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http://www.commonwealthclub.org/archive/02/02-04mueller-speech.html

April 19, 2002

PARTNERSHIPS AND PREVENTION: THE FBI'S ROLE IN HOMELAND SECURITY
Robert S. Mueller III
Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

 
I had been on the job exactly one week when word came
that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. For us
at the FBI command center, it was a surreal moment,
understanding that this flying bomb was headed our way,
yet not knowing where it was going: the White House,
the Capitol, or elsewhere in Washington D.C. We knew
that our institution would never be the same after that
shocking day. Our first thought was to do what we'd
always done after a terrorist attack: set up command
centers and start managing the crisis from a law
enforcement perspective by getting control of the crime
scenes and beginning to gather evidence.

At the same time, we realized that we had to conduct
this investigation somewhat differently. These attacks
were not just an act of terror; they were an act of
war. The most pressing issue for us was to find out who
we were at war with and to make sure we were not
attacked again. The FBI began working in concert with
its many partners to find out everything about the
hijackers and how they pulled off their attacks. We ran
down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and
checked every record we could get our hands on, from
flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts.

What emerged from our massive investigation was a
sobering portrait of 19 hijackers who carried out their
attacks with meticulous planning, extraordinary secrecy
and extensive knowledge of how America works. The plans
were hatched and financed overseas, beginning as long
as five years ago. Each of the hijackers came from
abroad: 15 from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab
Emirates, and one each from Lebanon and Egypt. All 19
entered our country legally, and only three had
overstayed the legal limits of their visas on the day
of the attacks. While here, the hijackers did all they
could to stay below our radar screens. They contacted
no known terrorist sympathizers. They committed no
egregious crimes. They dressed and acted like
Americans, shopping and eating at places like Wal-Mart
and Pizza Hut. When four got speeding tickets in the
months leading up to September 11, they remained calm
and aroused no suspicion. Since none of them were known
terrorists, law enforcement had no reason to question
or detain them.

The hijackers also left no paper trail. In our
investigation, we have not uncovered a single piece of
paper - in the U.S. or in Afghanistan - that mentioned
any aspect of the September 11th plot. The hijackers
had no computers, no laptops, and no storage media of
any kind. They used hundreds of different pay phones
and cell phones, often with prepaid calling cards that
are extremely difficult to trace. And they made sure
that all the money sent to them to fund their attacks
was wired in small amounts to avoid detection.

In short, the terrorists managed to exploit loopholes
and vulnerabilities in our systems, to stay out of
sight, and not let anyone know what they were up to
beyond a very closed circle. The investigation allowed
us to see where we as a nation needed to close gaps in
our security. And it gave us clear and definitive proof
that Al Qaeda was behind the strikes.

At the same time, we were taking other steps to track
down any potential associates who might still be out
there and capable of further attacks. We went to the
flight schools to identify associates of the hijackers.
We went to those who run a popular travel website that
several of the hijackers used to make their flight
reservations. With the help of state and local
authorities, we interviewed thousands of persons to
develop a full picture of the hijackers and their
associates. In the U.S., a number of suspects were
detained on federal, state or local charges; on
immigration violations; or on material witness
warrants. Ultimately, these and other actions with our
partners around the world, I believe, have helped to
prevent future terrorist attacks.

Our investigation moved from the events of September 11
to the anthrax attacks, to the kidnapping and murder of
a Wall Street Journal reporter in Pakistan and to the
foiled shoe bombing on the flight from Paris to Miami.
Through it all, the FBI had become part and parcel of
what now is called "homeland security," a
government-wide campaign to protect America from
further terrorist attacks.

The homeland security effort is being waged on many
fronts. The law enforcement component is building cases
against terrorists in the court of law. The military
component is deploying our armed forces to attack
terrorist strongholds overseas. The intelligence
component is using information and analysis to
anticipate and to prevent attacks, and to better
understand the enemy. The diplomatic component is
building an international coalition against terror. The
financial component is drying up the pool of funds used
by terrorists. And the public health component is
preparing to save lives and to protect our communities.
Today, the FBI is fully integrated in this campaign. We
realize that what we do to help our colleagues is every
bit as important as what we do within our own agency.

Our role in homeland security builds upon what we have
been doing for many years. We're still the lead law
enforcement agency for counter-terrorism. We're still
assessing threats and issuing warnings and advisories
to our law enforcement partners and to the American
people. We're still leading the multi-agency National
Infrastructure Protection Center. And most of all, our
top priority is still prevention.

