to be back in Boston. John F. Kennedy once described Washington
as "a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm."
I think he was a bit hard on the North. There's something
comforting in being back among Boston's many charms. Passing
a Dunkin' Donuts on every corner. Seeing the glares directed
at those who dare to wear Yankee caps. Hearing every fifth
word modified by "wicked."
I want to talk about the FBI's role in the relationship between
freedom and security-in particular, the balance of national
security and civil liberties. I can think of no more fitting
place than the John F. Kennedy School of Government. President
Kennedy was one of freedom's greatest champions, and one of
freedom's greatest orators.
46 years ago tomorrow, President Kennedy delivered a speech
to the American Newspaper Publishers Association. He discussed
the delicate balance between the need to keep the public informed
through freedom of the press and the need to keep the public
secure through limiting the amount of information made available
to America's enemies. America was deep in the Cold War, facing
unprecedented threats. In President Kennedy's words:
way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our
enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our
friends is in danger."
later, we find ourselves in the midst of another fierce struggle.
Once again, our way of life is under attack and our enemies
are advancing around the globe. And once again we must confront
the question of how to properly balance the protection of
American lives with the protection of American liberties.
mission is to protect both. And we do.
I discuss what the FBI is doing to protect our freedom, let
me first address the gravest threat to our way of lifethe
threat of terrorism.
the September 11 attacks, the FBI has worked closely with
the law enforcement and intelligence communities to prevent
another attack. We have made substantial progress.
together, we have dismantled terrorist camps overseas and
detected terrorist cells here at home. We have disrupted terrorist
communications and finances. We have diminished the leadership
and command structures of groups such as al Qaeda. And so
far we have prevented another attack on our homeland.
are still not safe. I do not say this to be an alarmist. The
reality is that although we have grown accustomed to feeling
secure on our own soil, terrorists have attacked other nations,
and they still want to attack us. We cannot afford to become
complacent. Terrorists are not likely to go into another line
intelligence underscores al Qaeda's resilience. They are seeking
out new sanctuaries for recruiting and training. They are
promoting from within. And they are using seasoned operatives
to plan attacks around the world.
or community is immune. The threat stretches from Bali all
the way to Boston. Remember, the morning of September 11,
2001, 10 of the hijackers passed through Logan Airport.
do not need massive armies to cause massive carnage, but only
a few faithful followers. They no longer need a single leader
preaching a message of hate, but an ideology they can spread
on the Internet. They no longer need al Qaeda subsidies or
advanced technology, but a small amount of money they can
raise themselves, and bombs they can detonate with their cell
have global ambitions and global reach. One of the unintended
consequences of damaging al Qaeda's hierarchy is that its
remaining members and its newest acolytes are dispersed across
the globe. Al Qaeda is no longer just an organization; it
is a movement. Its followers may have no formal affiliation
with al Qaeda, but may be inspired by its message of violence.
now worried not just about new sanctuaries emerging overseas,
but also about pockets of concern in our own neighborhoods.
For instance, we have already discovered homegrown cells-from
Ohio to Oregon, and from Lackawanna, New York to Northern
mission is to protect America from these threats, and from
many others, including threats to civil rights and civil liberties.
Some have suggested there is an inherent conflict between
protecting national security and protecting civil liberties.
a right to privacy. But we also have a right to ride the train
to work without bombs exploding.
the FBI are sworn to protect both national security and civil
liberties. It is not a question of conflict; it is a question
safeguard our civil liberties but leave our country vulnerable
to a terrorist attack, we have lost. If we protect America
from terrorism but sacrifice our civil liberties, we have
lost. We must strike a balance.
is not a new concept. We have all heard Ben Franklin's assessment:
"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary
security deserve neither liberty or security." But as
the guardian of both, the FBI is in the center of this debate.
