Deputy Director for Operations James L. Pavitt
Thank you very much. It is a privilege to be here this evening. In the tradition of the men charged with keeping America’s most sensitive secrets, I rarely speak in public. But I decided it was important to come to this city and speak to this audience, to speak openly about the Directorate of Operations—the clandestine service—the most secret, yet, least understood part of the Central Intelligence Agency.
I would like to borrow the words of an Englishman from another time who—better than any spy novel—captured the spirit and ethos of the clandestine service:
“From time to time, God causes men to be born who have a lust to go abroad at the risk of their lives and discover news—today it may be far off things, tomorrow, of some hidden mountain, and the next day of some nearby men who have done a foolishness against the state. These souls are very few; and of these few, not more than ten are of the best.”
For the most secret part of the U.S. intelligence community, there has been far too much buzz over the past few years on what it is we do. My officers have been described as gun slinging cowboys on the one hand and, risk-averse on the other and, worse yet, just plain incompetent. In the media there has been a lot of talk—some complimentary, a great deal critical, but most of the commentary is from sources who are far from informed. It seems a lot of people with very short careers in the clandestine service or, more often, people at the periphery of the intelligence profession consider themselves qualified pundits. The title “intelligence expert” is one all of us see with increasing regularity on television these days. Yet, for all the experts and all the expert opinion, I fear the American people don’t get much real insight into my business from these “experts.”
So I thought it perhaps worth your time to hear from me—the man who runs America’s spy service. I will retire in August after 31 years of service at CIA. Despite a long tradition of silence, a tradition of allowing the wildest statements about my business to go unanswered, I feel both compelled and obligated as the leader of the clandestine service to set the record straight about America’s spy service.
But first, let me tell you a little more about what I won’t tell you. I will not divulge the names of officers, I will not divulge ongoing operations, I will do nothing to compromise information which is vital to our national security. But I will provide some insider details. I will offer some real insight into the operations and the people who make up the clandestine service—one of America’s best, but least known, and least appreciated national treasures. Hopefully, you will get some appreciation of the men and women who fill the ranks of the clandestine service. These are truly extraordinary Americans doing extraordinary things—who work in silence on the front lines of the intelligence war.
My good friend George Tenet often says he has the greatest job in the world: I beg to differ—I think as Deputy Director for Operations, I do. Every morning, I am briefed on an astounding array of incredible secret operations, agent meetings, recruitments of new agents, placement of technical devices, captures of terrorists, near misses and harrowing escapes clandestine service officers have carried out in the past 24 hours. Not a day goes by in which I am not astounded by the imagination, the creativity and the bravery the men and women of the Directorate use to keep our nation safe and collect human intelligence of incalculable value.
These have been particularly challenging times for America and for our nation’s spy service. We are now nearly three years beyond the devastation of September 11—a day that indelibly scarred this city and this nation. Like Pearl Harbor—the event which led to the creation of America’s intelligence services—9/11 redefined us, refocused us, and made our mission all the more critical. It changed what we do and how we do it forever.
We are no strangers to criticism, and the events of the past few years have generated a great deal of it. Some is very thoughtful, and we welcome that.
We have learned, adjusted and grown from thoughtful and honest critique. We are better for many changes made, and we are more able. But some of the criticism is unwarranted and frankly, ill-informed—for example, the charges that the CIA has lost its status as the gold standard in intelligence or that our officers are unwilling to go to the hardest, most dangerous places. I can tell you that is simply not true!
Shallow uninformed criticism provides precious little insight into what America’s clandestine service is all about. What human intelligence is and what it is not. Let me do that for you tonight.
For all the critique, for all the rhetoric about failure, no one has ever asked me to stop recruiting spies and stop producing human intelligence reports. Indeed, the demand grows and customers at every level want more.
Many of those who criticize us for not having enough spies, enough agents on Iraq, on terrorism, on North Korea, on Iran, do not have the first idea of what a spy, an agent really is. An agent—a human being with access to vital, secret information who agrees to give this information to us—is not a simply attainable commodity. Contrary to popular fiction—they cannot simply be bought—indeed, some of the very best agents have never taken a dime. They are human beings—carefully cultivated, developed, and brought to a relationship based on a level of trust that transcends any simple business arrangement.
Among the trendy sound bites on intelligence is the clamor for “connecting the dots,” for sharing sensitive operational information with analysts and other consumers of intelligence so they have all the dots connected, so that nothing whatsoever is overlooked.
