The top brass of the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) was on hand Tuesday for a 9/11 remembrance vigil at the main DOJ building in Washington, DC.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered an address with DOJ number two, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and number three, Acting Associate Attorney General Panuccio, by his side.
“The magnitude of this evil was overwhelming. And it is still overwhelming to think about,” Sessions told reporters and his DOJ employees of the epoch-defining terror attacks 17 years ago to the hour.
“Nineteen terrorists infiltrated our borders and targeted innocent people for death. But hundreds of Americans worked together to save lives,” the attorney general’s prepared remarks continued.
“I was across the street at the Supreme Court that morning, attending the annual judicial conference as I will again this Thursday morning. Those Flight 93 heroes may well have saved our lives,” Sessions said of his own experience on September 11, 2001, adding later, “Some of you here this morning were here on 9/11, too. You participated firsthand. We are grateful for the work that you did in the difficult days that followed.”
DOJ itself underwent significant changes as a result of 9/11, with the Department of Homeland Security taking on many of the functions, like the Border Patrol and primary interior immigration enforcement. Meanwhile, DOJ created a National Security Division and shifted significant resources at agencies like the FBI to counterterrorism from more traditional law enforcement aims.
“I am exceedingly proud of the relentless and effective work of our National Security Division and the entire Department of Justice. Since 9/11, this Department has secured the convictions of over 580 defendants for terrorism or terrorism-related charges,” Sessions said, touting the arrest of “160 foreign fighters, homegrown violent extremists, and ISIS supporters” over the last five years.
“We must be vigilant. The terrorists are still targeting us. Some seek to infiltrate this country. Others plot from afar. They all want to intimidate us and control us. They reject our culture—our free speech, our freedom of religion, and our democratic republic,” Sessions said of the ongoing threat 17 years after the events of 9/11. “They seek acquiescence and inaction. But we will meet them with resolve. They seek to impose on us their speech codes, their religion, and their ideology. But they will fail.”