Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet
to Employees of the
Central Intelligence Agency
US Intelligence Community
For the past nine years, I have been privileged to be part of a great American family—the family of American Intelligence. I have lived in the heart of the CIA family. In that long and eventful time, we have shared moments of success and disappointment, of happiness and sorrow.
Today, I share with you news that I gave the President last evening. I have decided to step down as Director of Central Intelligence, effective July 11th, the seventh anniversary of my being sworn in as DCI.
I did not make this decision quickly or easily. But I know in my heart that the time is right to move on to the next phase of our lives.
In an organization as vital as this one there is never a good time to leave. There will always be critical work to be done, threats to be dealt with, and challenges that demand every ounce of energy that a DCI can muster.
We have thrown our hearts into rebuilding our Intelligence Community and I have been richly rewarded with the gratification of working with the finest group of men and women our nation can produce.
I want to say a word of special thanks to President Bush. On entering office he immediately recognized the importance of rebuilding our intelligence capabilities. He spends time with us almost every day. He has shown great care for our officers. He is a great champion for the men and women of US Intelligence and a constant source of support .
It has been an honor for me to serve as his Director of Central Intelligence.
And I am especially proud of the leadership team that we have assembled in the Intelligence Community and which will continue fighting the good fight long after I have taken my leave.
I want to thank Mike Hayden, and Jim Clapper, Jake Jacoby, Pete Teets, John Russack and Tom Fingar for their friendship and support.
As I look back on how the Intelligence Community has evolved over the past decade, there is much to be proud of.
First as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, and then as Director, I have had the chance to be part of a massive transformation of our intelligence capabilities. That revolution may not make headlines, but it will continue to benefit our country for years to come.
American Intelligence has, after the drought of the post-Cold War years, begun to receive the investments—in people and dollars and attention—that we need to meet the security challenges of a new century and a new world.
You, the men and women of American Intelligence, have put those investments to powerful use. And I believe the American people will continue to demand that this great community of patriots receive the funding and support that you so richly deserve.
At CIA, we have made good progress in rebuilding the Clandestine Service. We have expanded and empowered our corps of analysts. We have restructured and streamlined our support operations. We have developed and acquired the technologies on which intelligence and espionage depend. With new schools and training facilities, we have sharpened instruction for each of our core professions. We are recruiting the finest men and women in our history in record numbers.
These initiatives—and I can talk of only a few—complement those of other intelligence agencies, and our enduring efforts to build what we call ourselves, what I believe us to be: a true community, working more closely than ever with our partners in the military and in law enforcement, and overseas.
We have done these things together—not out of some bureaucratic imperative, but to be better at our mission of protecting American families and the freedoms that make America worth protecting.
For many years now, we have been at war with a deadly threat to the United States and its values: the threat of terrorism. Like other wars, it has been a struggle of battles won and, tragically, battles lost. You have acted with focus and courage through it all, before and after 9/11.
What you have achieved in this fight against a clever, fanatical enemy, around the world—the cells destroyed, the conspiracies defeated, the innocent lives saved—will for most Americans be forever unknown and uncounted. But for those privileged to observe these often hidden successes, they will be an unforgettable testament to your dedication and your valor.
On other issues, too, you have done magnificent work. Outstanding support to American forces—not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but around the world. Remarkable successes against weapons proliferators and drug traffickers. Unique insights into the full range of dangers and opportunities that face the United States beyond its borders.
In short: each day, here and abroad, from diverse backgrounds, with varied skills, you come together for a single purpose: to give our country an essential advantage—in its understanding of the conditions in the world, and in its ability to change those conditions for the better.
To be sure, there is much yet to do. But there is a strong foundation of talents and resources on which to build.
This I say with exceptional pride: The Central Intelligence Agency and the American Intelligence Community are stronger now than they were when I became DCI seven years ago, and they will be stronger tomorrow than they are today.
That is not my legacy. It is yours.
You have done the hard work, turning new ideas into actions, and new recruits into seasoned officers. You have taken bold risks analytically, operationally, and with powerful technology.
As I often tell younger and older officers—we have put this Agency and our Community on an irreversible course. Directors are stewards of a great institution for very limited periods of time. You are the owners of the institution and in your hands we have placed enormous confidence and trust. I want you to always believe in yourselves and the power that you have – each and every one of you—to ensure that we stay on course—ensure that our families are taken care of—young officers are nourished—and our mission come first always.
Our record is not without flaws. The world of Intelligence is a uniquely human endeavor and as in all human endeavors we all understand the need to always do better. We are not perfect but one of our best kept secrets is that we are very, very, very good.
Whatever our shortcomings, the American people know that we constantly evaluate our performance, always strive to do better, and always tell the truth. These are our values as professional intelligence officers. We get up every day with only one purpose—to protect this country and its families. And I believe to the depth of my soul that Americans are proud of each and every one of you. They have said thank you to me in Peoria, Illinois, in Norman, Oklahoma, in College Station, Texas, in Rochester, New York—everywhere I have ever had a chance to speak about speak about the wonderful men and women that work here.
When I tell people being Director of Central Intelligence is the best job in government—and the best job I will ever have—I say it because of you. Because of your passion, your creativity, your spirit and everything you do every day in taking risks and meeting perils around the world.
Here at CIA, I have had the greatest of colleagues, starting with John McLaughlin—a man of magical warmth, wit—you know his nickname is Merlin—wisdom, and decency, the finest deputy and friend I could ever have and he will be a great acting director.
This is the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. And while Washington and the media will put many different faces on the decision—it was a personal decision—and had only one basis in fact—the well being of my wonderful family. Nothing more and nothing less.
Nine years ago when I became the deputy director, a wonderful young man sitting in the front row was in the second grade. He came right up to my belt—I just saw a picture of the day Judge Freeh swore me in—and he’s grown up to be . . .
Anyway, the point is, John Michael is going to be a senior next year. I’m going to be a senior with him in high school.
We’re going to go to class together. We’re going to party together. I’m going to learn how to instant message his friends—that would be an achievement!
You’ve just been a great son, and I’m now going to be a great dad. Thank God you look like your mother. You’re damned good looking.
The most important woman in my life, who I refer to as the home minister . . . look, if I could tell you the number of times I get an elbow in the middle of the night about what I’ve forgot to do for families at the CIA and our spouses and for our kids . . . honey, you’ll be the best first lady this institution has ever had, and I love you. You are terrific.
You have all given us so much warmth, so much support and encouragement. The most difficult part of this decision was knowing that I would not be here with you every day—in our offices, the cafeteria, conference rooms or the gym—but I do hope I have earned a lifetime membership.
It is difficult in knowing that I will not be as directly connected to the thousands of men and women overseas who along with their families sacrifice so much to protect our country.
But there is also great joy in knowing that I will never be far away in heart and spirit from all of you. You will have no greater advocate wherever I may be for you and your families.
So, I wanted to see you all today—to tell you personally about all of this. Fully recognizing that we will have more time over the next few weeks to be together in your workspaces so that we can thank you for what you have done for us.
And so, as I tell you about my plans to depart—with sadness, but with my head held very, very high, as yours should always be because what you do is critical to everything our nation stands for—its goodness, its decency and its courage.
I want to thank you for the support you have given me and my family. For being colleagues and friends. You will always be in our thoughts and prayers. It has been an honor for us—for Stephanie, for John Michael—to be by your side.
It has been the greatest privilege of my life to be your Director.
May God always bless you and bless your families.
As Dick Helms used to say, let’s get on with it and get back to work.