Major Executive Speeches

Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI
American Chamber of Commerce
March 15, 2002

Thank you and good morning. It's great to be here.

I want to take a moment at the outset to thank Ambassador Lavin for his leadership and for his strong support of the FBI.

As all of you probably know, the Ambassador is extremely well versed and highly engaged on law enforcement issues. He cares deeply about the security of this region and the safety of your businesses, and he realizes how vital both are to the strength of Singapore's economy. We in the FBI appreciate his focus and his leadership, as we know you do, and we appreciate in particular the guidance and support he provides to the Bureau and the strong partnership he has established with the FBI's Legal Attache office here in Singapore.

Thank you, Ambassador Lavin. And thanks also to your Deputy Chief of Mission John Medeiros and the entire Embassy staff for the work they do in support of the Bureau.

It's great to be with all of you today. I think you all realize the role the FBI plays in fighting crime and protecting national security, and the relationships we need with our various counterparts to make that happen. What you may not realize is that we also have a strong partnership with the American business community -- not only back home, but overseas through Chambers of Commerce and other organizations around the world.

We recognize, first of all, that your leadership in creating jobs and providing meaningful work is absolutely critical to keeping crime and terrorism at bay. We also understand that we simply cannot do our jobs well without your guidance, your expertise, and your support, particularly in the more complex and challenging arenas like cyber crime. So I am here today to thank you and to reaffirm the FBI's commitment to working with you and supporting you.

Today, of course, our commitment to you is in large part measured by our commitment to preventing any and all attacks against America, against its citizens, against its businesses, and against its landmarks -- not only stateside, but also here in this region and around the world.

As you can imagine, the attacks of September 11th have had a deep and dramatic impact on the FBI. They have affected virtually everything we do: our allocation of resources, our structure, our technology, our training, our relationships. Most importantly, though, they have resulted in a new overriding mission: to do everything in our power to prevent another September 11th.

That mandate comes from the top -- from the President of the United States. Every day since September 11th, with the exception of Sundays and days like today when I'm out of town, I have briefed the President every morning at 8:30. I update him on the September 11th investigation and how we're responding to the various threats we're receiving worldwide.

He doesn't ask me how many arrests we've made or how many people we've prosecuted. What he really cares about is this: what is the FBI doing -- along with its partners -- to prevent potential terrorist attacks.

Those briefings -- as they should -- have made me incredibly focused on the actions we're taking around the world on a day-to-day basis. They are also a constant reminder that prevention is where the energy, the resources, and the commitment of the FBI need to be. And in the days and weeks following September 11th, it became clear to me that some fairly substantial changes were needed at the FBI to fulfill our new mission. Since then, every program, every process, and every dollar spent have been closely scrutinized. Many changes have already been made, and many more are underway.

We have, for starters, devoted massive new resources to counterterrorism. At its peak, we had well over half of our 11,000 Agents devoted to the investigation. Over the past six months, several hundred of those Agents have been sent overseas at various times, including to Singapore and Malaysia. The initial shift in resources has abated somewhat, but over the longer term, we essentially plan to double the number of Agents we have dedicated to investigating terrorism.

We are also moving to substantially improve our analytic capabilities, not only by increasing the number of analysts and their skill sets, but also by overhauling our technology so that it better enables us to gather, analyze, and share information. That is a critical piece in preventing terrorist attacks in the future.

In addition, we have made major changes to our structure at FBI Headquarters, placing an emphasis on areas that are critical to our fight against terrorism. That includes new high-level positions to improve coordination with law enforcement, a new Office of Intelligence, and a new Division devoted exclusively to fighting cyber crime and protecting the digital marketplace.

We are also changing our approach to hiring. In years past, the FBI tended to hire generalists, talented professionals who were good at many things but not necessarily experts in a specific field. In recent years, the FBI has moved to hire more specialists, and that effort has accelerated in the wake of September 11th, responding to our increasing need for linguists, computer scientists, and the like.

The end result of all these changes is that the FBI is better positioned to fight crime and terrorism around the world. At this point, we're not where we want to be or where we need to be, but we have made important progress and that progress will continue.

The FBI is also working hard here in Singapore and this region to head off acts of terror. The attacks of September 11th dealt a severe blow to America, but the shock waves were felt around the world. I'm sure that you felt the force of them here as well -- on both a personal and professional level. I know that the attacks had a deep impact on the economy of this area, and that hurts your businesses. Then, in December, you learned that terrorists were planning to strike the American Embassy and other targets in Singapore, a nation long known as a haven of stability.

