Transcript: The Future of our Fight against Terrorism


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, ma'am. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Ma'am -- thank you. You should let me finish my sentence.

Today I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from Gitmo. I have asked -- (applause) -- I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions.

I am appointing a new senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen so we can review them on a case-by-case basis.

To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. Where we --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Off mic) -- released every day.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and our military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee. Now --


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Ma'am, let me -- let me finish. Let me finish, ma'am.

Now, this is part of free speech, is you being able to speak, but also you listening and me being able to speak. All right? (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)

Now, even after we take these steps, one issue will remain, which is how to deal with those Gitmo detainees who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks but who cannot be prosecuted, for example, because the evidence against them has been compromise or is inadmissible in a court of law. But once we commit to a process of closing Gitmo, I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.

And I know the politics are hard. But history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future 10 years from now or 20 years from now when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country.

Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike. I'm willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it's worth being passionate about. Is this who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children?

Our sense of justice is stronger than that. We have prosecuted scores of terrorists in our courts. That includes Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up an airplane over Detroit, and Faisal Shahzad, who put a car bomb in Times Square. It's in a court of law that we will try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of bombing the Boston Marathon.

Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, is as we speak serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison here in the United States. In sentencing Reid, Judge William Young told him, "the way we treat you is the measure of our own liberty."

When --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: How about Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, 16-year-old -- (inaudible) --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- when we --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: -- killed by you?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- we went --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Is that the way we treat a 16-year-old -- (inaudible)?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: He -- he -- he went on to --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Why was he killed?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- we went --

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