Remarks of the Director of Central Intelligence
George J. Tenet
to the US Intelligence Community
on September 11
September 11, 2002
- The US flag in the frame behind DCI Tenet was recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center.
One year ago, our country, our people, our very way of life came under direct and terrible attack. With its searing images of destruction and death, and of compassion and courage, September 11th, 2001 is a date that none of us will ever forget.
Amid the anxiety and turmoil of that Tuesday morning, there could be for us, the men and women of American Intelligence, no room for hesitation, and there was none.
As we watched the scenes of unfolding devastation, our hearts broke at the thought of thousands of families shattered and of millions more afflicted by worry and fear. Despite exceptional efforts, as an agency and a community, we did not stop the hands of hatred that day from acting on their savage plans.
For years, in countless places, you had done heroic, life-saving work in counter-terrorism. You had amassed the knowledge, refined the operational and analytical techniques, and built the relationships that would be the essential foundation of our national response to the atrocities of September 11th.
Within minutes, as fires still burned in New York, at the Pentagon, and in a field in rural Pennsylvania, you were making ready to meet the heavy demands of the battles yet to come. Your energy, experience, commitment, and daring have been critical to the gains achieved by freedom in these past 12 months.
In Afghanistan, a tyranny that made itself an ally of terror has been deposed. The authors of terror that it once sheltered have been put to flight. In countries around the world, cells of conspirators have been broken and new tragedies averted.
We should all be proud of those victories, won with great skill and sacrifice. But we must also remember that our enemies in this fight, the enemies of civilization, are as clever as they are cruel. Each day, they learn and adapt, combining a flexibility of tactics with a fanaticism of poisoned belief.
Though they can, and will, seek to strike more blows, what they cannot do, and will not do, is prevail. The events of this year prove that. Together, we have seen what peoples of many nations can do in defense of liberty and the prospect of a brighter, safer life.
You, the officers of the Central Intelligence Agency and our Intelligence Community, are at the heart of that defense.
You may be directly involved in the fight against terrorism. Or you may be working on the wide range of other vital priorities and international issues that did not disappear on September 11th.
In either case, you perform a noble mission, striving to secure our country and the values of freedom, dignity, and justice that it upholds.
Whether your contributions here are measured in months or decades, you have performed magnificently in the face of danger, stress, and challenge. In service to others, you have given fully of yourselves.
Today, we pause to remember those whose lives were taken a year ago. Like us, they each knew pain and joy, they each had cares and dreams. For all they accomplished, they hoped to accomplish even more.
To us, they leave both their memory and their promise...the words forever unsaid, the deeds as yet undone.
Seven of those who perished that day were from our ranks, seven members of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who died at their post of duty in the Pentagon. Among the thousands who fell, there are thousands of stories, thousands of lessons. Lessons in love, lessons in bravery, lessons in devotion.
The story of William Feehan, First Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Fire Department, may be better known than most. But behind the legend stands a man whose example should touch and inspire each and every one of us.
A 42-year veteran of the Department, he had held every one of its titles—from probationary firefighter to commissioner. But to him, the titles did not matter, only the service did...battling flames and saving lives.
At an age when most people enjoy retirement, Chief Feehan was rushing into places of smoke, heat, and danger, leading the way for others. The son of a firefighter and the father of another, he was said to know the location of every hydrant in the city of New York.
And so, on September 11th, William Feehan, a 71-year-old grandfather with a passion for history and a zest for life, was exactly where he wanted to be, almost where he had to be: in his command station in the World Trade Center.
And it was there, in the collapse of a New York landmark, that this New York hero died with so many others.
The reminders of that day and everything that has followed are everywhere around us...from the flag behind me, pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center, to the memorial services being held throughout our nation.
But the strongest reminders of all must be the ones we carry within us. In our spirit of determination. In our recollection of those who were killed on September 11th and of those who, like Mike Spann, have given their lives, lives of honor and valor, to rid the world of the scourge of terrorism.
To them, we pledge our very best efforts...both to strengthen the principles of tolerant democracy by which they lived their lives, and to safeguard the great country of which they were such a vibrant and irreplaceable part.
May we always be worthy of them.