacy that they so
desperate seek but I ain't gonna give it to them.
They want that status of a sovereign state from the
standpoint of enemy combatant.
I believe that they should be treated as the miscreant
murderers that they are.
They are trying to gain that status and that image so they
can rally additional support.
That's why I think, and I understand the reasoning behind
after 9-11 the term global war and terrorism and try to convey
that concept of we are opposed to this as a nation, and we,
indeed, are.
And it's not that that was an incorrect term.
I just don't think it was as precise as it needs to be.
That's why, you know, being precise,
saying we are at war with Al Qaeda,
we're at war with these terrorist groups,
but I don't want our language to then lead to individuals seeing
that as an extension or then extending that to communities
that frequently are represented by those terrorist attacks.
They take place in Pakistan.
99. 9 percent of the people in Pakistan abhor,
abhor those attacks.
However, it is that vocal violent minority that gains the
attention of the press.
And whenever anything happens the press goes right
toward it in the media.
And I think too frequently, the press will go with people who
have that strident view, that will adopt a position on the
radical fringe because that's what's going to make news.
And I think that unfortunately fuels the fires.
And I will give my life to make sure that the fourth estate of
this country, and the freedom of speech,
is protected and enhanced.
That doesn't mean, though, that everybody who gets on a
camera speaks responsibly.
And that's why, and I have been forceful recently decrying any
type of misrepresentations that are put out in the press,
including by politicians, that do not accurately reflect what
is happening in this country.
We should not be instilling more fear.
>> [Applause]
>> John Brennan: Over here.
>> Audience Member: Thank you so much.
My question is, is possible for the Administration under
Mr. Obama to think about how we can educate the people who are
talking about religion, all of them,
by having a channel of TV or radio or whatever and the
environments who support this idea financially,
because it will help and it will cost less than the war.
I have already two big book, each one about one thousand
page, or less the other one, and I was requested this
during the time of 1980.
I am member of interfaith between Jewish,
Christian and Muslim in New York from 1980.
I got the position of assistant manager of Islamic Center of New
York and I am ready to give it to your office just
to take a look.
Beside, I was raised in a Catholic school,
French Catholic school in Egypt where I enjoy my life between
friend Jewish, Christian and Muslim and work at the same time
for 30 years with one of the biggest
French companies in Egypt.
>> John Brennan: Yeah, I think you make a good point about the
need for education.
>> Audience Member: Education.
>> John Brennan: And the media can be one of the best
mechanisms to convey the responsible and appropriate
characterizations of faith and of people and goodness.
Unfortunately, though, there are forces of evil in the world that
we need to be able to confront continuously.
That's why I think education, and I am not just talking about
vocational training or education in the sciences and literature,
it's education about who we are as a people on this planet,
exposing people more to the different races and cultures and
identies that exist worldwide.
Because I find that ignorance comes out of a lack of knowledge
as opposed to exposure.
The more we can expose the American people to others I
think the more progress we'll make.
Let's go over here.
>> Audience Member: Hi, Mr. Brennan.
Thank you for coming here and thank you for the Islamic Center
to invite just not Muslims but even nonMuslims like myself.
My name is Nikcormis Travady and I am from the Hindu Students Council.
My question to you is in your remarks you said that the
President has promoted, you know,
has promised to fight against negative stereotypes of
different faiths.
Right after 9-11, on September 23rd,
I was attacked personally on campus at Rutgers because of
this whole negative portrayal of various faiths.
And the remark that the person actually made was, you know,
you Muslim's, you Hindus, you're all the same, you all come from,
you know, backward India and Pakistan and stuff like that.
Now, what is the Administration's effort or what
initiative does the Administration have to include
Hindu Americans in this dialogue as well?
Because I think this is the first time that I have been
invited here and many of the Hindu Americans have been
invited into such a great dialogue about the nation's
security because we are about 2 billion strong and like you
said, just like Muslim Americans,
Hindu Americans also are in various parts of the
So what is the Administration's initiative in including Hindu
Americans in this dialogue?
>> John Brennan: You're absolutely right that this
dialogue has to be one that is truly interfaith,
and of the multiple faiths that we have within this country.
Last year Prime Minister Singh from India was the only foreign
head of state who was accorded a state dinner.
And it was a way to highlight, and in fact put the spotlight on
how much we and India have in common.
But also I think it shone brightly differences,
but differences again that are not supposed to separate us.
So, you know, when I hear that maybe this is the first time
you're here but we really need to be able to bring these
different representatives together more often.
We take pride in our identies.
Again we can take pride in the fact that we are a Hindu or a
Muslim or that we're an American or something else.
But as I was mentioning in my remarks we have these multiple
identities and we really need to emphasize that which joins us.
And the people in this room,
U. S. citizens, U.S.
persons, whatever, or just living here in the United
States, we share a common bond that we need to
celebrate more often.
So this is reaching out to the Hindu community,
to the Jewish community, to the Christian community,
to the Buddhist community and others are things that I think
the President is very determined to do.
He is without a doubt the best spokesperson for the United
States government right now.
He can connect with people.
He is such an articulate and eloquent spokesperson.
But what we need to do as a government is to spend more time
in groups like this because it's something that I think is going
to, you know, catch on.
I think a lot of people want to be involved, want to
help to break down these walls of ignorance that separate us.
Trying to.
Let's go back there.
>> Bobby Kahn: Thank you, my name is Bobby Kahn,
I'm founder of Kahn and [inaudible] Project.
I'm a proud Pushtun which is 6,000 years old history and
then Muslim and then Pakistani and now New Yorker.
I really want to bring up, you know, that we keep raising,
you know, that here and back home, too, I was raised,
I was born and raised in Pakistan,
my grandparents migrated from Afghanistan, that the same,
you know, mistakes has been repeated and we haven't
seen any change.
