- Robert S. Mueller, III
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- 112th Annual Conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police
- Miami, FL
- September 26, 2005
Thank you, Chief Estey and Attorney General Gonzales. It is great to see so many familiar faces and so many new ones as well.
Across the street from FBI Headquarters back in Washington, the original U.S. Constitution is displayed at the National Archives. That document stands as an ever present reminder to the FBI of our mission—to protect our fellow citizens and preserve freedom. Founding Father James Madison once remarked that the Constitution "ought to be regarded as the work of many heads and many hands." The same could be said of our mission—and by that I mean all law enforcement officers, regardless of what country we come from. In today's world, accomplishing our common mission will not be the work of a single agency or department or nation, but will require "the work of many heads and many hands."
The FBI and the IACP share a long and rich history—a history that has prepared us to meet the challenges of the future together. Today, I want to talk to you first about those challenges and then about how we are working together more effectively and how this collaboration has joined progress with success.
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1. Current Challenges and Future Threats
Last month, I met with Chief Estey and members of the FBI Law Enforcement Advisory Group to discuss where law enforcement should be in 2010. We discussed the threats we face—both now and in the future— and how to confront those threats more effectively. As always, your recommendations were invaluable. I believe all of us came away with a better understanding of what we are up against—and what we must do in order to prevail.
The threats of this century loom larger than the threats of the last century. When the FBI's "War on Crime" began in earnest in the early 1930s, law enforcement was mainly fighting gangsters, bank robbers, and kidnappers. Criminal investigations then were much more straightforward. The nature and identities of our adversaries were more obvious, the threats they posed less diverse.
But as technology evolves and the world continues to shrink, criminal activity has become increasingly complex. Our jobs have become more difficult and more dangerous.
Today, we see more than just common criminals. We face sophisticated spies, high tech hackers, and ruthless terrorists. We confront the corruption of large corporations, the spread of violent gangs, and the burgeoning of international crime rings.
And the threat landscape is increasingly asymmetrical. Chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Suicide bombings. Espionage. Cyber crime. To further complicate matters, there are an infinite number of soft targets, from ports to power plants, and from subways to shopping malls.
Today, our enemies may be based anywhere in the world, or on the World Wide Web. They need not even physically cross international lines. With just an internet connection or a cell phone, an organized crime enterprise in Budapest can wire money to conspirators in Boston. A lone computer programmer in the Philippines can launch a cyber attack that cripples information networks worldwide, as we saw several years ago with the infamous “Love Bug” virus.
Advances in technology allow our adversaries to carry out criminal acts with lightening speed. Always, we are working against the clock to prevent crime and terrorism. And if our enemies succeed, as they sometimes have, it means we must shift into an even higher gear, as we put the puzzle together, prevent another attack, and bring those responsible to justice.
As the world grows more interconnected and more dangerous, how do we respond effectively? How do we combat the criminals and terrorists who are operating without borders or boundaries? How do we anticipate and stay ahead of changing threats?
Now more than ever, the answer is partnerships. Partnerships at every level—local, state, federal, and international. Today these partnerships have never been stronger.
Our Joint Terrorism Task Forces are more effective than ever. Thousands of state and local officers—including many from your departments—are working on 103 JTTFs nationwide.
Last week, a State Trooper assigned to a JTTF sent an e‑mail to his fellow task force officers just before leaving for a year-long deployment to Iraq. I want to share part of it with you. This officer wrote,
"Upon hearing that I was being assigned to the JTTF and that I would be required to work at the FBI office, I was apprehensive at first…but I can honestly say that…this has been my most...rewarding assignment. I believe in the JTTF and I know that it works. I…hope that after my year [in Iraq], I will be assigned back to the JTTF and that I will be able to continue serving with such great people."
Many of you may have felt a similar apprehension at first. But thanks to your willingness to work side‑by‑side on JTTFs, our partnerships are stronger, and America is safer.
On the criminal side, our joint efforts are curbing gang activity. As you well know, gangs are no longer limited to big cities like New York or Los Angeles—they have spread throughout communities nationwide. And they are not limited to petty crime—they are linked to drug trafficking, organized crime, and violent crime. As gang members grow more technologically proficient, more difficult to identify, and more violent, we are growing more effective at combating them.
Over 1,000 state and local officers investigate gang activity on 125 Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Forces nationwide. In the past year, we have added 20 new Task Forces, including two here in Florida. In December, we established a National Gang Task Force aimed solely at targeting MS 13 gangs.
And to better coordinate our efforts, together we are in the process of establishing a National Gang Intelligence Center. This Center will be an electronic clearinghouse for gang intelligence. Right now, you can access the Center through your LEO accounts.
When complete, the Center will enable police officers tackling 18th Street gangs in California to share information with officers working 18th Street gangs in New York. It will allow us to identify links between gangs and investigations and to understand the full scope of their criminal activity from a national perspective.
