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Background Conference Call by Senior Administration Officials Previewing the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism

February 16, 2015

Via Telephone

2:04 P.M. EST

MR. PRICE: Thanks so much, everyone, for joining this background call. This is Ned Price from the National Security Council. As the CVE Summit approaches we wanted to offer to you a preview of what to expect over the next several days. To do so, we have four speakers on today's call. A bit about ground rules. This call will be on background. You can attribute what you hear to senior administration officials. We will offer some opening remarks -- a couple of our senior administration officials will -- at which point we'll turn it over to your questions.

And just a reminder, this call is on background with senior administration officials, and there's no embargo.

With that, I will turn it over to senior administration official number one.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for taking part in today's preview call. We have been hard at work putting together a very full and exciting upcoming three days of a summit on CVE. And I know many of you are going to be covering the Summit, so we are happy to give you a sense of what to expect and where we're going. I'll try to keep these remarks brief so that we can go to questions quickly.

Before we dig into the agenda itself, I want to give you a few minutes on why we're holding the summit. Countering violent extremism, or what we call CVE, is something that the administration has prioritized for quite some time. We think it is one incredibly important element of our counterterrorism and national security toolkit. Obviously the summit took on added attention in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, but the issue of CVE is one in which we've invested for quite some time.

In fact, as you approach the summit, if you're looking for more background on what we're doing here as the federal government, I suggest that you read out National Strategy, which was issued back in 2011, called, Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. If you give that a read, you'll see that our CVE efforts are premised on the central goal of preventing violent extremism and the extremists themselves and their supporters from inspiring, radicalizing, financing or recruiting individuals or groups in the United States from committing acts of violence.

Our approach empowers communities to push back against violent extremists. Really at the core of our approach is that the government does not have all the answers in combatting violent extremism. It is, at its core, a bottom-up approach. It puts communities with civic leaders, with religious authorities, with community power brokers, teachers, health providers, et cetera, in the driver's seat. They know their citizens best. They are the first line of defense to prevent or counter radicalizing forces that can ultimately lead to violence. And so our approach is to really embrace and empower what local communities can do. So we've been working with our federal partners and our local partners to put in place this approach over the past couple of years.

This past fall, you saw the President issue a call to action at the General Assembly at the United Nations for all countries to do more to address violent extremism. Out of that session came the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2178, which requires all states to take concrete steps to address the foreign terrorist fighter challenge, and in this context, encourages them to develop more community-oriented approaches to countering violent extremism. We believe if you look at the whole life cycle of persons who radicalize and fight that you can't ignore CVE, that CVE needs to be an important piece of the equation.

So with that backdrop, let me give you a few minutes on the first two days of the Summit, and then I'm going to turn it over to one of my colleagues to talk about the final day.

Day one of the Summit is starting tomorrow. It's focused primarily on our domestic CVE program. You might know, last year, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, together with some of our other federal partners, launched CVE pilot programs in three cities -- Boston, the Twin Cities, and the Greater Los Angeles Metro Area. Representatives from those three programs will be here to speak about their best practices, to talk about what's working, what's not working, and to share ideas with one another and with some of their international counterparts.

The Vice President is going to take part in a moderated discussion, and that will start out our day, and will give people sort of a frame of reference from his work in the Senate and around the world.

On Wednesday, the agenda is going to focus on our domestic efforts. Each of the cities will have an opportunity to do a presentation on what they've learned to date. But it's going to be much broader. We're going to be looking to voices from the private sector to voices from cities around the world, from NGOs and others who will all kind of bring a piece of the solution to the table.

Wednesday's agenda is really the comprehensive "whole of nation" approach that we're applying to the challenge. Again, this is not about government, especially the federal government. The federal government doesn't have all the answers. This is about building a comprehensive network to fight back against violent extremism. And we are explicitly recognizing the role that civil society plays, the private sector plays, and that families, et cetera, can play in countering violent extremism.

During Wednesday's agenda, we will have remarks by the President; by the Secretary of Homeland Security; by Lisa Monaco, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, in addition to the presentations from the three cities, from around the world, and from some private sector partners.

So now I'm going to turn it over to one of my colleagues who will offer details on the final day, which will take place at the State Department and will include a broad range of government and civil society actors from around the world.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. The 19th is a different focus in the sense that it is from the ministerial level. And one of the interesting elements of this day is the individual participating delegations have chosen, in some cases, to provide foreign ministers; in other cases, to provide interior ministers and other officials. And so it's an interesting gathering of participants from delegations.

