Remarks on the Swearing-In of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis Freeh
Thank you very much, General Reno, for that fine introduction and for your exemplary work. I want to thank, as the Attorney General did, Floyd Clarke for his distinguished work over a lifetime for the FBI and his work as the Acting Director. Also, I think bound to thank Judge Freeh's family, his wife, his children, his parents, who are here, for their willingness to support him and for the work they did to make him what he is today.
Finally, let me say by way of introduction, I am profoundly honored to be here in the presence today of the person Judge Freeh picked to swear him in, Judge Frank Johnson. To those of us who grew up in the South, Frank Johnson was a symbol of respect for law, the determination to live by it, and the belief that all of us who live in this country, without regard to the color of our skin, are entitled to a fair shot at life's brass ring. And I thank you for being here today, Judge.
I am also honored to be here today among the thousands of brave men and women who make up our FBI, people who continue to be our elite force in the fight against crime. You should know that I have special respect for FBI agents. When I was Governor of my State, a former agent served as my chief of staff, and other former agents served in my administration.
Today we come to celebrate the elevation of a genuine law enforcement legend, Judge Louis Freeh, to take the reins of this great Agency. It is a new day for the FBI. Judge Freeh has agreed to take on a difficult task, but no job is more important. And I want to thank the leaders of the Congress on a bipartisan basis, beginning with Senators Biden and Hatch and Mitchell and Dole, for their historic and rapid move to confirm Judge Freeh virtually as soon as I nominated him.
The FBI's mandate is broad. Its reach is sweeping. Its 24,000 employees track down violators of civil rights, people who defraud the health care system, those who run drugs ultimately into the veins of our children. The FBI scientists and technicians perform feats of investigative wizardry that can find wrong-doers through a fragment of a fingerprint or a shard of a bomb. Its agents show commonly that bravery is uncommon everywhere but the FBI, the Armed Forces, and a few other places in our country.
There are many heroes that do their work in the ordinary course of business: people like Special Agent Daniel Miller of Minneapolis, who subdued an armed bank robber by hand to ensure that no one else got hurt; Special Agent Neil Moran of New York, who was severely injured when he used his car to block a suspect's getaway vehicle rather than risk wounding his colleagues with gunfire; people like the 45 others who received Agency medals over the past 3 years. All of you have served well, and America is justly proud of you.
Today's FBI operates in a new and challenging world, without that part of the Agency's mission that was driven by the cold war but with new and even more immediate threats. Terrorism once seemed far from our shores, an atrocity visited on people in other lands. Now, after the attack on the World Trade Center, we know that we, too, are vulnerable. Violent crime has been frightful but limited. But now armed drug gangs stalk the streets of our cities, equipped like mercenary armies, randomly cutting down innocent bystanders in a primitive struggle for territory.
The FBI has already begun to meet these challenges head on. Through the safe streets program, the Agency has begun working with State and local police forces to combat drug gangs and to reclaim our neighborhoods. But we must do more, and we will. Today, I was given a pin which I am wearing that commemorates the FBI's drug prevention program. In churches, in schools and Scout troops all across this country, agents work with young people to stop drug use before it starts.
The FBI has always worked at the cutting edge of law enforcement technology. Today, the scientists and technicians are exploring new frontiers, pioneering the use of DNA analysis to ferret out the guilty and to protect the innocent. And in the interest of justice and effectiveness, the Agency has begun to open its doors to full equality for minorities and for women. We must do more, and we will.
Now, amid this swirl of change, a new era at the FBI is about to begin. The FBI has passed through some troubled times, but I believe those times are over. The men and women who work day and night to protect the public never let us down. And now, a vigorous new Director is going to lead the FBI into the next century so that the men and women who work for the FBI will be led and not let down.
In a few moments, Judge Freeh will take the oath of office. He is, as has been widely chronicled and now is as widely known by his fellow Americans, a brilliant investigator, a tough prosecutor, a born leader. He has the unique combination of experience, courage, and prudent judgment that I believe the directorship of the FBI demands. A career as the scourge of drugrunners and terrorists, tempered by his service as a Federal judge, in my judgment makes him the ideal Director of the FBI. He does have, as the Attorney General said, both humanity and humility to go with experience and brilliance and toughness and judgment. Even those who serve with him respect him and also notice all these qualities. I must say, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for Judge Freeh, and I have to tell you one example which may surprise even the biggest supporters of the judge. One fellow wrote in and told us that he'd had a lot of experience with the criminal justice system. I'd like to paraphrase the letter we received—the judge received. He said, "Earlier this year you sentenced me to 20 years in prison. But I want you to know that of the five judges who have sentenced me to prison, you have been by far the fairest"—[laughter]—"and I endorse your nomination to be the Director of the FBI." With all the problems we've got in this country, I hope he'll be getting a lot more of those letters in the next few years.
I believe that under the leadership of this dynamic, young Director, the FBI will capture the imagination of the American people once again and will enlist once again the millions of ordinary Americans in the work of keeping our streets safe and fighting our crimes for us in partnership with the FBI and with State and local law enforcement officials. I want the men and women of the FBI to look back on the 1990's as a decade in which the FBI became well-known and well-loved for its successes in cracking down on terrorists and drug lords, just as much as the G-men of the thirties were successful in cracking down on racketeers and mobsters.
And to Judge Freeh I say, keep showing the vision and integrity that brought you here, that earned you the esteem of all your colleagues, your countrymen and -women, and even those you sent to jail. To the men and women of the FBI I say, you are the finest we have. Just keep on doing your best, and we will stand behind you. And to the American people I say, we know that our people value law and order and safety. We are working to pass a crime bill that will put more police officers on the street. We are working to get guns out of the hands of criminals. We are working to expand the toughness of our law enforcement. Our frontline crime fighters, Attorney General Reno, Drug Policy Coordinator Lee Brown, and now the FBI Director, Louis Freeh, are putting decades of grassroots experience to work for you.
You, the American people, have a right to freedom from fear. Your families have a right to security and to safety. We won't rest until you have those rights. We ask only for your support and your cooperation as this fine Director launches what I believe will be a legendary career in the legendary Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 10:16 a.m. at FBI headquarters. Following the President's remarks, Judge Frank Johnson administered the oath of office, and Director Freeh made remarks.
William J. Clinton, Remarks on the Swearing-In of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis Freeh Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/217351