Home News Speeches FBI Priorities and Partnerships in the Counterterrorist Effort
  • Robert S. Mueller, III
  • Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • October 08, 2002

Thank you for the tremendous support the IACP has given to the FBI over these many years, and to me in my first year as Director.

The IACP, as many of you know, predates the FBI by 15 years. In 1893, your predecessors first met in Chicago. In a sense, the IACP is an older cousin to the FBI. There is still much we can learn from you.

Thanks, too, to our host chief, Robert Olsen, and Sheriff Pat McGowan, for putting on a wonderful conference. As a long-time Red Sox fan, it is nice to be in a city where they are playing baseball in October.

I understand that I missed a five kilometer road race Sunday along the Mississippi River. That race was named in honor of one of our fallen comrades, Melissa Schmidt. Officer Schmidt was shot and killed in the line of duty on August 1, a little more than two months ago. She was a distinguished Minneapolis police officer for more than six years, and before that, something also dear to my heart, she was a Marine. Her senseless murder reminds us that "duty" and "honor" are not empty words. Officer Schmidt gave her life in service to the citizens of her community. It is a stark reminder of the difficult--and often thankless--jobs we do every day. With you, I morn her death.

This conference is one of the most important events of the year for us all. This is an appropriate time for us to take stock of what we have done together--primarily in our global war against terrorism, but in other areas as well--and to contemplate our work together for the year ahead.

As you know, this has been a year of change for the Bureau. We now have a new set of ten priorities to guide our work. The first three are:

  1. protecting the United States from terrorist attacks;
  2. protecting the United States from foreign intelligence operations and espionage; and
  3. protecting the United States from cyber attacks.

Each is critically important to our national security.

The next five priorities involve our more traditional criminal investigations: public corruption; civil rights; transnational and national criminal organizations; white collar crime; and violent crime.

As I believe you understand, with the world shrinking, the future of the FBI requires that we increasingly focus our resources on national and international priorities; and on those investigations where we bring something special to the table.

The final two priorities of the ten are non-programmatic; but vital to achieving all the rest:

  1. supporting you and other federal, state, local, and international partners; and
  2. dramatically improving FBI technology.

These priorities are being supported by a campaign within the Bureau to re-engineer our operations. Like any organization, the FBI needs to be managed in an efficient and effective way. That means taking advantage of best practices developed in both the public and private sectors. Ultimately, I want the Bureau to excel in everything it does--whether it is investigations, training or forensics. At the same time, I want us to be a vital partner with you. As I have said throughout the year, the FBI is only as good as its relationships with law enforcement here in the United States and around the world. That is why we are so committed to your success.

Now I know you want to hear, in particular, what progress has been made in our joint efforts over the past year. One year ago--in Toronto--I gave you some commitments.

We committed to you that the FBI would be a better partner. And we committed to you that we would do a better job sharing information. In many ways, we have improved. I believe we are "better." Not perfect, but better.

Our SACs in 56 field offices around the country, try to keep you informed with timely and accurate information. We strive to get alerts and advisories to you as quickly as possible. I know some alerts are more helpful than others. I know some advisories lack the specificity you need. But we are learning to get the word out, to get it out quickly, and to give you the accurate information you need.

For instance, we are working to create a system using LEO, NLets, and RISSNET that will get alerts to you before you hear the story on CNN-not some of the time, but all of the time. But, that's a tall order. It is something I am committed to. Still, we need to do more. We need to build more and better and bigger bridges.

One way to build bridges is to hire architects and engineers. The FBI was fortunate to convince one of the IACP's best-Lou Quijas-to join the FBI. Lou is now constructing bridges with you, with National Sheriffs, with Major City Chiefs and Major County Sheriffs, and PERF, among others.

By the same token, Bill Eubanks, the former SAC in St. Louis, is working full-time to address and fix information-sharing problems. We also have state and local representatives serving in the strategic command center at FBI Headquarters, as we have had in other national programs for years.

That said, is our information sharing where it must be? Not yet. We have more to do, and we know it. But we are seeing an unprecedented level of cooperation throughout the law enforcement community. We are proud of that. That brings us to an important point. Some of the most significant changes have less to do with what we are doing and more to do with how we are doing it.

What am I referring to? As I have said repeatedly, you are our full partners in the war on terror. Partners! The task--the war on terrorism--is too big and too important for the FBI to go it alone. The work of protecting our nation, our citizens, and our interests, here and abroad, turns not on what any one of us is doing. Rather, it turns most assuredly on what all of us are doing, together.

In June, Bill Berger testified before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. He noted that while local law enforcement agencies are often the first responders to a terrorist attack, their role is significantly broader. Bill stated that, and I quote, "these agencies can and must play a vital role in the investigation and prevention of future terrorist attacks." Bill told the Senate that 16,000 state and local law enforcement agencies employ more than 700,000 officers, and that these officers are the eyes and ears of their communities. That makes all of you a critical source of information and intelligence in the was on terrorism. Bridges carry traffic in two directions, not one, and we appreciate that fact now more than ever before.