I fully support information sharing. Information sharing is essential—the information from our sources and the “product” of our operations is meant to be used—to inform our top policymakers and to enable law enforcement officials to thwart terrorist attacks. We risk agents and officers every day to collect that data.
But that sharing does not eliminate our sacred duty to protect our sources and methods. We always balance expanded access to information with smart compartmentation and what we call the “need-to-know” principle.
I know the spy business and the people who conduct it better than most, and I am here tonight to give you a bit of an insider’s view. As the DDO, I know better than anyone the men and women who spend their days recruiting spies and stealing secrets. I know their commitment, their integrity, their desire to serve, their sense of duty and patriotism and their willingness to make tremendous personal sacrifices for the national good.
The officers of the clandestine service work in the most dangerous and most demanding places in the world. Places like Qandahar, Afghanistan—where Al-Qai’da and the Taliban target our personnel for assassination. Places like Moscow—the heart of our number one global competitor, working under the toughest, most pervasive surveillance in the world. Places like Bogota, where narcoterrorists conduct assassinations in broad daylight. Places like Baghdad where our officers are constantly under attack from an enemy bent on their deaths—where we lose to hostile fire armored vehicles at the rate of one a week. In times that demand heroes, America is fortunate to have these heroes serving on the front lines.
Let me tell you more about my officers:
The officer abroad who spent more than 20 hours on the streets to collect critical intelligence, meeting an agent for whom the consequences of exposure would be certain death.
The officer in Iraq—who dealt with a nervous, jumpy intelligence volunteer who promised—and delivered, the location of Uday and Qusay Hussein.
The officer in Afghanistan who, wounded in an Al-Qa’ida firefight, turned his vehicle into the line of fire to protect his Afghan and American partners—and gave his life to ensure his colleagues could return home.
The officer abroad who ventures into the toughest immigrant neighborhoods—where the local police think twice about going—to scour the Islamic community for a penetration of a terrorist cell, an Al-Qa’ida fundraiser, someone who can provide a critical piece of intelligence.
The officer who posed as a foreigner to gain access to the inner circle of a major terrorist facilitator in one of the toughest, most dangerous areas in South Asia.
A young paramilitary officer, recently married, with a young child who has spent more time in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11 than with his family and whose only proviso when asked to travel into the toughest of environments was, “tell me where I can be of the most service.”
Sometimes the officers themselves speak most eloquently about what they do and what the job means. This from a first-tour officer injured in a firefight that took the lives of his military partners last fall while hunting terrorists in Afghanistan: “What the best training cannot prepare you for is what it feels like to be shot, what it feels like to see a friend in significant pain, what it feels like to have your weapon jam under fire…I have to admit, I was feeling sorry for myself, but it was the thought of my family and friends that kept me level headed and focused on surviving. I continue to be committed to our profession because I believe in our mission.”
Organizations often show their true colors—indeed as some have put it—their cultures—in the worst of times. In February 2003, we faced such a period with the tragic loss of a young first tour officer who was killed in Afghanistan in a terrible training accident. My Chief of Station in Kabul wrote me a note shortly thereafter, which, I believe, captures the spirit and ethos of the clandestine service. I quote from his note: “One thing we cannot do, and every single officer here shares this view, is back away from the job at hand, and that necessarily means accepting attendant risks…it is dangerous here, in Kabul, at the bases, all around. To a man, the attitude remains, if not me, who then?”
I’ve spent some time now discussing how the clandestine service is taking on the challenges of the present. Now I’d like to provide some history. Let’s go back to the darkest days of the Cold War—the mid-1970s, when the Soviet Union and the United States seemed close to the nuclear confrontation we all dreaded during those dark days. In Moscow, our small station was under incredible, close surveillance—our officers were constantly watched and followed, tracked by trained dogs and technical devices. It was the toughest operating environment imaginable. Through the lens of the past 13 years, it is hard to remember the Soviet Union for the evil, repressive, society it was; in many ways, it was the model for the “republic of fear” Saddam created in Iraq.
In mid-1977, a small furtive man, hiding near the official gas station reserved for foreign diplomats, approached an official he believed to be an American and passed him a note, quickly, carefully, under the noses of surveillance. He was disgusted with the Soviet regime, quietly worshipped America from afar, and believed he was in a position to help.
