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Transcript of Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony for Director Leon E. Panetta

Transcript of Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony for Leon E. Panetta as Director of Central Intelligence Agency

February 19, 2009

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentleman, please welcome the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Blair, Director Panetta and Mrs. Panetta and Deputy Director Kappes.

(Music, applause.)

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, will you please remain standing for the presentation of the colors and the playing of the National Anthem.

(Music, applause.)

CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR STEPHEN KAPPES: Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated. (Laughter.) Unless you work for the CIA. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) Good afternoon, everyone, and please, accept our welcome to the Central Intelligence Agency. My name is Stephen Kappes, and I’m the Deputy Director of the CIA. It’s our great pleasure today to welcome everyone to the swearing in of Leon Panetta as 19th director of the Central Intelligence Agency. (Applause.)

We’re especially honored to have with us today the Vice President of the United States. (Cheers, applause.) And we would like to offer a warm welcome to Mrs. Sylvia Panetta – (applause) – her sons, Carmelo and James, and their grandson Michael. (Applause.) And a special thanks to everybody else who has come, particularly so many leaders, past and present, of the Intelligence Community. We’re very delighted you could make time to be here with us today.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my distinct honor and my great privilege to present to all of you the Vice President of the United States.

(Cheers, applause.)

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: (Cheers, applause.) Thank you. Thank you very much.

Director Kappes – (applause) – I was a Senator for 36 years before this job, and I knew the CIA always stands. (Laughter.) They always stand. And I appreciate it. (Cheers, applause.)

Well, thank you, Steve, for your introduction. And Director Panetta, or soon-to-be-officially-Director Panetta, Admiral Blair, distinguished guests, my name is Joe Biden, and I’m proud to be one of your leading customers. (Laughter, applause.)

Folks, many years ago, before – looking at the faces over there, before many of you came to work in the Agency – (laughter) – I served as one of the original members – it was then called the Select Committee on Intelligence – and I had the privilege of serving on that committee for 10 years. And I’m deeply familiar with the workings of this Agency, and I continue to admire, as I did then, the dedication and commitment for – from – for all of you, every one of you here, who continue to serve this country.

It’s an honor to be here in the George Bush Center for Intelligence, named for a former Director of this Agency and, I believe, one of the great public servants of our time.

And I’m proud to swear in another exceptional public servant, a man I’ve known a long time, Leon Panetta, a close friend, a former colleague in the Congress, a man who also served as Chief of Staff to President Clinton.

And the most important thing for this job, in my view, is Leon knows that the job of Chief of Staff, like the intelligence chief, is to give the President of the United States the unvarnished truth, not what he thinks the President may want to hear.

Leon, the President has absolute confidence that you have the experience, the independence and the judgment to lead this Agency – together with Steve Kappes, who I am literally so thankful and appreciative that he’s willing to stay as Deputy Director. With you both and the man about to talk about in a second, as – we have a first-rate team.

Although the Intelligence Community is now a broad constellation of 16 agencies, this Agency remains America’s premier national security agency, and we deeply appreciate the risks and the sacrifices that so many in the past and in the present continue to take for this country. The 89 stars on the wall behind me are a testament to the ultimate sacrifice made by truly courageous, patriotic CIA officers, many of whom are still anonymous.

After 9/11, thousands – thousands of young men and women stepped forward to serve their country, inspired many of you to join this Agency. We were talking upstairs in the Director’s office about how many of you after 9/11, with a sense of purpose, idealism and patriotism joined this great Agency. You were inspired to join and serve, the same kind of inspiration that existed six decades ago, six decades ago, when this Agency was formed.

Leon, it’s going to be your challenge but great opportunity to harness the energy and idealism and capacity of a whole new generation of intelligence professionals. This new generation comes in the Intelligence Community that has experienced considerable change in the last few years. A law enacted in 2004 established the Office of National Director of – Director of National Intelligence and requires greater cooperation among all intelligence agencies.

We all know that bureaucratic conflicts, when they occur, distract us from the core mission that we have as a nation or as an Agency.

And I’m confident – I’m confident that Director Panetta and Admiral Blair will make this work, because in those – these two men, you have men of exceptional capacity and exceptional capability and who are on, as I was saying upstairs, the same page.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe this cooperation that’s about to take place with these two newly appointed members of – the Director of our Intelligence Community and the Director of the CIA – I hope is going to set a standard of cooperation within the Intelligence Community that all of the agencies in our government will observe.

Ladies and gentlemen, the next four years will be a time of great challenge. I need not tell any of you this. Al-Qaeda continues to pose a serious threat to the United States and to our friends. We remain at war in two far away countries. The global economic situation, as the Agency has pointed out, could make the world considerably more unstable. The proliferation of dangerous weapons and technologies threatens our security. New challenges to the established order such as climate change and other not yet known to us challenges will emerge.

