United States Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin Delivers Remarks at the American University Business Law Review 2014 Symposium

By Carlin, John P. | American University Business Law Review, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

United States Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin Delivers Remarks at the American University Business Law Review 2014 Symposium


Carlin, John P., American University Business Law Review


Thank you for that kind introduction - and for inviting me here today. It's a pleasure to be back at AU, and a privilege to join so many experts, essential partners, and good friends in advancing one of the most important conversations currently facing government and private sector leaders across the country.

At the Justice Department's National Security Division, there is little we do that is more important than working on how the government can partner with private companies to protect our nation and its people better - from terrorism, from cyber-attacks, and from a range of other malicious activities.

This past December, I attended a ceremony marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which claimed the lives of 259 people on the plane and 11 on the ground. 189 were Americans. It was the deadliest act of terror against the United States prior to September 11th.

The families and friends of those who were lost came together that winter day at Arlington National Cemetery to recall the event that changed their lives forever. They spoke movingly of loved ones who had been on board that plane, many of whom were American college students flying home for the holidays.

On December 21, 1988, instead of reuniting with their companions and loved ones, they heard news reports of a catastrophic explosion and wreckage strewn over miles of the Scottish countryside. Shortly thereafter, they learned, as did the rest of the world, that terrorists were to blame.

There was a call for justice - to find the perpetrators and hold them responsible. And there was also a call for new security measures designed to stop another attack from happening.

At the ceremony last winter, former Secretary of Labor Ann McLaughlin Korologos spoke of her experience leading the seven-member Presidential Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism that was formed a few months after the attack to investigate what went wrong. Eighteen months after Lockerbie, that Commission issued a report calling for national attention to our aviation security system, and identifying a host of specific proposals intended to harden our nation's airline security and keep all Americans safe - both at airports and in the skies.

Many of these measures did not become reality. Interest faded, attention waned - and so did political and social will. Twelve years later, the horror of 9/11 changed that. It reinvigorated the focus on aviation security - and the 9/11 Commission called for many of the same security measures called for in the wake of Lockerbie. This time, almost all of them were implemented.

Today, national leaders in both government and private industry must apply the lessons we learned from unspeakable tragedies like these, and from decades of effective counterterrorism policy, to business action in cyberspace. It is imperative that we take action promptly, without waiting for a galvanizing tragedy. We can work together to change norms now- not in the wake of an immensely damaging terrorist cyber-attack. In doing so, we will have a much better chance of preventing such an attack from ever taking place.

I grew up in New York City, a place where you can experience the anonymity now enjoyed by so many on the Internet. And when I was a kid, the NYPD sent an officer to our school who told us how to conduct ourselves on the streets of New York.

Our version of Officer Friendly told us to look both ways when we crossed the street. Of course, he told us not to make eye contact with people on the street-which was pretty standard advice back then.

As a kid, that seemed to make total sense. Decades later, New York City is now one of the safest major cities on the planet. And when we look back at that advice, it seems crazy that there was a consensus of blaming the victim for making eye contact. These days, on the internet, we tell our kids to beware of chatting with individuals they don't know, to avoid certain websites or apps. …

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