Transcript of Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony for Leon E. Panetta as Director of Central Intelligence Agency
February 19, 2009
and gentleman, please welcome the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Blair, Director
Panetta and Mrs. Panetta and Deputy Director Kappes.
and gentlemen, will you please remain standing for the presentation of the
colors and the playing of the National Anthem.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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.