Remarks by DCI George J. Tenet
to The University of Oklahoma
September 12, 1997
On September 18th--in less than a week--CIA will be celebrating its
50th anniversary. So before I speak about the Future of Intelligence,
I'd like to say a few words about our past.
At CIA Headquarters there are two important monuments. The first, is made of steel and concrete. It's a section of the Berlin Wall. And for most of the first 50 years of CIA's existence, tearing down that wall—and defeating communism—was our consuming passion.
There is another wall at CIA. It's made of polished marble and it's on the right side of the lobby, near our front entrance. There are 70 gold stars carved into that wall. Each star represents a CIA officer killed in the line of duty.
These 70 individuals -- along with countless others throughout the Cold War -- paid with their lives to reduce the Berlin Wall to a museum piece. Their work tells a powerful story; one of tremendous accomplishment, of skill and determination. Of covert operations and activities behind enemy lines. Of ordinary people asked to do extraordinary things. Ordinary people willing to put themselves in harm's way...to serve this nation.
These walls also tell us that our intelligence was decisive in helping to end the Cold War. Our work made a difference -- from officers abroad to analysts at home, from scientists to engineers, from linguists to photo interpreters.
Though communism is nearly extinct, these two walls provide an enduring message:
There can be no achievement without sacrifice.
The best way to honor the achievements -- and the sacrifices -- of the past is to prepare to meet the challenges of the future. The President, the Congress, the American people expect no less. They know, we know, that there is an enduring need for intelligence as we prepare for the next millennium.
No one with the responsibility to tend to the nation's security, no one with the responsibility to protect the American people, would ever suggest we do so without our intelligence capabilities.
We are at a turning point in history – one that is full of both opportunity for increased global stability and the challenge of containing ethnic, religious, and regional disputes. If we in the intelligence business approach this turning point with "the right stuff" – with energy, with decisiveness, with conviction, with unity of purpose, and with an unrelenting focus on our mission – we will accomplish great things for the future.
I haven't the slightest doubt about what the President and American people expect of us:
First and foremost, they expect the Intelligence Community to help protect the lives of Americans everywhere.
They expect us to work to protect the lives of our men and women in uniform and to ensure they dominate the battlefield when they deploy to remote parts of the world.
They expect us to protect Americans from other threats, such as those that come from terrorists and hostile nations with weapons of mass destruction.
They expect us to provide our diplomats with the critical insights and foreknowledge they need to advance American interests and avert conflicts.
They expect us to anticipate and warn of major geopolitical changes in the world.
They expect us to focus not just on threats but also on opportunities—opportunities to act before danger becomes disaster and opportunities to level the playing field so American interests can prevail.
They expect our reporting and analysis to add real value to what they already know about the toughest problems facing the United States.
We know we exist because we offer unique analytic and clandestine collection capabilities that reside no place else in government. And, ultimately, we succeed or fail by virtue of our ability to deliver on the expectations of the President and the American people -- on a continuing basis -- that intelligence makes a difference.
Just as the Intelligence Community helped to bring about the end of an old era, today we are helping to usher-in--and define for our leaders--a new age.
Some take a look at this new age and see no threats on the horizon. It's easy to become complacent—after all, our economy is booming, unemployment is low, there is no super-power confrontation.
But the world we analyze -- the world all of us live in -- is in tremendous flux. It's almost as if the world's geologic plates have shifted.
And the shock waves are still being felt.
Consider this: The world is different, but it is not safe.
Today, more wars are being fought within states than between them. The results of such ethnic strife this past year alone have been all too apparent: from A to Z, from Albania to Zaire, humanitarian crises, large scale suffering, and regional instability have been commonplace.
Consider that: States have become more interdependent economically and politically. Interdependence and more openness have helped increase global wealth. But, at the same time, we confront lethal weapons, illicit drugs, and dirty money flowing more easily across porous borders.
Consider that: By the year 2010, population will increase by 1.2 billion, with 95% of that increase occurring in the developing world, straining governments and societies.
Consider that: By the end of the next decade the world will need as much more oil as the equivalent of one additional OPEC to satisfy growing energy demand.
Consider that: The communications revolution is adding 15 new web sites every minute. We live in an age where 10-year olds are creating web pages. Yet, just as the Internet has helped us to reach out to anyone with a telephone and a modem, new technology has also provided greater opportunities for terrorists, international criminals—and even hostile governments. Small wonder that these tools have been called "Weapons of Mass Disruption."
But I didn't come here today just to tell you how busy we are or how demanding the global environment is for those of us in the intelligence business. I've come to tell you how we are going to prevail against these challenges.
First -- We will produce outstanding all-source analysis that is timely, prescient, and persuasive. To do that we must be, and be seen to be, the nation's leading experts in a wide variety of fields. And through every means available to us, we will reach out to the rich body of expertise that exists outside the US government, in academia and in the private sector.
Second -- We will mount imaginative and sophisticated clandestine human and technical operations in order to get vital information our nation cannot get any other way. I know this will involve risks, and not every operation will succeed. But next to integrity and objectivity this risk-taking ethic is the most important part of our professional identify. Concentrating our attention on these hard targets will demand the highest standards of professionalism, tradecraft, and innovation. To do what our country needs, we can be nothing less than the world's best espionage organization.
Third -- We will be vigilant on the counterintelligence front. Our enemies and even our competitors are trying very hard to steal our secrets. They want to gain a competitive edge any way they can. We would do a great disservice to ourselves and all that we hope to achieve if we neglected this arena. In the world we live in today, it is not enough to play strong offense, we also must play strong defense.
Fourth -- We will sharpen CIA's capacity to effectively employ covert action on those unique occaisons when our nation's leaders conclude that an important aim can be achieved through no other means.
And fifth -- In all of our endeavors we will use technology to advance our mission, not only to ensure we have the support infrastructure we need to perform, but also to ensure that we grow the scientific and technological expertise that allows CIA to be a national "center for excellence" in technological innovation. The Agency that once brought our country the U-2 and imagery from space has no less an obligation today to push the technology envelope.
To succeed in these efforts in the future requires that we set a clear direction and keep an unrelenting focus on the most important threats to our country.
Intelligence success demands the highest standards of personal integrity and professional performance.
Intelligence success requires that we be independent and forthright.
Intelligence success compels us to take risks to get the information our nation's leaders need to protect US interests.
Intelligence success means not allowing the cloak of secrecy to stand in the way of an open and honest dialogue with the American people or with experts outside the Intelligence Community who can help us interpret this complex new world.
And, finally, intelligence success in the future means that we have closed the door on the Cold War and are embracing the challenges and opportunities of a new era.
So our mission is clear. Our responsibilities are many. Our determination strong. Understanding this new world and interpreting it for our leaders remains a consuming passion for the Intelligence Community. After 50 years--and on the eve of the new millennium--we will continue to help our leaders shape this new world and make it less threatening. We will continue to serve as the first line of defense and will work to preserve our country and its freedoms.
This is our calling—and there can be no more important mission for the men and women of the Intelligence Community.
You should know that the people of the intelligence profession reflect the ideals of our country—and those ideals are embodied in the two monuments at our headquarters building. Hard work, achievement and, yes, sacrifice have been our hallmark for the past 50 years. And so it will be for decades to come.
It has been my great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to you today. Thank you very much for your attention and your interest.