Major Executive Speeches

Remarks Prepared For Delivery by
Bruce J. Gebhardt
Deputy Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI
San Francisco, California
September 16, 2004

Good morning. It's nice to be back in San Francisco. I went to high school here ... what, 10 years ago or so. Hey, I looked a lot younger before I became Deputy Director! Then I worked in the San Francisco Field Office for three years. You could say I left my heart here, and it's nice to get a chance to visit old friends and old haunts. It's always strange when you come back to a place after several years and you see all the changes that have taken place – and it's always a comfort to see that some things have stayed the same. Because, let's face it, most of us don't like change. Things were always better back when we were growing up or back when we were new agents. I know I was better-looking then.

I remember my very first assignment as a new Agent in Denver. And in my second year on the job, still feeling like a rookie, I was pulled into an airplane hijacking case. An individual in Grand Island, Nebraska, had commandeered a small plane and taken the pilot and mechanic hostage. He was apparently trying to get to Mexico or somewhere in South America. The pilot flew them to Denver, where the hijacker demanded a bigger plane, a million dollars, and a six-pack of beer. He had a clear set of priorities.

So at 5:00 p.m. on Easter Sunday, the whole Denver Field Office was called in, and we were involved in negotiations with the hijacker till around midnight. My SAC decided that we would provide the plane the hijacker had requested, and then have snipers take him out when he transferred to it. We were absolutely sure the snipers would take care of him, but, just as a precaution, they decided to put several agents on the plane as well. I was one of the lucky picks.

I'm sure everyone here who has ever heard the words "absolutely sure" and "just as a precaution" and "don't worry about it" knows what happened next. The sniper wasn't able to take the hijacker out, and he boarded the plane with both of the hostages in tow. The end result was that my partner and I were involved in a deadly confrontation. The hijacker was killed, and both of the hostages were, thankfully, unharmed.

Back in the 70's, of course, we had a lot of airplane hijackings, and I suppose this was one of the more innocuous – an alcoholic with marital problems who ended up being the sole fatality.

Thirty years ago, none of us envisioned what an airplane hijacking would turn into on September 11, 2001. An event that changed the world as we know it and changed the FBI forever!

As most of you know, I'll be retiring from the Bureau effective October 1st. It's never a good time to leave, but it feels right because I know the Bureau is in such good hands. Director Mueller is doing an incredible job of transforming the Bureau to meet new threats, and of defending us before Congress and the 9/11 Commission. We couldn't ask for a better leader and spokesperson. Over the past three years, members of Congress have proposed splitting the FBI apart, placing us under Homeland Security, and taking away our responsibilities for counterterrorism and intelligence – thanks to Director Mueller, none of those things has happened. And I'm here to tell you, that's a huge accomplishment in and of itself. We owe a lot to Director Mueller.

I've seen a lot of changes in my 30 years with the Bureau. But nothing compares to the changes I've seen in the past three years in response to the new terrorist threat. I just want to give you a general idea of the scope of what we're talking about.

Under Director Mueller, the FBI's organizational structure has been transformed. Entire new divisions and offices have been created. We've even started our own "college" -- the College of Analytical Studies -- to train our growing staff of intelligence analysts.

The Counterterrorism Division has been reorganized and an Office of Intelligence was created. I'm sure Director Mueller will talk about this more on Saturday – the Intelligence function is one of our top priorities.

And the changes haven't just been at Headquarters. Since 9-11, we've overhauled our Information Technology systems Bureau-wide. We've expanded the number of JTTFs around the country from 35 to 100. We've created Flying Squads that can be dispatched on short notice to anywhere in the world to assist in counterterrorism investigations or operations. We've established Foreign Counterintelligence Squads in all field offices to address national security threats. And we've created Field Intelligence Groups with analysts and reports officers in every field office.

We've also grown stronger internationally. Since 9/11, our international Legal Attaché Offices (56 going to be 62) have become increasingly important to our overall operations. Today we're using them to assist our counterparts overseas on joint investigations, intelligence-sharing, and the development of new methods to prevent attacks.

Should the FBI really be involved in all these overseas operations? Yes. Just last spring, our improved international relations helped us tackle crime on the South Pole. That's right, Antarctica. A United States scientific research station located in the coldest spot on the planet called us for help after their computer systems had been hacked into and their data corrupted.

Because of the sub-freezing temperatures, it was impossible to send Agents to the scene – no aircraft could land or take off from the site for months. But working from thousands of miles away, our investigators were able to trace the source of the intrusion to a server outside Pittsburgh. From there, we identified two Romanian suspects. Thanks to the cooperation and hard work of the Romanian authorities, they were arrested outside Bucharest shortly thereafter.

