Major Executive Speeches

Remarks Prepared for delivery by
Assistant Director Cassandra Chandler
Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Foundation
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.

Our review was comprehensive. The changes - significant. The result - a better FBI.

First, we defined ten priorities in three key areas: national security, criminal, and support. Under national security we refocused so that counterterrorism became the overarching priority. Every terrorism lead is addressed, even if it requires a diversion of resources from other areas.

Counterterrorism is followed by foreign intelligence threats and cyber crime.

With a large percentage of our resources dedicated to the national security priorities, we had to re-evaluate our traditional criminal priorities. Those criminal areas where we have exclusive investigative jurisdiction, public corruption and the protection of civil rights, were identified first among these. Transnational and national criminal enterprises, major white collar crimes and significant violent crimes were also included.

The two support priorities help us to accomplish the first eight. We upgraded our information technology and we expanded our external relations. With regard to improving our technology, we have developed an integrated information system to improve our ability to search for information, analyze it, draw connections, and share it both inside the Bureau and outside with our partners. This year, we will implement software that will, for the first time, move the FBI from being a paper-driven organization to a digital organization.

And, as for our external relationships, we are strengthening not just our partnerships with U.S. law enforcement and our counterparts overseas, but with the community as well. When we reflect back to September 11th, we realize that the world did not change when planes became missiles, America actually changed. We all did. The community became acutely aware of the circumstances, influences and players -- both good and evil – that have affected our world for many decades.

And as a profession, all of us in law enforcement changed. We recognized the need to break down barriers between the FBI, law enforcement, business, and our very diverse community. We began reaching out to community groups and leaders to develop a truly cooperative relationship. And with our law enforcement partners, we are working together now, not waiting to introduce ourselves for the first time at another Ground Zero.

Today the FBI, other law enforcement and the community cooperate in deep and meaningful ways, every single day. Most of our field offices have Citizen’s Academies to train public leaders and businessmen and women about who we are and what we do. Our 84 Joint Terrorism Task Forces put all levels of law enforcement together to investigate threats and share information. Together we are making “law enforcement community” more than just an empty label. We are transforming ourselves into a truly interdependent community of agents, police, business and the diverse people which we serve.

Beyond establishing our priorities, we re-aligned resources to ensure that we accomplished our goals. To confront an enemy as cunning as Al Qaeda, it was clear that the FBI would have to become more flexible, more agile, and more mobile. Since September 11th, we have doubled the number of Special Agents and analysts in counterterrorism and added another 450 translators.

We also established specialized operational units that give us new capabilities to address the terrorist threat. For example, one unit focuses on terrorist financing, and another unit exploits evidence found overseas. Yet another is dedicated solely to finding terrorists overseas and keeping them out of the United States, while multiple “Fly Teams” travel wherever and whenever they are needed to lend their counterterrorism expertise.

Now, imagine… the priorities were re-defined, our structure and resources realigned. Change was occurring rapidly. Yet, there remained more to be done. We had to change “how” we were operating.

We centralized the management of our counterterrorism program at Headquarters in order to allow us to more effectively cull through information and connect the dots and patterns nationally. This centralization has resulted in less stove-piping and better coordination.

We also began focusing on our intelligence. Essential to predicting and preventing future terrorist attacks is improving intelligence analysis. The FBI has always used intelligence to solve cases. It is how we pursued Nazi spies during World War II and the mafia in the seventies and eighties. But we needed more. We increased the number of intelligence analysts, expanded their career path, set performance standards, and developed training that will be ongoing for their entire career.

We are now integrating intelligence into all of our operations to produce a seamless, predictive, analytic capability. We have intelligence groups in every field office. We are also enhancing our ability to take a daily snapshot of our domestic intelligence picture: what we are collecting, how we are collecting it, and identifying any gaps.

But intelligence can only help if it is shared. Today, we produce daily intelligence reports and bulletins to share not just with the intelligence community, but with our state and local law enforcement partners as well.

All of these changes and our improved counterterrorism efforts have produced significant results. The FBI and its partners have disrupted a number of terrorist operations both here and overseas. We have conducted more than 70 investigations into terrorist money trails and frozen more than $125 million in assets.

We have made great progress in the war against terrorism, while continuing to significantly impact transnational organized crime, corporate fraud and more.

But, we have not made similar progress in getting the message out to the public. The American people need to understand the changes we have made, the work we are doing, and the dangers we still face.

They also need to know – and I think the Director did an excellent job articulating this at the recent 9-11 hearings – that the one thing which will never change in the FBI, the thing that will see us through all of the upheaval, is the outstanding devotion of our employees. Every time I read quotes or hear comments that the FBI’s “culture must change… or can the culture change” I cringe. Do you know what the first definition of “culture” is in the Webster Dictionary? Culture is defined as “the quality in a person that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellence in manners, etc.”

The culture of the FBI is a commitment to fidelity, bravery and integrity. The culture of the FBI is now and has always been one of hard work and a dedication to protecting this country. There is no need to change that.

Former President Jimmy Carter once said, “We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.” That is precisely what the FBI has done for more than 95 years, and I am here to ensure you that the FBI’s commitment to change while maintaining those unchanging principles of fidelity, bravery and integrity, still guides us today and will in the next century.

But America needs to know, not just about the changes we have made, but also about our devotion to those unchanged principles.

We recognize that working with the CIA, DHS, DEA and the rest of the government’s alphabet soup of agencies is important. But – we must also work with CNN, ABC, NPR and the alphabet soup of the media to get more information out. Whether it is a message about suspected terrorists, potential threats, or about the changes we have made to keep America safe. We have an obligation to keep the public informed.

Granted, the media has not always been kind to the FBI, especially before 9-11, and it’s not surprising that it’s gotten a little worse since then. But before September 11th, we weren’t always as focused on communicating with the public as we should have been. And now, we’re facing the task of trying to build those relationships with the media and the public at the same time that we’re facing some of the worst criticism in the Bureau’s history.

It’s tough. Sometimes it feels like an uphill slog. But it is what we need to do. It is what we must do to help America feel safe.

We are working towards building a more positive relationship with the media and we know that in order to maintain that relationship, we must earn the trust of those in the industry. Journalists have a job to do and part of that job – just like an Agent, is actually – to be a little skeptical of what people tell you. It’s not up to the media to believe us – that’s not their job – it’s up to us to be truthful and more open with them and the American people.

Only an informed public can make rational judgments as to whether the FBI is up to the task. Only an informed public will be secure in their confidence in the FBI’s ability to get the job done.

Now, earlier I said sometimes the negative stories cause others to forget the dedication and the hard work of our employees. But, in the FBI, we never lose sight of it

And in the end, that’s what we focus on. The fact that – no matter what is being reported about us in the news – we are still committed to doing the job we must do. We may get good press on Monday after rounding up a terrorist ring, and on Tuesday we may be blasted with negative coverage about the same investigation. But no matter what’s scrolling across the headlines, we remain focused on the work yet to be done.

In 1961, J. Edgar Hoover remarked, “…America has always been a land of great champions, produced by the fires of adversity. Extraordinary men and women since 1776 have achieved extraordinary goals and conquered extraordinary obstacles. We must be real champions in America if we are to defeat our enemies within and without.”

And today, in 2004, despite the criticisms of mis-steps, should have dones, should not have dones, the men and the women of the FBI remain the champions Mr. Hoover once envisioned for this agency. They remain extraordinary men and extraordinary women who, despite the fires of adversity - still achieve extraordinary goals and conquer extraordinary obstacles.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell you a bit about how we’ve changed and to remind you of the commitment that still remains the same. I will be happy to take your questions