DDO Remarks at the OSS Society Banquet
James L. Pavitt at the OSS Society Banquet
June 8, 2002
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is truly an honor for me to be with all of you this evening. George Tenet sends his greetings. He enjoyed his opportunity to speak with you several days ago.
I have been in this business for 30 years, and I am not easily impressed.But I am truly in awe of all of you and all that you accomplished.
It is getting late, so I will keep my remarks fairly brief.
At this banquet, which is hosted by the OSS Society, I am reminded tonight of an earlier, slightly different, OSS banquet.
The time was November 1944.The place was the Congressional Country Club, a spot that some of you knew by its more romantic wartime name, “Area F.” The host that evening was your chief, General Donovan.
With rationing a fact of life in 1944, a fancy dinner required a virtual miracle of creativity. But that dinner was for OSS—an organization that did what others could not, in matters both great and small. And so, the menu that night included gulf shrimp and porterhouse steak, kicked off with something called “palate teasers” and “cocktails of circumstance.”
They were serving those earlier tonight.
Much may have changed since 1944, but this has not: What OSS does, it does with style. And thank you for having me with you here tonight.
Over the past several days, as you and those of us who have been part of the celebration have observed together the 60th anniversary of OSS, a great deal has been said about the remarkable legacy of that truly, truly remarkable organization.
For those of us active today as intelligence officers, the OSS 60th anniversary celebration has a very special meaning. OSS is, of course, a parent of the Central Intelligence Agency.But it is far more than the inheritance of function that I would like to talk about this evening. It is the inheritance of spirit—a very, very special spirit.
I am talking about the spirit that was born with you. The spirit of daring, courage, and sacrifice that both defines and describes OSS, and defines and describes the men and women I am privileged today to lead, the men and women of CIA’s Directorate of Operations, America’s clandestine service.
OSS was a wartime agency, created to help win a massive, conventional conflict, quite distant from what we face today. But your unique contributions to victory in that conventional struggle were anything but conventional.
And it is there—in the shadows, and in the innovations—that today’s clandestine service finds its inspiration.
I was born in 1946. The legacy of OSS had already been written by many of the men and women who are in this room tonight. That is remarkable in my mind.
From the Jedburghs that General Singlaub spoke about who parachuted behind enemy lines to officers like Allen Dulles, who ran agents into Germany itself, OSS laid the foundations and wrote the rules for what we do now. The tradecraft that my officers today follow, the operations we run, the risks we take, the sacrifices we make—all, all have their roots in OSS.
As a government and as a nation, we are fortunate indeed that so many of the elite—so many of OSS—chose to stay in intelligence and espionage after the end of the Second World War, lending their wisdom and their experience to those, like me, who came later. Men like John Magruder, Whitney Shepardson, Stephen Penrose, and—another unforgettable hero who set lasting standards of leadership for the clandestine service of America—Dick Helms.
It was on the broad shoulders of pioneers like these that CIA was built. And let’s not forget—let’s not forget—that it was on their shoulders that the Cold War was won. And it is with their example—your example—that we are going to win the present war against terror.
The enemy who struck from the skies on September 11th was no Hitler. Yet, on that unforgettably horrible day, the forces of terrorism killed more American civilians than Hitler ever could.
John Waller spoke about Pearl Harbor. I spoke to my officers about the attacks on the 11th, and I said that I could remember as a young man being told by my parents exactly where they were when they heard of Pearl Harbor.
And I spoke to my officers and I said: You will tell you children and your grandchildren exactly where you were, exactly what you were doing, when you heard of that terrible attack in New York and here in Washington.
The means and methods of the foe in the year 2002 are dramatically altered from what they were in 1942, but their aim is identical, and we need to remember that: The destruction of tolerance and democracy, and their replacement by hatred and tyranny.
War has come to us, as it did to the generation of OSS. We, too, choose to resist and to fight. Not just for our way of life, but for life itself.
We, too, fight to win. And win we will.
The determination felt in America sixty years ago burns brightly again today. In our determination to see this job through, in our faith in final victory—as you had faith in final victory—we find once more the legacy of OSS.
At one of the darkest moments for liberty—the days when Britain stood alone in 1940—it was William Donovan who told President Roosevelt that the British could, and would, hold out against seemingly insurmountable odds.
A year later, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau described Donovan this way: “He knows more about the situation than anybody I have talked to by about a thousand per cent. And he is not discouraged.”
Donovan’s confidence was the product not of swagger, but of knowledge. Knowledge, simply, of what a free people will do to defend its freedom.
Donovan knew then—as all of us know now—that our people are truly our greatest resource. Our people are the weapon we need to use if we are going to win. OSS tapped, and I saw it here tonight, the diversity of America—the range of cultures, the range of languages, the range of skills.
When General Donovan built his broad arsenal of talent, he called it “an unusual experiment.” Today, it is exactly how the CIA’s Directorate of Operations does business.
Among our newest graduating class of clandestine service officers—young men and women of whom I am extremely proud, and, if you knew them, you would be extremely proud—you find bankers, you find lawyers, you find soldiers, you find scholars, you find many, many more.
They come to serve their country and serve the CIA’s Directorate of Operations speaking Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Farsi, and Russian and many more languages.
And you find something else, something also familiar to OSS. You find in today’s intelligence officers a profound commitment to mission. A mission that we perform with the latest of technologies and the most enduring of values. A mission that we perform with partners throughout our government and with partners around the world.
When the American military deploys, so do we. At times, as in Afghanistan, the first boots on the ground are ours, lighting the way for those who carry the brunt of the fight as the war goes on. And, when the American people mobilize to protect all that they hold dear, so do we—with a dedication that each and every one of you understands.
I heard it over, and over, and over in the remarks tonight. It comes as no surprise to anybody in this room that the first US casualty in Afghanistan was one of my own. I mourn for him, and for his family, every day.
If you seek a summary of what OSS accomplished, you can find it in a speech given on September 28th, 1945, the last active duty gathering of OSS:
“Thousands of devoted people took the uneven odds. People of all ages lived or died as duty demanded or circumstances permitted. They killed and were killed alone or in groups, in jungles, in cities, by sea or air. They organized resistance where there was no resistance. They helped it to grow where it was weak. They assaulted the enemy’s mind as well as his body.They helped confuse his will and disrupt his plans.”
To those words of Donovan’s close colleague, Ned Buxton, I would add only these, on behalf of all the men and women with whom I serve:
OSS is our model. You did it first. You did it right.
I am extraordinarily proud to be with you tonight, and I remain in awe of your accomplishments.
May God bless you and our great country. Thank you very much.