The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Press Conference by President Obama\http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/09/10/press-conference-president-obama
Q How long for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? Will that trial ever happen?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it needs to happen. And we’re going to work with members of Congress -- and this is going to have to be on a bipartisan basis -- to move this forward in a way that is consistent with our standards of due process, consistent with our Constitution, consistent also with our image in the world of a country that cares about rule of law. You can’t underestimate the impact of that.
Al Qaeda operatives still cite Guantanamo as a justification for attacks against the United States. Still to this day. And there’s no reason for us to give them that kind of talking point when, in fact, we can use the various mechanisms of our justice system to prosecute these folks and to make sure that they never attack us again.
Q Mr. President, you were talking about some of the al Qaeda leaders that you have captured. One that you have not is Osama bin Laden. Tomorrow is going to be nine years since he was the mastermind of 3,000 Americans being killed. And what you said -- obviously, the last administration had seven years and couldn’t do it. But what you said as President-elect to CBS is, “I think capturing or killing bin Laden is a critical aspect of stamping out al Qaeda. He is not just a symbol. He is also the operational leader of an organization planning attacks against the U.S.”
Do you still believe it’s a critical part of your policy to capture or kill him? And do you think -- isn’t it a failure of your administration that here it’s almost two years in -- you campaigned saying you were going to run a smarter war on terror than the Bush administration. You haven’t captured him and you don’t seem to know where he is.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Ed, I think capturing or killing bin Laden and Zawahiri would be extremely important to our national security. It doesn’t solve all our problems, but it remains a high priority of this administration.
One of the things that we’ve been successful at over the last two years is to ramp up the pressure on al Qaeda and their key leaders. And as a consequence, they have been holed up in ways that have made it harder for them to operate. And part of what’s happened is bin Laden has gone deep underground. Even Zawahiri, who is more often out there, has been much more cautious.
But we have the best minds, the best intelligence officers, the best special forces, who are thinking about this day and night. And they will continue to think about it day and night as long as I’m President.
Q But, sir, do you think Americans are going to face another nine years of this terror threat, another generation? What’s your message to them?
THE PRESIDENT: Here’s what I think. I think that in this day and age, there are going to be -- there is always going to be the potential for an individual or a small group of individuals, if they are willing to die, to kill other people. Some of them are going to be very well organized and some of them are going to be random. That threat is there. And it’s important, I think, for the American people to understand that, and not to live in fear. It’s just a reality of today’s world that there are going to be threats out there.
We have, I think, greatly improved our homeland security since 9/11 occurred. I am constantly impressed with the dedication that our teams apply to this problem. They are chasing down every thread not just from al Qaeda but any other actor out there that might be engaging in terrorism. They are making sure that even a -- what might appear to be a lone individual who has very little organizational capacity -- if they make a threat, they follow up.
But one of the things that I want to make sure we do as long as I’m President, and beyond my presidency, is to understand America’s strength in part comes from its resilience, and that we don't start losing who we are or overreacting if, in fact, there is the threat of terrorism out there.
We go about our business. We are tougher than them. Our families and our businesses and our churches and mosques and synagogues and our Constitution, our values, that's what gives us strength. And we are going to have this problem out there for a long time to come. But it doesn’t have to completely distort us. And it doesn’t have to dominate our foreign policy. What we can do is to constantly fight against it. And I think ultimately, we are going to be able to stamp it out. But it’s going to take some time.