For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 25, 2001
President: FBI Needs Tools to Track Down Terrorists
Remarks by the President to Employees at the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Listen to the President's Remarks
2:37 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thanks. It's been my honor to come over to thank everybody for their hard work. I know there's a lot of folks here at the FBI who are working long hours. People are away from their families more than they want. But my presence here should assure you that I recognize the important contribution you make, and that the FBI and the wonderful men and women who work here are an incredibly important part of the army that is going to win the war on terrorism.
You've got some pretty good generals here, starting with General Ashcroft, who is doing a fine job as the Attorney General of America. I told the country when I picked the man that you don't have to worry where he stands and the values he brings to the job. I'm proud of the service, and I appreciate so very much, Larry, as well, coming up from Atlanta, Georgia to serve our country.
As you know, I made an important pick to head the agency. Picked a good, solid American. A man who has been under fire before, and who doesn't flinch under fire this time around, either. And that's Bob Mueller. Thank you for your service. (Applause.)
First, I -- as I mentioned to many of your colleagues, we're facing a different kind of war than our country is used to; that, two weeks ago there was an act of war declared on America. No one could have possibly dreamed that it would come in the way it did. And it shocked our nation, of course.
And we've had time to think about it here in the country, and we're angry. But we're also clear -- we've got clear vision about what the country needs to do. This is a nation that has come together to defend our freedom and our way of life.
I see things this way: The people who did this act on America, and who may be planning further acts, are evil people. They don't represent an ideology, they don't represent a legitimate political group of people. They're flat evil. That's all they can think about, is evil. And as a nation of good folks, we're going to hunt them down, and we're going to find them, and we will bring them to justice.
Ours is a nation that does not seek revenge, but we do seek justice. And I don't care how long it takes to rout out terrorism, we're going to do it. We will take the time and effort and spend the resources necessary to not only find these who -- these evildoers who did what they did to America on September the 11th, this is a larger campaign against anybody who hates freedom, anybody who can't stand what America and our allies and friends stand for.
And so I'm here at the FBI to thank you for your work. Most of your job is to help us win the war here at home. Most of your job is to prevent something else from happening. And I know that hundreds of FBI agents and other employees of the Agency are working long, long hours to do that. I was able to see the war rooms where information is being collected and analyzed and dispersed.
I was able to see the consoles, where people have been sitting at long hours, detailing every piece of information that is being gathered across the country. I know there are over 4,000 employees of the FBI working on not only gathering evidence for the particular actions that took place on September the 11th, but running down every scrap of information that is being found all across our land, and analyzing the information, and preparing our great nation to disrupt any action that may be being planned.
There are some other things we can do in the country, and our Congress needs to work with us. And I believe -- I had breakfast this morning with Republican and Democrat leaders, and I will tell you, the spirit on Capitol Hill is good for America. It's a united spirit.
I want to thank the leaders from both parties, and both Houses for their willingness to listen to anybody who has got a good idea about how to fight terrorist activity in the country. And I believe the Attorney General has taken some good ideas to Capitol Hill, and I'd like to share some of them with you.
First, what we've seen is these terrorists are very sophisticated, and so are their communications. They must -- their calls must be penetrated when we feel there's a threat to America. We've got to know what's on their mind. And so, therefore, we must give the FBI the ability to track calls when they make calls from different phones, for example.
Now, this is what we do for drug dealers and members of organized crime, and it seems like to make sense to me, if it's good enough for the FBI to use these techniques for facing down those threats to America, that now that we're at war, we ought to give the FBI the tools necessary to track down terrorists. And so I hope Congress will listen to the wisdom of the proposals that the Attorney General brought up, to give the tools necessary to our agents in the field to find those who may think they want to disrupt America again.
We're asking Congress for the authority to hold suspected terrorists who are in the process of being deported, until they're deported. That seems to make sense -- (laughter) -- that if a suspected terrorist is detained, and our nation has decided to deport the person, then they ought to be held in custody until the action actually takes place. We believe it's a necessary tool to make America a safe place.
Now, this would of course be closely supervised by an immigration judge. Now, the only alternative is to let suspected terrorists loose in our country. I don't think anybody wants to do that. (Laughter.) I certainly hope not. And we're asking for the authority to share information between intelligence operations and law enforcement, so we can direct the best of both in the critical effort. That, too, is a reasonable request to make of Congress.
I want you to know that every one of the proposals we've made on Capitol Hill, carried by the Attorney General, has been carefully reviewed. They are measured requests, they are responsible requests, they are constitutional requests. Ours is a land that values the constitutional rights of every citizen. And we will honor those rights, of course.
But we're at war, a war we're going to win. And in order to win the war, we must make sure that the law enforcement men and women have got the tools necessary, within the Constitution, to defeat the enemy.
And there's going to be one other thing that's required to defeat the enemy, and that's the will and determination of the American people. I believe the evildoers miscalculated when they struck America. They thought we would shy away. They thought their threats could hold this nation hostage. They must have felt like they could diminish our soul. But quite the opposite has taken place. They've strengthened the spirit of America. They have united their country. They have awoken a mighty nation that understands that freedom is under assault; a mighty nation that will not rest until those who think they can take freedom away from any citizen in the world are brought to justice.
They've got a problem on their hands. We're going to find them. And if they're hiding, we're going to smoke them out. And we'll bring them to justice. And not only will we bring them to justice, we will bring those who harbor them, who hide them, who feed them, who encourage them, to justice.
America is a nation built upon freedom, and the principles of freedom, the values of freedom. And this is a nation that will not -- will not -- blink from the fight. This is a nation that will stand strong for the great values that have made us unique.
I'm proud of the work of the FBI. I want to thank you all for your dedication. Stay at it. The nation is counting on you. You're making a great, great contribution for the country.
May God bless you all and your families, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
END 2:46 P.M. EDT