Home News Speeches Watchmen on the Walls of Our Freedom
  • Robert S. Mueller, III
  • Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • National Academy Associates Annual Training Conference
  • Grapevine, Texas
  • July 31, 2012

Remarks prepared for delivery.

Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you, Diane, for that introduction. I am reminded that one of my most embarrassing moments as FBI Director came at Diane’s expense.

Back in 2007, at the National Academy conference in Scottsdale, I mentioned Diane in my remarks. I made note of a child kidnapping case that she and her colleagues had investigated, as an example of collaboration among National Academy graduates. Ad libbing, I asked if Diane was in the audience—only to discover that she was right behind me, with the members of the executive board. Even worse, I had been introduced to her just five minutes before. It was one of those embarrassing moments that you know will happen in this job, but that afterward you never forget. For this reason, Diane, I will always remember you fondly.

As a baseball fan, I was excited to learn that Nolan Ryan was scheduled to speak after me today. Don’t worry—I am under no illusions about why you are here. After all, Nolan Ryan is a Hall-of-Famer—the all-time strikeout king, and a 300-game winner. So I understand that I am more like the “warm-up” act. 

I can at least take some comfort in knowing that Nolan had a losing record against the Boston Red Sox. Of course, the club that Nolan now runs, the Texas Rangers, sits in first place today, while the Red Sox are in the cellar. So Mr. Ryan does get the last laugh.

This afternoon, I want to talk with you about the changing dynamics of the threats we face, and the importance of partnerships and information sharing in defeating these threats. And I also want to talk about the vital role of the National Academy.

Let me begin with terrorism. Together with our law enforcement, intelligence, and military partners, we have made significant progress against the terrorist threat.  

Al Qaeda is weaker than it was 10 years ago, with Osama Bin Laden, Anwar Aulaki, and other key leaders no longer in the picture. But al Qaeda remains a top threat. And in recent years, we have seen new threats from al Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. 

And yet we still remain concerned about the threat of homegrown extremists. These individuals understand our culture, our security protocols, and our vulnerabilities. They are increasingly savvy and willing to act alone, which makes them difficult to find and to stop.

At the same time, we confront an evolving espionage threat. Spies now target not only our government, but our corporations and our universities. And because much of today’s spying is accomplished by data theft from computer networks, espionage is quickly becoming cyber-based.

That brings me to the cyber arena. While counterterrorism remains our top priority, we anticipate that cyber security may well become our highest priority in the years to come.

Cyber intrusions are becoming more commonplace, more dangerous, and more sophisticated. Our critical infrastructure and our military command and control networks are targeted by potential adversaries. Our companies are targeted for insider information, and our universities for their research and development. Our citizens are targeted for fraud and identity theft. And our children are targeted by predators.

Cyber crime is not merely a national security issue; it is a criminal issue as well. So it is crucial that we continue to move forward, together, in our understanding of all things cyber.  

We have made progress in the Bureau against the cyber threat over the past 10 years. Now we must position ourselves to best combat this threat as it grows and evolves over the next 10 years. 

Just as the FBI transformed itself to better address the terrorist threat, we are undertaking a similar transformation to address the cyber threat. We are enhancing our Cyber Division’s investigative capacity, to better focus on the most significant cyber threats—that is, intrusions into government and private computer networks. 

To support this new focus, our Cyber Division is increasing the size and the scope of the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force—a national task force that includes 18 agencies from the intelligence community and law enforcement.

We are deploying additional resources to field offices, to give them what they need to address local threats and vulnerabilities. And we are hiring more computer scientists to provide the technical support we need.

Building on the success of our Joint Terrorism Task Forces, we are also creating a network of local Cyber Task Forces, or CTFs, in our field offices. These Cyber Task Forces will improve information sharing and collaboration, in the same way the Joint Terrorism Task Forces improved information sharing and collaboration. 

The cyber squads already working in each of our 56 field offices will form the nucleus of these CTFs. We will welcome your participation in these task forces—as your resources allow—while we build them throughout the country.

Turning from cyber threats to criminal programs, we all recognize that for the citizens we protect, crime on our streets is as much a threat to our overall security as terrorism, espionage, or cyber crime. 

The latest Uniform Crime Report indicates that violent crime continues to fall. Nonetheless, these statistics do not represent every community or every street corner. We have witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by street crime…gang activity…and senseless acts of violence, as we saw once again in Aurora, Colorado.

So we continue to work to address violent crime—for example, by expanding our Safe Streets Task Forces. Since 2001, we have increased the number of these task forces nationwide by nearly a third—and we have increased the number of officers on these task forces by two-thirds.

We also face white-collar crime, as well as international organized crime. These sophisticated criminal enterprises are stealing billions of dollars through human trafficking, health care fraud, computer intrusions, and copyright infringement. 