The meeting itself is going to include over 60 countries' representatives, as well as the High Representative and Vice President of the European Union, the U.N. Secretary-General, and senior officials from regional organizations and other multinational bodies, as well as representatives from the private sector from civil society.

So it's a very full day with three ways of broadening the approach to countering violent extremism. I think one is the multi-stakeholder component that I just referred to in terms of the range of participants. Two is the very broad scope of activities to look at some of the mainstream tools in foreign policy including development and bringing that wider repertoire of tools to address ways of countering of existing violent extremist sets but also looking ahead to prevent -- and it's that that third element, the proactive affirmative preventive lens that we'll be broadening and exploring in the course of the day.

The agenda itself will begins with Secretary of State Kerry outlining the action agenda and moderating the third section which is about getting senior-level perspective on the changing threats of violent extremism, which comes in many forms. President Obama will be delivering remarks at 10:30 a.m., and that will be followed by a panel that focuses on economic opportunities to include expanding professional training for youth, as well as how the private sector can be engaged in a wealth of activities related to countering and preventing violent extremism.

The third session focuses on weakening the legitimacy and the resonance of the brand of violent extremism. So that will include a panel on strategic communications, social media. It will include a discussion of how non-violent religious issues and education can be elevated as a matter of international and local-level concern. And it will look at best practices with regard to rehabilitating and reintegrating violent extremists.

The final panel will focus on secure and resilient communities, and it will, in particular, begin by looking at the role of civil society, particularly youth and women preventing violent extremism. It will look at community-police relations and community-security force relations as a critical element of prevention. And it will finally broaden that conversation to address social, economic and political marginalization, including the effects of integration of minority communities.

The event will close with remarks by National Security Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice. And so the overall focus of this meeting is building on President Obama's call to action at the 2014 General Assembly session, moving out a seven-month action plan with a very specific set of both regional and local summits and specific schematic lines of work that will continue over the next seven months until a second meeting at the margins of the 2016 UNGA in which leaders will come together to reflect on their progress to date and make commitments going forward.

So it's a very full and very ambitious agenda to expand and deepen our global coalition to counter and prevent violent extremism. And I should just add parenthetically, there will be a shorter subset ministerial-level meeting on the 18th to look more specifically at the foreign terrorist fighter element. But the 19th will also be followed by a separate and independently led series of seminars by private sector actors, specifically civil society organizations, who will be holding open events to look at some of the particular stream of effort that we are hoping will also be joined by governments within that seven months, for example, analysis that will deepen and localize our understanding of violent extremism drivers, or how moderate, mainstream religious voices can be amplified.

So it is a very rich agenda that complements very much the first day featuring civil society and local activities with the more ministerial-level focus session. And hopefully it will tie together. Thank you.

Q: Thank you very much. While you've been planning the Summit and are looking forward to an action plan that will be then revisited at the U.N. in September, what we've seen just today is the execution of Coptic Christians in Libya coming on the heels of what happened in Copenhagen. And you've got the Egyptian Foreign Minister flying here today -- he'll be participating. The Jordanians participating after their pilot was burned alive. Isn't there a more urgent action plan that's needed against the terrorists in IS, or ISIS, or ISIL, right now for these countries?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, to be clear, countering violent extremism is only one element of all of the different tools that we're bringing against terrorists, and specifically groups like ISIL. Part of the event that that was referred to in these three days is a focus on how do we share information, how do we make sure that all governments know those who may cause harm, what action can we take. So this particular piece on countering violent extremism is lifting up a part that hasn't received a lot of attention, where we think there's a lot more room for government to act and for civil society to play a role. But again, this is one piece of a much broader strategy.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And if I can just add -- the counter-Daesh movement is extremely well organized and underway. And, of course, there is only ongoing urgency as we see horrific acts of terrorism committed in different contexts around the globe. But that is very much underway. And what we're talking about in terms of the activities for this Summit is a complement to, not a replacement of, existing efforts to counter ISIL.

