THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN SWEARING-IN CEREMONY FOR FBI DIRECTOR LOUIS FREEH FBI Building Washington, D.C.
10:16 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: 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 Clark 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. (Applause.)
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 fine 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 colleagues with gunfire. People like the 45 others who received agency medals over the past three 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 these qualities. I must say, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for Judge Freeh, and I have to say -- 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 Director of the FBI." (Applause.) 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 safe streets 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 1990s 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 '30s 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 front line 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. (Applause.)
(The oath is administered.) (Applause.)
DIRECTOR FREEH: Thank you very much and good morning to everyone.
Mr. President, I am deeply grateful for this rare opportunity to serve this great nation, the American people and the FBI.
Attorney General Reno, I am pleased to follow your strong leadership of this excellent Department of Justice, where I've spent 16 of my 18 professional years.
And Marilyn, thank you for your strength and love, which enables me to take on this challenge. You are certainly the sustaining light in my life.
I want to thank also Father Jaffe, and Kim, our excellent vocalists from the New York Police Department, and all the men and women who planned this truly beautiful event, and also whoever was responsible for keeping Emily at bay for another 24 hours. I want to thank all of my friends and colleagues and the many FBI employees I will soon come to know for also being here today.
As I look into the eyes of my four sons this morning who are with us, and upon the faces of all the children throughout America, I see the promise as well as the uncertainty of the future before us. As we hurtle towards the 21st century, we must confront the stark realities of crime and disorder with an unprecedented dedication of purpose. We owe this to ourselves and to our children, and this is what we must be about. It is only by facing up to these realities that we can forge the solutions and opportunities needed to ensure peace and justice for all.
We didn't become the greatest republic in the history of the world by being untested or timid. We have not become the lamp of liberty because we lack fortitude and moral strength. And we haven't journeyed across the oceans and the generations of hopes and sacrifices to be lost in a tyranny of crime and chaos. Instead we must do now and here what the people of American have always done in terms of crisis -- take control of our own destiny and use our enormous resources, ingenuity and will to establish the domestic tranquility and justice envisioned in the Constitution of the United States.
The frightening level of lawlessness which has come upon us like a plague is more than a law enforcement problem. The crime and disorder which flow from hopeless poverty, unloved children, and drug abuse can't be solved merely by bottomless prisons, mandatory sentencing minimums or more police. A 1991 report showed nearly two million violent crimes. They included nearly 25,000 murders, more than 106,000 forcible rapes, almost 700,000 robberies, and one million aggravated assaults.
If we saw in this morning's news reports that a foreign power had killed 25,000 Americans or raped 106,000 American women, we would be at war by the afternoon. And yet there seems to be a sort of fatalism among many that crime can be sharply and permanently reduced. Perhaps we have become so used to crime growing in small increments over the last 30 years that we no longer recoil in horror to find it an indelible part of the landscape. It seems popular for some to say we live in a time of diminishing expectations. Well, crime is not diminishing. And we should not have diminishing expectations that we can make sacrifices to win the war against crime.
We must, however, be willing to make those sacrifices. That means mobilizing all of America's resources to solve the root causes of the problem. The greatest enemy here is losing faith that we can control and reverse the pandemic of crime. We must steel ourselves against the easy fatalism that the fact and fear of crime faith that we can control and reverse the pandemic of crime. We must steel ourselves against the easy fatalism that the facts and fear of crime cannot be overcome. If we give up the hope and will to solve this crisis, we will be turning our backs on our most difficult but solvable national problem.
By such an indifference, we also risk losing a large part of the next generation of young Americans. The price we will pay for such a loss will be our humanity. We must never forget that each one of us working together can make a difference. Judge Johnson, who's here with us today, as well as Judge Falcone have proved that individual people can make such historic differences.
So how do we begin solving the problems? While there are many parts to the equation, no progress can be made on the law enforcement front unless we create new levels of cooperation which have not been attained in the past. It is hardly a new idea, as we can see from the inscription in this courtyard.
One reason to make rapid progress now in developing this concept is that we must face the fact that financial resources for law enforcement are not endless. Creation of closer federal ties to state and local enforcement agencies would multiply resources for all and enable us to have a truly unified national effort against crime.
