Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to Central Intelligence Agency Employees in Langley, Virginia

January 04, 1994

Thank you very much, Mr. Woolsey. Tony Lake and I are glad to be here—and always seemed to me I ought to visit the CIA on a snowy day. [Laughter] Thank you for that warm welcome.

I wanted to come here today for two reasons, first, to meet you and to thank you, those of you who work for the Central Intelligence Agency who devote your lives and your skills to the service of our country. The second thing I wanted to do is to commemorate those who have given their lives in the service of the country through the Central Intelligence Agency.

Intelligence is a unique mission. Nobody knows that better than those of us who have the honor to serve in the Oval Office. When President Truman autographed the photo of himself that hangs in this building, he wrote, "To the CIA, a necessity to the President of the United States from one who knows." Every morning the President begins the day asking, "What happened overnight? What do we know? How do we know it?" Like my predecessors, I have to look to the intelligence community for the answers to those questions. I look to you to warn me and, through me, our Nation of the threats, to spotlight the important trends in the world, to describe dynamics that could affect our interests around the world.

Those activities are particularly important now. The end of the cold war increases our security in many ways. You helped to win that cold war, and it is fitting that a piece of the Berlin Wall stands here on these grounds. But even now, this new world remains dangerous and, in many ways, more complex and more difficult to fathom. We need to understand more than we do about the challenges of ethnic conflict, militant nationalism, terrorism, and the proliferation of all kinds of weapons. Accurate, reliable intelligence is the key to understanding each of these challenges. And without it, it is difficult to make good decisions in a crisis or in the long-term.

I know that working in the intelligence community places special demands on each and every one of you. It means you can't talk freely about much of your work with your family and your friends. For some, it means spending a lot of time far away from home. For others, it's meant serving in situations of significant personal danger. While much of your work is sensitive and cannot be discussed publicly, I know what you do. I value it, and I respect you for doing it. And I wanted to come here to say thank you.

The 56 stars carved into the wall here in this lobby remind each who passes by this place of the ultimate risks of intelligence work. Each star memorializes a vibrant life given in the service of our Nation. Each star reminds us of freedom's high price and how the high share some must bear that all the rest of us must respect. My heart goes out to the families and to the friends of each of those whose sacrifices are represented here.

Two of the stars added just this year commemorate two devoted agency professionals who were slain last January entering this compound, Dr. Lansing Bennett and Frank Darling. All of us were shocked and saddened when they were killed and others were seriously injured. The First Lady represented me here at the memorial service, but I want to say again personally how much I admire the service that they gave, the sorrow and anger we all felt and continue to feel about this outrageous act.

The CIA was established over 45 years ago to help confront the challenges to democracy. These stars remind us that the battle lines of freedom need not be thousands of miles away, but can be right here in the midst of our communities with our families and friends. Jim Woolsey and I know that all of you here today are called to a very special kind of public service.

I celebrate your commitment. I appreciate your contributions. As President, I will do my best to learn from you, to help you to do your work, and to stand by you. And on behalf of the American people, let me say again, I thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:12 a.m. in the lobby of the Central Intelligence Agency.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to Central Intelligence Agency Employees in Langley, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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