Conducting operations in Antarctica from FBI offices in DC; Los Angeles; and Mobile, Alabama. Working hand-in-hand with police in Romania based on data from a server in Pittsburgh. It's a whole new world. Sometimes, some of us may feel like this isn't the same FBI we signed onto years ago. And we'd be right – a lot of things are different. A lot of things are better.

But it would be wrong to say that everything has changed. The important things remain the same. Our organizational culture, that has come under so much fire in the media, has stayed the same. As Director Mueller has said, repeatedly, the "FBI culture" is an ethic of hard work, integrity, excellence and dedication to protecting the American public – and that has never and will never change.

And we have not abandoned our traditional criminal responsibilities -- they are still core to our mission. We are still investigating violent crime, drugs, organized crime, gang activity, and financial crimes. We are still cracking down on corporate fraud and public corruption. We are still committed to protecting the civil liberties of all Americans.

On the public corruption front, last year the Bureau opened 50 percent more public corruption cases than in the previous year. And our successes included the case against a Congressman who took bribes from local businessmen and demanded kickbacks from his own employees. He even made his staff work on his farm. He pled guilty, was removed from office, and was sentenced to 96 months in prison. Maybe they'll have him work on a farm, too.

The Bureau currently has 300 pending corporate fraud investigations, and our health care fraud investigations resulted in 600 convictions last year and more than $5 billion in settlements. I'm sure many of you have tracked our investigations into multi-billion dollar losses and fraud at HealthSouth, Enron, and Imclone. I'm also proud of work our agents did in Kansas City in Operation Diluted Trust. Thanks to their efforts, the subject pled guilty to diluting what were meant to be life-saving chemotherapy drugs, and he has started serving a 30 year prison sentence.

In the area of civil rights, the FBI was finally able to bring Thomas Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry to justice for the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, in Birmingham, Alabama. That bombing resulted in the deaths of four young African-American girls and injured 19 others. I'm pleased to say that, this past year, Blanton and Cherry were finally convicted and sentenced for murder.

In the Organized Crime Program, we're conducting operations both at home and overseas. We're particularly going after Balkan and Albanian criminal enterprises, which may already number in the thousands in the U.S. These groups are exceptionally brutal and are forming alliances with La Cosa Nostra families. In some instances they're even challenging them for control. They're involved in murders, bank and ATM burglaries, passport and visa fraud, illegal gambling, weapons and narcotics trafficking, and extortion. To get at the group's base of operations overseas before it becomes entrenched here, we are placing Agents in Eastern Europe to work hand-in-hand with local law enforcement.

Clearly, our organized crime responsibilities are going to remain one of the Bureau's top criminal priorities for many years to come. And we're also using what we've learned in fighting LCN in the war on terrorism. The criminal program has pioneered a key strategy for our counterterrorism efforts – focusing on the underlying threat and not just the overt criminal action. Whether a criminal enterprise manipulates stocks or smuggles drugs, weapons or humans, we must always focus on dismantling the entire infrastructure of the organization, not just on nabbing the street criminals. The same is true for terrorist organizations. It's not enough to capture terrorist operatives – we must demolish the entire terrorist organization, from financiers on up. Like I said earlier, a lot of things have changed over the years, but then a lot of things – the most important things – haven't.

The past 30 years have seen the advent of new forensic techniques, various new investigative technologies, new computer systems – there are whole TV shows dedicated to all these high-tech tools. And they've helped us do our jobs better.

But in the end it's not computers and databases that make the FBI work. If it was, we could just have machines do the job. What makes the FBI great, what's made me proud to come to work every day for the past 30 years, is the people. It's the almost 30,000 men and women of the FBI, out there on the front lines every day, protecting our country from terrorists and criminals. They do this behind the scenes and, too often, in the face of criticism.

This is the last speech I will give as Deputy Director. And I want to close with my favorite quote – something from Theodore Roosevelt that I think sums up my spirit and the real spirit of the FBI and those who serve in law enforcement. He said: "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood...who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."

Roosevelt said that nearly 100 years ago, and, like so many other things, it's just as true today. And back at Headquarters, Director Mueller and the rest of the Executive Staff are working to make sure everyone knows how dedicated and patriotic our Special Agents and professional support employees are. They deserve the credit because they are in the arenas everyday protecting this great country of ours. Just like you did.

As for myself, I've been proud to serve with you in the arena, and now I'm looking forward to joining you as I retire from the FBI.

Thank you for allowing me to be here with you this morning, and thank you for allowing me to serve in this Great Institution called the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

God bless you all.