Major Executive Speeches

Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI
Annual Meeting of the Police Executive Research Forum
Phoenix, AZ
May 9, 2002

Thank you, Chief Olson, and good morning everyone. It's been great to spend time with all of you here in Phoenix.

We have a lot to talk about today, and I want to begin with a word of thanks. Thanks for your professionalism, for your hard work, and for everything you do to keep America safe and free. Thanks for stepping up and doing such an outstanding job over these past eight months, at a time when the challenges and stresses of our profession have never been higher. And thanks especially for everything you're doing to build a new and stronger relationship with the FBI.

Today, I want to talk with you about our relationship -- about where it stands and where it's heading. That relationship is important to everyone of us here. And most of all, it's important to the American people and to their ultimate safety and welfare.

The partnership between the state and local law enforcement and the FBI has been gaining momentum for some time. For years, the FBI has provided you with an array of law enforcement services, from fingerprint checks to criminal background searches. And you've supported us with your own array of expertise. As changing laws have made our jurisdictions increasingly intertwined, and as crime has grown ever more complex and sophisticated, we have been working closer together operationally. Through a growing number of joint task forces and shared investigative initiatives, we have found ourselves working shoulder-to-shoulder in more and more investigations. To handle the increasing complexities of our work, we have trained together more often, developing close, personal relationships so critical to getting things done.

Shortly after September 11th, we opened a new chapter in our relationship. Our nation had just experienced the worst terrorist attack in history. We found ourselves with a new overriding priority and a huge responsibility we knew we could only tackle together: to head off future terrorist attacks, to make sure that America never wakes up to another morning like September 11th.

As a result of this new mandate, both new and long-standing wrinkles in our relationship began to surface. That is entirely understandable. This is a totally new environment. The demands on all of us have never been greater. A whole new concept called "homeland security" has taken shape, a campaign with many different moving parts, with an alphabet soup of agencies working together in an entirely new way. The ability to gather and share intelligence has now become one of the key weapons in our war on terror, and it is at the top of everyone's list of priorities to address and improve.

It was in this environment that we came together to begin a new dialogue on our relationship. We in the FBI sat down with Chief Olson and your board to air out issues and concerns. We met with many others of you as well, in meetings in Washington, Toronto, Orlando, and other cities.

During those meetings, you made some things perfectly clear to me and to the FBI. You told us that our relationships at the time were generally solid. But you also told us that there were some specific areas that we needed to work on. You told us that you were more than willing -- in fact, you were totally committed -- to helping us and the nation in the war on terror. But you said that in many cases we simply weren't giving you the opportunity to do so. You felt like we weren't keeping you in the loop all the time. You said that cooperation with local FBI offices was fairly strong but inconsistent, often contingent on personalities and complicated by turnover among our executives. You told us that we weren't sharing information and intelligence as freely and as quickly as you needed to maximize your effectiveness in this new environment.

Well, we heard you loud and clear. And in recent months we have begun addressing each and every one of the issues you raised. Today, I'm pleased to tell you that we've made progress. Communication and information-flow have improved. Issues have been addressed and misconceptions cleared up. Relationships are stronger, in many cases the best they have ever been. And many more efforts are underway to build on this progress.

This morning, I want to detail the recent steps we've taken and are taking together. Then, I want to look ahead and give you a glimpse into how our relationship may change in the weeks and months ahead as we in the FBI adapt to the realities of our new prevention mandate.

As I begin to talk about these issues, let me clarify one thing for you. We have heard that some of you don't like the fact that we in the FBI sometimes refer to you and your colleagues as "the locals." You think it sounds like we see you as almost "junior partners." This is clearly not our intent. In fact, whether it is this instance or any other, let me be very clear about where you stand in relation to the FBI. You are absolutely not -- I repeat absolutely not -- junior partners. You are full partners. You are equal partners. And you are indispensable partners. That is the way we see you and will treat you in the FBI.

At the Toronto conference last fall, I talked about some first steps to strengthen our partnerships in this post 9-11 world. I told you we were expanding Joint Terrorism Task Forces to every FBI field office, putting in place new mechanisms to address problems and find solutions, and issuing a call to cooperation throughout the Bureau.

Those initial steps now form new foundations in our relationship. Today, 47 of our 56 field offices have fully funded and fully functioning task forces. The rest are in motion, and we expect to have them in place by year's end. These task forces, as I said in Toronto, are really the most valuable tool we have for keeping you up to speed on terrorist investigations and for folding you into the war on terror. And clearly, they help strengthen our relationships all around.

You have told us that the new task forces, together with the new focus on cooperation, are making a difference.

In Kansas City, for example, our Special Agent in Charge not only worked with you to establish a new task force, he established a Board of Directors for that task force made up of area chiefs and sheriffs. They have been given security clearances so they can receive information and briefings and work with us to oversee the work of the JTTF.

In our Omaha Division, which covers Nebraska and Iowa, we actually established five new task forces because of the size of the territory. In Des Moines, one of your members says that today "cooperation is two-way and at the best level I have seen."

