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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 10, 2003
President Bush Discusses Homeland Security at the FBI Academy
3:04 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you very much. Thanks for the warm welcome. I'm proud to visit the FBI Academy here at Quantico, where so much hard and essential work in the war on terror goes on.
The FBI Academy new agents who risked their lives to keep America safe learned their craft. In forensics lab, experts examine vital evidence that leads to victory against terror. In the engineering facility, specialists apply the latest technology to fight crime and terror. You do a terrific job for the American people, and I'm here to tell you our nation is grateful. (Applause.)
Quantico is also know as the "crossroad of the Corps" (Marine cheer) -- since so many Marines pass through the Marine Corps University here. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that Quantico, population 561 fine souls, is said to have the highest number of barber shops -- (laughter) -- per capita than any town in the nation. What strikes me it looks like all those barbers specialize in one kind of haircut. (Laughter.)
I appreciate the men and women who wear our nation's uniform. The Marines make us proud. (Applause.) I appreciate the men and women from the Department of Homeland Security who are with us today. You've been given a great responsibility, and you're carrying it out with focus and professionalism.
I want to thank the DEA agents who are with us today. By working to keep drug money from financing terror, you're playing an important part of this war. I also thank the first responders from the nearby communities who are with us today. You're the ones Americans count on in times of emergency, and you do not let us down. (Applause.)
The lives of every person here were changed by the events of September the 11th, 2001. You felt the anger and the sense of loss that day. You stood ready to serve your country in a time of need. And each of you now has a part in protecting America against the threats of a new era.
For two years, this nation has been on the offensive against global terror networks -- overseas, and at home. We've taken unprecedented, effective measures to protect this homeland. Yet, our nation has more to do. We will never be complacent. We will defend our people, and we will win this war. (Applause.)
I appreciate the Attorney General being here today. I picked a good man, who's doing a fine job on behalf of all Americans, when I picked John Ashcroft to be the Attorney General of the United States. (Applause.)
I appreciate my friend, Tom Ridge. See, we were both governors at one time, so I got to know him as the governor of a relatively small state -- (laughter) -- Pennsylvania. He did a great job as governor. He's been given an enormous task to reorganize our government. I'm proud that he's taken on the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I'm proud of the job he's doing on behalf of America. (Applause.)
I'm also honored to be up here with Bob Mueller, who is the head of the FBI. He was just recounting what it was like to go to the Marine Corps University -- a couple of decades ago. (Laughter.) A proud Marine then; he's now proud to run the FBI. He knows what I know: Our nation is fortunate to have such fine men and women work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Applause.)
I appreciate John Gordon being up here. He's the Homeland Security Advisor, works right there in the White House. I meet with him every single day. He's got good, sound judgment and good advice. I'm honored that Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis is with us today. Congresswoman, we're glad you're here. Thank you for coming today. I appreciate Dwight Adams, who is the Director of the FBI Laboratory. He just gave me a fine tour. It's pretty sophisticated facilities. I appreciate the chance to see it.
Tomorrow, America will mark a sad anniversary. The memories of September 11th will never leave us. We will not forget the burning towers, and the last phone calls, and the smoke over Arlington. We will not forget the rescuers who ran toward danger, and the passengers who rushed the hijackers. We will not forget the men and women who went to work on a typical day and never came home. We will not forget the death of schoolchildren who were on a school trip.
And we will never forget the servants of evil who plotted the attacks. And we will never forget those who rejoiced at our grief and our mourning.
America honors and remembers the names of all victims. And tomorrow, some families will be thinking of name in particular, a person they still love and deeply miss. The prayers of our whole nation are with the families of the lost who feel a grief that does not end.
Tomorrow's anniversary is a time for remembrance; yet history asked more than memory. The attacks on this nation revealed the intentions of a determined and ruthless enemy that still plots against our people. The forces of global terror cannot be appeased, and they cannot be ignored. They must be hunted, and they will be defeated. (Applause.) We will not wait for further attacks on innocent Americans. The best way to protect the American people is to stay on the offensive, to stay on the offensive at home and to stay on the offensive overseas. (Applause.)
