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Memorial Ceremony: Cold War Conference

Transcript: US Intelligence and the End of the Cold War
Texas A&M University
Memorial Ceremony

November 20, 1999

SPEAKERS: Program narrator, Chaplain of Texas A&M Corps of Cadets Jeremiah Ebeling, Colonel Richard Kuklinski, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, former President George Bush.


CHAPLAIN: Bow your heads with me please.

Dear heavenly Father, you are an awesome guide. We humbly come before you this afternoon in gratitude for your eternal presence and loving concern for our lives. We give you praise for your beautiful creation, and we acknowledge that everything that is comes from you.

We are thankful to live in a country where we may freely worship your name and live full lives that are holy and pleasing in your sight.

Today we honor the men and women who have boldly fought to give us this freedom. We thank you for their courage and the hope that they ignite in us through their fearless service to the country.

Father, we pray that you would lift them up today and let their lives be a testimony of your powerful hand and that, like your son Jesus Christ, sacrifice their lives to bring you honor and glory.

These things we ask with the hope and faith that comes from knowing you.

In your precious and holy name, amen.

NARRATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the Director of Central Intelligence, Mr. George Tenet.

GEORGE TENET: Good afternoon.

We come to this memorial service with fresh grief in our hearts for the young lives lost in a sudden and terrible accident. This week was supposed to be one of joyous anticipation here at Texas A&M. Instead it has ended in tragedy.

It is truly heartrending when lives, so full of promise, are cut short before their time. We can only pray that the families and friends of those who died will derive some comfort in the way the people of College Station have come together as one extended family to embrace them in their sorrow.

I would ask that we all bow our heads in a moment of silent prayer for those students and their families.

Thank you.

We in the intelligence community know what it is like to lose a member of our extended family. On all too many occasions we, too, have come together in grief. Our work, by its very nature, entails great risks - risks that our people willingly accept for the sake of our country. But accepting the risks does not ease our sadness at the loss of colleagues and friends or soften the pain of their loved ones. So it is especially fitting that we bring this conference to a close by turning our thoughts to the brave men and women who perished in the silent intelligence struggle that helped keep the Cold War from becoming hot - those who risked and lost their lives in order to obtain the precious information upon which so many critical national security decisions were made.

These gallant patriots made the ultimate sacrifice knowingly, selflessly and anonymously to defend and secure the freedoms that we and people everywhere hold dear.


In the headquarters lobby of the Central Intelligence Agency there is a granite wall carved with rows of stars. Each star in that silent constellation represents an American intelligence officer killed in the line of duty since the Agency was established in the early years of the Cold War. Even to this day many of the names and stories behind the stars cannot be told. Those silent stars speak powerfully of service and sacrifice, of patriotism and purpose, of our intelligence mission and its meaning - not just to Americans, but to people throughout the world who serve the cause of peace and freedom.

Of course, we know that there are far more casualties than there are stars on our wall at the Central Intelligence Agency. Throughout our intelligence and national security communities there are other memorials honoring the American civilians and military personnel who fell to secure our freedoms. And we honor as well the many valiant men and women who fell in service to our allies as they stood with us in defense of the Free World.

As we pay homage to all those heroes, we think also of their loved ones. For each of the fallen was someone's beloved parent, husband, wife, brother, sister or child. Someone who left a grieving family behind - a family who in their deep sorrow often bore the burden of silence as well.

There is another group of Cold War heroes to whom we all owe an everlasting debt of gratitude. They are the extraordinary men and women from behind the Iron Curtain who helped us. They are the patriots from across Central and Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union who passionately wanted the yoke of oppression to be lifted from their homelands. They wanted their children to live in a world of possibility where hope was not a waste of time.

In yearning for these things they were like most of their countrymen -- ordinary people who dearly loved their families and their native lands and who wanted to see a better future for them. But these courageous men and women were extraordinary because they chose to act. They chose to work for the West. Their honor and their convictions gave them the fortitude to follow their conscience down a very lonely path into mortal danger.

One of these extraordinary heroes spoke for all of them when he wrote, and I quote, "I consider that my place during these troubled times is on the front line. I must remain on this front line in order to be your eyes and ears. God grant only that my modest efforts be useful in the fight for our high ideals for mankind. Please believe that your soldier shall take a worthy position among his comrades who fight for justice."

Those words were written by Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, a highly placed Soviet intelligence officer. He was President Kennedy's "most secure source" during the Berlin crisis of 1961 and 1962 and also during the Cuban missile crisis. The intelligence Penkovsky provided, together with the imagery from our U-2 overflights, gave President Kennedy the confidence he needed to go eyeball-to-eyeball with Nikita Khrushchev and make him blink.

