Convenes Homeland Security Advisory Council
The Indian Treaty Room
The White House
June 12, 2002
10:44 A.M. EDT
Well, thank you all very much for taking on this assignment. Joe, thank you
for your being chairman. And, Bill Webster, we've got a lot of talented folks
around this table. And I want to thank you for agreeing to help our nation.
We're under attack; just the way it is. The more we love freedom, the more we
espouse values that are decent and honorable, the more we welcome religion in
our society, open political discourse, the more this enemy is going to try to
hit us. And we've got two course of action. One is to run them down, wherever
they try to hide, and bring them to justice. That's precisely what we're going
These people are the kind of people that -- they try to find a soft spot around
the world and burrow in and plot and plan. And we're just going to have to enforce
the doctrine, either you're with us or against us. You join the coalition of
freedom, or you're on the other side of the fence.
And we're making good progress, we really are. The other night when I announced
this Department of Homeland Security, I made mention of the fact that our coalition
has hauled in about 2,400 of these terrorists, these killers. The problem is
there's still quite a number of them still out there.
We're using our military -- we've got a great military, by the way. I'm really
proud of the men and women who wear our uniform, and our nation stands squarely
with our military.
We're using diplomatic pressure. That's an important tool. We're cutting off
their money. That's -- we've been fairly effective at cutting off their money.
We can all do a little better job of denying them the funds they need. They
don't need a lot of money, but they do need money to conduct their attacks.
We're sharing intelligence. I know many members of this committee have been
very much involved in the intelligence gathering capacity of America, and we're
doing a better job of finding our weaknesses here at home, and working on the
weaknesses. The CIA and the FBI now are doing a much better job today than they
had been prior to September the 11th of sharing information across these --
what were once formidable jurisdictional boundaries.
The culture of our agencies have changed since the war. The FBI has got a --
has got a new job, which is to prevent attack, and that's now their primary
focus. And Bob Mueller is doing a good job of recognizing the cultural shift
that needs to take place, of taking input, listening to people, and responding.
So we're making progress, we really are. But until we rout out every terrorist
cell and every terrorist, until attitudes change about freedom in America, we've
got to protect our homeland in a new way. And I want to thank you all for agreeing
to help us. You're breaking new ground, and you're going to help us leave a
legacy, so that future Presidents, future administrations and future Congress
can deal more effectively with how to do the most important job any elected
official has, which is to protect innocent life.
As you know, I called for the Department of Homeland Security. Obviously I wouldn't
have done so if I didn't think it was the absolute right thing to do. I think
it's important to focus the mission, through reorganization. I know it's going
to make -- help us be more effective here at home.
I also recognize how tough the chore is going to be. I mean, after all, we are
asking people in Congress to give up turf, as they say, give up a little power.
And I'm under no illusions that asking folks to give up power can be a difficult
assignment. So one of the things I'll do is remind the members of Congress that
this is not a political issue, that protecting America is an American issue.
It's a duty we all have and that I vow not to play politics with doing what's
I'll also remind the Congress that I am going to speak to the American people
about this issue. Once I propose it, I'm going to take my case beyond Washington
to the true influence -- the real influence peddlers of America; that's the
American people, the people who work every day and who've got the capacity to
inform their members of Congress or the Senate their opinion. And that's what
I'm going to continue to do.
I'm going to continue to speak as plainly as I can about the need for this department,
assuring the American people that we're not interested in increasing the size
and scope of the federal government, we're interested in efficiency. We want
an organization that can work closely with local leaders such as my Mayor, Mayor
Williams. We want to be able to respond better if something were to occur. We
want to know how better to enforce our borders. We want to know when they're
coming in the country and if they're overstaying their visas. We need to know
that in America, under this new -- the new threats under which we live.
We've got to -- I signed a bioterrorism bill today. I want to thank you all
for coming for the signing ceremony. I saw Jim Schlesinger there, and I'm sure
you're glad I cut my remarks in half, because the temperature seemed to be --
(laughter) -- seemed to be a little warm out there. But the idea is to better
coordinate our capacity to detect weapons of mass destruction and respond to
them if they occur.
And, finally, we need an analytical capacity within a department that can take
all the intelligence that's gathered, not only by the FBI or the CIA, but all
throughout our government, and analyze it so we have a better feel for what
the terrorists might be thinking, and then how to respond.
And you all can play a very useful role in this -- in this process. You bring
a lot of heft and a lot of experience and a lot of know-how. You can definitely
help us understand how best to coordinate government activities with the private
sector, and that's essential, that we team up to do everything we need to do
to protect America.
So I want to thank you for your service. I want you to know this administration
is totally committed to protecting the people. Many of you are aware of the
President's briefing he gets, sees or knows what the President reads and they're
still out there. These people -- you know, these killers, they're still lurking
around. But they picked on a -- they picked on a group of people who are plenty
determined, and that's the American people.
We've got a fabulous nation. And we're tough and we're determined and we're
united and we're strong. And at the same time, we're showing the world that
we're a compassionate nation, as well. We won the first battle, or we're winning
the first battle in the war of the 21st century, which was in Afghanistan. And
we went into that country not as conquerors, but as liberators. And I'm proud
of our nation, and I'm proud of your service to our nation. And I want to thank
you all for giving us your time.