Adolf Tolkachev—a senior research scientist in the Russian military aerospace program—did more than just help. The operation at which he was at the very center ensured us air superiority at a critical juncture of the Cold War. The intelligence he provided from 1977 to 1985 saved the U.S. taxpayers literally billions of dollars in research and development fees on look-down/shoot-down radar, aeronautics design, and early stealth technology.
Working in secret—in the basement of his office complex, in the toilets of the Lenin library, risking his life at every turn, Tolkachev silently fought one of the greatest battles of the Cold War. Passing literally thousands of documents that were nothing short of pure gold.
Tolkachev never left Russia throughout the operation. As someone who held the highest level clearances, he was denied the privilege of foreign travel. Our officers went to tremendous lengths to elude and escape surveillance to meet him in the dead of night or early morning, quickly passing film and documents. Tolkachev, fighting his solo battle, was glad for the rare moments of contact with his allies.
In the end, Tolkachev was caught—and paid the ultimate price for his service—death in the basement of the notorious Lubyanka Prison in Moscow. Oleg Gordiyevskiy may have been the spy who “saved the world” during the Cuban missile crisis—but in the secret archives of the Cold War, Adolf Tolkachev and our officers who worked with him were heroes in one of the decisive battles in the Cold War.
These accounts describe the clandestine service I know. It is a national treasure that only a few people have the privilege to serve.
These rare, extraordinary men and women, who go abroad to the world’s toughest places, understand the high stakes of their work and they are willing to take the necessary risks. They accept that, in the secret world, success is unheralded and failure is trumpeted. Yet they continue their difficult, demanding work, in silent service to our country.
Let me say it again: they are a national treasure.
As the result of exceptional leadership within the Agency and a new appreciation of the value of human intelligence by our nation’s leaders, we are in a much stronger position today than we were a decade ago. As you know from recent press articles, we embarked on a wholesale rebuilding of the clandestine service in the late 1990s. We have made tremendous strides but still have work to do.
The fact is, despite strong protests from within my agency, the clandestine service was left to wither during most of the ’90s. As part of the so-called “peace dividend” after the Cold War ended, too many in Washington believed that intelligence was no longer needed and our operations officer corps could shrink without consequence.
And shrink it did. We trained roughly two dozen new officers in 1995. Even as our missions were expanding and changing, the number of intelligence positions throughout the Government, especially overseas, dropped by almost a quarter in the mid-90s. At CIA, recruitment of both operations officers and analysts came to a virtual halt.
Compare that with today: Our recruiting and training efforts are unprecedented. And interest in CIA from talented men and women from all over this country is at an all time high.
We get 2200 resumes a week from some of America’s best and brightest. Not only young college graduates, but also experienced professionals: retired military and law enforcement officers, linguists, scientists, lawyers, engineers, doctors.
Today, the average clandestine service trainee classes number significantly higher and we aim to double the number of new officers in two years. Recruits spend a full year learning every aspect of our tradecraft, from how to detect surveillance, to the fine art of recruitment and agent handling to armed defense in extreme situations.
In the last five years, the clandestine service has grown 30 percent. And we plan to grow it another 30 percent in the next five years. But as good as our recruiting and training is, I can’t buy experience, and it will take time for our skilled new graduates to become the seasoned pros we need them to be.
The world we face today, the challenges we face are far more dangerous and require as great if not a greater commitment than those associated with the Cold War. We face a global enemy in the terrorists bent on our destruction, the challenge of providing force protection for nearly a quarter million U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, the Korean Peninsula, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, dealing with regional challenges such as Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China.
The fight against Al-Qa’ida and the hate-filled extremist movement it fuels across the globe is an intelligence war—as much as if not more than any conflict in our nation’s history. We will not prevail against this agile and determined enemy without creative, vibrant and expanded human intelligence capabilities.
The CIA has known this for years. The opening shots in the war on terrorism were fired well before 11 September 2001. The Directorate’s Counterterrorist Center will mark its 20th anniversary in 2006. Even in our leanest years—the 1990s, when Congress was cutting our funding—we were ensuring sustained resources to counterterrorism, not as much as we needed to meet the gathering threat, but as much as we could given our limited resources.
Well before 11 September, 2001 we understood the important connection between domestic and international terrorism. We were working side by side with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to counter the threat. The partnership was real.
Well before 11 September 2001, we were fighting Al-Qa’ida and disrupting its activities. We unraveled terrorist plots that aimed to murder innocents and shatter peace. Plans for attacks in the U.S., Jordan and Israel around the millennium were thwarted. Others still were quashed in the fall of 2000, and again in the summer of 2001.
