For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 14, 2003
Remarks by the President on Improving Counterterrorism Intelligence
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 had 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
END 1:36 P.M. EST