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 Home > News & Policies > February 2003

For Immediate Release
February 14, 2003

President Speaks at FBI on New Terrorist Threat Integration Center

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1:15 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for the warm welcome. It's nice to be back to the FBI again. The last time I was here was 14 months ago, and our country had just realized we were at war. We had just learned that America was a battlefield. Since the morning this country was attacked on September the 11th, folks in law enforcement all around the country have been working under urgent and difficult circumstances. And the first thing I want to tell you all is that this nation is grateful for your hard work.

Across the world we are tracking and confronting and defeating international terror. Within our own country, we're taking unprecedented measures to protect the American people against a serious and continuing danger. There is no such thing as perfect security against a hidden network of cold-blooded killers. Yet, abroad and at home, we're not going to wait until the worst dangers are upon us. We continue to be in a state of war. But we're making progress. And today I want to talk about the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which will help us meet the challenges of war; will help us do everything we can to say clearly to the American people, we're working overtime to protect you; we're doing everything in power to make sure the homeland is secure.

The officials who are present here represent thousands of patriotic Americans who know that we've been called into action, that this is a new era. One of the reasons I express such confidence in the country is because I understand the character of the people who have been called into action. And there's no doubt in my mind we will prevail. I want to thank Attorney General John Ashcroft for doing such a fabulous job at the Department of Justice. He's assembled a fantastic team which is representing our country with distinction. I want to thank Tom Ridge for becoming the first Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

I want to thank Wolfowitz and Armitage, who are up here with us. Two of the prettiest members of my administration. (Laughter.) They're doing a fabulous job. Paul works with the Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld. Dick works with the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Both these men are incredibly important members of a team that is doing everything in our power to protect freedom and secure the peace. I appreciate their hard work.

I want to thank Bob Mueller for transforming the FBI. He's got all my confidence. And so does the Director of the CIA, George Tenet. Both these men head incredibly important agencies in our war against terror. Both of them have responded to the call. America is better off for their service to our country.

I want to thank the members of Congress who are here. I see Senator George Allen is here, Chris Cox, Frank Wolf, Jim Turner and Jane Harman, members of the Congress, the House, the last four representing both political parties. I want to thank you for your dedication to the country. It's been a joy to work with you all to better secure our homeland; to join together to do everything we can to protect America.

I also want to thank Chief Ramsey, who is here, and Chief Moose, and Jim Pasco. I appreciate you all and all the other local law enforcement officials who have come today. You play an integral role in the defense of our country. You're on the front line, and for that the American people are grateful.

When you get back home, I hope you tell the troops how much I respect them and what they do, how much America counts on them and how grateful we are for their sacrifices on behalf of the safety and security of the American people.

Before September the 11th -- if you can remember that far back -- we all thought oceans could protect us from attack. The nation thought we were secure from any gathering danger that might be occurring somewhere else. After all, our history pretty well predicted that we would be safe.

But everything changed on that morning and it's important for our fellow citizens to understand that everything did change. That we must do everything in our power to stop an enemy from coming here to hurt us, is our first task. Last week's decision to raise our national terrorist threat is a stark reminder of the new era we're in; that we're at war and the war goes on.

We've got agencies at every level meeting threats. We've got people standing watch 24 hours a day. Perseverance is power in this war. Determination is essential in this war. We will persevere. And it doesn't matter how long it takes. See, that's the nature of the country that we live in. We owe it to our citizens to protect us within the Constitution that we're all sworn to uphold, and we will do that.

We're not only doing everything here at home, but we're doing everything we can abroad. Let me first tell you this: we're winning the war on terror. We've hauled in thousands of terrorists. They're captured. They're off the street. They're not a problem. Like number were not as lucky. And they're not a problem, either. We're dismantling al Qaeda one person at time. There used to be a kind of a brain trust of these people. And slowly, but surely, we're bringing them to justice. We're at war in a different kind of war. It's a war that requires us to be on an international manhunt. We're on the hunt. It's a war that causes us to need to get the enemy on the run. We got them on the run. And it's just a matter of time before we bring them to justice.

This war requires us to understand that terror is broader than one international network, that these terrorist networks have got connections -- in some cases, to countries run by outlaw dictators. And that's the issue with Iraq. When I speak about the war on terror, I not only talk about al Qaeda, I talk about Iraq -- because, after all, Saddam Hussein has got weapons of mass destruction and he's used them.

Saddam Hussein is used to deceiving the world and he continues to do so. Saddam Hussein has got ties to terrorist networks. Saddam Hussein is a danger, and that's why he will be disarmed -- one way or the other.

All our successes in the war on terror depend on the ability of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to work in common purpose. In order to better protect our homeland, our intelligence agencies must coexist like they never have before. In order to hunt the terrorists down one by one, our intelligence agencies must cooperate fully with agencies overseas. Under the leadership of Director Tenet and Mueller, the CIA and the FBI have improved their communications and cooperation. These agencies are now quicker to share intelligence with each other.

