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A Call to Duty in the New American Century.

The 20th century was called the American Century. It was a time in which the United States emerged as the leading force for our ideals in the world--the ideals of freedom, of equality before the law, of family, community, and faith. The American Century also was a time in which our nation changed in ways we take for granted today. The automobile made us a more mobile nation. Conflict overseas and our growing strength and prosperity made us an international nation. Computers, the Internet, and the information-technology revolution made us a more interconnected nation.

As our country changed, the challenges we confronted changed as well. Echoing across the American Century were a series of calls to meet these challenges--calls to duty, to service, and to sacrifice. And, each time a new challenge presented itself--each time a call to duty sounded--the men and women of the Federal Bureau of Investigation answered the call.

* When Prohibition ushered in a crime wave of gangsterism, kidnappings, and bank robberies, the people called out for peace, and the Bureau responded.

* When totalitarianism abroad threatened the institutions of democracy at home, the republic called out for security, and the Bureau answered the call.

* When discrimination threatened to turn citizen against citizen and neighbor against neighbor, the country called out for justice, and the Bureau helped open the door of opportunity to all Americans equally.

* And, when terrorism threatened American citizens living and traveling abroad--and then reached within our borders--the nation called out for safety, and the Bureau was there.

In a republic whose law enforcement traditions are rooted in the states, the cities, and the towns, a national crime-fighting organization arose. When it was created in 1908, the FBI counted 34 agents among its ranks. Today, by answering the call to duty, the Bureau has grown to a total working team of over 28,000 special agents, crime lab technicians, and support personnel.

Last year, the dedicated men and women of the FBI were responsible for investigating more than 200 categories of federal crimes and well over 500 specific violations of federal law. You lead the federal government's fight against terrorism. You lead our counterintelligence efforts. You work with the Drug Enforcement Administration to enforce federal drug laws. You are the sole investigative force for criminal violations of federal civil rights laws. Working with the states and localities, you carry the burden of investigating sophisticated organized crime, white-collar crime, cybercrime, violent crime, and crimes against children.

At any given time, the FBI is working on approximately 100,000 cases. Last year, the Bureau issued over 19,000 indictments and secured over 21,000 convictions.

* In the successful conclusion of an investigation that involved hundreds of agents stationed across the globe, four members of the terrorist organization of Osama Bin Ladin met justice in May. A federal jury found them guilty of 302 counts stemming from the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

* Working with Algerian and Canadian officials, the FBI helped secure the conviction of Ahmed Ressam, the so-called millennium bomber. Ressam was caught attempting to enter the United States from Canada with a car full of explosives in the weeks before New Year's Day 2000.

* In cooperation with Scottish authorities, the men and women of the FBI played an indispensable role in the murder conviction of a Libyan national for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, an act of cowardice that caused the deaths of 259 passengers and 11 residents of Lockerbie, Scotland.

* A federal jury in Miami convicted five Cuban agents for espionage on behalf of the Cuban government. FBI agents documented a wide-ranging conspiracy, including the spy ring's complicity in the murder of four Cuban-American humanitarians seeking freedom for their former countrymen. The tireless work of FBI agents literally made possible the conviction of these criminals, who were part of the largest spy ring known to have been dismantled in the history of the United States.

All FBI employees deserve to share in the honor and gratitude the American people justly feel for these successful investigations. By heeding the call to duty and sacrifice, the FBI has truly become the foremost law enforcement agency in the world. Perhaps, more important, the three words inscribed in the FBI's seal--fidelity, bravery, integrity--are deeply embedded in the character of the men and women who work here. You have served America well, and both your country and the world are grateful for your sacrifice.

Today, at the dawning of the 21st century--the New American Century--a new challenge arises. A new call goes out. Carved over the entrance to the Department of Justice is this admonition: "Justice in the life and conduct of the state is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens." This inscription serves as a reminder to all of us who work in the Department of Justice. It tells us first that justice is not the duty of government alone but the work of citizens as well. It also cautions us that when the people lose their faith in the institutions they trust to enforce the law, justice is no longer possible.

Each of us here today is a steward of justice. Each of us has the responsibility to protect the public trust. We have the responsibility, as well, to recognize when the public trust has been shaken.

No American has escaped injury from the espionage to which Robert Hanssen pled guilty. But, for the men and women of the FBI, the wound is deeper. Together, Americans have felt the shame caused by the treachery of a countryman; the FBI has felt the pain inflicted by the betrayal of a brother.

The problem of the Hanssen case joins the difficulty with the files in the McVeigh case in injuring the public trust. And, these cases harken back to earlier tragedies in Texas and Idaho. In each of these cases, the injury was lessened considerably by the vast majority of men and women in the Bureau who performed their duties with exemplary professionalism and integrity. Men and women like the agents who quietly investigated Robert Hanssen--their colleague and coworker--to reveal his activities and ultimately bring him to justice.

Still, we are called to a higher standard. Our challenge is not that we have problems. All institutions--even great ones like the Federal Bureau of Investigation--have problems. Our challenge is how we respond to these problems; how we, working together, answer the call to protect the people's trust, reinforce freedom, and preserve justice.

President Bush's choice to be the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, is a principled and dedicated public servant. He has earned the trust of the presidents he has served, irrespective of their political affiliations. He earned my trust when he served America as acting deputy attorney general. He merits the trust of the American people and he will earn it again as director of the FBI. In the history of this agency, the nation has had 17 presidents and five directors of the FBI. The responsibilities that will fall on Bob Mueller's shoulders will be great. But, my confidence in him is greater. I know that under his direction, we will triumph over the challenges ahead. And, the great law enforcement tradition of the FBI captured by those three words--fidelity, bravery, and integrity--will live on in the hearts and minds of the American people.

The year after he left the presidency, Teddy Roosevelt traveled abroad, allowing his successor, William Howard Taft, to settle into his new job. On his return from safari in Africa, Teddy Roosevelt stopped in Paris to speak to the students of the Sorbonne on "citizenship in a republic."

Roosevelt's speech was actually about character and its indispensable role in successful government. For a democracy to be good, he told the students, its citizens must be good. And, for a nation to be great, he said, its people must be willing to persevere in the face of adversity. What counts, Teddy Roosevelt said, is not the critic, not "the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of good deeds could have done better." What counts is the man or woman, said Roosevelt, "who the arena." The man or woman "whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming." The man or woman who counts, said Roosevelt, is the man or woman who "actually strives to do the deeds...who knows the great enthusiasms; the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause.

For a century--the American Century--the men and women of the FBI have devoted themselves to a worthy cause--the cause of freedom. Those who are here today and those who have gone before have answered the call of a grateful nation. Today, at the start of a new century, that call goes out again. It asks that we strive valiantly to do our duty, to know the great enthusiasms and the great devotions, and to live our lives in the arena.

We are called by those who have served and those who continue to serve America today. By the men and women who fought gangsters in our cities, battled hatred in our towns, and investigated treason in our capital. Those who combat terrorists on the windswept Scottish highlands and drug traffickers in the jungles of South America; those who enforce justice in the boardrooms, on the Internet, and in the halls of government.

The call of duty beckons us. It issues forth from the patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to build a nation founded on freedom. It echoes down the Hall of Honor, from the agents who died protecting that freedom: doing their duty, serving America.

Their call is not just a call to action; it is a call to values. For without fidelity, without bravery, without integrity, we cannot succeed. With them, we cannot fail.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft delivered this speech to FBI employees on July 16, 2001.
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Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Article Type:Transcript
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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