So how do we try to guarantee both? We struggle with this
question every day.
give you a hypothetical scenario. Let's say that while investigating
last year's plot to blow up airliners bound for the United
States, British authorities discovered the terrorists had
called a phone number in the United States.
concern would be to find out who the British terrorists had
been talking to and why. So we would check that U.S. phone
number against our databases. Here we must walk the line between
investigating a possible connection to a plot in the United
States, and respecting privacy. Yes, it's possible the terrorists
had just dialed an innocent acquaintance, but can we take
that risk? Would you want us to take that risk? And what if
we are wrong?
say we discover the phone number is registered to a suspected
terrorist. What should we do next?
post-9/11 world, we cannot afford to let any counterterrorism
lead go unaddressed. The next logical step is to find out
who else the U.S. subject has been talking to. So we would
use a national security letter to obtain his phone records.
But this is typically where privacy concerns again arise.
might have called many numbers that have no connection whatsoever
to terrorism. He might have called to order a pizza, or to
request a cab, or to chat with a co-worker. But on the other
hand, he might have also called a terrorist associate.
look at who the subject called, we may be criticized for accessing
information about innocent Americans. But if we do not take
a closer look by examining those phone records, we risk missing
a key piece of evidence. And should an attack occur, we would
most certainly be condemnedand rightly sofor not
connecting the dots that could have foiled that attack.
it is important to remember three things. One, communications
are the lifeblood of terrorism. Two, in my example, we are
not accessing the content of those phone calls, just the record
that the phone calls occurred. And three, we can quickly exclude
all the unrelated phone numbers, and focus only on those that
raise red flags. From there, we can start to piece together
the puzzle, bit by bit, without knowing what picture will
this as a hypothetical example because I cannot discuss the
details of ongoing investigations. Suffice it to say, many
of the real scenarios we investigate are not far from this
example. Often what they have in common is a potentially serious
threat, limited intelligence, and a limited time frame within
which to act.
each unique investigation, we wrestle with the same questions.
Have we struck the right balance between security and freedom?
Did we take every reasonable step? What if we didn't peel
back that last layer that would have revealed a terrorist
our work is not like an episode of "Law & Order,"
where one clue leads effortlessly to the next, and a complex
investigation can be wrapped up and successfully prosecuted
inside an hour.
is not smooth. Most often, it is piecemeala name here,
a phone number there. Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former
head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, puts
it this way:
difficult decisions need to be made on the basis of intelligence
which is fragmentary and difficult to interpret
is gold, some dross and all of it requires validation, analysis
and assessment. When it is gold it shines and illuminates,
saves lives, protects nations and informs policy."
the FBI are looking for the gold amid the dross. Our focus
is on obtaining that information which helps us protect America.
We ensure that we collect intelligence appropriately in three
ways: through training, through oversight, and through adherence
to the law.
training. Before FBI agents receive their guns and badges,
they go through 21 weeks of rigorous training at our academy.
They take courses not just in conducting surveillance and
interviewing witnesses, but in lawfully opening investigations
and gathering evidence. They learn not just the technique
of making an arrest, but the legal basis for doing so, and
the constitutional protections afforded to each suspect.
make sure they fully understand the magnitude of their oath
to defend the Constitution, every new FBI agent visits the
Holocaust museum, to see for themselves the horror and injustice
that result when law enforcement becomes a tool for oppression.
training carries through to every investigation. Agents adhere
to federal statutes, the Attorney General Guidelines, and
above all, the Constitution. They use a range of investigative
tools. As was the case in our hypothetical example, one primary
tool is the national security letter, which has been the subject
of debate in recent weeks. So let me take just a moment to
address the NSL issue.
the first to admit that the FBI fell short in its compliance
with NSL statutes. With the help of the inspector general,
we identified what happened and how, and we have taken steps
to correct it. But I will also note that the inspector general
concluded that none of these violations was intentional. Furthermore,
the inspector general agreed with our assessment that NSLs
are a critical investigative tool, and that they have been
invaluable to many national security investigations.
are a good example of another built-in protection, and that
is transparency. The FBI is subject to substantial oversight,
both internally and externally. More often than not, we are
the first to identify our mistakes. But if not, we can depend
on the wider safety net of the Inspector General, the Congress
and the American public. It is to them that we are accountable,
and it is from them that we receive substantial scrutiny.
this scrutiny, painful though it sometimes is, because we
understand that our ability to protect the American people
depends in large part on the people's ability to trust the
FBI. We are servants of the people, and guardians of the Constitution.