And we've enhanced an overseas coordination, as well. When you read in the newspapers that a European country has hauled in parts of a poison network, it's important to understand that the reason they were able to do so is because we shared intelligence, that we're cooperating, that this vast network of freedom-loving countries is intact and real and the message is either you're with us or the terrorists -- and it still stands.

The increased cooperation of the CIA and FBI counterterrorism operations has proven to be one of the greatest advantages in this war on terror. Under the leadership of Bob Mueller, the FBI has been transforming itself since September the 11th. It has no greater priority than preventing terrorist attacks against America.

The Bureau has assigned more than 1,800 agents to counterterrorism. That's a 40 percent increase than prior to September the 11th. In other words, this agency now understands that we're at war and the first responsibility of an incredibly important agency, the FBI, is to prevent the enemy from hitting us and hurting us. The agents that are out working in the field are gathering an evaluation -- evaluating information all the time, which helps us deal with any terrorist threat.

We're also strengthening the counterterrorism efforts by forming partnerships across all levels of the government. It's important for our fellow citizens to know that there is great cooperation between the federal government and the state government and the local governments. We form what's called joint terrorism task forces throughout our country, which bring together dedicated officials at all levels of government.

Not only is the cooperation better between the CIA and the FBI, not only is the cooperation better between intelligence-gathering services all around the world, but our cooperation at the federal, state and local level is unprecedented. And it needs to be -- because we fight a ruthless enemy. The FBI is expanding the terrorist identification system so that 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies will be better able to identify known or suspected terrorists in near real-time. Local police officers will be able to access federal terrorism information from their squad cars.

In other words, a guy in Crawford pulls somebody over, he's able to call up whether or not the person is on a terrorist list, whether or not the person is a suspect. All across our country we'll be able to tie our terrorist information to local information banks so that the front line of defeating terror becomes activated and real, and those are the local law enforcement officials. We expect them to be a part of our effort, we must give them the tools necessary so they can do their job.

We will continue to work with Congress to make sure that the budgets reflect the new reality of the 21st century. That's why I requested $500 million for additional money for training preparedness equipment, technical assistance for state and local law enforcement. The Terrorist Threat Integration Center marks another crucial advance in meeting the threats of this time. This joint effort across many departments of our government will integrate and analyze all terrorist threat information, collected domestically and abroad in a single location. And that's an important advance.

The goal is to develop a comprehensive picture of terrorist activity. When the center is fully operational, it will fully house a database of known and suspected terrorists that officials across the country will be able to access and act upon. I'm pleased that Bob -- George Tenet and Bob Mueller will take the next important steps in assembling their counterterrorism resources, both operational and analytical, and locate them in a single facility with the Terrorist Threat Integration Center. The new Department of Homeland Security will be a full partner in this center. The department will act to identify and reduce our vulnerabilities to terrorism, and coordinate with the FBI to ensure the threat information is quickly disseminated. All of these efforts will formalize a new spirit of cooperation that began 15 months ago.

The American people need to know that we're collecting a lot of information and we're going to share it in a way that enables us to do our jobs that you expect us to do; that we're going to use the best information technologies available to not only make sure information flows freely at the federal level, but flows from this data bank of information to local law enforcement officials. It will enable us to make sure that we do everything we can to win the war on terror at home.

Just like we're going to do everything we can by unleashing one of the greatest militaries -- the greatest military -- ever assembled abroad. We've got fabulous men and women in uniform who are on the hunt. The finest, bravest soldiers ever known to mankind are helping us track them down one by one. And if we have to send them into Iraq to make sure that that regime is disarmed, we'll use every ounce of our ingenuity and technology to protect innocent life of the Iraqi people; at the same, achieve an objective of achieving world peace.

One of the things this country stands for is freedom. That's what we believe. For years the freedom of our people were really never in doubt because no one every thought that the terrorists, or anybody, could come and hurt America. But that changed. As a matter of fact, the more threatened we are here at home, the more we love freedom. The more there's a chance that somebody might think they can take it away from us, the more stubborn we are in our demand for freedom universally.

As I said in my State of the Union, liberty is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to each and every human being. So as we pursue peace, we also pursue liberty. We care about those who suffer under the hands of a dictator in Iraq. We care deeply about those who dissent and then are tortured, about those who express an opinion other than what the dictator thinks and are raped and mutilated. The condition of the Iraqi citizen is on our mind and in our hearts. As we work to secure the peace, we'll always hold those values of freedom dear to our heart.

There's no question in my mind that the challenges we face will be overcome, because our nation is full of decent and honorable and strong people -- many of whom are in this room. Thank you for caring about your country. May God bless your work. And my God continue to bless America. (Applause.)

END 1:36 P.M. EST