The new task force in Orange County, California, is working well and working closely with the new multi-agency California Terrorism Information Center to improve the quality and speed of information flow. In many of the task forces that have been around for some time, you are also telling us that relationships and information-sharing are improved and often unprecedented.

One of the main benefits of these task forces is that they help get you the clearances you need to take advantage of our latest intelligence and information. We are committed to getting you these security clearances, both for the task forces and for the overall counterterrorism effort. Several months back, we identified about 1,000 of you and your colleagues who wanted these clearances. So far, 419 have sent in the paperwork, and about 160 clearances have been granted. We're putting some additional resources into the effort as we speak so we can speed up the rest.

Please understand, though, that when you get these clearances you will not suddenly be inundated with information. Oftentimes, we don't have the treasure trove of information you might expect. But again, we're committed to this process because we know it's important to you and it's important to keeping you informed.

I also spoke with you in Toronto about efforts to set up an advisory board of state, county, and municipal law enforcement officials so we could sit down and talk about issues on a regular basis. That board has been established and a couple of meetings have been held. We've addressed a range of issues, particularly those related to information-sharing, and from what I've seen, there has been a spirit of collaboration and cooperation throughout our discussions.

In December, we solidified this concept of communication and cooperation within the Bureau structure. As many of you know, we created as one of the four major branches in the FBI a new function called Law Enforcement Services to ensure that you get the support you need -- whether it's training, hi-tech criminal justice capabilities, or laboratory services. Within that branch, we created a new Office of Law Enforcement Coordination specifically devoted to building relationships with state, municipal, county, and tribal law enforcement.

As you know, the two executives who are leading these efforts are here this week. Kathleen, would you please stand? Kathleen McChesney is our Executive Assistant Director of Law Enforcement Services. She is a former police officer. She has been on the front lines with you, and she knows you and your issues well. Kathleen is on point to make sure we support you in every way possible. When it comes to law enforcement relationships, I rely on her advice heavily, as does the rest of the FBI. Kathleen, thank you.

Also here is our new Assistant Director of Law Enforcement Coordination, Louis Quijas. Louis, would you please stand? Louis, of course, also comes from your ranks. We're confident he has the experience, the knowledge, and the reputation to help build strong relationships with law enforcement. His job is to listen to you, to talk with you, and to address your issues and concerns in a way that benefits us all. He is the point of contact for your organization and for the many other associations and groups we work with so often.

Louis not only gives you a voice in the Bureau, he also gives you a seat at the table. He will be there with us as we develop plans and strategies for the war on terror and for major investigations, helping us factor in your strengths and capabilities. Louis doesn't actually start on the job until May 20, so we appreciate him taking the time to be here and to begin the dialogue. Louis, thank you.

Kathleen and Louis form a strong team for you at FBI Headquarters. We also have dozens of Special Agents in Charge nationwide who work with you on a regular basis. I've made it clear to the SACs that relationships with you must be a priority. And they have responded. Many of you have told me that partnerships at the local level are stronger than ever.

In Minneapolis, for example, Chief Olson says that our SAC is now attending the monthly meetings of county police chiefs. The SAC briefs them on what's happening in the Bureau and in the terrorism arena specifically. Chief Olson says it may seem like a small gesture, but to him, it goes a long way towards demonstrating commitment.

In the Windy City, I understand that our SAC is doing likewise, attending Chicago Police Department meetings, being accessible to law enforcement, and setting an example for our Agents to follow.

In the Oklahoma City field office, you tell us that the SAC and ASACs really go out of their way to return phone calls as quickly as possible and to provide any and all credible threat information. These are just a few examples, and I'm pleased we're being more responsive to you all around. We recognize that challenges remain across the nation, but our goal is to have success stories in every one of your jurisdictions.

Personal relationships are a critical piece in determining whether we are in sync in the war against terror. A larger, more complicated issue is information-sharing. It involves not just a broad interplay of relationships, but a host of legal, technology, policy, and cultural issues.

I couldn't possibly cover every angle of the issue for you today. But I do want to touch on some of the high points, and I do want to assure you that this issue definitely has our attention.

We realize that in many respects, information-sharing is the glue that holds together all of the government's many homeland security efforts. The military piece, the intelligence piece, the financial piece, the domestic preparedness piece, and certainly the law enforcement piece all require a seamless, two-way flow of information. It is fundamental to both prevention and crisis response. It is vital to your efforts to protect your communities. And that is why we in the Bureau are so squarely focused on it.

During our conversations with you and with state homeland security directors, one of the things you said would be most useful in addressing terrorism is general information on what to be aware of and what to look for based on what the FBI has learned. In response, we began a weekly Intelligence Bulletin three months ago that shares exactly this kind of information. You've told us these bulletins are helpful, and we'll continue to refine and improve them based on your input and feedback.

