William J. Clinton, 1993-2001

*Content updated on April 21, 2009

"Our First Line of Defense" Presidential Reflections on US Intelligence (U)


President Clinton is the first President to begin his administration in the post-Soviet world. Like his predecessor George Bush, President Clinton recognizes that world events still have the capacity to harm US interests even if the threat of nuclear war is dramatically reduced. To protect American interests and promote the peaceful resolution of disputes, he has sent US troops to Haiti to restore democracy and to Bosnia as peace-keepers.

The President has visited CIA twice. Each time he has expressed his admiration for, trust in, and thanks to the men and women of CIA for the work they do.


    "[EVERY] MORNING THE President begins the day asking, `What happened overnight? What do we know? How do we know it?' Like my predecessors, I have to look to the intelligence community for the answers to those questions. I look to you to warn me and, through me, our Nation of the threats, to spotlight the important trends in the world, to describe dynamics that could affect our interests around the world.

    "Those activities are particularly important now. The end of the cold war increases our security in many ways. You helped to win that cold war, and it is fitting that a piece of the Berlin Wall stands here on these grounds. But even now, this new world remains dangerous and, in many ways, more complex and more difficult to fathom. We need to understand more than we do about the challenges of ethnic conflict, militant nationalism, terrorism, and the proliferation of all kinds of weapons. Accurate, reliable intelligence is the key to understanding each of these challenges. And without it, it is difficult to make good decisions in a crisis or in the long-term."

    President William J. Clinton, Central Intelligence Agency, 4 January 1994


    "INTELLIGENCE REMAINS A critical element of our national power and influence. For over 40 years bipartisan support for the work performed by U.S. intelligence has been essential to the creation of an intelligence capability that is second to none. While the world has changed in dramatic ways, our need to retain the advantage that U.S. intelligence provides our country remains constant.




    "With the end of the cold war we must renew and reinvigorate this bipartisan support. The foundation for this support must begin with a thorough assessment of the kind of intelligence community we will need to address the security challenges of the future. Our objective is to strengthen U.S. intelligence, to ensure it has the management, skills, and resources needed to successfully pursue our national security interests through the next decade and beyond. It is an effort to which I attach the highest personal priority."

    President William J. Clinton, 2 February 1995


    "[THE] COLD WAR IS OVER, BUT many new dangers have taken its place: regional security threats; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; terrorists who, as we have seen, can strike at the very heart of our own major cities; drug trafficking and international crime. The decisive advantage United States intelligence provides this country is, therefore, as important as it has ever been.

    "As President, I've had the opportunity to appreciate just how important that intelligence is to our national security. Most Americans never know the victories our intelligence provides or the crisis it helps us to avoid, but they do learn about its occasional setbacks. And as we prepare our intelligence community to face new challenges, we must not forget its many successes."

    President William J. Clinton, Announcing the nomination of Michael Carns to be DCI, 8 February 1995




    "IN THE YEARS SINCE [THE National Security Act created CIA], the men and women of the CIA and its sister agencies have done more than most Americans will or can ever know to keep our Nation strong and secure and to advance the cause of democracy and freedom around the world.

    "Today, because the cold war is over, some say that we should and can step back from the world and that we don't need intelligence as much as we used to, that we ought to severely cut the intelligence budget. A few have even urged us to scrap the central intelligence service. I think these views are profoundly wrong. I believe making deep cuts in intelligence during peacetime is comparable to canceling your health insurance when you're feeling fine.

    "Every morning I start my day with an intelligence report. The intelligence I receive informs just about every foreign policy decision we make. It's easy to take it for granted, but we couldn't do without it. Unique intelligence makes it less likely that our forces will be sent into battle, less likely that American lives will have to put at risk. It gives us a chance to prevent crises instead of forcing us to manage them."

    President William J. Clinton, Central Intelligence Agency, 14 July 1995


Historical Document
Posted: Mar 19, 2007 01:33 PM
Last Updated: Apr 21, 2009 10:56 AM