Terrorists have shown that they are willing to go to
great lengths to destroy America. We must be willing to
go to even greater lengths to stop them. Our worldwide
network must be more powerful, our financial commitment
stronger, our techniques and training more
sophisticated and our sense of urgency and intensity
greater.

Since the attacks, President Bush requires a briefing
at 8:30 each morning. Together with George Tenet, the
director of the CIA, we go over what we call the
"threat matrix" – a list of every threat directed at
the U.S., whether here or overseas, and what the FBI
has been doing in the last 24 hours, in concert with
our partners, to run down each of these threats. He
wants to be absolutely sure that we are aggressively
pursuing every angle and every lead, so that America
never wakes up to another morning like September 11.

George Tenet calls those meetings "galvanizing,"
recognizing that you simply cannot walk into that
briefing without feeling completely confident that your
people are on top of every issue. You cannot come back
day after day without being sure that your agency is
taking every step to make prevention both a priority
and a reality. In the bureau, we have taken a long,
hard look in the mirror to see how we measure up to
this mandate. We see some strong counterterrorism
capabilities and additional expertise that has been
refined over time and sharpened by experience, but we
also see areas where we could do far more.

First, we are putting more resources into the fight,
overhauling our counterterrorism operations so that we
have twice as many agents focused on prevention. As we
hire nearly one thousand new agents this year, we are
also recruiting the right mix of skills – computer,
scientific and language – that we need to fight
terrorism. We are also expanding and improving our
analytic capability. We need to have a complete grasp
on how terrorists operate. We need to do more strategic
thinking that helps us stay one step ahead of those who
would do us harm.

Second, we are overhauling our technology. For all the
state-of-the-art systems in our laboratory, for all the
high-tech services we provide to law enforcement, the
bureau has simply not kept pace when it comes to the
equipment on our desktops. We have computers discarded
by other agencies that we take up as upgrades. We have
systems that cannot talk with other bureau systems,
much less with other federal agencies. We have 34
different investigative applications, none of which are
particularly easy to use and all of which must be
integrated. We will put in place new hardware this year
and we will overhaul our key applications by the end of
next year. Our goal is a near-paperless environment, a
development that will put us light years ahead of where
we are today. Technology will also help us share
information more quickly and effectively outside the
bureau. We're working to create a database – one that
sits on top of others – that we can use to share
information and intelligence with the outside world. We
hope to test it later next year.

Third, effective prevention requires strengthening the
defensive infrastructure of the country. This means
immigration and customs programs that keep terrorists
out, airports that are secure, and seaports that are on
alert. It also means a national program where the FBI
joins with state and local law enforcement to form a
national anti-terror network. There are just over
11,000 special agents in the FBI. There are over
650,000 state and local law enforcement officers. An
integrated national program that combines our resources
and expertise substantially increases the safety of all
Americans.

Finally, prevention also means something America has
not really focused on before September 11: an
aggressive – but rigorously lawful – program of
disruption abroad and at home. The September 11
terrorists had the luxury of time and tranquility to
put the pieces of their plan in place. From the
training camps of Afghanistan to the universities of
Germany to the flight schools of America, they were
able to assemble the components of their plan and pick
their moment to execute it. We cannot afford them this
operational luxury again. For America, prevention must
include an international offensive capability in which
the intelligence and law enforcement resources of the
global community are integrated into a program to
disrupt and attack terrorist operations in their
infancy.

This international component, as much as any other
ingredient, heralds a new day for the FBI. In a
post-9/11 world, partnerships abroad equal security at
home. We are working to build these partnerships
through our 44 overseas offices, what we call "legal
attachés." They are an important first line of defense
against terror, enabling us to build the kind of
face-to-face personal relationships we need to track
down terrorists around the globe.

Al Qaeda and other international groups have developed
networks around the world. We need the same kind of
networks to defeat them. Even in this age of
sophisticated technologies and techniques, it is
critically important that we sit down with a colleague
and develop a rapport that will ultimately help us
build a national and international coalition against
terror.

As we in the bureau move through a period of intense
change, and as we adjust to our new role in homeland
security, we must be flexible and open-minded. We can
never afford to cling to the status quo. Where our
capabilities are strong, they must be stronger. Where
problems exist, we must acknowledge them, fix them and
move on. In the past, the FBI has sometimes made
problems worse by ignoring or denying them. We cannot
do it that way in the future. We have to acknowledge
problems and be ahead of the curve in fixing them. That
has been our approach in recent months, and it will
remain our approach.


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