This past week Americans from across the nation joined together to mark the eleventh anniversary of the horrific September 11th attacks on our nation. Nearly 3,000 innocent lives were lost in moments of flagrant injustice and mass destruction that day. While Americans here at home spent this somber anniversary reflecting on the tragedy, anti-American violence was spreading abroad.
Half a world away, radical extremists were growing in number outside the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and the U.S. Consulate in Libya and it would not be long before these protestors would storm our compounds. In Cairo, demonstrators scaled the wall surrounding our embassy and desecrated the American flag.
Shortly thereafter, gunmen stormed the grounds of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and began firing automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades. The American staff on the ground in Benghazi endured two separate attacks which consisted of a four and half hour fire fight with the main building on the grounds being set ablaze. Only later would we learn that this brutal attack resulted in the murder of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American officials.
Following these attacks, hundreds of protestors descended on the American Embassy in Yemen, bringing down the American flag, burning it and replacing it with an Islamist banner. Radical protestors have also gathered outside American interests in Sudan, Tunisia, and Morocco, resulting in heightened security at all of our embassies and offices abroad.
These senseless attacks on Americans in the Middle East and North Africa are a stark reminder that actions by extremists continue to threaten our values of freedom and liberty. It shows that terrorism is not limited to any location, population or way of life and that these people, who have so little regard for human life, must be hunted down and brought to justice no matter where they are in the world. The perpetrators of terrorism know no boundaries--their hatred supercedes national borders, and their targets are far-reaching.
Today we face a unique set of national security challenges as a nation. Working to anticipate the diverse nature of potential security threats is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. It is imperative that the U.S. not slip back into a false sense of security. The characteristics of American society that make us the envy of the world - our freedom and openness - also make us vulnerable to horrible acts of terrorism. But let me be clear acts of terrorism against America will not be tolerated. We are determined to defend American citizens and American values by securing our country and our interests abroad against our enemies and the threats they pose. And we are determined to preserve and protect the freedoms that Americans cherish.