Remarks at the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia
Thank you so much. Director Deutch and Mrs. Deutch, Deputy Director and Mrs. Tenet, Members of Congress, members of the Aspin Commission who are here, men and women of the intelligence community: I can't help thinking here at the Central Intelligence Agency that if we were giving intelligence awards today they would go to the people back there under the trees. [Laughter] Congratulations to all of you for your adaptation of the natural environment to the task at hand.
Before I begin my remarks today I'd like to take care of an important piece of business. Just a month ago it was with regret but great gratitude for his 32 years of service to our country that I accepted the resignation of Admiral Bill Studeman as the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. Today it is with great pleasure that I award him the President's National Security Medal. Admiral Studeman, Mrs. Studeman, please come up.
This is the highest award a member of our intelligence community, military or civilian, can receive. And no one deserves it more and the honor it represents. Most of you are well aware of Bill's extraordinary and exemplary career in the Navy, at the National Security Agency, and then here at the CIA. Let me say that as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, he served two Presidents and three DCI's. For two extended periods he took on the responsibilities of Acting Director. He provided continuity and leadership to this community at a time of change and great challenge. Here, in Congress, and throughout the executive branch, he earned a reputation for integrity, competence, and reliability of the highest order. He has dedicated his professional life to making the American people safer and more secure. And today it is only fitting among those who know best the contributions he has made to our country to award him this medal as a small measure of thanks for a job well done and a life well lived.
Thank you, Admiral.
You know, as the Studemans make their way back to their chairs, I have to tell you that even though I have a lot of important things to say, I am loathe to make this speech in this heat. Once in the middle of a campaign for Governor I went up to a place in northeast Arkansas to make a speech for a county judge who was determined that I had to come to celebrate this road that he had built with funds that I gave him. He neglected to tell me that the road ended in the middle of a rice field. [Laughter] The only people that are laughing are the people that understand what this means. In the summertime in a rice field, there is nothing but heat and mosquitos. And a swarm of mosquitos came up in the middle of his introduction, literally hundreds of thousands of mosquitos. It was so bad that people were slapping at their cheeks and their legs and blood was streaming down people's faces and cheeks. And this judge was one of the rare people that mosquitoes would never bite. I had been Governor for 10 years; these people knew me better than he did. He took 6 minutes to introduce me. It seemed like it was 6 years. [Laughter] And I finally was introduced, and I gave the following speech: Folks, I have a good speech, if you want to hear it, come to the air-conditioned building down there. If we don't get out of here, we'll all die. If you reelect me, I'll kill every mosquito in the county. [Laughter] I have to tell you that after that I never received less than two-thirds of the vote in that county. [Laughter]
So I'm loath to give this speech. But I will cut it down and say what I have to say to you because it's very important that I say these things and very important that America know that you're here and what you're doing.
Fifty-four years ago, in the weeks that led up to Pearl Harbor, there was a wide range of intelligence suggesting a Japanese attack that made its way to Washington. But there was no clear clearinghouse to collect the information and to get it to the decisionmakers. That is what led President Truman to establish a central intelligence organization.
In the years since, the men and women of the CIA and its sister agencies have done more than most Americans will or can ever know to keep our Nation strong and secure and to advance the cause of democracy and freedom around the world.
Today, because the cold war is over, some say that we should and can step back from the world and that we don't need intelligence as much as we used to, that we ought to severely cut the intelligence budget. A few have even urged us to scrap the central intelligence service. I think these views are profoundly wrong. I believe making deep cuts in intelligence during peacetime is comparable to canceling your health insurance when you're feeling fine.
We are living at a moment of hope. Our Nation is at peace; our economy is growing all right. All around the world, democracy and free markets are on the march. But none of these developments are inevitable or irreversible, and every single study of human psychology or the human spirit, every single religious tract tells us that there will be troubles, wars, and rumors of war until the end of time.
Now instead of a single enemy, we face a host of scattered and dangerous challenges, but they are quite profound and difficult to understand. There are ethnic and regional tensions that threaten to flare into full-scale war in more than 30 nations. Two dozen countries are trying to get their hands on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. As these terrible tools of destruction spread, so too spreads the potential for terrorism and for criminals to acquire them. And drug trafficking, organized crime, and environmental decay threaten the stability of new and emerging democracies and threaten our well-being here at home.
In the struggle against these forces, you, the men and women of our intelligence community, serve on the front lines. By necessity, a lot of your work is hidden from the headlines. But in recent months alone, you warned us when Iraq massed its troops against the Kuwaiti border. You provided vital support to our peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in Haiti and Rwanda. You helped to strike a blow at a Colombian drug cartel. You uncovered bribes that would have cheated American companies out of billions of dollars. Your work has saved lives and promoted America's prosperity. I am here today first and foremost to thank you and your families for the work and sacrifices you have made for the security of the United States of America.
I want to work with you to maintain the information and the intelligence advantage we have and to meet the demands of a new era. Today our Government is deluged with more and more information from more and more sources. What once was secret can now be available to anybody with cable TV or access to the Internet. It moves around the world at record speed. And in order to justify spending billions of dollars in this kind of environment on intelligence and to maintain our edge, you have to deliver timely, unique information that focuses on real threats to the security of our people on the basis of information not otherwise available.
That means we have to rethink what we collect and how we organize the intelligence community to collect it. We must be selective. We can't possibly have in a world with so many diverse threats and tight budgets the resources to collect everything. You need and deserve clear priorities from me and our national security team.