Numbers tell part of the story. The FBI has about 10,000 agents -- less than we had in 1987. New York City, on the other hand, has 30,000 fine police officers. Nationally, there are 535,000 state and local law enforcement officers, a vast army for good.
More cooperation is also needed among federal agencies. As an FBI agent and prosecutor, I had the privilege of working in the trenches with outstanding law enforcement officers from the New York Police Department, the New York State Police, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, the marshal service, customs, ATF, the Secret Service, the postal inspectors, to name only a few. During these cases, I regretted the extraordinary amount of time and scarce resources expended over needless turf wars and duplicated efforts. On almost every occasion, those battles began and ended several bureaucratic levels above the various street agents who almost always work together competitively but effectively.
The turf wars must stop because they aid only the criminals. Greater cooperation by federal agencies would again multiply resources against crime. In this regard, we should try to follow the advice which we often give our children -- play with your friends; be fair and honest with them; and share your toys.
To our friends and comrades around the world -- police, prosecutors and judges -- we pledge our continued support and collaboration. We will stand with you shoulder to shoulder and arm in arm. We will never forsake you in the courageous battles being waged by you against terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime in our global village.
The FBI is the greatest and most powerful law enforcement organization ever known to a democracy. Its greatness and unique capacity for good stems from the extraordinary quality of its men and women -- and I mean all of them, the agent work force, as well as the support staff. Both are essential to its successful operation.
As we move forward to the year 2000 we need to keep an open mind on the remarkable strengths, as well as some of the failings of our past. The FBI must always serve the course of justice by upholding the Constitution and the rule of law. Yet our operations and methodologies must be constantly subject to review and renewal. As we prepare to deal with the application of vast and complex new technologies to our work, we need also to keep in mind our basic mission, a lawful investigation of matters within our jurisdiction and the proper gathering and use of information.
This essential work takes place primarily in our field offices and on the streets of America. It must, therefore, be the purpose of this headquarters to support and guide the basic mission.
Do we require more than eight percent of our agent force at headquarters when parts of the country are virtual war zones? If we're accumulating the right information and expertise to have an impact on crime, are we also utilizing and distributing it in the best way? Are we following the legal requirements of protecting confidential information and doing enough to guard against the kind of leaks which destroy investigations and lives?
We should be measuring our progress and diversifying by substantive changes in our leadership, career advancement, and recruitment programs. Is our administrative advancement system designed to identify and to promote our best leaders as well as managers? Do we have an inspection system that correctly evaluates whether we're doing the most significant cases in the field in the best possible way? We have to be concerned about serving the law enforcement needs of our varied communities and not focus simply on the last time the oil was changed in the Bureau car.
To answer these questions and carry out my new responsibilities, I will need the help of every person in the Bureau and everyone in the extended FBI family. And we should all remember that to do this important job well and effectively, we must have the support and love of our families, which deserve extraordinary credit for making the sacrifices that enable us to function. And I want to thank all of them this morning for those sacrifices.
In closing, I want to tell you how honored I am to serve with you, and how proud I am of the FBI. Your job requires immense sacrifice, dedication, and what's known as grace under pressure. It's a high-risk job belied by your bravery. More often than not, it's a thankless job. And yet I cannot think of a more critical and satisfying thing to do for your country. I salute you today.
I can make only one certain promise to all who work for the FBI and to the American people: I will do the best I can. And that means I will resist any effort from any source to impair the integrity of the FBI. I'll hold you only to the same standards to which I hold myself. Meanwhile, I can't forget where I came from or what a street agent does for a living. And I can't forget the dangers and frustrations which you face on a daily basis.
All of us in the FBI, no matter what our jobs, must be absolutely honest and fair in everything we do. We must carry out the responsibilities given to us by the President, the Attorney General and the Congress. We must effectively and fairly enforce the law. We must be beyond reproach in our own hiring, promotion and diversity programs.
We must make certain that we care about and protect everyone in this country to the best of our ability, including those who now feel most helpless, frightened and neglected. I also want to thank Floyd Clark for the leadership and counsel which he has shown, and I look forward and am delighted that he will remain here as my deputy.
I look forward to working with the Attorney General, the Congress and the President in the days to come.
Thank you very much, and may God bless you all. (Applause.)
END10:44 A.M. EDT