Home News Speeches Dedication of the New Birmingham Field Office Building
  • Robert S. Mueller, III
  • Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Birmingham Field Office Building Dedication
  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • August 04, 2005

Thank you Carmen. It is an honor to be here.

Thank you for joining us today as we celebrate Birmingham’s new FBI office building.

At the dedication of each new office building I am always struck by the passage of time. These are occasions when the history that has come before us meets the unique time and circumstances in which we live. And so it is today here in Birmingham.

One wonders what C.W. McPhail would think of us if he were here today. C.W. McPhail was named the first Special Agent in Charge of the Birmingham office in 1924.

I want to recognize someone who has witnessed firsthand much of the FBI’s growth over the years, as well as many other changes that have taken place. Glenn Rotenberry will have been with the FBI for 43 years in October. He was employed as a Security Clerk in the Birmingham office for less than a month when he answered the phone on September 15, 1963, to learn that the 16 th Street Baptist Church had been bombed. Four African-American girls were slain as they attended Sunday school in a racial killing that shook the Nation.

We did not call it terrorism then, but terrorism is what it was. And in this case, like too many others, justice came slowly.

In 2002, former Klu Klux Klan member Bobby Frank Cherry became the third man convicted in the murder of those four young girls.

This is part of our history, and it is part of America’s history.

It is important to remember these events. A few months before the bombing, Martin Luther King was serving time in a Birmingham jail for participating in civil rights demonstrations. From inside his cell King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

We have learned many lessons since then. One of the most important of these is that it is our mission to protect the civil liberties of all Americans. Because when just one of us loses just one of our rights, then the freedoms of all of us are diminished.

Another lesson we can take from the events of 1963 is that the motivations of terrorists have not changed. They still hide in the shadows and have such contempt for human life that they are willing to kill children to live out their hatred.

One more lesson I hope will remain is that no matter how long it takes, we do not give up. And we will not give up until freedom prevails against fear, acceptance prevails against extremism, and all Americans can live in peace and security.

While the criminal mind-set has not changed, the types of crimes and the nature of the threats facing our country have changed dramatically. Today, crime includes not only international terrorism, but violent gangs, illegal weapons trade, and the trafficking of human beings. The threat has become increasingly asymmetrical and complex.

It is clear in today’s world that no one entity, no one agency, can do it alone.

The search for Eric Rudolph made the need for partnerships abundantly clear. When Birmingham police officer Robert Sanderson was killed by the blast from Rudolph’s final bomb, he was the second of two killed and more than 100 injured by Rudolph’s serial bombings. For five years, Rudolph evaded the FBI. That is until Murphy North Carolina Police Officer Jeffrey Postell spotted Rudolph at 3:30 in the morning, rummaging through a dumpster and made the arrest. Eric Rudolph is now serving the first of four life sentences, without the possibility of parole.

To be successful against new and evolving threats, we must work together as never before.

Together, we will fulfill our mission of protecting America. The FBI has always been one of the best law enforcement organizations in the world. Now, we are working to become the best law enforcement and national security agency. Like this new building, the FBI is stronger, more flexible, and more modern--able to meet whatever challenges lay ahead.

I want to thank a number of individuals whose hard work helped guide this project through to its completion: building owners Rick Baier and Cathy Howard; Cheryl Miller from GSA; and Birmingham Project Managers Karen Lewis and Sam Mobley.

We appreciate all you have done to see this new building take shape. With double the space, increased security, the latest technology, and many more needed upgrades, this facility is a flagship for our new mission. It will fully support the handling of sensitive intelligence information, evidence collection and processing, computer forensic analysis, and other modern investigative functions.

I also want to thank our local law enforcement partners for their cooperation and support. We cannot do our jobs without you. Thank you for coming today to celebrate this new office with us.

And I want to thank the men and women of the Birmingham Division for your service. You are the reason we are meeting these new challenges. Your dedication and integrity are what make the FBI a very special place in which to serve. I think C.W. McPhail would be proud of you. I know I am proud of you.

It is my hope that we will learn from our history and that we will incorporate those experiences as we move forward. History tells us that the FBI responds in whatever way needed to protect the citizens of this country.

It is to that mission--our mission--which we dedicate this building and to which I ask that we--as the FBI, as members of the law enforcement and the intelligence communities, and as Americans--dedicate ourselves.

Thank you and God bless you.

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