Home News Speeches Partnerships Against Terrorism
  • Robert S. Mueller, III
  • Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Anti-Defamation League's 24th Annual National Leadership Conference
  • Washington, D.C.
  • May 07, 2002
Good afternoon everyone. I'm glad to have the opportunity to talk with all of you today.

A few months ago, Abe and Jess came by my office for a visit.  I appreciated their taking the time to meet with me.  I have long admired and respected the work of ADL, and I appreciate your longstanding support of the FBI.  I know that under my predecessor, Louis Freeh, this partnership reached new heights.  As I told Abe and Jess, I am absolutely committed to building on that relationship.

We in the FBI tremendously value your perspectives and your partnership.  Your insights and research into extremism are particularly helpful to us, shedding light on the changing nature of the terrorist threats facing America.  Your support of hate crime and terrorist investigations, which are now front and center in the work of the FBI, is essential to us.  And the training and education you provide for the FBI and for law enforcement have never been more relevant.  That includes the conference on extremist and terrorist threats you are sponsoring later this month at the FBI Academy.  And it especially includes the classes at the Holocaust Museum that Abe and Jess helped arrange for our New Agents and for National Academy students.  At a time when law enforcement must be aggressive in stopping terror, these classes provide powerful lessons on why we must always protect civil rights and uphold the rule of law.  So thank you for all these efforts.  And again, I look forward to working with you to strengthen our relationship.

Today, I want to talk about our investigation into the events of September 11th -- what we have learned about the attacks, what we have learned from them, and how this is driving fundamental changes in the FBI.

Let me just say, as I begin this discussion, that we know how important this war on terror is to all of you.  It's important to you as members of ADL.  It's important to you as Americans and as members of the world community.

As we all know too well, terrorism is nothing new.  It is as old as history.  What is new is the nature of the threat.  It is global in scale.  Terrorists can and will strike virtually anyone, anywhere, at any time.  Right now, al Qaeda alone has roots in more than one out of four nations.  Their pockets are deep and their financial supporters are all over the world, including right here in our own backyard.  And yet, terrorists are more invisible than ever.  They don't wear military uniforms.  They blend into society.  They can be a businessman in a three-piece suit.  They can be the shopper in line at the local Wal-Mart.  They can even be - as we have seen so tragically - the person sitting next to you on an airplane.

The attacks of September 11th took this "blending-in" to a new level of sophistication.   The 19 hijackers all came to America legally.  Once here, they took great pains to blend into the woodwork.  They committed no egregious crimes.  They dressed and acted like Americans.  They kept to themselves in small groups.  They associated with no known terrorists.  They kept no computers or laptops.  When they did want to communicate with their colleagues, they used hundreds of cell phones and calling cards that are extremely difficult to trace.  And they committed nothing to paper.  Eight months after the attacks - even after all the information we've turned up, as one reporter put it, from "caves and credit cards" -- we have yet to find a single piece of paper outlining any element of the attack.

This is not a defense of the FBI or the intelligence community.  These are the facts.  And this is the reality that we have to deal with every day.  The President has asked the FBI and its many partners to do everything we can to prevent another September 11th.  He drives that point home to me on a regular basis -- in fact, just about every day, when I brief him in the Oval Office along with George Tenet of the CIA.  George calls those meetings "galvanizing."  He realizes - as I do - that you don't want to walk into those meetings unprepared.  You want to know exactly what's going on in your organization.  And you want to be completely sure that your agency is doing everything possible to prevent another attack.

That's the question we've asked ourselves virtually every day since 9-11.  We've taken a hard look at our operations.  What we've seen are some capabilities and strengths that have been developed over the many years:  our core of talented investigators and forensic scientists, our range of partnerships across government, our wide array of programs and analytic abilities.   Using these resources, we have prevented more than 40 attacks in recent years.  And we've learned how to manage, large, complex, and global investigations.

But we also know we can do more.  Terrorists have shown they are willing to go to great lengths to destroy America.  We must be willing to go to even greater lengths to stop them.  Our worldwide network must be more powerful.  Our financial commitment must be stronger.  Our techniques, training, and technology must be more sophisticated.  And our sense of urgency and intensity must be greater.

Today, we are working on every one of these fronts.  We are working more closely than ever with our international partners.  Over the past eight months, we've sent more than 275 extra Agents and support employees to help out overseas - to places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Canada, Germany, and Singapore.  I have visited a number of countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia to build relationships and urge support for our efforts to prevent acts of terror.  Generally, the cooperation we are getting is excellent.  In many respects, it is unprecedented.  And in some cases, it has helped prevent additional attacks.

Louis Freeh worked hard during his eight years with the Bureau to double the number of FBI offices overseas, what we call Legal Attaches.  Today, there are 44 offices.  Ultimately, with the support of Congress and the Administration, we'd like to increase that number.

At the same time, we are building stronger relationships across the vast mosaic of municipal, state, and federal agencies engaged in the homeland security effort.  We are working hard to overcome the legal, technical, and often cultural issues that prevent us from exchanging information and intelligence more effectively.  We've selected two new high level Bureau executives to focus on improving partnerships with our 650,000 state and municipal law enforcement counterparts.  One is a seasoned professional from the ranks of local law enforcement who begins work later this month.  His job is to help us integrate our state and municipal counterparts into the war on terror and into major investigations.