That's the same stereotyping and the same criminal are being
dealt are the Pakistan Army back home which is the collaborative
in the war on terror who are really terrorists themselves.
And they're creating mulah's and Taliban.
Those are created by Pakistan Army.
And here, and here, too, I mean, the innocent person like Siraj
Matin and several others, those were convicted by criminal
informants just to save their skins,
and that practice is still going on.
And a person like us, those are called the person of interest
whenever we go across the border and come back.
Like six or seven hours we had strip searches.
And myself, my two-year-old daughter was,
it was a hand patted search and was told that when we raised
questions were told that your name is a person of interest.
And that person of interest is fighting for democracy,
for secular and progressive doctrine for most of his life.
What the Obama Administration is doing,
we are seeing the same policies are being followed.
>> John Brennan: The Administration is trying to
address those policies specifically.
And I think the aftermath of December 25th is probably a good
discussion point because it's a controversial one.
After that attempted attack, there were 14 nations or so
whose citizens were put on the list for secondary screening.
And believe me, I have had a number of people in a number of
foreign countries call to complain about that.
And I understand their concerns.
However, sometimes when something happens that shocks us
from a security standpoint in an overabundance of caution,
we implement certain strategies and actions that we believe are
necessary to ensure, the best we can,
the safety of American citizens.
We are reviewing that process right now.
And I have met with a number of foreign ambassadors and others
that we are going to be recalibrating that as it needs
to be now that we have a better sense of what actually
happened at that day.
So we're trying to address those policies the best we can to make
sure that we at least have a framework that is fair,
that is nonprejudicial, and that optimizes security,
while at the same time optimizes civil liberties.
But we still are a nation of people.
And policies will be implemented by individuals.
And sometimes subjective judgements come into play
when somebody has to apply that policy.
And as we talked before, the issue of discrimination and
prejudice is something that frequently is ingrained in
people because that's the way that they either grew up or
taught or they come from a certain environment where that
is the norm rather than the exception,
and it takes quite a bit of time for that to change in an
individual as well as in a community.
I mentioned before that I am the son of an immigrant.
My father immigrated here from Ireland when he was
about 28 years old.
And, you know, in the United States for many,
many years there were signs on doors that, you know,
"Irish need not apply.
" Irish had to go through that same type of discrimination and
prejudice, as did the Italians, as did Germans, Asians, others.
Unfortunately, the richness of, the diversity that we have that
should enrich us too often does separate us.
And that's why I think we need to be looking at ourselves as
individuals, not the way we look or the creed we have,
or our ethnic background.
Look at us, I consider myself a citizen of the world.
You know?
And that's what President Obama is trying to do,
make sure that we as America can interact with the rest of the
world in a safe and secure way.
And trying to calibrate and balance these policies in a way
that optimize national security and optimizes the opportunity
for people in this country never to be profiled,
never to be discriminated against,
it's going to take many, many years.
Back here.
I'm sorry, the one behind you, yes.
We'll get you next.
>> Layla Buck: Thank you, I really appreciate your remarks.
My name is Layla Buck, I'm actually,
my mom is Lebanese and my dad was an American diplomat who was
actually in Saudi Arabia, I think, the same time you were.
And one of the things that I appreciate about what you said
is that we need to look upstream in terms of fighting terrorism
and I have two questions.
My primary question is the relationship between terrorism
and our foreign policy which we haven't really talked about.
And as I am sure you know from spending time in the Middle
East, a lot of the fuel for terrorist activity and Al Qaeda,
it's fueled by our support for actions that are not in keeping
with a lot of the values you've been talking about.
Specifically in our support for the Israeli military,
things like the assault on Gaza, when Arabs and Muslims see other
Arabs and Muslims who are innocent civilians being
attacked by a government and a military that we fund and
support on a political and financial level.
And I think -- >>
>> Layla Buck: -- so, yeah,
and you know, I understood there are many
complicated international policy issues there.
And I am curious what the Obama Administration's plan is and how
much -- I think I would say that there needs to be an addressing
of our relationship with Israel and our support for their
military actions as it relates to both our image and our
integrity within the Arab and the Muslim world.
And I am curious what your government is doing about that.
>> John Brennan: Okay.
And what your government is doing about that, too.
>> Layla Buck: Yes, what our government is doing about that.
And the second, and a smaller question is also because you
raised the issue of subjectivity in the implementation of
profiling, what steps are in place to train our TSA workers
in particular in terms of a better understanding of Arab and
Muslim culture so that they have something other than the fears
and the stereotypes when they are implementing those policies.
>> John Brennan: Okay, two points there.
You're absolutely right that our counterterrorism policies need
to be integrated more fully in to our foreign
policies as a whole.
I have used the term that our CT tail should not be
wagging the policy dog.
Because if we're just addressing the terrorism threat,
we're really missing how we can get to those factors and the
environmental dynamics that are contributing to this.
And the good examples are look at the Horn of Africa
right now and Somalia.
You know, we're facing a problem as far as Al Qaeda in east
Africa and there are sort of raging violence there,
internal civil war, el Shabab and others.
What are we hoping to be able to accomplish with the Horn to
try to bring some peace and security to Somalia.
Same thing in Yemen.
We're facing a problem right now with Al Qaeda in the Arabian
peninsula, but Yemen has some significant, you know,
structural problems.
A depleted water table.
Oil revenues that are going down.
They have a Houthi rebellion in the north,
southern successionists in the south.
An unemployment rate that probably hovers
about 40 percent.
The fourth greatest population growth rate in the world at 3
and a half percent.
They double every 20 years.
How are you going to the address those problems?
Because unless you address them, you're still going to have the
extremists who are going to be the products of environment that
doesn't give them the opportunity that they seek.
So what we've tried to do, whether we're talking about
Somalia, Yemen or other places, is to make --
>> [audience outcry]
>> John Brennan: No, no, I'm coming to that.
I said I have two points.
That's the first one.
So what we're trying to do is make sure that we're able to
address the other issues that we need to be able to deal with
successfully if we're going to make the long-term progress.
We can take out terrorists, individuals, whatever, but,
you know, it's like pollution.
You know, pollutants get downstream and you start
scooping them out but unless you go upstream and start taking
care of the actual polluters, you're not going to
get ahead of it.
So second issue, first of all, the United States is dedicated
to ensure that Israel stays safe and secure.
It is a very close ally and partner of the United States and
we're going to make sure that that continues.
At the same time the President and others have underscored
their commitment to make sure that there is going to be a two
state solution.
And that the legitimate rights and aspirations of the
Palestinian people need to be fulfilled.
This is something that has vexed this government and the
international community for the past 43 years now,
ever since 1967.
Some might say before, from the late '40s.
These are tough issues that the President has been trying with
Senator Mitchell to continue to sort of work so that we right
now have a divisive Palestinian populous between the Palestinian
authority and Hamas, the West Bank and Gaza.
There needs to be some unity on both sides,
both in the Israeli government as well as within the
Palestinian area.
And I think some people have the belief that we need to separate
ourselves out from Israel before we can make progress in this.
I don't agree with that.
When I was, as I talked about being at AUC in the mid '70s,
it was in '75, less than two years after the '73 war,
when the United States, you know,
came to Israel's rescue and pushed back then the Egyption
advance in the Sinai.
And I remember very clearly walking down the street of Cairo
one early morning, I used to just love walking through Cairo,
the old city, City of the Dead.
And it was about, I think 7 or 8 o'clock,
and I could see an Egyption, middle-aged Egyption in
traditional garb, in a galabya, walking toward me starring at
me, and I am looking at him and he stops in front of me and
says, [foreign language].
Are you American or Soviet?
Because the Soviet Union was the supporter of Egypt at the time.
And although I wasn't well schooled in Middle Eastern
politics, I knew that, you know, the United States was not the
favorite nation of a lot of folks who came to Israel's aid.
And I was 19 years old at the time.
And I didn't know what the right answer was in terms of being
American or Soviet, and so I mustered my courage and I said
[foreign language] (American) and he looked at me with a big
smile and put two thumbs up and said, montaz.
And walked on.
And I was left there scratching my head.
And I went back to the dormitory and talked with some of my
Egyptian and Jordanian and Palestinian dormmates.
And they said, well, see, John, you said you were an American.
And America really stands for something.
Yes, Arabs, Egyptians, Palestinians,
will have issue with United States foreign policy or
U. S. government actions, but America does stand out in the
Middle East, in the Arab world, and in the Islamic world as
being this beacon of freedom and liberty.
Remember back in the '70s when the Soviet Union was there,
the United States was viewed as the bulwark against the
encroachment of atheistic communism coming down,
and we really did stand side-to-side to prevent
that from happening.
The United States, I think, represents a fairness that I
think most Arabs and Muslims believe is innately in us but
sometimes our policies are misguided.
We need to be able to address the issue of outstanding
Israeli/Palestinian problems.
You're absolutely right.
It continues to feed this wellspring of
antiU. S. sentiment and extremism.
There needs to be movement on both sides.
We need to find resolution, whether it be territorial,
or talking about the final status arrangements.
It is tough but we're not going to separate ourselves
from Israel.
>> Audience Member: Just to follow-up on that I think it is
also not about separating ourself.
It is about like I helped get your administration elected and
I believe there is a difference there,
but I was very disappointed by the response to the attacks on
Gaza and the lack of denouncement in terms of our
support for that.
We are literally funding one side of that conflict.
So it's not as simple as -- >>
John Brennan: There's a lot of
funding going on to the other side of the conflict as well in
terms of the -- yes, right here.
>> Mandeep Saltan: [Inaudible] Thanks
for taking my question.
My name is Mandeep Saltan, I am a guest of Sikh Coalition.
I agree with everything you said today earlier on your speech and
I am like sitting here with a list of questions and everything
went out the window one at a time.
But I still have a basic question for you.
I have a 21-year-old son.
Every time he passes through an airport security line he is
pulled aside and frisked and this is a kid who was born and
brought up in this country.
And I feel this is just not his predicament, it's every 20, 18,
19, 20 year old in this room feels the same way.
Even though they are born and brought up in this country and
this is the only country they know but they feel like they are
disenfranchised every step of the way.
They don't feel that in New York.
But as soon as you walk away 50, 500 miles west of New York,
you start feeling that.
My question to you, and as one question,
somebody asked a question earlier on,
what are you doing to engage the youth.
Yes, I understand the things like we are fighting the
terrorists but we have a much bigger problem at our hand.
If we don't do something about this youth who are American kids
and this is the only country they know,
there is going to be a much bigger potential issue.
Yes, you talked about Fort Hood gunman.
The person who killed 13 people.
And America was very tolerant, and we are very appreciative of
that, but I don't know how long they would stay that way.
So my question to you is, and another thing that I took from
you that your father was an immigrant,
just like I am an immigrant, right,
and you are a son of an immigrant, just like my son,
what chances are for him to have the same rights as you enjoy
today and going through all of this climate that we are in
right now.
>> [Applause] >>
John Brennan: Oh, to have a
magic wand and to wave it over this country and to
allow us to be able to live without any of that
prejudice or fear or profiling.
And, you know, some of that prejudice is
wilful and malicious.