Earlier this year I set out in a Presidential decision directive what we most want you to focus on, priorities that will remain under constant review but still are clear enough at the present time. First, the intelligence needs of our military during an operation. If we have to stand down Iraqi aggression in the Gulf or stand for democracy in Haiti, our military commanders must have prompt, thorough intelligence to fully inform their decisions and maximize the security of our troops. Second, political, economic, and military intelligence about countries hostile to the United States. We must also compile all source information on major political and economic powers with weapons of mass destruction who are potentially hostile to us. Third, intelligence about specific transnational threats to our security, such as weapons proliferation, terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, illicit trade practices, and environmental issues of great gravity.
This work must be done today, and it is vital to our security. But it cannot be immune to the tough budget climate in which we are all living. That's why I'm pleased that more than every before, our intelligence agencies are cooperating to work efficiently and to eliminate duplication. You are already implementing on or ahead of schedule 33 streamlining recommendations set out by Vice President Gore and former DCI Woolsey as well as changes proposed by Director Deutch. Acting apart, our agencies waste resources and squander opportunities to make our country more secure. But acting together, they bring a powerful force to bear on threats to our security.
Let me also say that I believe there is no zero sum choice to be made between the technological and human dimensions of intelligence. We need both, and we will have both. We've used satellites and signals to identify troop movements, to point agents in the right direction, to tap into secret important conversations. Today, some of your extraordinary in-house innovations are available for broader use, and I am interested in learning more about them: imagery technology, developed for the cold war, now being used in aid to natural disaster relief; imagery technology with great hope for the fight against breast cancer. We have to keep moving on this kind of technological frontier.
But no matter how good our technology, we'll always rely on human intelligence to tell us what an adversary has in mind. We'll always need gifted, motivated case officers at the heart of the clandestine service. We'll always need good analysts to make a clean and clear picture out of the fragments of what our spies and satellites put on the table.
And if we're going to continue to attract and keep the best people, we have to do a better job of rewarding work. I think the best way to do that is for the community leadership to demonstrate to you that excellence of performance, equal opportunity, and personal accountability are the only standards that will count when it comes to promotion. And that is what Director Deutch has pledged to do.
Let me say that I know the Ames scandal has colored a lot of what is the current debate over the future of the CIA. I imagine most of you who work here think that the Ames scandal has colored what the average American thinks about the CIA, although my guess is that you're probably overestimating that and underestimating the common sense and balance of an average American citizen. It's important that we don't minimize the damage that Ames did or the changes that need to be made to prevent future scandals. But Aldridge Ames was a terrible exception to a proud tradition of service, a tradition that is reflected in the 59 stars that shine on the CIA's memorial wall in honor of those who gave their lives to serve our country.
So we owe it to all of you in the intelligence community and to the American people to make sure we act on the lessons of his treason but also to remind the American people that the people who work for the Central Intelligence Agency are patriotic Americans who have made a decision that they are going to devote their careers to keeping this country safe and strong. And I thank you for that.
As soon as Ames was brought to justice, I ordered a comprehensive reexamination in both internal and external studies of our counterintelligence operations. As a result, we changed the way intelligence community does its business. Each agency now requires more attention and continuous training in counterintelligence and evaluates its employees more thoroughly and frequently.
Above all, we are insisting that those involved in an operation take responsibility for its integrity. That requires careful advanced planning that integrates counterintelligence into everything you do from day one. This isn't just about safes and locks, it's about designing operations that minimize the possibility of a security breakdown.
Director Deutch and I want to ensure that these new policies are carried out carefully so that we can avoid creating a climate of suspicion that embitters rather than empowers you. As we guard against a repeat of the Ames episode, we have to be careful not to produce a culture so risk averse that case officers refuse to take chances and analysts are afraid to speak their minds. You must not be paralyzed by the fear of failure.
This administration will continue to support bold and aggressive actions by the intelligence community consistent with the laws of the land, consistent with our interests, and consistent with our values. I applaud Director Deutch's plan, for example, to issue new rules on dealing with foreign agents suspected of human rights abuses. We owe you clear guidance on this issue. And as a country, we have to resolve it in the right way.
Finally, we owe the American public and Congress a full role in the debate over the future of intelligence. For over 40 years, bipartisan support for the work you perform has been central to your success. That support and the confidence of the American people were built on the unique oversight and consultative role Congress plays in intelligence. That's why Director Deutch and I will take with the utmost seriousness the concerns and suggestions of both the Congress and the Aspin commission.
Every morning I start my day with an intelligence report. The intelligence I receive informs just about every foreign policy decision we make. It's easy to take it for granted, but we couldn't do without it. Unique intelligence makes it less likely that our forces will be sent into battle, less likely that American lives will have to put at risk. It gives us a chance to prevent crises instead of forcing us to manage them.
So let me say to all the men and women of our intelligence community, I know and you know the challenges we face today will not be easy, but we know that you are already working every day to increase the security of every American. You are making a difference. Now we have to work together, and I have to support you so that we can meet the challenge of doing this work even better with even more public support and confidence in its integrity and longterm impact. That is my commitment to you as you renew your commitment to America in a world fraught with danger but filled with promise that you will help us to seize.
Thank you very much, and God bless you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. In his remarks, he referred to Director of Central Intelligence John M. Deutch and his wife, Patricia; Deputy Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet and his wife, Stephanie; and former Director of Central Intelligence Adm. William O. Studeman, USN (Ret.), and his wife, Diane.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/221832