And that is what this country is doing. We've undertaken a global campaign against terrorist networks. We're going after the terrorists, wherever they hide and wherever they plan. We will keep them on the run; we'll bring them to justice. We have made clear the doctrine which says, if you harbor a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, if you hide a terrorist you're just as guilty as the terrorist. We're holding regimes accountable for harboring and supporting terror. (Applause.)
We're determined to prevent terrorist networks from gaining weapons of mass destruction. We're committed to spreading democracy and tolerance and freedom in the Middle East, to replace the hatred and bitterness with progress and hope and peace.
These 24 months have been a time of progress against the enemy. Terrorists have lost their training camps in Afghanistan. They lost the protection of the Taliban. Al Qaeda has lost nearly two-thirds of its known leaders. They've either been captured, or they've been killed. Terror networks have lost access to some $200 million, which we have frozen or seized in more than 1,400 terrorist accounts around the world. The terrorists have lost a sponsor in Iraq. And no terrorist networks will ever gain weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein's regime. That regime is no more. (Applause.)
Now we are engaged in other essential missions in the war on terrorism. We're helping the Afghan people to build free institutions, after years of oppression. We're working with the Iraqi people to build a new home for freedom and democracy at the heart of the Middle East. The spread of freedom is one of the keys to the victory against terror. The Middle East will either be a place of increasing hope, or a place of a bitterness and violence that exports terrorism -- exports terrorism to America or other nations. By removing the tyrants who support terror, and by ending the hopelessness that feeds terror, we are helping the people of the Middle East, and we're strengthening the security of America.
The terrorists understand what is at stake. They understand that the advance of freedom will discredit their cause, and they know that the advance of freedom will isolate them from sources of support. That is why Saddam holdouts and foreign terrorists are desperately trying to throw Iraq into chaos by attacking our forces, by killing aid workers, by destroying innocent Iraqis. This collection of killers is desperately trying to shake the will of the civilized world. But America will not be intimidated. (Applause.)
We are following a clear strategy with three objectives: We're going to destroy the terrorists; we'll enlist the support for a free Iraq -- international support for a free Iraq; and we'll quickly transfer authority to the Iraqi people. We're aggressively striking the terrorists in Iraq with great troops. We're using better intelligence, because we know when we defeat them there, we won't have to face them in our own country.
We're calling on other nations to help Iraqis build a free nation, which will make us all more secure. We're helping the Iraqi people assume more of their own defense and move toward self-government. I recognize these are not easy tasks, but they're essential tasks. And this country will do what is ever necessary to win this victory in the war on terror. (Applause.)
As we wage this war abroad, we must remember where it began -- here on our homeland. In this new kind of war, the enemy's objective is to strike us on our own territory and make our people live in fear. This danger places all of you, every person here and the people you work with, on the front lines of the war on terror.
Our methods for fighting this war at home are very different from those we use abroad, yet our strategy is the same: We're on the offensive against terror. We're determined to stop the enemy before they can strike our people.
Every morning I am briefed from the latest information on the threats to our country, and those threats are real. The enemy is wounded, but still resourceful and actively recruiting, and still dangerous. We cannot afford a moment of complacency. Yet, as you know, we've taken extraordinary measures these past two years to protect America. And we're making progress. There are solid results that we can report to the American people.
We have shut down phony charities that serve as fronts for terrorists. We've thwarted terrorists in Buffalo and Seattle, in Portland, Detroit, North Carolina and Tampa, Florida. More than 260 suspected terrorists have been charged in United States courts; more than 140 have already been convicted.
We're making progress because we have got skilled professionals on the job, and we've got a clear strategy. We reorganized our government to enhance our strategy, and we set three national objectives for homeland security: One, to prevent attacks on America; to reduce our vulnerabilities; and to prepare for any attack that might come.