And some of that prejudice is born out of ignorance
and it's not malicious.
A couple things.
One is that when I get together with President Obama every
morning in the Oval Office and he is sitting in that chair and
I used to be in the Oval Office a lot with previous presidents,
and frequently I sit there and I look at an African-American who
has such a different background than any other president,
who spent years in Indonesia, comes from a Kenyan father,
American mother, represents a diversity in one person,
who is able to not just aspire to but actually achieve the
highest office in this land.
And I say to myself, you know, that's the American dream.
That allows us to think, wow!
Just 40 years ago when Martin Luther King was shot down,
this country has come so far as to be able to elect an
individual like Barack Obama.
Hopefully your son will be able to one day either be at this
podium or your, members of your family will be the person from
Transportation Security Administration who will be at
the front of the queue when people to who look like you and
look like others in this room come forward and your son or
your family member will smile remembering what maybe he or you
had to go through.
This is a marathon.
This is a journey.
This is something that America's story is still being revealed.
And we're going to hit speed bumps.
But the thing is we really need to be able to imbue in those
that we live with and love for them not to lose hope.
Now, if you lose the hope in the system then we've lost so much.
And that's what the extremists are really hoping to do,
continuing to hit and pummel and pummel.
And if we respond with ignorance,
if we respond in a manner that is inappropriate,
we just give them what they're looking for.
That's why we really have to counter this narrative
that they have out there.
Let's take one more.
Over there.
>> Audience Member: Thank you so much.
I wanted to commend the point that you made about how we need
to be precise in the language we're using and asking this
question as President of Women and Islam, Incorporated,
and a group of community organizations here in New York
who wrote a response to the NYPD's report "Radicalization in
the West, the Home Grown Threat.
" And in our meetings with Commissioner Kelly,
which he was, you know, he was very nice to have a dialogue
with us and I think this kind of conversation is critical,
we raised a question about the Internet sites.
And I think as we go forward in trying to address this problem,
it's very important for to us have shared definitions of what
we're trying to grapple with.
So how, can you please explain a little bit further as to what is
the construct of an extremist website and what steps are taken
or will be taken to share a list of these websites
with the community.
As you so eloquently put it we will be responsible for dealing
with this threat within our families and our community.
And I'm asking this question also as a parent of an
Internet-savvy kid who knows more about the Internet
than I do.
>> John Brennan: Oh, boy, that's a really tough question, you know.
How do you define extremism.
When does it go past that line that is protected by free
speech but yet is going to inspire, agitates,
encourage people to go down that violent path or to
carry out violent attacks.
It really is tough.
But I think as people who are schooled in your religions,
who are schooled in what you want as a community,
I think there are a number of websites out there and
individuals who it's clear that they are really trying to push
people further down this continuum toward
violent extremism.
A lot of people are very clever as they go out in order to
preserve their ability to continue to post.
I think the Internet is something we have had to deal
with as parents and as community leaders because that is an area
where there is just so much preying from the standpoint of
sexual predators, crime, identity theft and using it
again under the cloak of religious banner for terrorist
and extremist ends.
I think this is one of the things that community
organizations should be sitting down with local representatives
of the NYPD, or FBI or others to try to have that discussion and
dialogue and raise expressions of concern.
Before I came here this morning I had breakfast with
Commissioner Kelly, who is terrific.
Who really has tried to implement a law enforcement
policy and environment here that is going to again allow people
to feel that they can sort of walk through the streets and not
feel that they are being singled out.
It was nice to hear that you are here in New York and you feel at
home, but if you go 50-miles outside and all of a sudden it's
a different environment.
It's because of the richness here.
But the issue of extremism and those websites,
it's a tough one.
And rather than go through sort of which ones I think are bad,
I think there is, quite frankly, a lot of exposure in the press
right now on some of those and some of those individuals who
are just purveyors of violence.
Over here.
I have exceeded my time.
Yes, I know.
I'm going to get the yank here in a minute.
>> Abed Punyon: Thank you for being here.
My name is Abed Punyon, I'm a teacher in Brooklyn.
One of the things that I'm taught and kind of forced by my
administration at school is to kind of give three takeaway
points to my students.
What are three thing that they should have learned in
this one hour period.
And my question to you, I'm hoping,
is a simple one: Is that President Bush delivered Ramadan
messages to Muslims.
He said that we're not at war with Islam;
we're at war with Al Qaeda.
Can you give us three specific tangible points that
differentiate the Obama Administration from the previous
Bush Administration?
And I was hoping that a man in your position given that you
have extensive experience with both administrations that you
would be able to come up with three in particular.
Thank you.
>> John Brennan: Next question!
>> [Laughter] >>
John Brennan: First of
all, I am neither democrat nor republican.
I have greatly held on to my nonbipartisanship over the years
because I consider myself a public servant.
And I have served for both republican and democratic
administrations and have been proud to do that.
And I think the previous administration deserves a lot of
praise and credit for the work they did after 9-11 as far as
making this country safer and stronger.
I had differences of view with individuals within the
administration on certain policies that were pursued.
But I think we can all have honest differences of
view on these issues.
And, you know, I really don't want to highlight sort of what
this Administration is doing better than the last one.
I can tell you some of the things that I feel in some
respects are different as I go forward in this Administration.
Number 1, I think the engagement with the world is done in a
manner that really takes into account the complexities
that we're facing.
The world is not black and white.
It's not divided into good and evil.
It is a complex array of countries, cultures, peoples,
issues, that are very tough to resolve.
It's not a game of kinetic checkers.
It's more three-dimensional chess.
And engaging with President Obama and others I really feel
as though as we try to address the issues in Yemen or Somalia
or Iraq or Afghanistan, the appreciation is there for that
three-dimensional chess.