Q: Hi, thanks very much. One clarification. Is it correct that the President will be speaking twice during the Summit, on Wednesday and Thursday? And secondly, do you expect to unveil any new policies in the next three days?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So it is accurate that the President will be speaking twice. On the first day -- he'll be speaking on Wednesday to the group that's convened here at the White House, and that's going to be a combination of state and local folks, as well as some private industry folks, some foundation folks -- sort of the group of people that we think either can be called to act or are already acting.

He will then be giving remarks at the ministerial. And the ministerial is really focused, as was discussed earlier, on the role of government in enabling the CVE effort, and particularly enabling civil society to act. So these are very different audiences but important elements of the solution.

In terms of policies moving forward, we do expect that there will be a number of things that will be rolled out over the course of the three days. And so, stay tuned.

Q: Hey, guys. Thanks very much for doing the call. I appreciate it. Sort of piggybacking on what Andrea had asked, given everything that's going on in the world right now that seems to be connected to violent extremism, are there ways in which you think the efforts that you're making here would have helped to prevent or to deal with the situations in Denmark, in Egypt, the Jordanian pilot and Paris, and all of that? Connect the dots between if we do these things better that we're going to be talking about over these three days, then will we see less of this?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, ultimately, we hope that the answer is yes. But I think we need to be realistic that this is a long-term investment; that this is a comprehensive effort that we're undertaking to get people to be educated about the problems, to be aware about the issues, to figure out what role they can play. And so, ultimately, we hope to get to a place where we just have much greater resilience and greater action across communities. But that is not something we're going to see tomorrow. That's an investment that needs to be made on many different levels.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And just to add to that briefly, I think when one is able to identify vulnerable communities and those who are vulnerable to recruitment and specific radicalization, or even to align with the terrorists' goals, you are going to be having an impact on the kinds of activities that we've seen. And so there is -- a direct relationship is not necessarily an immediate relationship. But ultimately, there's a huge element that revolves around individual and communal motivation that has to be addressed through a comprehensive approach and one that involves a host of both affirmative and inclusive activities, as well as the full complement of law enforcement and prevention activities that we've been honing over the years.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And if I could add -- it's worth noting that both tomorrow and Wednesday are going to be focused -- although not exclusively -- but they're going to be primarily focused on our domestic efforts, which have been going on for several years now. And this is really a moment to rededicate ourselves to efforts that really reach out to communities, and build that confidence that they need to have so that they feel comfortable working with authorities, both to prevent radicalization and also, when necessary, to intervene.

And I'll give you one example that I think is fairly well-known, but I think goes directly to the question, which, in the Minneapolis area, something like 20 Somali-Americans actually traveled, really radicalized by al-Shabaab. And there's a very strong effort that's been going on for years, led by the U.S. Attorney's Office and DHS, to really reach out to that community to try to blunt the recruitment efforts that are going on there.

Q: Hey, thanks very much for the call. I was just curious about a couple of things. One is, I just wondered if there's going to be a cyber component to this week in that ISIS seems to be very effective in spreading its message. There's the videos of the beheadings, and so forth. And I'm just curious if the administration is looking at ways to try to disrupt that or disable their capabilities of spreading their message through social media.

And then the second thing is, just curious -- you just mentioned the Somalis in Minneapolis. It doesn't seem as if the U.S. has the same kind of problem that we're seeing in Denmark and in Paris with radicalized Islamist extremists. And I'm just curious if that's something that you're seeing as well, that's it's really more of a problem that's acute in Western Europe. Thanks a lot.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can start with the first prong of that question. Our session is looking at strategic communications, including social media, is where issues of cyber will be addressed. And there, as you know, are ongoing processes within the United States government on a bilateral and multilateral basis to discuss these issues as well. But we'll be incorporating that into session three on the 19th.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And to be clear, the social media piece is one that we all recognize as being a key component. The White House summit on the 18th, where we have the range of community actors, there will be presentations by some of the social media partners on what works, what doesn't work, and to basically teach them how our community groups can better use social media.

One of our key outcomes is to make sure that those who have something to say to counter the narrative of folks like ISIL is that they know how to do so strategically, smartly, and in a sophisticated way. And we don't see that as a role for government to play, but this is where government can convene players and empower them to more effectively communicate their message.