But our partnerships are not limited to the United States. We are working with our international counterparts more closely than ever before. The FBI now has 52 Legal Attaché offices in countries across the world, with more on the way. We are coordinating investigations with police officers from Iraq to Italy and from Indonesia to England. And we are also helping to train law enforcement counterparts across the world. Many of you attended the National Academy. We offer similar training to our Central European partners at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, which just celebrated its 10 th anniversary.
As our partnerships expand, technology plays a critical role in supporting our joint efforts. We are working hard to improve our technology, both internally and externally, so that we can give you the support you need. Let me give you just a few highlights:
LEO just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Ten years ago, LEO had only 20 members. Today LEO serves over 46,000 members, and more than 1,200 new users join every month.
In another milestone, our Fingerprint System—IAFIS—processed its 100 millionth print this past May.
And the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, has aided over 26,000 investigations nationwide—some of them many years old.
2. Success Stories Arising From Partnerships — The Credit Belongs to You
Every year, I look forward to coming here and updating you on what the FBI is doing to help law enforcement. But instead, today I want to use my time to thank you for what you are doing for us.
All of the partnerships I just mentioned have resulted in real success stories—and you deserve the credit for that success. Let me give you just a few examples.
Our Joint Terrorism Task Forces are combating terrorism across the country, from New York to North Carolina and from Ohio to Oregon. Because they have been so effective at behind‑the‑scenes prevention, the JTTFs have countless success stories that never make headlines.
But one case did make headlines. Thanks to the work of the Long Beach JTTF and hundreds of other state and local officers, four men were indicted last month in California, charged with plotting to attack U.S. military facilities, Israeli government facilities, and Jewish synagogues in the Los Angeles area.
This was no theoretical attack—it was a cell of “home grown” terrorists who had passed the planning stages and were entering the execution phase.
In this case, an inmate serving time in a California State Prison founded a radical Islamic organization and recruited fellow inmates and individuals outside prison to join his mission: to kill those whom he regarded as “infidels.”
He directed the other individuals from his prison cell. They conducted research and surveillance of specific targets, purchased weapons, and underwent firearms and physical training.
When officers from the Torrance Police Department arrested two of the suspects for bank robbery, they followed up by searching their apartments. There, they discovered evidence suggesting the suspects were planning a terrorist attack. They passed it on to the JTTF. The JTTF then worked side-by-side with federal, state, and local police at a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week command center. Together, they mounted an enormous investigation that directly led to the dismantling of a terror cell and the saving of countless lives.
Your efforts have been just as critical in battling gangs. A little over a year ago, Eber Anibal Rivera Paz, aka "Culiche"—a reputed leader of MS‑13—escaped from prison in Honduras, where he was being held on weapons and drug trafficking charges. Four months later, a bus full of holiday shoppers in Honduras was attacked by gunmen who left 28 people dead, including six children. Honduran authorities suspected Rivera Paz of masterminding the attack.
Rivera Paz escaped to the United States.
Last February, a vigilant Texas Department of Public Safety trooper and a Brooks County Deputy Sheriff stopped several cars they suspected might be transporting illegal aliens. They discovered Rivera Paz hiding in one of the trunks and arrested him. He provided them with a false name.
By this time, Border Patrol agents had alerted officials in Texas that Rivera Paz might be heading north. An alert Lieutenant at the East Hidalgo Detention Center, where Rivera Paz was being held, suspected he might be part of MS‑13 and notified the FBI and Border Patrol. They identified him as the fugitive gang leader.
I'm sure that these officers thought they were just doing their jobs. But thanks to their vigilance, this dangerous gang leader is currently serving time in the United States, after which he will be deported to face charges in Honduras.
Aside from cracking down on gangs, your partnerships in the cyber arena have also been invaluable. Many of your officers work on our Regional Computer Forensics Labs. In one recent case involving an RCFL, Missouri Highway Patrol Corporal Jeff Owen provided key digital evidence that helped identify the suspected murderer of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, of Skidmore, Missouri. Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant when she was killed, was found strangled in her home, with her baby taken from her womb.
Working with the St. Joseph Police Department in Missouri, Corporal Owen examined the victim's computer and traced a suspicious message back to the address from which it had been sent. The FBI set up surveillance at that address and within 24 hours arrested the suspect when she arrived at her home in Kansas, with Bobbie Jo Stinnett's baby daughter in her arms.
These successes are a result of our partnerships. Whether we are FBI Agents in New York City or sheriffs in Nebraska, we are all facing the same threats. Our danger is your danger. Our resources are your resources. And our success is your success.
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Together, we stand on a border—a border between freedom and tyranny, order and chaos, civilization and lawlessness. We know that our freedom is not assured. We must cherish it. We must defend it. The threats continue to change, but we have made tangible progress—every day that we work together, we make our world safer.
This is not the work of the FBI alone, or any one police department, or agency, or even nation. To go back to where I began, this, too, "ought to be regarded as the work of many heads and many hands."
President Lincoln once wrote to one of his generals: "Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance, go forward and give us victories." We in the FBI are grateful for your patriotism and your partnership. And I am confident that if we go forward together, with energy and with vigilance, we too shall be the victors.
Thank you and God bless.