DCI George Tenet’s Introduction of President Bush
April 26, 1999
This is a great day at the Central Intelligence Agency and a great day for our CIA Family. I know that I speak for every man and woman in this place today when I say: Welcome Home, George and Barbara Bush! It’s great to have you back!
Mrs. Bush, in your autobiography you tell a wonderful story about your husband. A reporter once asked him what he considered to be his greatest accomplishment. In the seconds before the President answered, you tried to guess what he might say. Would it be bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end? Or leading the coalition in the Gulf War? But the President replied: “Our kids still come home.”
Mr. President, we hope that you and Mrs. Bush will always come home to visit us at CIA. We consider it an honor to have our complex named after you, and we will do all that we can to make you and our wonderful country proud of us.
We are deeply proud that you are part of our CIA Family. As you know, the sense of family here is very strong. We care about each other; we take care of each other. We are part of a community that pulls together in times of crisis and sorrow and celebrates together in times of joy, as we are doing here today.
And 50 years from now, Mr. President, when a future generation of intelligence officers is serving our nation here at the George Bush Center for Intelligence, they, too, will be inspired -- as we have been -- by the values of Duty, Honor and Country to which you have devoted your entire life.
I would now like to read to you from a very special letter of congratulations, which says, in part:
“I want to join the men and women of the Intelligence Community -- and all Americans – in saluting you, as our nation designates the Central Intelligence Agency complex as the George Bush Center for Intelligence.
“When you assumed your duties as Director of Central Intelligence in January 1976, the nation had just endured one of the most tumultuous periods in its history. Many Americans had lost faith in government. Many asked whether the CIA should continue to exist.
“As Director, you accomplished a great deal. You restored morale and discipline to the Agency while publicly emphasizing the value of intelligence to the nation’s security. You also restored America’s trust in the CIA and the rest of the Intelligence Community.
“Of course, we honor you today for more than your tenure as Director; in your lifetime of service to America, you served not only as the head of the Intelligence Community but also, as President, as the nation’s chief intelligence consumer. As President, you stood for American leadership around the world – leadership for freedom and democracy, peace and prosperity.
“As you know, in my time as President, I have turned to you more than once for your wise counsel, and I have benefited greatly from it. And I have been well served by the talented and dedicated men and women who make up the Intelligence Community that you did so much to preserve and strengthen.
“On behalf of all Americans, I want to thank you for your patriotism and leadership, and I want to convey to you my warmest congratulations on receiving this fitting tribute.
“Sincerely, Bill Clinton”
Mr. President, President Clinton and Congressman Portman have just eloquently described why our headquarters compound will forever bear your name, and why all of us at CIA think so highly of you. There are men and women in the audience today who had the honor and privilege of serving under your leadership as Director of Central Intelligence. Many more here had the honor and privilege of serving in this Agency and in the Intelligence Community under your Presidency. The rest of us just consider it an honor and a privilege to pay tribute to you as one of this nation’s most distinguished public servants: war hero, Member of Congress, UN Ambassador, Chief Envoy to China, Director of Central Intelligence, Vice President, and then President of the United States.
When we first learned about Mr. Portman’s initiative, the gesture seemed so fitting to us – and not just because you are the only DCI to have become President of the United States, but for so many other reasons as well. Every component of this Agency feels indebted to you in a very special way.
Our Directorate of Administration remembers to this day the exceptional attention that you and Mrs. Bush devoted to the needs and concerns of the men and women of this Agency and to their families. Never has a DCI written so many thank-you notes to his employees! Your belief in the fundamental importance of our work never faltered. Your strong leadership restored our confidence; more importantly, it restored the American public’s confidence in us.
To the wizards in our Directorate of Science and Technology, you have been a champion of scientific intelligence – a leader who deeply appreciated the crucial role that technology plays in protecting our national security. You won the hearts of our “masters of disguise” on your 52nd birthday. They gave you one of their famous “make-overs.” Not long after, a stranger quietly took a chair at a very important intelligence meeting. Nobody had a clue until your familiar voice emanated from this guy with red hair, a big nose, and thick glasses. He said: “I’m sweating under this thing!”
The unbiased assessment of our Directorate of Intelligence is that throughout your long years of public service you have been among their most dedicated, enthusiastic and discriminating customers. You have always understood how vitally important it is for our national leaders to be able to make their decisions based on the most complete information and the best analysis possible. As DCI, as Vice President and as President you read every single Daily Brief that the Intelligence Directorate produced. Even if they doubted that anybody else in the government was reading their stuff, they could always count on you! As you know, our analysts pride themselves on the accuracy of their predictions. They will always be among your biggest fans, even though, Mr. President, you didn’t always call it right. And we found one such instance. After President Ford asked you to take the CIA job, and you answered the call of duty, you wrote the following to your good friend, Congressman Bill Steiger: “I honestly feel my political future is behind me – but hell, I’m 51, and this new one gives me a chance to really contribute.”
Last but not least, you have the undying respect of the fearless officers in our Directorate of Operations. You were a staunch defender of the need for human intelligence – for espionage -- at a very tough time when it really counted. But that’s not the only reason why you rate with the Directorate of Operations. You are the only former DCI to jump out of a plane – not once, but twice. As a young naval aviator, you refused to leave your burning plane until the very last second. Then, as a retired civilian, you dove out of a perfectly good plane just for the heck of it! You are definitely their kind of guy, Mr. President!
All of us from CIA -- whatever the Directorate -- agree that there has been no stronger an advocate and supporter of our work than you. We couldn’t have asked for a more interested and engaged intelligence consumer, a more constructive advisor, a more knowledgeable leader of our national security community, or a more faithful friend of the men and women of this Agency than you, Mr. President. And we are very, very grateful to you for that.
I don’t have to tell you that each and every day, the dedicated men and women of the CIA provide the President of the United States and other decisionmakers the critical intelligence they need to protect American lives and advance American interests around the globe.
Thanks in great measure to your leadership, our country no longer confronts the worldwide threat from a rival superpower that we did during the Cold War. But as the 21st century approaches, we must contend with a host of other dangerous challenges – challenges of unprecedented complexity and scope.
The United States remains the indispensable country in this uncertain and chaotic world. And time and again, the CIA has proven itself to be the indispensable intelligence organization, helping America build a more secure world for our people everywhere.
To the patriotic men and women who work here at CIA, this isn’t just a job, it’s a commitment to serve our wonderful country. That kind of a commitment lasts a lifetime. It continues long after we all leave here. All of us feel that way, and that’s another reason why we think the world of you, Mr. President. Because we know that you feel that way, too.
In January of 1977, as you and Mrs. Bush prepared to move your family back to Texas and figure out what to do next, you delivered a farewell address to Agency employees. You thanked them for their unselfish dedication to our country – a dedication that, I can assure you, is undiminished today. You concluded your gracious good-bye with these words, and I quote:
“…I take with me many happy memories. Even the tough, unresolved problems don’t seem so awesome; for they are overshadowed by our successes and by the fact that we do provide the best foreign intelligence in the world. I am leaving, but I am not forgetting. I hope I can find some ways in the years ahead to make the American people understand more fully the greatness that is CIA.”
Mr. President, over the decades and to this very day, you have found many, many ways to help us fulfill our vital intelligence mission in behalf of the American people. You did not forget us, and we will never forget you. May God bless you and Mrs. Bush, and your wonderful family.