Just really quickly on the question of extremism in the United States. Certainly there is -- and we remain particularly concerned about the possibility of groups like ISIL recruiting Americans to fight. But, at the same time, the message at the White House and the agenda itself is not entirely focused on ISIL itself. ISIL is the near-term threat that we all are focused on, but we also recognize in the United States there has been violent extremists that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and so the agenda for all three days is going to show a wide array of speakers and participants from all backgrounds who combat radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism in its many forms.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Finally, I would just throw in that part of building community resilience is making sure that the communities that are being targeted by some of the social media effort are even aware of what's going on. You have a generational divide sometimes where you have younger people who are very facile with social media, but their parents and community leaders may not be. So something that's going on all around the country -- in the three pilot programs that got mentioned earlier, but also in other cities, really, nationwide -- is a really strong effort to get out there and just educate communities on the way that social media works and how young people in particular may be accessing messaging from literally all around the world.

Q: Hi, thanks for having this call. I've got one logistical question and then two sort of context questions. The first logistical question is, could you explain the difference between day one and day two, in which you're focusing on domestic CVE programs? And then the context question are two -- one is, you've been using the term "vulnerable community," and there are those who say using that term stigmatizes Muslims. How do you respond to that? And the second question I have has to do with the fact that it's spearheaded by DOJ, and how do you get around having the same problem that they had in the U.K. with the Prevent and Channel Programme, in which outreach might bleed into intelligence-gathering?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: A couple of things. One is, just on logistics, day one is all domestic-focused -- that is to bring the partners who have been key to our efforts in the pilot cities around the table to get them to identify what has been working as they've been working through their pilot program, and what's not working; to lay out some best practices that can be shared with governments across the United States, as well as with governments around the world. And so day one is going to have a lot of just roll up your sleeves and do hard work and share the information.

Day two is much more public-facing. And day two is going to have our community leaders from the three cities, as well as community leaders from around the world, and then pulling in presentations by some of the social media folks, by some foundation folks, by those from academics. So it's much broader in its focus.

And then, day three, as we said, is focused on government action around the world.

In terms of the phrase "vulnerable community," I think one is that we want to be clear that the evidence doesn't show that there's any particular community, there's no profile that we can point to say this person is from this community, is going to be radicalized to violence. And I think you probably know that as much as anyone. So what we're really looking to is how do we find those who are susceptible to recruitment to violence. And I think it would be wrong for us to say that there is any one stereotype that's going to fit here, and I think that we make a mistake as a government if we focus on stereotypes.

And so what we're trying to do here is to bring some evidence to the table and allow people to make a more informed decision about how they engage, and prevent and intervene before someone is radicalized to violence.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would also add, while Justice plays a key role in working with DHS and others on this program, it's not only a Justice program. It's really an effort to help communities devise strategies to better understand this phenomenon and ask communities to address this. So it's not Justice, but it's a whole-of-government approach.

Q: My phone call was delayed, so I missed the first part of the conversation. I would appreciate it if you could repeat the agenda for the first two days.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll have a transcript of this call after the fact, so I'd refer you to that. Do you have any additional questions?

Q: Yes, it's one question. If you can repeat the agenda for the first two days. That's it.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll release a transcript of this call after the fact.

Q: This comes at a time when there's wrangling on Capitol Hill about DHS funding, and we have the President speaking twice, as well as the Secretary of the Department. Is this something that will come up at the summit? Is this a platform that you'll use to make the case about DHS funding but not on the agenda?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The short answer is no. This is a non-partisan issue where we think there is a good opportunity for Democrats and Republicans alike to bring their work to the table. But DHS is an important player and has been a strong partner in these efforts both in countering violent extremism but also in the foreign terrorist fighter information-sharing realm. And so having a fully funded DHS is absolutely integral to protecting the United States.

Q: Couple questions on the social media component. You said this is going to be a panel of strategic communications and social media. Can you tell us who will be participating in that, and which social media firms will be making the presentations on the next day? And then, also, if you could just address the issue of the role of social media firms in policing their networks, and whether there are more aggressive steps that they can be taking to curb some of these incitements that appear on them?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. I can tell you session three, the goal there is to highlight the effective techniques and strategies to counter violent extremism, and the violent extremist narrative, including online spaces, and how to effectively and rapidly scale up effective models and assess their effectiveness. So the speakers there will include the Home Secretary of the U.K.; the Minister of States and Foreign Affairs from the UAE; an entrepreneur and graphic artist from Jordan. And there will be interventions from the Deputy Prime Minister of Defense of Kuwait, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, and a religious scholar from Syria. The two firms that will have interventions that are represented are the executive editor of Rappler in the Philippines and Google Ideas in the U.S.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So on the White House, we have a number of other -- in addition to Google Ideas, we'll have some other major social media partners. But I think the key here is that our goal, our objective here is to enable private communities, community leaders to provide counter-speech to more sophisticatedly present their message. And so the focus is not on the government policing the speech. The focus is on bringing communities into the dialogue, empowering them to engage with the social media companies in what we think will be very productive and exciting ways.

