2001 Conference: Remarks by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller

Thank you and good morning. I can’t tell you how glad I am to be here – to be among friends and partners, from America and around the world. I want to thank our Canadian hosts for their hospitality and for the outstanding support they’ve given to American law enforcement and particularly to the FBI. I want to thank the dedicated law enforcement professionals here today for everything you’ve done to help the FBI and make the world a safer place since September 11th. And I want to thank your families for bravely standing behind you through it all. Just three days after I joined the Bureau, and four days before that horrific day in September, I had the opportunity to attend my first graduation of the FBI National Academy in Quantico. It was a tremendous experience. I was able to meet and talk with more than 260 professionals, the people who work for you and with you, the proud graduates of the 206th session. I thanked them for their service to the country, and talked about the journey of cooperation and mutual respect that I hoped we’d walk together in the weeks and months to follow. I felt proud to be part of the law enforcement community, and I marveled at the warmth and closeness present that day. More than ever, it was clear to me that our common bond is forged by our common mission – to protect the people we serve. That day, even though we represented 27 nations, we all spoke the same language. Seeing the energy and optimism on the faces of your colleagues that morning, and their renewed sense of determination, I could not have imagined that our entire world would be changed forever just four days later. That we would personally and collectively face our toughest test ever as protectors and defenders of the people. That in just a few short hours, some of our closest colleagues and partners and friends would no longer be with us. But even as the world around us seemed to be turned upside down, I was heartened to see the bedrock values that we all share stand firm. And I was proud to see you and your colleagues leading the way, giving dignity and sacrifice new meaning. The terrorists acted out of hatred and anger. You answered with courage and compassion, and with heroism and honor. The terrorists murdered innocent bystanders. You and your colleagues risked your lives to save complete strangers. On September 11th and in the days that followed, you showed your true colors. You showed us why law enforcement blue is not a cliché; it’s a way of life. From the very first moment that I accepted this job, I was resolved to build a stronger, more seamless, and more supportive partnership between your law enforcement communities and the FBI. I’ve been privileged to work along side you and your colleagues for nearly thirty years. I’ve always believed that law enforcement is only as good as its relationships, that our combined resources and expertise and ideas are far beyond the sum of their parts, and that the potential for greater successes through mutual cooperation and respect is boundless. As the events of September 11th unfolded, and we began coordinating our response with the law enforcement around the country and the world, my resolve to partner with you only intensified. And it seemed to me that the sometimes-artificial walls that divide us in law enforcement were coming down. Suddenly, jurisdictions or affiliations didn’t seem to matter. What mattered was serving. What mattered was saving lives. Barry Mawn, who heads our New York field office and is a leader in our investigation, expressed it well. He said that on September 11th, “All law enforcement came together as one.” In the difficult days that followed, that unity has emerged in many places, in New York and other cities, here in Canada and across the ocean in places like England, France, and Germany. Many of our Special Agents in Charge and our Legal Attaches overseas reached out to you—keeping you up-to-date, enlisting your expertise, and drawing upon your resource. As time passed, though, I heard that in some areas of the country, the FBI was turning away your offers to help. I learned that concerns about not giving you information had begun to surface. Both are unacceptable. One of the first steps I took was to call Bruce, your president, asking him to tell me bluntly and honestly what issues have come up since September 11. Bruce minced no words. I was convinced, after that conversation, that many of your concerns are valid and need to be addressed. In response, I met in Washington with representatives of the IACP and other leading law enforcement organizations. In these meetings, we talked through issues, addressed misconceptions, and agreed to explore ways to improve our relationships. As a result of those meetings and in response to your concerns, we have taken steps to strengthen our partnership and serve you better. In cities where we don’t already have a Joint Terrorism Task Force, I’ve asked our SACs to get one up and running ASAP. These task forces aren’t a panacea, but they do break down stereotypes and communications barriers, more effectively coordinate leads, and help get the right resources in the right places. In short, they meld us together in ways that make information sharing a non-issue. I’ve also asked SACs to look to local law enforcement to cover local investigative leads where possible. I’ve asked your