the Pensacola Naval Air Station Shootings
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text
version below transcribed directly from audio]
Good afternoon, and -- and thank you for coming.
We are here to discuss the results of the
the December 6th shooting at
Pensacola Naval Airbase -- Air Station.
Joining me today are David Bowdich, who is the
Deputy Director of the FBI; Rachel Rojas, who is the Special Agent in Charge of
the Jacksonville [FBI] Field Office; John Demers, the Assistant Attorney General
of the National Security Division; Larry Keefe, U.S. Attorney for the Northern
District of Florida; and Mike Sherwin, who was a National Security prosecutor in
Miami but is currently serving in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General.
I want to thank the FBI and the other federal,
state, and local law enforcement agencies that were involved in responding to
and in investigating this incident. I want to thank them for their rapid and
excellent work. Many people worked long hours through the holidays, and I'm
grateful for their -- for their diligence and their commitment in seeing it
through. And you'll be hearing from the Deputy shortly about the details of the
Bureau's investigation, which was truly superb.
In considering this case, we have to remember that
there are thousands of allied pilots and other military personnel who receive
training on military bases throughout the United States. These military
partnerships are critically important to our country. The
Royal Saudi Air Force, which flies
American-made aircraft, is an important military partner, and has long had a
training relationship with the United States.
On Dec. 6, 2nd Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed
Alshamrani, a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force, entered a building on [the]
grounds of the Pensacola Naval Air Station and killed three U.S. sailors and
severely wounded eight other Americans. He was killed during the attack.
This was an act of terrorism.
The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated
jihadist ideology. During the course of the investigation, we learned
that the shooter posted a message on September 11th of this year stating: “the
countdown has begun.” During the Thanksgiving weekend, he then visited the
9/11 Memorial in New York City. He also posted
other anti-American, anti-Israeli, and jihadi messages on social media,
including two hours before his attack.
Early reports indicated that the shooter arrived
at the site, accompanied by other Saudi cadets, who took video during the
attack. These reports turned out not to be accurate. The shooter arrived by
himself. The other Saudi cadets happened to be in the area and, after the attack
began, they took some videos of the resulting commotion around the building.
They fully cooperated in the investigation, as did all other Saudi cadets who
were interviewed by the FBI at the base [Pensacola Air Station] and in other
bases around the country.
After Alshamrani entered the building and cased
the facility, he proceeded to walk around shooting down his unarmed victims in
During and after this heinous attack, there were
many specific acts of courage, and I want to draw special attention to two U.S.
were outside the building when they heard the gunfire and, although unarmed,
they ran into the building to confront the shooter. Their only weapon was a fire
extinguisher that they'd pulled off the wall as they ran toward the gunfire.
Although they were unable to engage the shooter, they helped save many lives by
performing CPR and other urgent medical aid to the victims.
I would also like to mention the heroic acts of:
The shooter shot Airman Blackwell five times, yet he managed to jump on top of a
fellow sailor to keep her from being shot; and then assisted other students and
helped them escape, all while taking fire from the shooter. Ryan Blackwell's
heroic acts saved countless lives that day.
And we're grateful to the -- for the bravery of
the base personnel and the local law enforcement responders who initially
arrived at the scene and engaged the shooter.
I would also like to address the cooperation of
the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave complete and
total support to our counter-terrorism investigation. They ordered all Saudi
trainees to fully cooperate. This assistance was critical to helping the FBI
determine whether anyone assisted the shooter in these attacks.
While there is no evidence of assistance or
pre-knowledge of the attack by other members of the Saudi military (or any other
foreign nationals) who were training in the United States, we did learn of
derogatory material possessed by 21 members of the Saudi military who were
training in the United States.
Seventeen had social media containing some
jihadi or anti-American content. However, there was no evidence of any
affiliation or involvement with any terrorist activity or group. Fifteen
individuals (including some of the 17 I just mentioned, so there is overlap) had
some kind of contact with child pornography. While one of these individuals had
a significant number of such images, all the rest had one or two images, in most
cases posted in a chat room by some other person or received over social media.
The relevant U.S. Attorneys offices independently
reviewed each of the 21 cases involving derogatory information and determined
that none of them would, in the normal course, result in federal prosecution.
However, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia determined
that this material demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer in the Saudi Royal
Air Force and Royal Navy and the 21 cadets have been dis-enrolled from their
training curriculum in the U.S. military and will be returning to Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom has assured me that it will review
each of these cases under their code of military justice and their criminal
code. The Kingdom has also agreed that we will have full access to anyone we
want to interview in Saudi Arabia and any documents relevant to our
investigation. Indeed, they have already been providing documents. Further, the
Kingdom has assured us that, if we later decide to charge any of those being
sent back to Saudi Arabia in connection with this counterterrorism
investigation, they will be returned for trial.
We appreciate the Kingdom's cooperation in this
Finally, I want to address an issue regarding the
shooter's phones. The shooter possessed two Apple iPhones, seen on -- on the
posters. Within one day of the shooting, the FBI sought and received court
authorization based on probable cause to search both phones in an effort to run
down all leads and figure out with whom the shooter had been communicating.
During the gunfight with the first responders, the
shooter disengaged long enough to place one of his phones on the floor and shoot
a single round into the device. It also appears the other phone was damaged.
Our experts at the FBI crime lab were able to fix
both damaged phones so that they are operational. However, both phones are
engineered to make it virtually impossible to unlock [them] without the
password. It is very important for us to know with whom and about what the
shooter was communicating before he died.
We have asked Apple for their help in unlocking
the shooter’s phones. So far Apple has not given any substantive assistance.1
This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able
to get access to digital evidence once it has obtained a court order based on
We call on Apple and other technology companies to
help us find a solution so that we can better protect the -- the lives of the
American people and prevent future attacks.
Apple's Response to Attorney General
Barr's "substantive assistance" pleading
The as prepared for delivery transcript reads:
"This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that
investigators be able to get access to digital evidence once
they have obtained a court order based on probable cause.
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