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Excerpts of Remarks by Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David H. Petraeus, at the 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, CIA Director David H. Petraeus addressed the Agency workforce in the Headquarters Auditorium.

September 9, 2011

Petraeus addresses workforce.
Petraeus addresses workforce.

Well good morning, and thank you all for being here for this very special occasion.

Let me begin by noting, as I did the other day, how privileged I feel to carry on the mission directed so ably over the past decade by a distinguished line of Agency leaders.

Each day when I enter my office on the seventh floor, I see on the wall behind my desk the flag that was recovered from the wreckage of the Twin Towers, the flag that Director Tenet displayed as a constant reminder of our most pressing mission—and the flag from which Director Panetta drew inspiration as he led this great Agency in the effort to rid the world of Usama Bin Ladin.

I suspect that that flag will be there long after al-Qa’ida is defeated.  And that it will continue to remind us of the solemn responsibility that we bear and of the great capability that this Agency possesses.  For every occupant of the Director’s office—indeed, for all of us at the CIA—that flag will forever be testament to how our Agency rallied in the wake of one of the most terrible days in America’s history.

Nearly ten years ago, the world watched in horror as the enemies of freedom, tolerance and decency struck our nation—its people, its institutions, its symbols.  The tragedy of September 11th, 2001 shocked humanity.  For those of us working to defend this country at the time, it was particularly devastating.

In the moments after the attacks, the men and women of our Agency and our colleagues throughout the Intelligence Community—just like people in every walk of life, in every part of our country—reached out to family and friends for solace and strength.

And then, with a sense of urgency and determination, Agency officers turned to the task at hand.  As the fires still smoldered—in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania—our experts, along with many officers who volunteered en masse for the counterterrorism mission, went to work, tracking the perpetrators of this monstrous crime and helping our nation come to grips with a world that had changed forever.  As always, the CIA responded with courage, creativity, and commitment.

Indeed, the Agency met adversity with the spirit Americans have always demonstrated during the darkest moments of our country’s history—exhibiting an attitude that recalled the response and words of General Grant after the terrible first bloody day of the Battle of Shiloh.

Let me recall the scene for you.  Grant was sitting in the rain under a tree late that night, that first night at Shiloh, his army having nearly been driven into the Tennessee River by the Confederate force, his men having sustained very heavy losses.  All around in the dark could be heard the cries of the wounded.  Then, his most trusted comrade, General Sherman, appeared out of the dark and sat down next to him.  Sherman could sense Grant’s mood, and he let a few minutes pass before speaking.  Finally, he spoke.  “Well, Grant,” he finally observed, “we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?”

“Yep,” Grant replied, taking a soggy cigar out of his mouth, “Lick ‘em tomorrow, though.”

“Lick ‘em tomorrow”—a response that reflected an attitude that was both relentless and determined.  Our officers—in operations, analysis, science & technology, and mission support—have truly embodied those qualities.  In fact, only fifteen days after September 11th, our people were on the ground in Afghanistan.  Al-Qa’ida’s leaders were soon learn, as others had before, that they had gravely miscalculated the strength and resolve of our nation, and of our Agency.

Honoring their memory has summoned the very best from our Agency.  The progress that we have made against al-Qa’ida and its affiliates should be a source of enduring pride.  You have carried out difficult missions with daring and skill.  Together with our Community and military partners, as well as with liaison services, you have tracked down terrorist plotters and disrupted their operations.  Your actions have, without question, saved countless lives around the world.  We have not suffered another major attack here at home—and your tireless devotion to duty has been key to that.

Along the way, you’ve transformed how our Agency does business, drawing people and resources more closely together than ever before and breaking down barriers to cooperation.  You’ve raised the bar on tradecraft.  You collect, analyze, and produce intelligence that, by any measure, is more timely, more accurate, and more effective than ever before.  And our ability to act on it has never been stronger.

One of the greatest tributes to your success has come from the enemy himself.  We know now that Bin Ladin considered what he called the “intelligence war” to be the greatest threat to his organization.

We will, of course, do everything humanly possible to make our actions an ever-greater threat to al-Qa’ida and its affiliates.  The tactics and methods that took Bin Ladin out of action will, with rising frequency, do the same to his successors and sympathizers.  The pressure on al-Qa’ida and its affiliates will be relentless.

But given the enemy’s fanaticism, the fight is far from over.  Our nation still faces serious danger, and difficult days undoubtedly lie ahead.  We at the CIA, along with our partners throughout the Intelligence Community and government, have the responsibility of meeting that challenge.  I know that I can speak for all of us in saying that we accept that responsibility with an enormous sense of duty and solemn purpose.

We must, of course, be ingenious and thorough in gathering intelligence, rigorous and precise in evaluating it, bold and imaginative in planning and executing operations, and agile and resourceful in conducting these missions.  And, like the nation we defend, we must be resilient in the face of setbacks and resolute in bringing the fight to the enemy, wherever we find him.

On this tenth anniversary of the attacks on the United States—as we pause to remember the victims and heroes of that day, as well as those who have died in this global conflict—we rededicate ourselves to the vital work entrusted to us by our fellow citizens:  to protect America from those who threaten it, to help advance our nation’s interests in the world, and to conduct our mission in a way that is worthy of the values of our great Republic.  It is my honor and privilege to join you in this great campaign.

Thank you very much.


In addition to Director Petraeus' remarks, the CIA commemorated the tenth anniversary of 9/11 with the publication of 9.11 Marking the Tenth Anniversary, which reflects on the Agency's resilience, courage, and strength in the ten years since 9/11.

Posted: Sep 09, 2011 12:53 PM
Last Updated: Sep 29, 2011 03:09 PM