In his first few weeks in office, the President has begun to meet these challenges head-on. He ordered the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan. He ordered a review of the down – the drawdown options in Iraq. Our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan is also under review. And our strategy for a cybersecurity network – a cybersecurity capacity, all three of which have been recently ordered. He named a special envoy to the Middle East, a special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and an envoy for climate change.

He issued an executive order to reverse the policies that in my view and the view of many in this Agency caused America to fall short of its founding principles and which gave al-Qaeda a powerful recruiting tool. As a result of these orders, we will close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. We will have a single standard across the government for interrogation of – in armed conflict. And we’ll ensure the Red Cross access to all those who are detained in armed conflict.

The President has made it clear that he wants to hit the reset button on our relations with Russia and will seek diplomatic engagement with Iran.

This administration – this administration’s national security strategy will use all the elements of our national power: our military, which is absolutely essential, but not sufficient, our economic, our political and our cultural and diplomatic tools that exist in the toolbox of any president. We will use force if necessary, but we will engage in aggressive and active diplomacy. And we’ll be true to our own values, because America’s more secure when the example of our power is matched by the power of our example.

This strategy cannot succeed, though, without timely, credible and accurate intelligence.

It’s the foundation of all we’re about to do.

It will remain your paramount duty, in my view, to provide such intelligence to the President, the Congress and the military, to protect our fighting men and women and our fellow citizens, who to inform – who are able to make then informed choices about the decisions that we make.

That’s why in my view this Agency was established in 1947. And that’s why it remains the premier intelligence agency for our government, for that matter, I believe, the premier intelligence agency in the entire world.

We’re going to ask a lot of you. And it’s only fair to tell you what we expect of you, because we’re going to ask a lot. We expect you to be able to look around corners occasionally, to imagine the unexpected.

We expect you to provide independent analysis and not engage in groupthink. And we expect you to tell us the facts as you know them, wherever they may lead, not what you think we want to hear. And we expect you to give us your best judgment. We will ask no more but we will ask no less.

On the wall facing me, there is a quotation from the New Testament, put there at the request of Director Allen Dulles, when this building was constructed. It has become your motto. It reads, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

For the President and me, the truth is this. Your mission is more important than any time in all of our history. The country needs you more than we ever, ever have. And we’re profoundly, profoundly grateful for your service.

Director Panetta, are you ready to have me take a crack at administering this oath? (Laughter.) Are you ready? (Applause.) Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ll step forward, we’ll administer the oath.

Please repeat after me and raise your right hand.

(The Vice President administers the oath.)


CIA DIRECTOR LEON E. PANETTA: Thank you very much. Mr. Vice President, thank you for coming out here to CIA at Langley. We are truly honored by your presence and by your words. And I am particularly grateful for your friendship.

We have spent, I think, over 20 years working together, in the Congress and when I was Chief of Staff. We always had a close working relationship, and I’ve always admired and respected Joe’s ability to help guide and direct this country where it needed to go.

And so I’m very grateful for your being here, Joe, and I really appreciate the fact that you’ve come here to perform this task.

I also want to thank Admiral Blair for coming. As the Director of National Intelligence, he is truly a dedicated public servant. I’ve had the opportunity to work with him, to know him. We’ve talked a great deal about the challenges that face the Intelligence Community. And I truly do look forward to the opportunity – working very closely with him to ensure that our intelligence mission is fulfilled in a way that protects this country.

Admiral Blair, thank you very much.


I also want to thank Steve Kappes for continuing as deputy. I – as I’ve – so I’ve told a number of people I’ve got the A-team here at the CIA. All of the professional staff are, I think, the best people that I’ve ever known in a working capacity in which I feel very confident about not only their professionalism but their dedication to the mission that they’re involved with. So I truly thank them for the support that they’re providing.

And I also want to thank all of the staff and members of the CIA. I look forward to working with you. I appreciate your being here. And I can’t tell you how – what – how much pleasure it gives me to be able to say I have – I am truly part of a team that is committed to protecting this country.

And lastly, I want to thank my family; my wife, Sylvia, who is – been my partner for 46 years. We met 50 years ago at – (applause) – we met 50 years ago at a mixer.

And I don’t know if anybody knows what the hell a mixer is anymore. (Laughter.) But we had that opportunity to meet and we’ve had a long life together and she has been my partner in every challenge that I’ve had to confront. And I depend a great deal on her support and her love.

My sons – Chris, who’s not able to be with us, Carmelo and Jim – Jimmy just – is the one I’ve talked about who just returned from service in Afghanistan and who had the opportunity to see the work of the CIA up close in the battlefield and had a tremendous amount of admiration for the work that they did. My grandson, Michael, is here. We have five grandchildren. All of our daughter-in-laws – I really do appreciate their support and their family help in everything we do.

And I also want to thank all of the guests here, past Directors and all of you who serve in a capacity and have provided tremendous service to this country. And I thank you for that service and I thank you for being here.

I learn from all of you and I will continue to learn from all of you the important lessons that are essential to being able to face this challenge. I also want to acknowledge past members of the staff that worked with me throughout my career in Washington.