So that's one.
Secondly, I think that is perceived by a lot of people
overseas as being a change from the previous administration.
One can agree or disagree with the decision to invade Iraq or
to go into Afghanistan then after 9-11.
But I think there was a perception that gathered
worldwide after that invasion of Iraq that really viewed us
through a prism that saw military adventurism.
Right or wrong, that's way, what the perception was.
With this Administration, it turns a page.
It's a new Administration.
And I think we've been given the opportunity and I think that's
why the expectations worldwide and within our own communities
are so high, because things happened after 9-11,
some absolutely necessary, some debatable,
but we have a history there.
But now we have a new chapter.
And I feel that engagement with certainly a lot of my foreign
partners, the willingness to partner.
Partnering with the United States now is something
that they seek.
And then third would be the President really does take as
seriously as any other President his obligation to protect the
security and safety of the American people.
Every day he wants to make sure we are as proactive and
aggressive on that.
At the same time, though, he very much views these issues and
these decisions that we take through that prism of
our values as nation.
And, you know, I'm not going to address at all the previous
administration's, you know, the previous administration had
people in it that were as committed to the values that
they held very high.
But the dedication to civil liberties,
dedication to the rule of law, dedication to making sure that
we're not going to overreact, that we're going to do things
because it's the right thing to do.
And I think anybody who has watched what has happened in
Washington over the last year has recognized this
Administration has its political detractors.
And, you know, politics can be a rather tough environment and
that's why I have tried to stay away from it.
But the President has said to me and to others good policy
ultimately will give you good politics.
Don't let the politics drive you.
Let the good policy drive you.
Do what is right and hopefully then the politics will follow
and the American people will understand exactly why.
So I feel that, you know, this Administration, this President,
is really trying to do the right thing but in very choppy waters.
Choppy, I am not just talking about the political environment,
but they are choppy, but the international environment.
We have countries that are aspiring for nuclear weapons.
We have countries that continue to suppress and
repress their people.
We have countries that are led by individuals who are corrupt.
We have continued problems of not dedicating the resources
that are necessary to give people the opportunity to
educate themselves, become literate,
and to be part of their society and the world economy.
These are really tough challenges.
I'm just thankful that we have people who still want to be
President of the United States.
A couple more?
Right here.
Someone is coming.
Then we'll do the person behind you and then we'll pick one more
for the last bank shot.
>> Kathy Joshey: Thank you so much.
My name is Kathy Joshey, and I'm an associate professor.
I teach in the School of Education at Fairleigh Dickinson
University, your old stomping grounds.
>> John Brennan: FDU, right.
>> Kathy Joshey: In Bergen County.
And, you know, this gentleman that spoke so eloquently about
essentially how religion is racialized.
People see brown folks and they don't know the difference
between Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam.
And I know the teachers I teach and that I have been working
with for the past ten years and many of them are frightened to
talk about religion in schools.
And while we have the First Amendment,
and while we have justices who've said we need to have
religion taught about in schools,
I'm wondering if in these days, especially after 9-11,
if the Department of Homeland Security could be a little more
proactive, perhaps, are they, and maybe we just don't know it,
working with the Department of Education and thinking a little
bit more about being upstream as you were talking about and
encouraging, you know, teachers from the -- at the federal
level, to really think about religion, different cultures?
Because right now there is no real emphasis on that because of
testing and evaluation and measurement and things of that
nature, and we know that, you know,
the education piece would really help.
>> John Brennan: I agree with you.
And the White House has been trying to orchestrate over the
past several months an interagency effort that can
address this issue of education and how it's going to be
furthered and implemented.
Because we don't want to have again the kind of terrorism
folks who are running that, it really has to be part and parcel
of an education process that tries to take that into account
and allows people to have that exposure and understanding of
different cultures and relations.
And although it may seem like this Administration has been in
place forever, it's only 13 months.
And although that may sound like a long time,
sometimes the Washington bureaucracy takes a little bit
of time to sort of get going.
But I've seen some tangible progress over the past couple of
months to try to bring those elements together with the
Department of Homeland Security, the Department of
Education, and others.
So that's the direction they're going.
It has to be part of that education process and not
appended to it by that counterterrorism and law
enforcement community.
Yes, sir.
Sorry I didn't get you before.
>> Javaid Tariq: My name is Javaid Tariq.
I'm with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
We're organizing the New York cab drivers.
The thing is in New York City there are more than a hundred
thousand cab drivers and there are, 75 percents are Muslims.
Especially from Pakistan, India Arab nation,
North Africa and Arab countries.
Even though on 9-11 New York cab drivers played a great role to
help the public, bringing injured people to the hospital
free and all day long they were helping the public,
we face a new kind of racism after 9-11 and right after that
a lot of cabs got vandalize and Muslim cab drivers,
even though our Sikh cab drivers who has years and troubles for
the wrong identity, they got beaten.
And still we are facing daily basis harassment and by the
public when they see our name written on our license.
So we are taking precaution and also fighting on local basis
with the regulatory agency that they should not put our name on
our hack license even though we have our number.
Our number is enough.
And the second thing for this harassment and this assault,
we are fighting the state basis to pass legislation that
harassment against cab driver should be a felony.
And I think if I would take this kind of precautions all over
America, because everywhere in America there are thousands of
cab drivers and most of the cab drivers, 75 percent are Muslim,
are facing this kind of harassment and that can prevent
this kind of racism.
>> John Brennan: Right.
>> [Applause] >>
John Brennan: As you were talking I was just
thinking throughout the world, I don't think,
there is not a single country where similar types of prejudice
and discrimination and harassment take place.