The fallen patriots whose memories we honor today - American, allied, and those from the oppressed nations living in the shadow of the Wall - gave their lives in the sacred cause of liberty and peace, not in some cynical exercise in moral equivalency. This was not a game of spy versus spy. It was a deadly contest between Freedom and Tyranny.

These noble men and women worked silently and at grave risk for the day when the Berlin Wall would fall and totalitarian despotism would give way to democratic freedoms. Tragically, they did not live to see that joyous day dawn, but they sleep in God's peace, secure in the knowledge that their bravery advanced its dawning.

That is their legacy to us and to the generations that follow us. May we, who have the power to live and act, be worthy of their sacrifice.

We are especially honored today to have with us a true hero of the Cold War. A man who risked great danger to work for us, and who by the grace of God survived. It is in great measure due to the bravery and sacrifice of patriots like Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski that his own native Poland, and the other once captive nations of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, are now free.

It is my honor to introduce him to you now. Colonel Kuklinski, will you please come forward?

COLONEL KUKLINSKI: As one of many soldiers who served on the front line during those troubled times, I am deeply honored to represent my many anonymous comrades who served on both sides of the front line.

I am pleased that our long, hard struggle has brought peace, freedom and democracy not only to my country but to many other people as well.

NARRATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, President George Bush.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all very much. I'm very proud to be participating in this solemn and wonderful ceremony. And let me just identify on Barbara's behalf, my behalf, on behalf of the entire Bush family with the remarks made by the Director about the Aggie family.

And to Colonel Kuklinski, let me simply say Barbara and I are just back from a free Poland. And I wish everybody here on this marvelous campus and all the guests from outside could just feel what has taken place in Poland thanks to the courage of so many people. Certainly Colonel Kuklinski and so many, many others. It is a wonderful thing, and we must never underestimate the power of freedom.

I want to salute our DCI, George Tenet, who's doing a superb job heading our intelligence community. I’d also like to thank my former DCI compatriots for being with us here today. And all of you.

This is really a day that's long overdue. A chance when the CIA finally has a chance to express its open gratitude to the Americans and non-citizens alike who gave their lives in the clandestine service to the cause of freedom.

We spent this week reflecting upon the role of intelligence in the Cold War -- the most protracted and dangerous conflict of the 20th Century. This conference has been based on large measure on what secret analyses in the national intelligence estimates and other documents generated by the intelligence community for me and my senior advisors, including the President's Daily Brief that I received most of the 1460 days that I served as Commander-in-Chief. And I can assure you that our team fully appreciated the value of the final CIA product that we received.

We understood the hours of hard work, hardship, and indeed danger that went into every word on every page. We never lost sight of the fact that this intelligence was made secret because of the sources and methods used by the Directors of Central Intelligence and our intelligence community to collect the most tightly-held secrets of our adversaries. We never forgot that those secret sources were the brave men and women of our armed forces and civilian agencies, our equally brave allies, and finally, the most daring of all, the agents who worked behind the Iron Curtain to give us those last critical pieces of the puzzle used in ending the Cold War.

It was almost 2500 years ago that the Chinese military theorist Sun Tsu stressed the importance of intelligence in his book called "The Art of War". In that same book he also noted that to win 100 battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.

We thank God that that Cold War was won without a shot being fired between the superpowers. We thank God that a nuclear holocaust was averted. We also take heart that the hopes and dreams of those Germans standing at the Wall ten years ago this month or the men and women peacefully marching through the streets of Prague, or demonstrating their courage in Warsaw, Gdansk and Krakow that those were realized. And that such was to be, is thanks in no small way to the selfless service and sacrifice of every single person in the intelligence community.

Today the superpower conflict is behind us, but the need for first-rate intelligence has not diminished. I believe our country has a moral obligation to continue building on the hard work and the vigilant dedication of those who gave us this safer, freer world.

Being here today I can't help but call to mind the poet's words, "To save your world you asked this man to die. Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?"

No, the mission is not finished. For as long as freedom is imperiled anywhere, our duty is not complete, so this dangerous hard work must go on. And as someone who was privileged to serve as DCI, I was proud to stand with those heroic, indispensable, often anonymous, men and women who gave the full measure of devotion to duty.

It's an honor to stand here and honor those who gave their lives that we might be free.

Thank you very, very much.

(DCI George J. Tenet remarks)
(President Bush's remarks)
(Judge William Webster's remarks)
(Dr. Robert Gates' remarks)


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Last Updated: Jun 20, 2008 08:06 AM