What Obama said in Oval Office address on terrorism

President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Sunday night, Dec. 6, 2016. The president announced no significant shift in U.S. strategy and offered no new policy prescriptions for defeating the Islamic State, underscoring both his confidence in his current approach and the lack of easy options for countering the extremist group. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

President Barack Obama sought to assure the nation that the U.S. is doing everything possible to protect Americans from terrorism and to defeat the Islamic State group following the attacks in Paris and California. A look at what Obama said in his 13-minute Oval Office address.


Obama said that while the U.S. has been fighting terrorism since 9/11, the threat has “evolved into a new phase.” He said terrorists have turned to simpler acts of violence like mass shootings that are in some cases harder to thwart. He called for Congress to tighten America’s visa-waiver program and to pass a new authorization for military actions he’s using against IS in Iraq and Syria. Congress has been unable to coalesce behind any plan to authorize force against IS, and the administration’s proposal has languished since February


Obama said that while investigators are still learning details, it was clear the two killers in San Bernardino had gone down the “dark path of radicalization.” He called the shootings an “act of terrorism,” but said there was no evidence the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas or part of a broader network in the U.S.


Obama said the U.S. and its coalition partners are stepping up the fight against IS, pointing to new support from Britain and Germany. He said the U.S. had increased bombings of IS oil infrastructure, added special operations forces in Iraq and Syria, expanded intelligence-sharing with allies and moved to cut off IS financing. But Obama reiterated his objection to putting a large-scale U.S. force on the ground in Iraq or Syria.


Obama called on the American Muslim community to be a partner in the fight against radical Islam. He said Muslims can send credible, effective counter messages and undermine jihadist propaganda.

But Obama also warned against discrimination or security or proposals that treat Muslim-Americans differently, warning that would play into the hands of IS. He said, “When we travel down that road, we lose.”


The president repeated his call for stricter gun laws, arguing the U.S. must make it harder for would-be mass shooters to get the guns they use to kill. Specifically, he called on Congress to prohibit people on the no-fly list from buying guns. Gun-rights advocates say that violates the rights of people who haven’t been convicted of a crime.

Obama also urged a ban on assault weapons.

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