Look in South Asia between Hindu and Muslim communities,
you know, Southeast Asia and Indonesia,
between Krishna and Muslim communities.
Or in the Balkans between different types of ethnic groups
and nationalities.
It is endemic to the world that you're going to have
environments and situations where some people just are
naturally prejudiced.
What I find though also interesting is that people here
are particularly outraged because that type of harassment
and prejudice so inconsistent with what this
country stands for.
Our expectations are so high.
People when they come to the United States to live, to visit,
to work, they have this image of the United States as being this
great, powerful country where all these other problems that we
had to leave our home countries and flee,
they're not going to be here.
Well, we've brought from all those countries those people.
We've brought a lot of those prejudice and discriminations
and history and baggage here to this country.
We like to think that the environment here is going to
melt us within this pot so that we can live next to one another.
And we want to keep our expectations high.
We want to always be frustrated and annoyed with these things
because they are inconsistent with that document that anchors
us as a people where it says all men and women are created equal.
It's going to take us a while to get there.
It really will.
And, you know, it's not to be in my lifetime.
It's not going to be in my children's or
grandchildren's lifetime.
But if we continue to work and every day and push this,
I think we can make progress.
And we're making progress on a daily basis.
But sometimes we can't measure it in a day.
But let's take a step back and say, well,
we've come a long way.
Let me go back there.
I'm going to have to, I'm sorry, I am exceeding my welcome here,
but I could do this all day.
It's really, in some respects, very good to be
out of Washington.
>> Assad Akhter: Well, thank you so much for being here.
My name is Assad Akhter.
I'm actually a staffer on Capitol Hill on the President
and Congressional Muslim Staff Association.
The question I have for you is a little bit outside of your
direct purview but I hope you can address it dealing with the
Department of Justice and others.
You know, you talk about the media and labels.
There's a label put on many Muslim organizations that
address that and it's that of unindicted co-conspirator.
It's the title that for those who know legally means nothing
as far as any terrorism-related charges or even suspicion of
terrorism but is a label that allows media,
both legitimate and less legitimate,
to smear the community and to smear organizations and not
allow organizations to take hold.
Similar issue when you talked about Muslim charities with the
Department of Treasury as far as Muslim charities and the
inability for the community to really donate with confidence.
The President addressed this in Cairo, I believe,
and is taking steps but still an issue.
And the reason I just find it so critical is because you're here
and asking the community here to be empowered to step up.
And we want to be empowered and we want to step up.
But quite honestly, we're not able to be empowered because at
the same time we're being disempowered by these labels
from the government which I would hope that the Obama
Administration would take a strong role in trying to
eliminate because it keeps us from being able to be engaged
and to step up as we want to do and as you want us
to do for our nation.
>> [Applause] >>
John Brennan: Yeah,
some of these labels are very dangerous.
And sometimes too convenient to bucket people conveniently
within a certain category that allows people to do things.
And this is something that law enforcement, justice,
are looking at, have taken a step back and are looking at but
this does take some time.
You know, what constitutes a suspected terrorist?
Well, that can be quite an array of things.
You know, someone who, if you know that someone is a terrorist
and you're watching them and they live with somebody and they
work with them and they are with them all day and they are
constantly communicating but yet you don't have the information
on them, well, it's pretty good as far as being a suspect.
But then you have other people who are further away from that
individual who might also be labeled the same way.
And that type of sweeping mentality, I think,
is very detrimental and we need to take a look at that.
This needs to be recalibrated.
Just like we're recalibrating secondary screening,
no fly lists, other types of things,
I think that that is important.
On the issue of contributions and charities, as a cot,
I can remember when I was a kid my father used to take me up to
232nd Street, Gaelic Park, a place where Irish hurling and
football is played.
And this was in the '60s and early '70s when the IRA was
engaged in all the terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland.
And there would be a lot of people outside who were trying
to collect money for the widows and orphans.
And I remember my father pulling me along, I said, dad,
let's give money to them.
And my father, who sort of was from that community,
he knew exactly who was collecting for the widows and
orphans and who were just using the widows and orphans as a ploy
to get money to go to buy weapons, hand
grenades, explosives.
We need to make sure that we as a community,
and I think this is where real obligation falls in this
community, is not to allow us to be entrapped by those who
purport to be Islamic, purport to endorse moderation,
but are using just that banner as a way to funnel funds.
It is a challenge.
And I think this is something that the government is going to
have to sort of deal with.
But I think the President has been very sort of strong in some
of his statements about the importance of allowing those
types of contributions going to those legitimate organizations
whether they be Muslim, Hindu -- yes, do you have a follow-up?
>> Assad Akhter: I just want to say that, you know,
that this first charity group, them saying that's for us as
Muslims, we don't want to be in charities or give to anybody who
is using it for irregular purposes but charities.
And what we're saying is work with us directly to, you know,
if it is not a cleared list, work with us directly so that we
know with confidence that we can invest.
The same thing in the organizations.
If there is somebody supporting terror,
we want nothing to do with them.
But we need a direct conversation to know who to work
with and who not to.
Because when you use labels like unindicted co-conspirator,
we dismiss it offhand.
And so we want to work with confidence with you directly to
know who is and where there is legitimate evidence that someone
really is or charity really is going to the wrong places and
where it is just really quite honestly, you know,
not true and where it is just quite honestly being used to
smear our community.
>> John Brennan: Well, the Department of Justice and
Treasury are trying to work -- you know,
the pendulum that swung after 9-11 it swung very
much in one direction.
It's swinging back but it does take some time.
I think it is still going there.
But I think that engagement with the community as you say is
clearly important.
Two more.
This time it is really two more.
This is the next to the last one.
>> 0mir: Hi, my name is 0mir, I'm a graduate student at
Columbia University.