As the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers.  Given the fact that police professionals outnumber FBI Agents more than fifty to one, you can see how much strength their numbers represent.

We take the same view towards our Joint Terrorism Task Forces, teams of federal, state, and municipal officers who work shoulder-to-shoulder on terrorist investigations.  It's a concept that I know ADL supports, and for good reason.  These task forces are perhaps the best mechanism we have for sharing information.  They help us build the kinds of close relationships and synergies we need to tackle a challenge as insidious as terrorism.  Shortly after September 11th, I asked every one of our 56 field offices to put a task force in place at least temporarily.  Right now, 47 offices have fully funded and fully functioning task forces.  We expect to have the rest permanently in place by the end of the year.

Financially, we are devoting more resources to prevention.  Congress has been generous, giving us millions in new funding earlier this year.  We are also shifting more of the resources we already have on board.  At the height of the investigation, we had more than 6,000 Agents - well over half of our total - devoted to one aspect or another of the investigation.  That shift has leveled off, but we are developing plans as we speak to move more Agents permanently to prevention and to adjust our priorities accordingly.

We're also going to significantly increase the number of our analysts.  The September 11 terrorists spent a great deal of time and effort figuring out how America works.  They knew the ins and outs of our systems.  We need to have a complete grasp of how terrorists operate as well.  Our analysts do some great work.  But we need more of them so that we can do more of the kind of strategic thinking that helps us stay one step ahead of those who would do us harm.  Our new office of Intelligence will be devoted to strengthening these very capabilities.

We know that al Qaeda has invested a great deal of time and money into developing its skills and technologies.  We need to do the same.  We've already recruited and hired hundreds of linguists.  Now, we're working to recruit a new generation of Agents who have specialized technical skills.  We're hiring close to a thousand this year alone.  We're going after individuals who can not only speak one of the critical foreign languages, but also those with expertise in computer science and information technology, engineering, and the natural sciences.

In the near future, we will support these new Agents and all FBI employees with vastly improved technologies.  I could talk for some time on our many plans, but let me just say this.  In recent months, Congress has given the FBI $458 million to upgrade its information technology, which in some cases is far behind where it needs to be.  We've asked for another $140 million for next year.  Taken together, that is a nearly $600 million investment.  That's going to buy a lot of firepower.  It's going to give us vast new capabilities in the war against terror - from data warehousing to much more powerful search engines.  And it will move us towards a near paperless environment, one that will put us far ahead of where we are now.

We need this sophisticated technology and the skills to go with it, just as we need the right amount of resources.  But what ties it all together is focus.  We launched a major restructuring in December to improve that focus.  We brought together Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence so that our national security programs would be more integrated and accountable.  Headquarters is now taking a more hands-on role.  We are working to centralize the information and expertise that our field offices have gained through experience, so that it is available to all.  And we are building intelligence capabilities and partnerships so we can take advantage of the vast amounts of information pouring in from Afghanistan and other locations.

The Bureau today has a sense of urgency.  Our mission is clear:  to stop acts of terror from ever getting off the ground.  And no one doubts the stakes are high.  Can we stop every terrorist attack?   Realistically, no.  But we can and we are putting in place an aggressive - but rigorously lawful - program of disruption abroad and at home.  The September 11th terrorists had the luxury of time and tranquility to put the pieces of their plan in place.  Over the course of many years -- from the training camps of Afghanistan to the universities of Germany to the flight schools of America -- they were able to assemble the components of their plan and pick their moment to execute it.  We cannot afford them this operational luxury again.  For America and for the FBI, prevention must include an international offensive capability in which the intelligence and law enforcement resources of the global community are integrated into a program to disrupt and attack terrorist operations in their infancy.

I also want to add that even as we fight this global war on terror, we remain focused on addressing the challenge of domestic terrorism.  The same partnerships, the same tools, and the same focus are needed right here at home.  Whether it is anthrax in the mail, or pipe bombs in our mailboxes, we are committed to tracking down those who threaten our nation's safety.

There is no question that the FBI is facing it greatest challenge ever.  But I also believe it's ultimately going to result in much improved Bureau.  Our technologies, our intelligence gathering and sharing capabilities, our workforce skills, and our partnerships will all be much stronger.  And ultimately, we will be a much more predictive organization -- one that is out ahead not only of terrorists, but of all criminals who pose a serious threat to our nation.

I want to close with a story from September 11th.  It's one that you may know, but I believe it bears repeating.  It's the story of Abe Zelmanowitz and Ed Beyea.  Abe was a devout Jew, Ed a committed Christian.  They were fast friends.  And on September 11th, they found themselves on the 27th floor of one of the World Trade Center towers, trying to find a way out together.  Ed was a  quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair.  He could not be evacuated without a lot of help.  Abe couldn't save him alone.  But he couldn't bear to leave him there alone, either.  When Abe called his family to tell them what was happening, they urged him to get out of the burning building fast.  But Abe wouldn't abandon Ed.  He stayed by his friend's side.  The two waited for help that never came.  Tragically, they died together when the building collapsed.

That story can and must motivate us.  It speaks of the values we cherish in America -- respect, loyalty, and most of all, courage.  Abe and Ed died together, but they did not die in vain.  They remind us for all time why we are fighting and what we are fighting for.

Thank you for all you do.  I'm looking forward to a long, productive partnership.  Thank you for having me, and God Bless.

 
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