This has been a tough year for all Americans. It has been a difficult and emotional year for law enforcement, as well. I think--check that--I know--we are stronger and better. What I see today is a law enforcement community that is more prepared, more capable, and more unified than ever before.

The most publicized victories have been in the war against terrorism.

Six months ago, for example, an individual began terrorizing middle America, planting 18 pipe bombs in rural mailboxes across five different states. Law enforcement across this region linked arms. With lighting speed, and through close coordination, you quickly identified that individual. When he was arrested, six more pipe bombs were found in the trunk of his car. It was great work--and a classic case of effective cooperation.

Throughout the United States, we are also working shoulder-to-shoulder on 56 Joint Terrorism Task Forces--as well as on ten satellite task forces and a new National JTTF in Washington.

One year ago, nearly half of these task forces didn't exist. The ones that did exist were not nearly as large as they are now. Today information flows more freely. Tips are routed more quickly. Leads are covered more efficiently. Again, it is not perfect. But it gets better every day.

The fact that many leads do not pan out, as we know all too well, is a source of frustration. We work for days, or weeks or months, and often have little to show for it. But it is this type of work--joint, cooperative work--that is at the heart of prevention, and it is making a difference.

It made a difference in Portland, Oregon, and Detroit, Michigan, where last week we indicted six individuals on charges that they supported a foreign terrorist organization.

It made a difference in Lackawanna, New York, where three weeks ago, six other individuals were indicted on similar charges. Indeed, in New York, 25 state, local, and federal agencies worked closely together to button up this terrorist cell.

It also made a difference in Salt Lake City during the Winter Olympics. Those games, as you well know, were held just five months after the terrorist attacks. We were very much a nation in mourning and on edge. We all remember during the opening ceremonies the honor guard carrying in the tattered American flag recovered at Ground Zero. It was an emotional and dangerous time.

Yet those games came off without a hitch. Together, local, state and federal law enforcement created a seamless, inclusive operation. We linked our systems. We shared real-time information. In fact, we worked together so well that the operation is now considered a model, and it is being replicated around the country.

And if that wasn't enough, one of our international colleagues from Austria--a police officer by day and a world-class skier in his spare time--won a gold medal.

This cooperation is not limited to our shores. Around the world, decent nations are standing together as never before. In North and South America; in Western and Eastern Europe; in the Middle East and Southeast Asia; throughout the world we are seeing an unprecedented level of cooperation. We even now have an FBI agent working out of a new office in Beijing, China. Are there occasional differences between international partners? Of course. But trust and teamwork are extraordinary, and are making a critical difference in the global war on terror.

If you have been to a National Academy graduation recently, you know what I mean. The events of September 11 have brought our international family together in many ways. Here's one striking example.

The 207th National Academy class arrived at Quantico less than three weeks after September 11. It was the first class to graduate after the attacks. That class visited Ground Zero--in what has now become an Academy tradition--and held a moving memorial service there.

When it came time to decide on their class legacy, they reached into their own pockets and donated thousands of dollars--the most in Academy history--to build a beautiful memorial to the heroes of September 11. That eight-foot tall memorial now graces a quiet courtyard on the Quantico grounds and serves as a powerful reminder of how domestic and international law enforcement has closed ranks.

We have also had wonderful cooperation in a vast array of more traditional criminal cases. We have never worked more closely, for example, to protect our children. There are few things we do that are more rewarding than putting a child back in the arms of a mother or father. Despite our best efforts, not all abductions have happy endings. However, thanks to new levels of coordination and information sharing, we have seen some joyous reunions. In state after state--California, Louisiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and many others--we have worked together quickly and effectively over the past year to reunite children and their families.

Cooperation is our future. It must be. September 11 is a reminder to all of us--every day--that we must work as one team. To paraphrase an American president, there are few problems we can solve by ourselves, but there are no problems that we can't solve together.

Let me close with a story very much on my mind. On the night of September 12th of this year, an international operation was conducted in Texas, adjacent to the Mexican border, to investigate a series of thefts from freight trains. Many agencies were involved, including the U.S. Border Patrol, Customs, Union Pacific Railroad Police, two FBI field offices and their SWAT teams, and Mexican customs officials. While making arrests that night, two FBI agents--Sergio Barrio and Samantha Mikeska-were brutally beaten with bats and clubs by Mexican gang members. The agents' skulls were crushed. One had to be put on life support; both lay near death for several days. I thought we were going to lose them. Fortunately, both are now recovering at home.

When it became clear that we desperately needed help that night, an urgent call went out to the Sunland Park, Texas, police department. Within minutes, they were on the scene to help us. They pitched in, in countless ways, transporting prisoners, and helping us to care for our colleagues. Their professionalism, assistance, courtesy and kindness helped us through a very difficult night. I will never forget that. And I will never forget that we are in this together. Every day, we are in this together.

I am proud to be a part of this family.

Thank you for your partnership. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you, and God Bless.

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