A couple people brought up the issue of airport security and I
was wondering if you could elaborate a little
bit more on that.
We know for obvious reasons why religious and ethnic profiling
doesn't work in terms of maintaining the security
of our country.
But this, I am wondering what the conversation is right now in
our government about the issue of national profiling and the
new list that was introduced of countries where citizens who are
from those countries can be subjected to special screening.
I am wondering whether you really believe that
makes us safer.
Nigeria was added to the list.
Cuba is on that list.
But as we know back in 2006 more than one individual who was a
British citizen was involved in plotting against the United
States via transAtlantic airliners so why don't we
subject all British citizens to the same kind of logic.
And this is quite apart from the offense or inconvenience it may
cause to people of Muslim background or who appear Muslim
and it is also beyond the issue of just looking at names that
sound Muslim.
So I'm wondering what the conversation is in the
government about this issue and what they think will actually
make us safer.
>> [Applause] >>
John Brennan: There is an ongoing and active dialogue.
I have spoken with the Secretary,
Deputy Secretary on Homeland Security on the process that we
have underway right now as far as the review of this
list of 14 countries.
There are issues related to the secondary screening,
the mandatory secondary screening of those 14 countries
and then there is issues about adjusting the criterias,
the guidelines that is needed for the watch list or no fly
list that are related but they are distinct.
The countries that were put on there, combination of reasons.
Some that are state sponsors of terrorism.
Some because there are still outstanding requirements as far
as information sharing, as far as passenger lists,
and other types of things, or the security that exists within
airports and enhancements that need to be made.
Or countries where there is a very active terrorist presence.
Or countries where intelligence provides us insight in to where
the next Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab may come from.
And again in the overabundance of caution that,
and I remember the discussions that took place,
we recognized that there was going to be a fair amount of
pushback, and said, okay, do I mind really receiving a lot of
that criticism and those phone calls more than I mind a plane
with 300 innocents plummeting to the ground.
Because in the aftermath of Abdulmatallab, we we still were,
you know, concerned about others who might try that
same type of attack.
We enhanced security.
We enhanced the number of federal air marshals on flights.
But we have a layered defense and some actions were taken.
But I can assure you that this has been almost a daily
conversation to move very smartly and the next time we
sort of recalibrate this rheostat on which countries and
the procedures that it's done the right way,
we don't want to whipsaw people.
But a lot of times when they have these types of attacks or
attempted attacks there is going to be a reflexive action and
that's where national security will be pushed up because of the
concern about a potential near-term threat.
Let's go over here.
I haven't been down there.
Yes, sir?
Here and then the woman in the back,
and you're the last one out there.
But first we'll do the man here.
I couldn't stay just to two.
>> Josh Martin: Thanks so much.
I think first of all, I think we all really appreciate you being
here, as the first step.
And the second thing is I am -- I'm sorry,
my name is Josh Martin.
I worked for a few years with the American Society for Muslim
Advancement on the Upper Westside.
I'm also a former Israeli soldier.
And I want to give you a second chance to answer the question
about Israel.
I'm guessing a lot of people are severely feeling as I do that
other question needs a little bit of a deeper consideration.
And I think speaking for myself as well as others,
I think we come here looking -- first of all,
I think everyone is on your side.
I think everyone is a strong supporter of the new approach
that Obama has brought to the office of the Presidency,
to the Administration and to the government of the country.
And the influence that America has in the word.
And I have heard people in the Administration as well say that
the main challenge to American security and foreign
policy is the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
So it is an issue of passion.
And, you know, I think we all understands that it may be a
little bit unreasonable to expect from the American
Administration given the political winds that exist to
withdraw any kind of support from Israel,
but I think -- or at least to withdraw it in a wholesale
manner politically and ideologically.
But with that said, I mean, I think I wonder to the extent
that we can use certain tools in a practical way to get a
stronger measure of fairness and ultimately a greater chance for
resolution to the conflict by using certain tools like the
withdrawal of funds as levers on Israel to change some of its
political approaches.
So I wonder if you could speak directly to that issue and again
just to give you a second chance to express it because I think we
are all very disappointed in your first answer.
>> [Applause] >>
John Brennan: Well, I'm sorry I disappointed
you with my first answer.
I'll try again.
Clearly the Israeli/Palestinian issue is one that is at the
forefront of the President's mind.
It's one that he continues to work at and engages with both
Palestinians and Israelis to see if we can advance.
You raise the issue about using the levers that the United
States has as far as assistance or whatever to move this and I
think what you are pointing toward is our being able to use
these levers with Israel in terms of foreign assistance,
military, economic assistance, whatever else.
I've been involved in a number of different foreign policy
matters over the years including some negotiations from an
intelligence standpoint in supporting those.
And I think one of the ingredients of any successful
movement is that the parties really need to want to move and
agree to move and not be forced to move.
If they force, if they're forced to move before they believe that
they are ready, things will fall apart.
They will find other reasons or to not continue
to advance the ball.
But there is a delicate balance between being forced to move and
being impressed and encouraged to move.
And President Obama I think when he looks at these issues he's
trying to make sure that the United States can use all of its
influence, all of its power of diplomacy and might to get
parties to move close together recognizing that it is in their
national security interest to do that.
But if you push somebody to do it sometimes things collapse.
You need to bring not just one person or one party,
you need to be able to bring a body politic.
You need to bring a people forward.
So I know it's sometimes easy to think that, boy, if we just,
you know, told Israel we are going to cut its aid by 50
percent or 25 percent or something and not go forward,
all of a sudden it is just going to sort of open up and Israel is
going to say, oh, okay, sure!
Israel as some very, very legitimate security needs and
requirements and there are issues on the Arab and
Palestinian side that need to be addressed.