Q: Fighting terrorism is also one component in fighting the ideas that make it attractive to young people and (inaudible) to join an organization like ISIS or al Qaeda. And I'm just wondering what you hope to get from the Arab foreign ministers who are speaking in this summit, especially that they are really seen in the eyes of many of the young people in the Middle East that they don't represent a kind of legitimate government. So how does this one work?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think one of the issues that we will be discussing as a group of government representatives concerned about violent extremism across the globe is the role of socioeconomic exclusion but also political inclusion of youth in general. And so I think that these questions will be very much part of the last session that we touch on, on the 19th.

Q: Is there a more -- a fuller list of all the foreign countries who will be participating? And is there an agenda somewhere for the summit online?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We do have that information. I am struggling to recall exactly what our plan is on releasing it. Is there anyone who can help me with that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. I expect we'll have more information over the course of the week. If I recall, on Thursday we'll have more information on the ministerial participants. And then I expect tomorrow we'll have more information on the White House agenda.

Q: I wanted to ask whether we can report that there are any policies that the President will, or the administration will roll out as part of this three-day summit, whether this will be some executive orders or any legislation? Whether there's going to be partnerships with the countries that may be announced? And finally, since it's three days, whether we should look for other events on the sidelines that maybe aren't part of the official agenda but that are involved in organizing that would be going on anyway? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So as I said earlier, there are a number of deliverables that we intend to roll out over the next few days. But the number-one takeaway here is that this is not just a couple of days to talk about the issue. We think that it's obviously good to start with conversation, but really we want to move to action. And so what we're doing is building up and highlighting a lot of the action that's ongoing, with the hope that it gets multiplied and that we see a development of a full body of work, particularly as we get towards the anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And if I could just add, there will be planning to release the communique coming out of the Summit, the ministerial-level meeting level on the 19th, that will outline both the concerns and the main topics that were discussed by the multi-stakeholder conversation there, but also a series of commitments by governments and others for work in at least about eight areas moving forward that will be accompanied not only through regional summits that are developed specifically for that work agenda, but also will be incorporated into ongoing efforts that happen at a variety of those regional and international contexts that will be adapting their work stream to accommodate the goals coming out of this ministerial and leading to UNGA in September.

Q: How are you planning on turning the ministerial into something more than a lot of foreign and interior ministers patting themselves on the back about how they succeeded in reducing violent extremism in their respective countries? And just a second part of that, given the involvement of 60 nations and the diverse array of extremist ideologies that crop up throughout those areas, how do you expect to produce a coherent takeaway?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the best way to answer that question is to describe at least the ministerial portion as a catalyst rather than an end in itself. I think that the President -- his statements at the last General Assembly were a call to action. This is essentially a check-in on how we understand the issues and an opportunity to identify best practices and what we see as the major challenges and opportunities by bringing a broader array of stakeholders into that conversation, particularly as we've made (inaudible) civil society but also private sector, foundations, academia and others, and to together collectively outline a series of essentially work goals that we have as a community of concern about violent extremism.

And so it is the flow of work that is catalyzed by the ministerial in the Summit that is what is most important. And so I think the real work and the exciting opportunities to learn from one another will continue well beyond this event. And hopefully, we'll be able to assess and see our progress in September on the margins of UNGA, and then have a sense of really what this, as a catalyst activity, has been able to motivate.

Q: My understanding is that you are expecting a lot of regional summits after this summit. Can you give some idea of what kind of work goals as you define it --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, we will be expecting a series of regional summits to flow from the discussion and then be captured in the communiqué that would be released at the end of the event. It would be premature to speak to those at this point. But I can tell you that the kind of work stream that envision being very important coming out of the conversations would predictably link somewhat to the agenda that we laid out earlier in terms of everything from how to better analyze the kinds of interventions that are effective vis-à-vis youth and empowering women, the kinds of local understanding of factors that contribute to extremism and making that be a more cohesive and in-depth research agenda to inform efforts.

