- Cassandra Chandler
- Assistant Director
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- J. Edgar Hoover Foundation
- Washington DC
- April 23, 2004
Working for America’s premiere law enforcement agency, especially, in its office of public affairs, I too often hear from those who have forgotten about the strength of the FBI and the great things our employees achieve everyday. So, if you would allow me, I would like to use this opportunity to remind you, of what I must often remind myself – when things get a little ugly. That is, who we are in the FBI, the changes we have made, and the resilience and commitment of our employees that has always remained the same.
On September 24, 2003, the managing editor of a Romanian newspaper, Cornel Nistorescu, wrote and editorial titled, “An Ode to America” in which he looked back on the events of September 11th. Mr. Nistorescu said,
“… the American tragedy turned there hundred million people into a hand put on the heart. Nobody rushed to accuse the White House, the army, the secret services… Nobody rushed to empty their bank accounts. Nobody rushed on the streets nearby to gape about. The Americans volunteered to donate blood and to give a helping hand. After the first moments of panic, they raised the flag on the smoking ruins, putting on T-shirts, caps and ties in the colours of the national flag. They placed flags on buildings and cars… [and] on every occasion they started singing their traditional song: “God Bless America!” …The American’s solidarity spirit turned them into a choir. Actually, choir is not the word. What you could hear was the heavy artillery of the American soul.”
That was an observance from someone in another country, a year after the tragic events of 9/11. Yet, if that editorial was written today, the story would be different. There would be finger pointing, blame, the loss of that American spirit and what you would hear would be the collective sign of downtrodden souls.
But, not in the FBI. We remain undaunted by the ugliness of the fingerpointing and the blame. Instead, we have chosen to review who we were before 9/11 and make the changes necessary to ensure such events do not occur again.
Let’s step back in time for a moment. During the FBI’s 75th anniversary celebration, former President Ronald Reagan said, “From its inception under President Theodore Roosevelt to the present, the FBI has worked diligently to enforce our laws, ensure the nation’s security, and further the pursuit of justice across our land.” President Reagan expressed his – and the American people’s – confidence in the nation’s foremost law enforcement agency. His quote graces the Hoover building today. It reminds us. It encourages us. And after close to 100 years of dedication to protecting the American people – the words of Ronald Reagan continue to ring true.
Of course, if you watch the news you would think America’s confidence is gone. News reports focus on accusations – that the FBI, CIA, and others “dropped the ball” before the terrorist attacks. They say “the FBI can’t adapt and change” – or “do it quickly enough – to meet the threat.”
But nothing could be further from the truth. And our confidence remains high. Throughout its history, the FBI has always changed to meet new threats. Nearly a century ago, the Bureau was created to investigate criminal activity that had begun to cross state lines. As America’s crime problem evolved, so did the Bureau. Our mission grew and changed through the gangster era and into the Cold War, when national security and espionage threats came to the forefront. In the past two-and-a-half years, the FBI has again undergone significant changes.
Let me provide you a glimpse into some of them.
We needed to change because crime, terrorism, and counterintelligence changed, became more complex, more sophisticated and more dangerous. We used to worry about terrorist attacks a couple of time zones away. Now, our streets and neighborhoods have been turned into the front lines.
At the end of the “cold war” the old fashioned “spy game” did not go away, in fact there are more players in the mix than ever before. The number of countries engaged in espionage against the United States has actually risen. Our enemies and allies alike, covet our technology, our manufacturing processes and our trade secrets. Economic espionage costs U.S. businesses more than 200 billion dollars a year just in intellectual property theft.
And, what about the world of cyberspace? It is great to be able to turn on your computer and with a couple of clicks, have an online shopping mall right at your fingertips. The problem is, shoppers and surfers aren’t the only people on-line today. So are pedophiles who target our children and con artists who target our elderly. So is the mafia and so are well educated terrorists.
Worst of all, these and other threats are converging in ways we have never seen before. The divisions between traditional organized crime, cyber crime, espionage and terrorism have collapsed. Organized criminals launder money for terrorists. Terrorists swap arms with international drug syndicates. Spies hack into our systems along with cyber criminals and terrorists. High tech crime rings, the Russian mafia and al Qaeda operatives alike have all made credit care fraud and identity theft a part of their modus operandi.
We needed to change to meet the complexities of today’s threats. Let me give you an illustration. Recently we had a case in Antarctica, where a U.S. scientific research station reported to the FBI that their computer systems had been hacked into and their data corrupted. At the time, Antarctica was frozen over and aircraft would not be allowed to land there for another six months.
But here in Washington, D.C., local FBI Agents traced the source of the intrusion to a server in a trucking company outside Pittsburgh. Soon after, the Agents identified two suspects in Romania, and – with the help of our law enforcement partners in that country – the two were arrested. Today, criminal, terrorism, cyber and espionage cases – all have an international nexus. Transnational evil has become the rule rather than the exception in most of our investigations.
We needed to change and the most significant change we made was redefining our priorities to prevent terrorist attacks. This required a systematic approach reviewing and examining all aspects of the Bureau’s operations.