Under Director Mueller, the FBI is transforming itself to face the new threats of our time. Instead of just investigating past crimes, the agency is now dedicated to preventing future attacks. Since September the 11th, the share of FBI resources dedicating to fighting terror has more than doubled. The agency remains fully committed to its traditional law enforcement duties. Yet, now the FBI is better at analyzing threats and sharing more information with other agencies at every level of government. The FBI, much to the chagrin of the enemy, is fully engaged on the war on terror. America is proud of your efforts. (Applause.)
To make our anti-terror efforts more effective, we established the Terrorism Threat Integration Center, to merge and analyze in a single place all the vital intelligence on global terror from across our government. We're doing a better job of talking to each other. The left hand now knows what the right hand is doing. We're gathering intelligence, and preparing the homeland and the people in charge of protecting the homeland with the best information we can possibly find.
We also have merged 22 federal agencies into the Department of Homeland Security. Employees of DHS go to work every day with a single overriding responsibility, to make America more secure. Secretary Ridge and his team have done a fine job in getting the difficult work of organizing the department, and we appreciate your service to America, as well.
DHS has spearheaded a massive overhaul of security at America's airports. Some 48,000 professional screeners, employed and supervised by the Transportation Security Administration, are now on the job across America. With new equipment, we're now screening every bag that goes to every airplane. The cockpit doors of every large passenger airplane that flies in the United States have been hardened. Thousands of federal air marshals are flying on commercial flights. We're determined to protect Americans who travel by plane, and to prevent those planes from being used as weapons against the American people. (Applause.)
The Department of Homeland Security is focused on making the border more secure. Our smart border strategy uses technology and background checks to allow law-abiding travelers to cross the border, while officials concentrate on possible threats. We've improved the entry process. People coming into the United States will soon be met by a single uniformed officer, rather than the separate officials from Customs, Agriculture, and Immigration.
Working with the State Department, DHS is doing a better job of screening visa applicants and keeping track of short-term visitors while they're in our country. America will remain a welcoming society. We welcome families and tourists, students and business people from other countries. But our border must be closed to criminals and terrorists. (Applause.)
Since September the 11th, 2001, America has made the largest commitment to securing our seaports since World War II. In these two years, the Coast Guard, which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security, has conducted more than 124,000 port security patrols, more than 13,300 air patrols, and has boarded more than 92,000 vessels. DHS now requires electronic advance cargo manifests from ships 24 hours before containers are loaded onto ships, giving officials time to check for potential dangers. We're enforcing tough rules that require ports and vessels and facilities to upgrade their security. This nation is determined to protect our ports from all the threats around the world.
We're determined, as well, to reduce the vulnerabilities of our nation's infrastructure. The Department of Homeland Security is working closely with state and local governments to identify key vulnerabilities in our communications systems, our power grids, and our transportation networks, and we're taking action to protect them. DHS has established a National Cybersecurity Division to examine cybersecurity incidents, to track attacks and to coordinate nationwide responses. DHS is also helping the operators of chemical facilities improve security. We're working on Congress -- with Congress on new legislation that establishes uniform standards for security of chemical sites.
Even with all these measures, there is no such thing as perfect security in a vast and free country. So all levels of government must be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to any emergency. In responding to most incidents, local officials, such as firefighters, will be the first on the scene. America's first responders need to be well-equipped and they need to be well-trained.
The federal government has a responsibility to help, and we're meeting that responsibility. We've committed nearly $8 billion over the past two years to better equip and train our state and local first responders and hospitals and laboratories. I proposed more than $5 billion more for the coming fiscal year. We're spending this money wisely, I want you to know. We're targeting resources where they're needed, where they'll do the most good.
An effective response system requires effective communications. You know that. First responders know what I'm talking about. So we're upgrading communication systems all across the country, to make sure that people from all agencies, at all levels of government can talk to one another in crisis.