We all live now with an understanding that terrorists can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time. At the same time, as Ambassador Lavin has said, Singapore is still a safe place to live and do business. It's as safe now -- perhaps even safer -- than it was in December or September. The work of the local authorities -- as I'll discuss in a moment -- is excellent. And the FBI remains committed to supporting them in any way we can to stop acts of terrorism.

The heart and soul of our commitment, of course, is our FBI office, our Legal Attache. This office was set up in the summer of 2000, and it is responsible for covering not only Singapore but also Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. It is headed right now by an Acting Legal Attache -- Ralph Horton -- and supported by three other individuals, including an Agent on loan from another FBI office.

I recognize the importance of having a permanent Legat here, and in the near future I will appoint one. Ultimately, I would also like to expand the number of FBI offices in the region.

Our Agents and support staff here are making every effort to head off potential terrorist attacks in Singapore and around the world. They are following up on every lead that comes their way and are leaving no stone unturned. Since September 11th alone, they have covered nearly 1,500 leads, most related to the terrorist attacks. They are working hand-in-hand with the Embassy, with Regional Security Officer Wayne May, with our colleagues in the CIA and other U.S. Agencies, and with law enforcement counterparts from host governments in the region. The partnerships they have forged are stronger than ever.

These relationships are the lifeblood of the FBI. I am convinced that the Bureau is only so good as its ability to form close and abiding relationships with its many colleagues. That is especially true overseas, where we have no jurisdiction to interview subjects, investigate crimes, or make arrests. We are successful internationally only to the degree that we have the support and cooperation of host governments and their law enforcement and security services. That's why I felt it was so important to visit Singapore and other nations during my trip to Southeast Asia -- to strengthen these bonds and to acknowledge the hard work and support of our colleagues.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our partners in the region, particularly our counterparts in law enforcement and national security in Singapore. They have provided outstanding support and cooperation to the FBI over the years, including in our ongoing work in the USS Cole investigation. Since September 11th, the level of support has increased many times over. They have chased down countless leads for us. They have conducted many interviews and made the results of the interviews available to us. They have facilitated arrests. They have been absolute partners, and their patience and cooperation in handling our many requests has been remarkable.

In particular, I want to commend the Singapore authorities for their vigilance and efficiency in rooting out the recent terrorist threat on the island.

They did a superb job of disrupting terrorist cells in Singapore and identifying and pursuing connections in neighboring countries in partnership with Malaysian and Filipino authorities. They had, of course, the full support and cooperation of the FBI and other US law enforcement agencies here. We're also pleased that the Singapore government recently established a Joint Counterterrorism Center, which is now targeting other possible cells in the area. In short, you should feel good about the level of security and the commitment to counterterrorism in Singapore.

I realize that many of you have ties to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other areas in the region, and I want to assure you that our efforts continue in those nations as well.

Since September 11th, there is growing recognition here and around the world that no one nation can defeat terrorism alone. Al-Qaeda, for example, is believed to have a presence in some 60 countries worldwide. The September 11th hijackers all came from nations outside the US, and their attacks were the culmination of years of effort that included training camps in Afghanistan, sophisticated financing arrangements in the Middle East, and a planning unit in Hamburg, Germany. Today, threats continue to pour in from around the world.

Simply put, it is in every nation's vested interest to defeat terrorism, because it threatens the stability not only of single nations but of entire regions and our increasing interconnected global economy.

I am confident that all nations in Southeast Asia share these views. In Indonesia, for example, President Megawati has clearly spoken out against terrorism, including her joint statement with President Bush just days after September 11th. The recent visits of senior Indonesian law enforcement representatives to Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines are welcome demonstrations of Indonesia's willingness to gather information for possible action against terrorist suspects within its borders.

Like many other nations, Indonesia has special challenges in coping with this problem: the lack of resources, the large population size, the thousands of islands, and the political distractions inherent in its new democracy. Where we can, the FBI will do its part to help Indonesia and other nations, for example, by providing training for law enforcement officials.

In our fight against terror, I want to point out that we in the FBI remain committed to protecting and defending civil rights. As Ben Franklin once said, "He who gives up essential liberty for a little temporary security deserves neither liberty nor security." It's important that we all remember what we're fighting for -- for freedom and democracy. That's what the terrorists want to take away, and under no circumstances should we let them succeed.

Through it all, I want to assure you that the FBI is focused squarely on working with its many partners in Singapore and Southeast Asia to prevent terrorist strikes and improve law enforcement cooperation. This region is important to us, and the success of your businesses is important to us.

A great deal of progress has been made since September 11th, but we face a long, hard road ahead. Ultimately, I believe we will prevail, but one thing is clear: we can only succeed together. I appreciate your support, and I look forward to working with you in the days, weeks, and months to come. Thank you.