William Barr

Report on the Pensacola Naval Air Station Shootings

delivered 13 January 2020


[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 investigation into 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 by 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 cold blood.

During and after this heinous attack, there were many specific acts of courage, and I want to draw special attention to two U.S. Marines:

Gunnery Sergeant Ryan Maisel and
Staff Sergeant Samuel Mullins.

They 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:

Navy Airman Ryan Blackwell.

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 later today.

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 case.


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 probable cause.2

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.

1 See also: Apple's Response to Attorney General Barr's "substantive assistance" pleading

2 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. [emphasis added]

Original Text and Images Source: Justice.gov

Page Updated: 1/16/20

U.S. Copyright Status: This text = Property of AmericanRhetoric.com. Images = Public domain.
































Top 100 American Speeches

Online Speech Bank

Movie Speeches

© Copyright 2001-Present. 
American Rhetoric.
HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.