We're making a special effort to prepare for the possibility of a biological or chemical attack. We've improved our ability to quickly detect such attacks if they occur. We've enlarged the strategic national stockpile of drugs and vaccines and medical supplies. We now have on hand, for instance, enough small pox vaccine to immunize every American in the case of an emergency.
Earlier this year, I proposed Project BioShield which will speed the development of new vaccines and treatments for biological agents that could be used in a terrorist attack. The Senate needs to act on this important measure. The House has acted, and I appreciate their action. For the sake of national security, the Senate needs to pass Project Bioshield.
Since September the 11th, this nation has been unrelenting in the work on protecting the homeland. And we'll stay that way. That's our duty. That's our job. We accept the responsibility.
Across our government, there's a new spirit, a sense of mission. In our country, Americans are volunteering to help, and I want to thank them for that. For example, they're volunteering their expertise in the Citizen Corps efforts to help local communities prepare for emergencies. And I appreciate the bipartisan efforts in Congress to prepare our country, and to give law enforcement officials the tools they need.
Almost two years ago, I signed the USA Patriot Act. That essential law, supported by a large bipartisan majority in the Congress, tore down the walls that blocked America's intelligence and law enforcement officials from sharing intelligence. It enabled our team to talk to each other, to better prepare against an enemy which hates us because of what we love -- freedom.
The Patriot Act imposed tough new penalties on terrorists and those who support them. But as the fight against terrorists progressed, we have found areas where more help is required. Under current federal law, there are unreasonable obstacles to investigating and prosecuting terrorism, obstacles that don't exist when law enforcement officials are going after embezzlers or drug traffickers. For the sake of the American people, Congress should change the law, and give law enforcement officials the same tools they have to fight terror that they have to fight other crime. (Applause.)
Here's some examples. Administrative subpoenas, which enable law enforcement officials to obtain certain records quickly, are critical to many investigations. They're used in a wide range of criminal and civil matters, including health care fraud and child abuse cases. Yet, incredibly enough, in terrorism cases, where speed is often of the essence, officials lack the authority to use administrative subpoenas. If we can use these subpoenas to catch crooked doctors, the Congress should allow law enforcement officials to use them in catching terrorists. (Applause.)
Today, people charged with certain crimes, including some drug offenses, are not eligible for bail. But terrorist-related crimes are not on that list. Suspected terrorists could be released, free to leave the country, or worse, before the trial. This disparity in the law makes no sense. If dangerous drug dealers can be held without bail in this way, Congress should allow for the same treatment for accused terrorists. (Applause.)
Let me give you another example. Under existing law, the death penalty applies to many serious crimes that result in death, including sexual abuse and certain drug-related offenses. Some terrorist crimes that result in death do not qualify for capital punishment. Sabotaging a defense installation or a nuclear facility in a way that takes innocent life does not carry the federal death penalty. This kind of technicality should never protect terrorists from the ultimate justice.
These and other measures have long been on the books for other crimes. They have been tested by time, affirmed by the court, and what we are proposing, they are fully consistent with the United States Constitution. (Applause.)
Members of the Congress agree that we need to close the loopholes -- not every member, but a lot of them agree with that. People in law enforcement are counting on Congress to follow through. We're asking a lot of these folks out here. You need to have every tool at your disposal to be able to do your job on behalf of the American people. The House and the Senate have a responsibility to act quickly on these matters; untie the hands of our law enforcement officials so they can fight and win the war against terror. (Applause.)
Two years ago, this nation saw the face of a new enemy. We discovered that there is no safety behind vast oceans. For our own safety, we resolve to take the battle to the enemy. America is making progress on every front -- every front -- in this war. For that progress, we know who to thank. We thank the men and women who wear our nation's uniform. We thank their families. We thank our intelligence officers. We thank every branch of law enforcement. We thank our first responders.
All of you may serve on different fronts, but you're serving in the same war. I don't know how long this war will go on, but I do know this: However long it takes, this nation will prevail.
May God bless you all. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
END 3:36 P.M. EDT