At the state and local level, field offices are responding to your needs by initiating or participating in groundbreaking information-sharing efforts. At the national level, of course, we have many projects and plans underway to build our information-sharing capabilities. Shortly after the events of September 11th, we started a terrorism watch list. It will soon become a permanent program in the Bureau, providing a single repository of information on individuals who are wanted on criminal charges, who are of investigative interest to us, and who are sought by other agencies and governments. We are creating an Office of Intelligence to help ensure the vigorous and fluid flow of information both inside and outside the FBI. We've been given nearly half-a-billion dollars by Congress to modernize our information technology, which will dramatically improve our ability to manage and analyze intelligence and share it government-wide. We created a new Records Management Division, not just to help fix what went wrong in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation, but also to put in place mechanisms and policies to manage the vast amounts of information that we gather everyday relating to terrorism.

Coordinating our overall national efforts is an Information Sharing Task Force, led by Bob Jordan at FBI Headquarters. One of the issues it's working on that I know is important to you is how we communicate threat warnings and advisories. Let me just say, I understand your frustration with these alerts -- with both the content and how fast they get to you. I know how disconcerting it is to hear threat warnings for the first time on CNN, which many of you have probably experienced. But I hope you realize that some of our information-sharing systems are just not quite up to the job yet and that we are working hard to address the issue.

Over the past eight months, we've used a variety of processes to pass along threat information to you. We're working to refine those processes and to find the best mechanism or combination of mechanisms. We've found NLETS to be extremely slow and cumbersome. The recent alert concerning banks and financial institutions went over NLETS, and I'm sure it didn't reach many of you by the time the Attorney General made a public announcement. On the threat involving malls and supermarkets, we asked our Sacs to get that information to you through JTTFs and other mechanisms. We are looking at other ways of sharing threat information, such as LEO and RISS Net. In the meantime, please bear with us as we work through this issue, because it will take some time to get it all sorted out.

I also want you to know that you can probably expect these terrorism warnings and alerts to continue for some time. We continue to gather intelligence. New prisoners and suspects are being questioned and interviewed, and they may shed additional light on terrorist operations. From time to time, we may issue additional warnings and alerts. We may not have many specifics. But we believe they are necessary as information to be aware of and to factor into your thinking and planning. So we appreciate your patience and understanding as we move through what is really a unique and challenging period in our history.

These many issues that we're working on together, from strengthening the quality of our relationships to improving the level of information-sharing, are beginning to make a difference. Much work remains to be done, but I think we'd all agree that we're heading in the right direction.
One of our challenges is that even as we build our relationship, the FBI is undergoing a deep and fundamental transformation that is going to change how we work with you. Our transformation is being driven by an increasingly volatile and ever changing criminal landscape. You know it well: the foreign intelligence services that are targeting our nation's secrets and technologies; the new "wild, wild west" of cyberspace, where everything from petty crime to billion-dollar attacks on our nation's infrastructure are taking place; and our increasingly global society, where crimes cross borders with relative ease and where complex networks of international drug and organized crime groups are taking hold.

On top of all this, of course, are the events of September 11th and the unprecedented international war on terror, as well as the growing domestic terrorism challenges evidenced recently by anthrax and pipe bombs in the mail.

In this environment, we in the FBI realize that we simply can't be all things to all people. We must narrow our focus. We will, first of all, reorient our operations to make the prevention of terrorist acts our top priority. It is not a new mandate, but September 11th and its aftershocks have clearly magnified the intensity level and made it imperative that we redirect more resources into counterterrorism. We will also put more emphasis on counterintelligence, which is so vital now to national security. Because of its great potential for harm in our increasingly networked world, we will focus more squarely on cybercrime, and we have established a new division in the FBI specifically for that purpose. And finally, we will continue our strong commitment to the criminal cases that we've worked on together for years.

This new focus, of course, is going to have implications for our relationships. We've been talking about these issues with you for some time, and we are still putting the finishing touches on our plans. I think you understand that we will be working fewer investigations with you that are not related to terrorism. We may do fewer drug investigations, one-note bank robberies, and the like.

We will need, and we greatly appreciate, your understanding and support. But I want to assure you that we are not talking about wholesale changes. We will still join with you in protecting your communities from violent crime and drugs. We will still give local FBI offices a great deal of flexibility to respond to local needs. We will still participate in our many joint task forces. In short, we will continue to build on our strong, historic partnership with state and local law enforcement.

Many of you have heard me say that the FBI is only so good as its relationships with state and local law enforcement. The reality is, our work together is becoming so seamless that it's getting harder and harder to separate our successes. In science, there is a term for when two entities are more powerful together than they ever could be separately. It's called synergy. In fact, in Greek, the word itself means "working together." That synergy is exactly what we're experiencing today, and it is powerful indeed.

Harry Truman put it this way. He said, "It's amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." More and more, when one of our joint investigations is complete, the nation doesn't hear us say, "The FBI did this" or "state and local law enforcement did that." They hear us say, "We did it together." That's because more and more, when we work together side-by-side, we don't see agencies or jurisdictions or even uniforms. We see partners. We see friends. We see people who we are willing to put our very lives on the line to protect and defend.
So let me close as I began, with two words: thank you. Thank you for everything you do for America. Thank you for being such being such true professionals. And thank you for being our friends and partners. Thanks and God bless.