Appropriately so.
And so this is something that it's not just one party.
It's Israel.
It's the Palestinians.
It's the surrounding countries.
And it's also the international community.
This is a complex march.
Talk about, this is much more than that
three-dimensional chest.
This is, you know, 12-dimensional chess, mahjong,
backgammon and others.
There are so many different moves here.
And sometimes people are frustrated.
And I think the expectations again were very high with
President Obama coming in.
He has worked tirelessly to do this.
And part of our conversation yesterday was addressing this
issue, what are we going to be able to do,
because these are problems that continue to feed others.
So, you know, I'm sure that maybe my second answer was as
disappointing as my first.
But my only point is that these are complex issues that do not
lend themselves to easy solutions.
Otherwise over the past, you know,
43 years or so we would have been further along here but
that's where the perseverance really needs to come in.
Okay, the person, the woman in the back, the last question.
>> Linda Sarsour: Thank you.
My name is Linda Sarsour, I'm the Director at the Arab
American Association of New York.
And I just wanted to point out a lot of us sitting here in this
room are privileged.
We haven't seen a lot of the ramifications of the policies
that our government puts on our communities but many of us work
and are dedicating our lives to helping our communities
understand their rights and working with government agencies
that don't necessarily always want to work with us.
And you asked us to be ambassadors.
And I try to do that on a daily basis.
But I need your help to be an ambassador.
And I wanted to just give you some examples,
things that you have mentioned that really give me a hard time
to put a face to the American government or a good face to the
American government which include infiltration of mosques
which has been an issue for us in our community.
I mean, infiltration of mosques is conducted according to a
secret policy that has never been debated openly.
And as a matter of fact, at one point Congress prohibited it
when they were trying to stop domestic spying.
End seers program.
Since 2003 national organizations, both Muslim,
nonMuslim, have been trying to close this program.
The program is still open.
Our community members continue to have notices to appear.
The TSA guidelines, backlogs in immigration.
Our community members are applying for citizenship so they
can become participatory in our civic engagement and they're
waiting for four or five years because their name is on some
list somewhere that the FBI can't get to to give
them a clearance.
The horrific conditions of our immigration detention centers.
The unnecessary deaths that happen in our immigration
centers because they're run by private entities and there's no
accountability by the government.
I mean, the Patriot Act is now going to reauthorize as part of
our job creations bill with no open debate or
opportunity for amendments.
Looking at cases of Fahad Hashmi, Aafia Siddiqui,
Siraj Matin.
These are things that are happening every day in our
community and for us to be your ambassador we
need the information.
We need to know what the tactic, what's going on in the
Administration that's trying to solve some of these issues.
I personally haven't seen any of that.
I mean, I appreciate your comments.
I agree with everything that you're saying.
But we also demand trust and cooperation.
We also have an open door policy.
As you've said in many of the cases that you have seen,
we as community members, family members have come to the
government and said these are the problems that are happening,
help us, or help these people.
So the fact that we're open and our national organization are
open in denouncing terrorism, we expect for the government to
come through our front door, not through our back door.
So if you can help us be better ambassadors by providing us with
information on what the particulars are or what are the
strategies to end end seers Or to look at the TSA
guidelines, that would be really helpful for our
community members.
>> [Applause]
>> John Brennan: I think that's an appropriate
question or a series of questions to end on because I
think you brought it back to that strategic level as far as
all of these different policy areas that really need to be
addressed as a nation.
And when you said that you need to know,
in order to be good ambassadors, where we are on these issues.
I think you have hit a number of very critical ones as far as
what we want to be our policies as a nation as we go forward.
And I talked about we want to optimize national security
and civil liberties.
And saying that they are not, you know, we can do both.
Well, that's true, but there is tension there.
There is tension about what policies we're going to have at
our ports of entry as far as secondary screening,
what types of policies are we going to have at our local
community about engagement with law enforcement and what law
enforcement should be allowed to do.
What are the parameters of those activities but government that
need to be established that can ensure the protection of civil
liberties but yet still optimize and safeguard our
national security.
And these are all very appropriate.
I think now that we are nine years plus from 9-11,
this is the time that I think this country needs to take that
step back and have that public discourse.
Because these are policies and issues that really should not be
decided in the back room or in offices within the White House,
not being informed by that public debate.
This is why when I look to the Congress in their very important
role in our democracy to have that public debate and to look
at the policies that they need follow through on and enact and
not look at individual cases and second guess what happened at a
particular time, at a particular day, in a particular city.
But to look at what should those policies be that will govern
what we do as we go forward.
So I think it is critically important that we continue to
have this engagement and discussion.
We're not there yet.
We can't say that, you know, today at a snapshot in time we
had this system, you know, exactly the way we want.
This will be constantly need to be refined and needs to evolve
consistent with who we are as a people.
But keeping in mind that if you don't have security,
if you don't have that type of peace and confidence that as you
walk through the streets you're not going to be hit with a
suicide bomber, then all this other stuff, really,
can fall by the wayside because if you can't experience it,
why try to promote it.
But what we need to do is to make sure that we remember what
we are as a country and again the foundations that this
country was built on.
So I really would like to say I very much appreciate this
opportunity to talk with you here today.
This is something that I think just by your presence here
demonstrates to me that you are dedicated to doing this as a
person because you're, like me, an American who wants to ensure
that not just our security is promoted but that this dialogue
takes place and enriches each one of us.
We're not there yet.
But as long as, in my view, as long as President Obama remains
at the helm, we're going to continue to do our absolute
level best every day to ensure that people are safe and secure
and that our civil liberties are protected.
So [foreign language] and I will see you at some
future gathering.
Thank you, very much.