So it is an understatement to say that our plates are full. The threats we face are numerous, but the dollars to fight these threats are few—so we must build on the foundation we have set over the past decade.

Now let me focus for a moment on the importance of partnerships. Criminals and terrorists have networks that span the globe. The only way to defeat these networks is by standing shoulder-to-shoulder, building on the partnerships forged through programs such as the National Academy. 

Every day, in every community, we are working together to stop gang activity…to root out public corruption and fraud…to protect our children…and to prevent terrorism. We in the FBI know that information sharing is crucial to our collective success. 

So I want to turn for a moment to the N-DEx system—one of our most powerful information sharing tools. Let me give you one example of how N-DEx helps us to share critical information.

In 2010, a homicide detective in Oregon was searching for several individuals who lived out of state. Using N-DEx, he found records on these same individuals in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He traveled to California to interview one of the individuals, and obtained sufficient evidence to extradite him to Oregon. For the record, I do not plan to ask if that Oregon homicide detective is in the audience today. I have learned that lesson. 

You may know that the FBI temporarily stopped placing its own data into N-DEx, due to legal, technical, and data integrity concerns. The Bureau has now resolved these issues, and we plan to resume regular submission of unclassified records to N-DEx this fall. 

We do recognize that information sharing is a two-way street—and that we must continue building a culture in law enforcement where we share information by rule, and not by exception.

Now let me turn to the importance of the National Academy. I attended my first National Academy graduation on September 7, 2001, just a few days after becoming Director. Since then, I have attended nearly 40 National Academy graduations—which is indicative of my support of, and the Bureau’s commitment to, the National Academy. 

Two weeks ago, the 250th session of the National Academy started at Quantico. I look forward to attending their graduation in September as well. By then, the members of the 250th will have forged many new friendships—and they will have added their own stories to the legendary tales that come out of each session. 

One such story I am fond of is about Danish student Yanick Favre of Session 229, who chose the wrong time and place to play tourist. Yanick, who is a pilot, rented a plane to do some aerial sightseeing. He inadvertently wandered into restricted airspace over Jamestown, Virginia—on the same day that former President George Bush and the Queen of England were visiting. Yanick was “escorted” from the sky by military planes, and spent some time in handcuffs, trying to explain who he was and what he was doing.

And then there is my personal favorite, the story about a National Academy student from almost a decade ago. Many of you have heard this before, since I have told it at many National Academy graduations. Some time after he graduated, this student was reminiscing at the breakfast table about the good times at Quantico. He said the weeks he spent at the Academy were the best 10 weeks of his life. His teenage daughter looked at him and said, “Dad, to be perfectly honest, they were the best 10 weeks of my life, too!”

But in between the humorous moments, National Academy students work hard. Today’s students display the same high level of professionalism that you did during your time at Quantico. They are serious about learning as much as possible, and taking what they learn back to their departments. We recognize it is a sacrifice to be away from your families, your colleagues, and your communities. And that is why you work so hard to make the most of your National Academy experience.

We in the FBI, and I in particular, consider the National Academy to be one of the crown jewels of the Bureau—and we are dedicated to its ongoing success. In the years to come, the Bureau will do everything in our power to continue providing an outstanding National Academy experience to as many of our colleagues as possible. We know that the partnerships built through this program are crucial to our success.

The National Academy has come a long way since 1935, when the first group of 23 students attended what was then known as “FBI Police Training School.” From those humble beginnings, the National Academy network has grown to nearly 46,000 members strong, representing 177 countries. Think about that—nearly 46,000 Yellow Bricks sit on desks and bookcases throughout the world. That is a line of bricks nearly as long as the Yellow Brick Road itself. 

Those bricks are powerful symbols of your experiences at the National Academy, and of the challenges you overcame together. Yet they also represent a continuing challenge—a challenge to remain connected and committed to one another. How many times have you been in your office and had a visitor notice your Yellow Brick—and you find that you immediately share a bond with that person? Those Yellow Bricks mean that you stand in solidarity with each other. 

* * *

On Saturday, many of you took the opportunity to visit the John F. Kennedy Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. In 1963, President Kennedy passed Dealey Plaza on his way to give a speech—words that were never delivered. Yet these words carry a legacy for those of us in law enforcement. 

Referring to the Cold War, President Kennedy was to say the following: “We in this country, in this generation, are—by destiny rather than choice—the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility...”

Today, you and your colleagues back home—here in the United States and around the globe—have chosen to be the watchmen on the walls of our freedom. You have chosen to serve your communities—to wear your badges and patrol the streets, keeping your fellow citizens safe. You are—each of you—worthy of that power and responsibility. Fortunately, you do not bear that burden on your own. The partnerships—indeed, the friendships—you formed through the National Academy, ensure that you never need to face a challenge alone.

We in the Bureau are proud to be your partners. My thanks for all you do for law enforcement, and for the FBI. Thanks again for having me today, and God bless.

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