Well before 11 September 2001, we told the public and we told the Congress and the Executive Branch, that terrorists threatened our nation.
Well before 11 September 2001, we knew Al-Qa’ida was planning something bigger than we had seen, something terrible. All the while, we at CIA were loudly sounding the alarm and constantly seeking more resources to counter this threat. The bombings of our embassies in Africa and the U.S.S. Cole were not enough. The chatter we picked up in early summer 2001 was not enough to provide us specific information about the attack.
The tragedy of September 11th changed everything. The intelligence community, at long last, received the funding and the tools it needed to fight the war on terrorism—at the cost of 3,000 innocent souls.
People still ask me if I think we could have stopped the horror of that day—if we had, in fact, connected all the dots before us. There are some who have placed the blame on a handful of individual officers for not ensuring the FBI watch listed two of the hijackers. It is a question my officers have asked themselves, have tormented themselves with, for it is only human to wonder “what if?”
Although we can speculate endlessly, given what we had that day, I sadly conclude that the answer is no. Short of cracking Usama bin Laden’s impenetrable inner circle, sealing our borders and recognizing box cutters as potential weapons, we could not have stopped those planes from hitting the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania. In a chilling interview on Al-Jazeera, bin Laden himself bragged that not even all of the hijackers knew the full extent of their mission that day.
We did not foil the evil of September 11. We failed to stop this horror. Indeed, not only did we fail, much of our national security apparatus failed as well to protect the American people. But we did not allow the horror to prevent us from fighting back—right from the start. Ignoring the order to evacuate CIA Headquarters, many of my CTC officers stayed to take charge of the intelligence counterattack. Many officers from other parts of the DO volunteered to stay on—many for several days without break. One senior officer who had retired from the government on the 11th was driving to his retirement home, literally swung his car around on the road when he heard of the attacks, drove back in the gates, revoked his retirement, and went right back to work.
In less then two weeks, CIA paramilitary officers were on the ground in Afghanistan, working with old friends in familiar places, in the traditions of their OSS forefathers, preparing the way for the eventual military campaign that deposed the Taliban and deprived bin Laden and his lieutenants of a sanctuary in which to plan future attacks.
Destroying terrorism and those who have attacked us is the primary mission of my officers, not only in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but worldwide. A worldwide threat requires a worldwide response.
And, our efforts have had significant impact on our enemies. We’ve captured or killed nearly two-thirds of known Al-Qa’ida top leadership. Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, Khalid bin Attash, Abu Zubaydah, Hambali, Abu Musab al Baluchi, and a host of others are in custody.
None of this—none of this—would be possible without human intelligence: my operations officers, the agents they recruit and the partnerships they build with foreign intelligence services all serve the counterterrorist mission. Satellite photos and communications intercepts can get you only so far. It is the human source that so often delivers the final piece of a puzzle. Human intelligence from the spies the clandestine service recruits, resulted in many of the captures. A human source gave us the critical piece of intelligence to conduct the operation leading to the capture of the architect of 9/11, the Al-Qa’ida mastermind Khalid Shaykh Muhammed; a human source provided us the trail to Hambali, Al-Qa’ida’s ringleader for a second wave of terror attacks on America; and it is human intelligence that will eventually help us bring Usama bin Ladin to justice, or justice to him.
Let me be clear: the threat from Al-Qa’ida remains. Let me be even clearer: as sure as I am of anything, I am sure all of us here are sitting in the cross hairs. Al-Qa’ida has unambiguous plans to hit the homeland again, and New York City, I am certain, remains a prime target. Human intelligence will play a critical role in preventing future attacks, but I can’t offer you guarantees—and I wouldn’t trust anyone who does.
Let me move away from terrorism for a moment to another issue challenging America and its spy service.
From the task of collecting intelligence before the war in Iraq to the current task of supporting the new republic’s first breaths of freedom, the clandestine service has been fully engaged in Iraq.
I am often asked why Iraq was so hard?
Simply put, Iraq under Saddam was the republic of fear. If you were suspected of or caught assisting his adversaries, your family was tortured and you were shot. Indeed, it was no secret to Iraqis that getting caught working with us meant the end for them and their families.