The broad range all the way from messaging to economic empowerment -- those are the kind of areas that I suspect we will see as the specific work streams identified from the ministerial session.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And to add to that, we'll expect the regional summits around the United States as well. But the bottom line, the reason why the regional summits are so important is the recognition that this not a one-size-fits-all policy, and that if we're just going to push out one model from that top, that it won't be effective. What we're really looking for is communities to take the lessons to heart and to build ways that prevent and intervene before individuals radicalize violence. And the only way to do that is to take it right down to the grassroots and make it applicable to the communities that are affected directly.

Q: I just wanted to go back to the domestic programs. I know that there is some kind of infrastructure in place in the Minneapolis area because of their Somali population and they have programs that they feel have been affected. But why Boston and LA? And is anything there up and running yet? And sort of what is the expectation for these programs in terms of a timeline?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, in each of the cities, the three cities were chosen because, frankly, of the strength of the existing community outreach programs and the desire to sort of push them forward as examples for the rest of the country really do extend beyond community policing, but also reaching out for social service providers. Those programs are actually up and running. What I think we're going to be doing both tomorrow and Wednesday is having those three pilots, which have made so much progress, sort of present what they've discovered and lessons learned. So that's where we stand on that set of issues.

I think the idea is to try to bring the same local approach to the cities all across the country, and really focus on making sure that we're empowering the community to deal with these issues, regardless of what particular community you're talking about.

Q: I'm just wondering, in light of the current events that Andrea Mitchell and others mentioned during this call, almost all of those involves Muslim extremism. And I get that the phrase for this three-day event is "violent extremism." Might some critics think that you're avoiding the world "Muslim" as though extremists in the Islamic communities are the focus -- or are they not the focus? That's my question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks for that question. I think obviously we want to be taking into account the current concerns that different countries are facing. But as I think will be clear from the variety of presentations and case studies that are mentioned -- to include some of the media that we have organized to help catalyze the discussion that features some of the longer-running terrorist threats that people sometimes forget about in the current context, such as the FARC in Colombia, which is now in negotiations, but has been a designated terrorist organization for some time, responsible for countless acts of violence.

I think we will see through the complexity of the discussion that violent extremism is a broader trend, and that everyone will be approaching it through their own lens of their immediate concerns, but there are lessons to be learned across all forms of efforts to counter different types of violent extremism. And again, as was just mentioned, the interventions themselves must be specific and localized even if they happen to be falling under the same umbrella category. So I think we'll see in the context of the meeting itself the diversity that reflects the reality of recent history.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let's be clear. We recognize that violent extremism spans many decades and has taken many forms. But we all agree that the individuals who perpetuated -- who perpetrated the terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere are calling themselves Muslims and their warped interpretation of Islam is what motivated them to commit these acts. They're not making any secret of that, and neither are we.

But we are very, very clear that we do not believe that they are representing Islam. There is absolutely no justification for these attacks in any religion, and that's the view of the vast majority of Muslims who have suffered huge casualties from the likes of folks like ISIL or al Qaeda. So you can call them what you want. We're calling them terrorists. And the President is absolutely resolved to confront this threat. He's made it clear that we're at war with terrorist groups and he's taken scores of high-level terrorists off the battlefield.

So we are not treating these people as part of a religion. We're treating them as terrorists. We call them our enemies and we'll be treating them as such.

Q: Just a question about the ministerial part. Was there a point at which you wanted this to be a heads-of-state meeting, or at least for there be part of that to be a heads-of-state meeting? And you also mentioned that some governments, some countries will only be sending senior officials. Which are some of the countries where you would have expected a higher level delegation -- an interior minister or a foreign minister -- and they're only sending senior officials?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we should say that, first of all, the choices of how to send representatives were made by individual delegations. And this is not intended to be heads of state, this is intended to be at the ministerial level, for the precise reason that different countries assign different degrees or different types of responsibilities to different ministers, and we wanted to make it possible both for the appropriate person to come, in cases in which there were both interior and foreign ministers to be appropriate to involve, allow for that opportunity.

So the level is as intended and the participation is individual determined. And we're really gratified by the level of interest that invitees have shown, and we're looking forward to a very engaged and productive session.

END 2:48 P.M. EST

Barack Obama, Background Conference Call by Senior Administration Officials Previewing the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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