WASHINGTON — In a rare Oval Office address, President Barack Obama on Sunday night will urge Americans not to give into fear following attacks in Paris and California, while trying to assure the public that he takes the threat of terrorism seriously.
Obama was not expected to announce major policy changes for targeting the Islamic State group. Administration officials said his remarks would focus on how the threat has evolved and what steps the government is taking to keep Americans safe.
"I think what you're going to hear from him is a discussion about what government is doing to ensure all of our highest priority — the protection of the American people,'' Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in an interview with NBC.
President Barack Obama speaks after a televised national address from the Oval Office of the White House August 31, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images)
She said Obama may ask Congress to "to review measures and take action'' to safeguard national security, though she did not offer specifics. She suggested he might reiterate his call for stricter gun laws. "Dealing with guns is one way to handle the violent crime issues that we have in this country,'' Lynch said.
Obama has made televised statements from the Oval Office just twice, the last in 2010.
His speech comes amid criticism that he has underestimated the threat from an extremist group that claimed responsibility for last month's deadly attacks in Paris.
A woman held responsible for last week's shooting California had, under a Facebook alias, pledged allegiance to IS and its leader, according to U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. A Facebook official said the post came about the time the couple stormed a San Bernardino social service centre.
People leave flowers at a makeshift memorial to the victims of a mass shooting on Dec. 4, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. (Photo: Robyn Beck/Getty)
Authorities said the woman — a 29-year-old originally from Pakistan — carried out the attack with her 28-year-old American-born husband, killing 14 people and wounding 21. The two were killed in a shootout with police hours after the attack.
The FBI is investigating the massacre as a terrorist attack that, if proved, would be the deadliest by Islamic extremists on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
FBI Director James Comey has said there was no indication yet that the plot was directed by any other foreign terrorist group.
Lynch said the kind of threats against the United States has evolved because the government has been able to foil plots. "We have come from a time of the large-scale planned al-Qaida-style attacks to the encouragement of lone wolves.'
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