As I mentioned at the outset, some of our critics have been on the mark regarding Iraq. Indeed, as some critics have claimed—during the pre-war period, we did not have many Iraqi sources. We certainly did not have enough! Until we put people on the ground in northern Iraq, we had less than a handful. As I mentioned before, the operating environment was tremendously prohibitive and developing the necessary trust with those Iraqis who had access was extraordinarily difficult in light of the risks they faced. Once on the ground, however, our officers recruited literally dozens of agents—some of whom paid the ultimate price for their allegiance to us—who were determined to help all Iraqis win their freedom.
Did we get access to the heart of Saddam’s weapons programs? No. In those final months, did we get closer to the inner circle of the military and political process? Absolutely! And in that compressed period of a few months, we collected intelligence our own military deemed of vital importance.
CIA officers first played pathfinder roles, moving well ahead of the combat lines, obtaining critical intelligence that informed battlefield planners. Then, when U.S. troops launched on March 19, 2003, my officers were right there with them.
And well before Saddam’s statue was toppled in Baghdad, our officers, their equipment and communications gear flew into the capital under hostile fire. We needed to be there—to provide crucial intelligence to the advancing combat forces.
Today, as Iraq transitions from tyranny to self-determination, Baghdad is home to the largest CIA station since the Vietnam war. I am extremely proud of our performance in Iraq, and of our role in liberating its people from decades of repression.
The missions the clandestine service takes on for America are not all fast-breaking. Many take years or longer. Human intelligence led the way to one of the most significant counter-proliferation successes in years: Libya’s renunciation of weapons of mass destruction last December.
As the result of a patient, decade long operation involving million dollar recruitment pitches, covert entries, ballet like sophistication and a level of patience we are often accused of not possessing, the clandestine service exposed the network of Pakistani scientist AQ Khan. Khan was the source of nuclear materials in Libya, Iran and North Korea and the potential source to non-state actors. Working with British intelligence, we surprised Libya’s leaders with the depth of our knowledge about its weapons programs. We pressed them on the right questions, exposed inconsistencies and convinced the Libyans that holding back was counterproductive.
In the end, Colonel Qadhafi had no option but to abandon his WMD programs and accept international inspections. Nice work by any high standard!
None of this comes easily. Espionage is not James Bond or Jason Bourne or any of the hundreds of other fictional spies who occupy the world of novels and movies. Human intelligence demands a balance of delicacy, poise, timing, and understanding of human beings. It relies on an operations officer getting to know an agent or potential agent as well as he or she knows a member of his or her family. The officer must learn the motivations, emotions, loyalties, vulnerabilities, and limits that drive this most unique of human beings. It requires professional detachment that allows the officer to see the truth from the half-truth, the nuance of fact, the coloration of bias. It is no wonder why human intelligence is, as I told you, more art than science.
It has been well established that the intelligence community, including the clandestine service, did not have the resources it required before the 9/11 attacks. Most of you are aware of the traumatic resource reductions we received throughout the decade of the 90s, cuts made in the wake of the supposed post-Cold War “peace dividend,” the reluctance of Congress and the nation’s leadership to sustain the clandestine service so that we could answer the alarm we had been sounding about Al-Qa’ida’s threat to America. These cuts, the lack of funding, left America’s spy service weakened and America vulnerable. As I said before, 9/11 changed all that—the Congress provided a tremendous influx of counterterrorism funding in the wake of 9/11 and Iraq focused funding prior to the war in Iraq.
The tremendous resources devoted to the war on terrorism and the effort in Iraq have made a difference; the influx of funding has helped. But it has helped us catch up in a race in which we had been allowed to fall too far behind. Frankly speaking, the men and women of the clandestine service have been in a flat out sprint since 9/11. The increased funding has helped us to grow our capability in the global war on terrorism and support our troops in Iraq. But we will need longer term, strategic funds to win the race around the globe. For the sake of America’s security, for our future, we need sustained congressional and executive commitment to grow and nurture a clandestine service worthy of this country and the challenges we face.
In my opinion, now is not the time for radical reorganization of the intelligence community, for creating a new structure, a different framework in the hope of always getting it right and always connecting the dots. Some have said my retirement and George Tenet’s resignation create the “perfect storm” for radical restructuring in the intelligence community. Let me remind you that in the book and the movie “the perfect storm,” the ship sank and the crew drowned.
I would argue against change for the sake or appearance of change particularly in these politically charged times and at a time of great terrorist threat. No one really seeks a perfect storm. The aftermath of 9/11 brought about tremendous change in the way we do business; but change for its own sake is dead wrong. I believe thoughtful empowerment of the DCI and sustained executive and congressional commitment to improve our nation’s intelligence capabilities will serve our nation well.