There is not one FBI employee who bears this responsibility
many people don't know is that we often go above and beyond
what the law requires in order to fully protect our civil
we have been well ahead of the curve in conducting privacy
impact analyses for national security databasesnot because
we were required to, but because we take seriously our obligation
to protect privacy.
have a Privacy and Civil Liberties Unit at FBI Headquarters.
This unit works to ensure we have the right balance between
our operations and our civil liberties obligations.
earlier about the current and emerging threat landscapethe
intersection between crime and terrorism, between international
plots and homegrown cells, between ancient hatreds and modern
of these threats has led some to say the FBI is not well-equipped
to be both a law enforcement and an intelligence agency. These
critics have called for a separate agency to be established
along the lines of Britain's MI5.
this is a system that works well in Britain, it would be a
mistake here in the United States. It would do a disservice
to the American people. The FBI is uniquely situated within
the American system to address these threats precisely because
it is a national security agency with law enforcement powers.
still think of the FBI as traditional crimefighters-and
indeed, criminal investigations have been our bread and butter
for almost 100 years. But every single agent will tell you
that intelligence contributes to every investigation, from
criminal to cyber to counterterrorism.
is nothing new to the Bureau. Intelligence is how we fought
Nazi spies during World War II, Soviet espionage during the
Cold War, and organized crime in the seventies and eighties.
And it is how we are fighting terrorism. We have built on
our foundation and adapted our intelligence capabilities so
we can target today's threats.
September 11, we have hired thousands of analysts and translators.
We established field intelligence groups in every FBI field
office. Our agents and analysts work side-by-side in a joint
facility with CIA and DHS personnel. We are fully integrated
in the intelligence community under the director of national
intelligence. Intelligence is now woven into every single
investigation and operation, whether in Massachusetts or in
forget that terrorists operate at every levellocal,
regional, and global. But so does the FBI. We have offices
in nearly 60 foreign countries. We work side by side with
our state, local, and international counterparts. We collaborate
on cases that cross jurisdictional boundaries, whether those
boundaries are state lines or international borders.
of a separate domestic intelligence agency see a dichotomy
between intelligence operations and law enforcement operations.
The reality is that the two functions are synergistic in the
fight against terrorism.
the FBI can do both, we can sit at one table and discuss the
intelligence we are collecting-as well as what we should do
with that intelligence. We can analyze whether it makes more
sense to let an intelligence operation play out or to make
arrests and begin prosecutions.
a separate agency to collect intelligence, and then pass it
to law enforcement for action, would be counterproductive.
also worth noting that a separate intelligence agency would
not possess the intrinsic responsibility to protect civil
liberties that is part of the FBI's DNA. As President Kennedy
pointed out in his speech 46 years ago, "There is little
value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions
do not survive with it."
mandate to uphold the Constitution and protect civil rights
and civil liberties is not a burden. It is what makes us better.
the arguments of our critics, because when it comes to civil
liberties we share common ground. Their job is to speak out
because they believe deeply that our liberties are precious,
and must be guarded. So do we. Part of our job is to investigate
violations of civil rights and civil liberties. But another
part of our job is to protect lives. These dual responsibilities
make our task more complex, and put us squarely in the middle
of the national security and civil liberties debate.
work together to strike the right balance, let us not underestimate
the threat we face. We in the FBI would love nothing more
than to reach the day when we can shut down our Counterterrorism
Division. But the reality is that the terrorist threat will
be with us for a long time to come.
has a desire and a duty to protect you from those threats.
We and our partners are the last line of defense standing
between America and the next September 11.
inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy said, "In
the long history of the world, only a few generations have
been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of
maximum danger." President Kennedy went on to say, "I
do not shrink from this responsibilityI welcome it."
do not shrink from the responsibility of defending our freedom
in its hour of danger. We welcome it. Like those before us,
we will be judged by future generations on whether we succeed.
will determine not just whether we defeat terrorism, but also
whether we safeguard the liberties for which we are fighting,
and maintain the trust of the American people. We know that
if we win one struggle at the expense of the othereither
waywe will have lost on both counts. In the fullness
of time, I believe future generations will look back and judge
that the FBI accomplished both missions.
our duty. It is our calling. And more than that, it is our
privilege to serve and protect you.
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