United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions was the keynote speaker at a special joint session hosted by the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ) in Valletta, Malta. In addition to the remarks of Attorney General Sessions, Maltese Minister of Justice Owen Bonnici and Maltese Minister of Home Affairs and National Security Michael Farrugia provided welcoming remarks and EU CT Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove provided keynote remarks on behalf of the European Union. Senior guests from the EU attending the joint session included EU Commissioner Sir Julian King, Maltese Attorney General Peter Grech, Estonian Ministers Andres Anvelt and Urmas Reinsalu, and EUROPOL Director Rob Wainwright. From the United States, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, Assistant Attorney General Dana Boente, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz, Counselor to the United States Attorney General Rachel Tucker, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Conrad Tribble attended. The IIJ was also pleased to welcome the Ambassadors of Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, and the United States, and the High Commissioners from the United Kingdom and Australia. The joint session was held in connection with the EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting, which was held the following day in Valletta. We were pleased that the Estonian Ministers were able to attend as Malta’s six-month EU Presidency passes to Estonia at the end of June.
The special joint session was part of a larger IIJ program, supported by the United States, held at the IIJ in Malta on 14-16 June, entitled “Beyond FTFs: Disrupting and Prosecuting Plots Directed or Inspired by ISIS and Other Terrorist Organizations.” The program focused on the increasing efforts of ISIS and other terrorist organizations, as they lose territory on the battlefield, to employ external operations arms to:
(i) remotely direct attacks outside the conflict zones, including in some cases guiding the scope and means of these attacks, recruiting and facilitating would-be attackers, and exchanging messages up until the point of attack; and
(ii) use violent extremist propaganda to inspire so-called “home-grown” terrorists to launch local attacks. This three-day program brought together forty-five prosecutors, investigators and other criminal justice officials from Algeria, Australia, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lebanon, Malta, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Niger, the Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, along with five regional and international organizations, to discuss the challenges presented by these directed and/or inspired attacks.
The program included expert briefings on the current threat picture, evolving ISIS propaganda and use of social media, and the technology used to evade detection. Then, through a series of case studies presented by participants from across Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa, the practitioners identified and shared opportunities for investigating and prosecuting local and remote operatives, including a focus on developing evidence from intelligence and international cooperation.