No amount of intelligence funding, no amount of threat integration, no amount of rebuilding the intelligence community, as some have called for, will or can guarantee perfect results.
At its very best, human intelligence is an inexact art, and while we may be able to find and connect many of the dots; I would be lying to you if I said we can connect them all. I would be suspect of anyone offering quick solutions or quick answers through hasty reorganization and centralization.
Even with all that we have learned from 9/11, from the war on terrorism—as good as we’ve become, there will be failures. Perfection is impossible in a profession devoted to the complexities and unknowns of the world.
You already know what I worry about—another attack by terrorists on the homeland—indeed this is what I lose sleep over. But I also worry that racing to change risks many things to include our nation and the clandestine service. The clandestine service provides the American public with no balance sheet, no scorecard at the end of the year tallying victories and losses. Our failures—real or perceived—are the stuff of headlines—our successes are largely unheralded. Therefore, I hope I have expanded your understanding of what we do.
As we search for ways to improve our intelligence capability, we as a nation must take care not to dismiss or undo the magnificent gains of human intelligence. There is far more at stake than an organization’s pride. Our challenges remain daunting, our responsibility enormous.
I fear that we are being pushed into a “mistake-free zone,” and only bad can come of that. Fear of failure creates caution—in people and in organizations. One of the bedrocks of my business is a willingness to take risks—calculated risks that withstand legal scrutiny—but risks that are inherent to all we do. Mistakes and failure come with the territory as well—we will always strive for perfection with the understanding it is unattainable.
As my friend and former director Richard Helms put it, “secret intelligence has never been for the fainthearted.” In my business, you simply have to accept the real probability of failure, learn from your shortcomings and do better. Those afraid to make mistakes will never be bold or creative enough to solve the problems our nation faces. This business is not for everyone.
Imagine for a moment what would have happened if the CIA, during the height of the Cold War, had abandoned its effort to send the first spy satellite into space. The program was called Corona and it failed 12 times over two and a half years. Finally, in August 1960, it launched, orbited and sent back to America the first overhead photos of the Soviet Union. The vast amounts of intelligence it gathered quickly overtook all we had gained from the U-2 spy program.
Indeed, some of our best officers have learned from their mistakes. In the previous century, a junior intelligence officer in Switzerland received word on Sunday evening that a disturbed Russian sought to speak to an American official. Not wanting to spoil his weekend tennis outing, our officer told the duty officer to direct the disturbed Russian to return the next day—Monday—during duty hours. Unfortunately, Vladimir Lenin chose not to return to the mission. Allen Dulles, our first DCI, was the junior intelligence officer. He recovered admirably from this early stumble and learned a lesson he imparted to future generations of operations officers.
Today, a willingness to think creatively and to take risks is arguably more important than ever. Our enemies in the war on terror seek our destruction. They have been weakened but not beaten. And there will be more deadly attacks.
And there is an important analogy.
Al-Qa’ida succeeded, with terrible human toll, on 11 September. Many times before, and many times after that horrid day in 2001, the terrorists failed and intelligence succeeded. Too often that is forgotten in the endless rush to assign blame.
70 terrorists were brought to justice before 9/11, and hundreds after.
The millenium plot, which targeted us among others, was disrupted with dozens of terrorists apprehended.
The Ramadan plot in the Gulf was foiled.
We stopped attacks against the U.S. in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
We disrupted attacks against the U.S. military in Europe and a U.S. embassy in a European capitol.
A major arrest deterred plans to kidnap Americans in three countries and carry out hijackings overseas.
We must be agile and aggressive in our response to this shrewd and single-minded foe.
We are and will continue to be.
As George Tenet once put it, “in times like these, the need for heroes is compelling.” If you remember nothing else I have said tonight, remember this: There is no shortage of heroes in the company I keep.
From the South Asian Muslim woman who became a U.S. citizen and is now—in her words—”living the American dream” by serving in the clandestine service,
to the Arabic-speaking former operations officer who returned to us on September 12th, 2001, after leaving us for the private sector, because he decided there was no more important calling;
from the Chief of Station targeted for assassination in South America;
To the memory of Mike Spann—the first American hero to fall in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban and Al-Qai’da.
I am tremendously proud of the people—the heroes—I have led for the last five years. They are heroes for whom there are no parades, no public accolades, and rare acknowledgement of their deeds. They are a living national treasure. They have earned your adulation and they need your support.