Rahm Emanuel, thank you for being here. I taught him everything he knows. (Laughter.) So on the other hand, if he screws up, it’s not my fault. (Laughter.)

I also want to thank members of my staff that were – are here from my congressional career and OMB. It’s really great to see all of you. And I thank you for coming.

I’m honored to be sworn in as Director of the CIA. And I thank the President for the confidence that he’s shown in giving me this very important appointment. And I thank the Senate for confirming my nomination.

As many of you know, throughout my 40 years of public service and public life, I’ve had the privilege of serving in a number of key positions in government. And throughout that, I have not forgotten that I am still the son of Italian immigrants and that in many ways I have lived the American dream.

For me, there are a number of special places that mark my journey through my public service career. I was elected to Congress from the central coast of California, representing my home town of Monterey. And I have to tell you that my heart is still moved by the sight of the Capitol at night, during the day. It is a very special place, and it is truly the symbol of our representative democracy.

When I served in the White House as Chief of Staff, the opportunity to work in the executive mansion that represents the executive branch of our government, and to be in the Oval Office – I’m sure Joe and Rahm have had this opportunity as well – to spend a few moments in the Oval Office and to look around and tell yourself: my God, I am – I’m here in the Oval Office, the center of power in the – not only for this country, but in the world. It is truly the symbol of leadership, important leadership, for this country and for the world.

And today, as I take on this responsibility as Director of the CIA, there is another symbol that stands behind me, which is that wall of stars that represent the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for this country, many of whom – whose names we’ll never know, but whose sacrifice we will know because it helped protect what this country is all about.

All of these special places have been very important to me, particularly as the son of immigrants. And all of this, in many ways, relates to the symbol that my parents saw when they came into New York harbor in the early 1930s, our Statue of Liberty, because that statue truly represents the freedom and the opportunity that gave me the chance to succeed.

I used to ask my parents: Why would you travel all that distance to come to this country? No skills, no language abilities, no money in their pocket. Why would you do that?

And my father said: The reason we did it is because we truly believed that we could give our children a better life.

And I think that’s the American dream. That’s what my parents wanted for my brother and I, and it’s what Sylvia and I want for our three sons, and I think it’s what all of us want for our children – the ability to give them a better life. That is the American dream. It’s what this President and this Vice President are struggling to make sure we restore for every young person – the opportunity to have that better life.

And in many ways it’s the mission of the CIA, which is to ensure people in this country have a better life, a secure life, one in which their national security is protected.

As a student, and as now a teacher at the Panetta Institute, what Sylvia and I established in Monterey, I used to always say that in our democracy we govern either by leadership or by crisis. If leadership is there, then hopefully we can avoid crisis. But if leadership is not there, then make no mistake about it; we govern by crisis.

And I think too often in this country, we have governed largely by crisis. Today, we have the responsibility to exercise leadership and to take the risks associated with leadership, to guide this country in the right direction.

And so I take this oath with the commitment that I will seek to provide that leadership, as Director of the CIA, that I will provide the very best intelligence, independent judgments, not influenced by the politics of the situation but truly real, objective information that can be presented to the President and the policymakers of this country, so that they can protect the American people.

I want to have, here at the CIA, the best-trained: people who are proficient in languages, a diverse population of individuals, to represent the face of the world that we have to deal with. I want to bring together that kind of team, to make sure that we truly are presenting the best intelligence.

I want to perform our job with integrity and with respect for the laws and for the Constitution that we are all pledged to uphold. I want to serve as part of a team, to work with the DNI, to work with the Intelligence Community, to make sure that we are sharing and bringing important information together and that we are not competing with one another but working as a team, to present the best intelligence to the President and others.

And I want to re-establish a relationship with the Hill. I’m a creature of the Hill. I believe deeply in the role of the Congress in the challenges that I face. But I want to have a relationship of trust with the Hill. They have to be partners in confronting the challenges that we face.

And lastly I think we have to be honest. We have to be honest with the President. We have to be honest with each other. And most importantly we have to be honest with the people that we serve.

The challenges are great, the Vice President said. I don’t underestimate the threats that we face in today’s world. But I have ultimate confidence that this country can confront these challenges, can confront these crises, and that we will be stronger for it. We are a nation born in crisis. We have become stronger because of it and because of the leadership that we have always had.

So the oath that I just took is, in many ways, the oath that we all take as citizens of this country; that we will fulfill the promise of liberty, that we will give our sons and daughters the opportunity to truly succeed and the opportunity to serve this nation and that we will protect America from those who threaten to destroy the very promise of freedom and liberty that is so important to our heritage as a nation, and that we will make the American dream real again.

So because my story is the story of America, I pledge to all of you that I will do everything in my power to fulfill the oath that I have just taken.

Thank you very much.




Posted: Feb 19, 2009 05:38 PM
Last Updated: Jan 05, 2010 10:17 AM