Secretary Leon Panetta Discusses Threats and Opportunities for U.S. Leadership at Home and Abroad

March 19, 2021
Contact: Wendy Robinson


Secretary Leon Panetta Discusses Threats and Opportunities for U.S. Leadership at Home and Abroad

Arlington, VA – On Wednesday, March 17, the National Security Institute (NSI) at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School hosted Secretary Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and former Director of the CIA.  Sec. Panetta discussed American leadership in the world, confronting China, the inside take on the Bin Laden raid in 2011, and the January 6th events on Capitol Hill, among other national security issues, with NSI Director and Executive Director Jamil N. Jaffer.

For a recording of the event, please click here.

Hot quotes include:

  • On America’s leadership: “I think the most important thing is that President Biden has made clear that the United States has a leadership role in the world,” Secretary Leon Panetta


  • On Beijing’s threat: “Probably one of the most principal threats that we’re confronting today is China, because China, too, is making use of the opportunity, the vacuum left by the United States. They are trying to assert their influence, economically, military, and in other ways to try to expand their influence in the world, that’s basically what China is trying to do,” Secretary Leon Panetta


  • On the Bin Laden raid: “We sent a message to the world that nobody attacks our country and gets away with it,” Secretary Leon Panetta


  • On defense capabilities: “If we don’t develop the kind of capability to be able to defend ourselves, make no mistake about it, you don’t need to send an F-14 fighter, you don’t need to send a bomber – you can just sit at a computer and paralyze our country,” Secretary Leon Panetta


  • On the January 6th Capitol Hill events: “We have to make a pledge that what happened on January 6th will never happen again in this country.  If we make that pledge and commit ourselves, then I think we can do what we did with 9/11, which is make sure our country doesn’t suffer another attack,” Secretary Leon Panetta


  • On ongoing threat from terrorism: “I understand the concern about are we in fact defeating terrorism, are we moving to achieve some degree of control over the threats from ISIS and al-Qaeda and others?  If we want to keep the American people safe, we have to pay attention to those threats,” Secretary Leon Panetta


  • On U.S. allies: “I think it’s extremely important if the United States is to be a world leader, we have got to work with our allies to develop defenses and national security to be able to deal with our adversaries throughout the world,” Secretary Leon Panetta


Secretary Leon Panetta’s bio can be found here.

About NatSec Nightcap

NatSec Nightcap is NSI’s monthly webinar series where experts share insights into a wide range of pressing policy challenges while enjoying their nightcap of choice. NatSec Nightcap is hosted by NSI Founder and Executive Director Jamil N. Jaffer and features candid conversations with leading national security and foreign policy experts.


About the National Security Institute
The National Security Institute serves as a platform for research, teaching, scholarship, and policy development that incorporates a realistic assessment of the threats facing the United States and its allies, as well as an appreciation of the legal and practical challenges facing U.S. intelligence, defense, law enforcement, homeland security, and cybersecurity communities.  NSI draws on the experience of its fellows, as well as its highly distinguished advisory board and faculty, to produce timely research and policy materials that deliver insightful analysis and actionable recommendations to senior policymakers in the White House and key departments and agencies, as well as those on Capitol Hill.

About the Scalia Law School
The Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University is defined by three words: Learn. Challenge. Lead. Students receive an outstanding legal education (Learn), are taught to critically evaluate prevailing orthodoxy and pursue new ideas (Challenge), and, ultimately, are well prepared to distinguish themselves in their chosen fields (Lead).  It has been one of America’s top-ranked law schools for the last fifteen years.

About George Mason University
George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls more than 33,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states.  Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility.