THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN NOMINATION OF JUDGE LOUIS FREEH AS DIRECTOR OF THE FBI The Rose Garden
9:27 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Please sit down. Mr. Vice President. Attorney General Reno. The Acting FBI Director Floyd Clark. Former Director of the FBI, Judge William Webster, we're delighted to have you here. Senator D'Amato. Judge Robert Bonner, the DEA Administrator. The representatives of all the law enforcement agencies who are here and friends and family of the nominee to be the next director of the FBI.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the federal government's cutting edge in the fight against crime. Its agents are the best-trained in the world. Its sophisticated technology enable law enforcement agents to catch criminals with a fragment of a fingerprint.
As we saw only recently in the remarkably swift arrest in the World Trade Center bombing, the Agency continues its preeminent place in the law enforcement world. The Agency itself must clearly adapt to new times. It must continue the progress of opening its ranks to minorities and to women that began in recent years. It must work cooperatively with other agencies in the United States and in international partnerships against crime with police forces of other nations.
Yesterday I announced my intention to appoint a new director of the FBI. Today I am pleased to nominate a law enforcement legend to be the director of the FBI, Judge Louis Freeh. Judge Freeh knows the FBI. He is a highly decorated former agent and supervisor. He has investigated and prosecuted some of the most notorious and complex crimes of our time. He is experienced, energetic and independent. He will be both good and tough -- good for the FBI and tough on criminals.
It can truly be said that Louis Freeh is the best possible person to head the FBI as it faces new challenges and a new century. He has spent his career in the federal justice system. After working his way through law school, he became an FBI agent. He knows the agency as only an agent can, working the dangerous streets. He helped lead the waterfront investigations that led to the criminal convictions of 125 people, including leading organized crime figures.
From the FBI Judge Freeh became a federal prosecutor in New York City. He prosecuted and won convictions against the leaders of what was then the largest heroin importation case in our history, the legendary "Pizza Connection" case. The trial lasted over a year. Among other defendants, Judge Freeh sent the head of the Sicilian mafia to jail. Observers were dazzled. He was called, and I quote, "one of the government's toughest investigators. A ramrod straight and ferocious crusader against the mob. An investigative genius."
Three years ago, as Judge Freeh neared the end of his work as a prosecutor, the Department of Justice selected him to head a special task force in one of the most notorious and difficult criminal cases of our day. A mysterious bomber was at work in the South mailing parcels that killed Federal Judge Robert Vance near Birmingham, Alabama and civil rights leader Robbie Robinson in Savannah, Georgia.
Many predicted that the case would never be solved. But led by Louis Freeh, the task force tracked down the bomber and Freeh himself prosecuted the case and obtained convictions. The bomber is now serving seven life terms in prison. In recognition of his service to the law, President Bush appointed Louis Freeh to the federal bench. Now Judge Freeh has agreed to leave that lifetime post to serve his nation once again in a difficult new job. There are few jobs in our government that are more important.
Our federal law enforcement agencies face an everchanging array of threats. Drugs continue to ravage our young people and our streets. Law-abiding citizens can be caught in the crossfire between gangs today equipped like armies. White collar swindlers practice inventive forms of what Al Capone once called "the legitimate rackets." And our nation, so long immune from the terrorism that has plagued the world, now faces that threat, too.
With Attorney General Janet Reno, Drug Policy Coordinator Lee Brown, and now, we hope, FBI Director Louis Freeh, our administration has a street-smart, front line against crime. These law enforcers did not learn about crime in theory books, they learned about it on the streets and in the courtroom. And they have learned the best lessons of state and local enforcers. With all of their hard-won experience, this crime-fighting team can work hard every day to protect the American people's right to safety in their homes and in their communities.
I must tell you that I am very proud and very grateful that Judge Freeh was willing to leave his lifetime appointment on the federal bench for the somewhat less secure work that the rest of us find in the Executive Branch. (Laughter.) I hope the American people will be grateful as well, and I look forward to his speedy confirmation.
Judge Freeh. (Applause.)
JUDGE FREEH: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind and, indeed, your humbling words. And thank you for the honor of this nomination. I also want to thank Attorney General Reno for her support and confidence.
I'd like to introduce to you my wonderful wife, Marilyn, sitting in the front row; and our four sons, Justin, Brendan, Sean and Connor. They can all stand up, except Conner, who can't walk yet.
Do you want to stand up, guys? (Applause.)
Thank you. They've never been better behaved. (Laughter.) I was born in Jersey City, and from about the age of my eldest son, I wanted to be an FBI agent. It was my first job after law school at age 25. The FBI is the greatest organization for law enforcement ever created by a democratic society. The brave men and women who serve in its ranks exemplify all of our country's police professionals dedicated to ensuring both safety and liberty.
If confirmed by the Senate, I pledge my total commitment to a Federal Bureau of Investigation whose only beacon is the rule of law, whose sole task is protecting all of our people from crime and violence.
The FBI's duties include virtually every important aspect of the crimes that take such a dreadful toll in American life. They include: violent street crimes, drug trafficking, civil rights violations, organized crime and racketeering, public corruption, fraud, health care abuses, white collar crime, environmental crimes and crimes against our domestic and national security.
Our country must be made safe again -- in cities, towns, villages and countryside. Safety is particularly important for our children and young people who, all to often are now trapped in virtual war zones controlled by vicious criminals. The issue is stark: Do we allow criminals to destroy our Constitution and our freedoms, or do we as a people committed to the rule of law, take effective steps to preserve our most basic civil rights to be protected against harm, to be free from fear, and to enjoy the full measure of liberty and opportunity in this great nation.
Anyone doubting the need for an efficient FBI need only read the front page or watch the evening news. What most Americans once thought impossible has now occurred here: a terrorist bomb that killed, maimed and spread terror in our nation's largest city. We now live in a global village in terms of law enforcement. When my friend and colleague, Italy's Judge Giovanni Falcone, and his wife were assassinated in 1992 outside Palermo, it was an attack against the cooperative efforts of the FBI and the Italian police and judges to combat international narco terrorism.
The Department of Justice has spearheaded these international police and judicial assistance operations, which are critical to our success and which must continued.
The FBI must not only catch those who have committed crimes, it must be an important step ahead of criminals as often as possible to prevent crime from being committed. It also has the unique ability in a democratic society to exculpate the innocent.
To do all these things takes expert and dedicated personnel, state-of-the-art technology, and the support of the American people. It also takes the greatest possible cooperation with state and local enforcement agencies.
I had the privilege of working investigations and prosecutions which represent the long and dedicated efforts of thousands of federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement officers. Both the pizza case and the mail bombing case required the careful coordination of scores of separate investigative agencies, police forces, prosecutors and governments -- all working together toward common professional goals.
The harmonious and cooperative efforts of the policemen and women who solve these difficult cases without the occurrence of a single leak throughout years of intensive investigations were in the highest tradition of great law enforcement. In our country's rich traditions, we must make certain that the best of the past is surely the prologue of the challenges we face today and in the future.
Before going on the Supreme Court, Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone set into motion in the 1920s reforms that eventually led to the outstanding FBI of today, an FBI which has been strengthened by Judge Sessions's efforts to diversify its excellent work force. These important efforts should be continued and strengthened. At its bedrock, the FBI must stand for absolute integrity, be free of all political influence, be free of any racial or other bias, and work solely in the public interest.
Without exception, the FBI must be responsible to the Attorney General, the President and the Congress. Most importantly, the FBI must be responsible to the American people. Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END9:40 A.M. EDT