President’s Remarks at FBIHQ Visit
Remarks by President Barack Obama
Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here with the men and women of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And I’m so grateful for the FBI t-shirts and teddy bears for the girls—even though we’ve kept our promise on the dog, I wouldn’t want to come home empty-handed.
I want to thank your outstanding Director, Robert Mueller, for that introduction. Bob has led the Bureau during incredibly challenging times. He became only the sixth director of the FBI just one week before the 9/11 attacks, and since then he has worked as hard as anyone to prevent additional attacks and to carry out the FBI’s enormous responsibilities. I appreciate him, and I appreciate all of you.
Last summer, the FBI celebrated its 100th anniversary. I think it’s safe to say that it has been an eventful century for the Bureau. Back in 1908, there were just 34 Special Agents reporting to the Theodore Roosevelt’s Attorney General. Today, there are over 30,000 men and women who work for the FBI. Back in 1908, those Agents worked out of one building here in Washington. Today, you work here at FBI Headquarters and at field offices across America and in countries around the world.
So much has changed in the last 100 years. And part of what makes the FBI so unique is its ability to adapt to an evolving world. Back in 1908, even the most imaginative of minds would have struggled to anticipate all of the challenges that would confront the Bureau—from bank-robbers to bootleggers; from hate crimes to white collar criminals; from public corruption to counter-intelligence; from international terrorism to cyber threats.
The challenges of the 21st century have called on us to think anew and to act anew. And in recent years, the Bureau has undergone a profound transformation to keep pace.
With the attacks of 9/11, your mission became focused more than ever before on prevention—so that we have the capacity to uncover terrorist plots before they take hold. With the spread of new technologies, you increasingly confront adversaries in unconventional areas—from transnational networks to cyber crimes and espionage. And through it all, you must continue to stay one step ahead of all who step outside of the law.
I know that change means much more than moving around some boxes on an organizational chart. You’ve set new priorities. You’ve developed new capabilities. You’re working to use new technologies and to teach new skills. And because these challenges cross borders—both seen and unseen—you have to develop new partnerships abroad and share information more effectively at home.
This is a tough business, but it is essential to protecting our country. Because in the end, it is your work that makes the difference—your decisions, your analysis, and your action. And because of the men and women of the FBI, the American people are safer and our country is stronger—and for that, you have my personal gratitude, and you have the thanks of a grateful nation.
So I know that much has changed in the last 100 years. But as Director Mueller said, I also know that some things have remained constant. That starts with the values that we have sworn to uphold—liberty and equality; opportunity, and the rule of law. That is the foundation on which America was built. That is the purpose that has always guided our power. And that is why we must always reject as false the choice between our security and our ideals.
In so many ways, the FBI is a unique institution. You are unique because the FBI is both an intelligence agency and a law enforcement agency. You must both prevent danger and help us pursue those who carry it out. You protect us and you protect the civil liberties that we cherish.
But after all, that is why America is unique—because of that fundamental belief that we are committed to both our security and to the rule of law; because of that hard-earned truth that we are always stronger when we act in concert with our most deeply held values.
I have no illusions that this is simple or easy. Living our values means that we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than our enemies. We face a long struggle against a determined adversary. We know that al Qaeda is not constrained by a constitution or by an allegiance to anything other than a hateful ideology and a determination to kill as many innocents as possible. But what makes the United States of America so special is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and ideals not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard, and we have been called upon to serve in such a time.
And I have to say that I am heartened but what I see here today. Each of you has made the decision to serve your country, and you are dong so at a critical time. None of us can know with certainty what the future will hold. But I do know that the FBI can and must continue to adapt to new dangers, and that you will be critical in leading the way. We are counting on you.
There is much to celebrate from the FBI’s first 100 years. We remember notorious criminals who have been caught, public corruption that has been ended, civil rights that have been protected, and terrorist plots that have been uncovered. None of that would have been possible without the work of men and women like you, and now we are calling on you again.
Behind me is the motto that you must carry forward—Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.
These are more than words etched into a building—they are a signal of the character of the men and women who work here. And I am confident that if you stay true to them, no matter what challenge comes our way, then you will look back years from now with the satisfaction that you advanced the cause of America’s security and America’s ideals in our time. Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.
Hello, everybody. Good to see you. I’m really looking forward to having a chance to talk to Bob (Mueller) and the rest of his team. He has been integral in many of our national security conversations, our counterterrorism strategy. I am extraordinarily pleased with the job that the Director has done not just during my tenure in office, but preceding me.
By all accounts, the FBI has done an outstanding job of transitioning during an age of terrorism, cyber threats, identity theft, a whole host of new challenges. They have been able to adapt. And with the Director at the helm, I have very, very great confidence that the FBI will continue to help keep the American people safe.
I’m also pleased to see that there’s been, I think, greatly improved coordination between the FBI and state and local law enforcement officials—something that had not always been there previously. I think it’s been greatly improved over the last several years.
So this gives me basically an opportunity to hear directly from the FBI and to say “thank you” to all the dedicated agents and everybody who’s out there working in the field to keep us safe each and every day.