organization and others to help us identify representatives to work with us in our strategic command center at FBI Headquarters, in the heart of our predictive intelligence operation. We’re also exploring the possibility of putting together a working group of FBI and state and local law enforcement officers to identify other specific issues and find workable solutions. And most importantly, if we have specific and credible threat information about an attack planned or suspected in your jurisdictions, we will make sure that you get information every time, no matter what. In my mind, it comes down to two things. First, giving you the information you need to make judgements about protecting your communities. And second, capitalizing on the “force multiplier” effect that comes when we work together. We are committed to doing both. In these meetings, I also addressed some misconceptions. I pointed out that the FBI is not withholding significant amounts of information due to security concerns. Much of our information can be released to you, but it’s just not as specific or developed as we’d all like. You’ve seen that on the Watch List that we recently added to NCIC. Often, we don’t have much more than names and aliases for the individuals on the list. With your help, that list is rapidly shrinking, but as we get photos or other data, we will add them to our system. I also should point out, when it comes to the electronic age, the FBI is sometimes far behind you and your colleagues. That’s why we often can’t provide information in an electronic format. But let me be clear: overhauling our electronic infrastructure is a top priority for us. And we will get it done. These are some initial first steps. More will follow. Some issues may need to be addressed through legislation. As we move through this process, please bring any problems or issues to our attention. Let us know what you’re experiencing, how the FBI is treating you, and we’ll respond. This I know: the FBI can’t be successful in preventing terrorism without your help. No one institution is strong enough to tackle that challenge alone. That’s why we’ve determined to be open and cooperative. We’re in new territory here. Each new day, it seems, brings a fresh challenge. We need to be flexible, to be willing to change course in mid-stream if need be, and to be open to a broad array of input and ideas from your ranks and elsewhere. Together, I’m confident that we will succeed in defeating terrorism. Our will is strong, and our commitment absolute. We will not relent until we have exhausted every angle and every lead, until we have identified and prosecuted the terrorists and terrorist networks responsible for launching the most devastating terrorist attack in history. We will work together to find those responsible for the anthrax attacks that are terrifying America and the world. And most importantly, we will together do our utmost to ensure that terrorists do not strike again. This resolve, this new level of partnership, however, should not stop with our collective efforts to end terrorism. It should expand to other areas of criminal investigation. There are plenty of criminals to go around, and plenty global challenges we can only address together. The tragedy of September 11th has touched us all personally. Some of us have lost colleagues, perhaps even friends and family. The FBI lost one of its own too, a brave New York Special Agent named Lenny Hatton. Lenny saw the first World Trade Center tower on fire on his way into work on September 11, and he instinctively raced to the scene. He was last seen helping a victim out of one of the towers, then rushing back in to help more. I had the honor of attending Lenny’s Funeral Mass in his hometown in New Jersey. A close friend and colleagues of Lenny’s named Chris O’Connell paid tribute to the fallen agent that afternoon. Chris talked about how Lenny devoted his life to serving—how Lenny had served as a husband and father, as a Marine and FBI Agent, as a volunteer fireman—how Lenny had served until his last breath, rushing into a burning building to save the lives of others. Chris said Lenny saved his life, too. Had it not been for Lenny, Chris would have been at the World Trade Center that day. Just days before the tragedy, Chris wanted to cancel an upcoming class at Quantico because his workload was so heavy. Lenny talked him out of it. He said to Chris, “Don’t be silly. Just go. You’ll have a good time.” Chris did, and he never saw Lenny again. (long pause) Chris O’Connell closed his eulogy by saying: “On September 11, we saw a horrific event in this country and our city. Special Agent Lenny Hatton stood shoulder to shoulder with the finest and the bravest. Until we meet again, my partner, my friend.” Chris was Lenny’s partner, a detective on the NYPD. Lenny and Chris cared for each other like brothers. It didn’t matter to them that one worked for the feds and one for the NYPD. They just wanted to get the job done. They were a team. And they are an inspiration to us all. September 11th has called upon all of us to be leaders, to play a key role in defeating the scourage of terrorism, and to make the world safe and free. In the spirit of Lenny and Chris, let’s go forward as one team, united by our common challenge, strengthened by our differences, and confident in collective strength. The world is counting on us. Thank you.

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