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IACP 2010: FBI Director Robert Mueller talks terrorism, training, technology, and trust

Nine years ago, al Qaeda was our primary concern. Now we also face a growing threat from al Qaeda affiliates

The following is a transcript of FBI Director Robert Mueller's speech at the 10th Annual IACP Conference in Orlando on Oct. 25th.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Good morning. It is an honor to be here. This is my 10th IACP conference, and I always look forward to meeting with you.

Your former president, Ron Ruecker, now serves as our assistant director for law enforcement, and he is doing a very good job.

As some of you may know, Ron is recovering from surgery. When I asked how he hurt himself, Ron hemmed and hawed, and admitted that he hurt his neck while playing golf.

Ron’s predecessor in the FBI, Louie Quijas, loved a good game of golf. Well, he loved golf. No one said he was any good at golf. We used to joke that if you couldn’t find Louie at his desk, you could find him on the back nine.

So when Ron came on board, I had one rule: no more golf. Since joining the FBI, Ron claims he has played just two rounds—both at the Major City Chiefs Conference in June. And it was there that he hurt himself.

Ron thought I was trying to prevent him from improving his game while on the clock. Actually, I was trying to save his life.

My first IACP conference took place seven weeks after September 11th.There was much discussion that year about whether to even hold a conference. Many of you did not want to leave your departments in a time of crisis.

In the end, you chose not to allow the events of that day to stop you from doing what needed to be done.

In the past nine years, we have gone about our business in new ways, with new partners. And we are all better and stronger for it.

But our mission remains the same: to do what we must to keep our citizens safe from crime and terrorism.

Let me begin with a brief overview of the current terrorist threat.

Nine years ago, al Qaeda was our primary concern. Today, we still confront the prospect of a large-scale attack by al Qaeda central.

But we also face a growing threat from al Qaeda affiliates, from the attempted Christmas Day bombing by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to the failed Times Square bombing by TTP, a militant group in Pakistan.

Al Qaeda and its affiliates may also attempt smaller attacks that require less planning and fewer operational steps—attacks that may be more difficult to detect and to prevent.

Threats from homegrown terrorists are also of great concern. These individuals are harder to detect, easily able to connect with other extremists on the Internet, and—in some instances—highly capable operationally.

For these reasons, terrorism is and must remain the FBI’s top priority. But it is by no means our only priority.

We have seen firsthand the devastation caused by crime…communities where children cannot play outside for fear of being struck by a stray bullet…situations in which individuals have lost their life savings to fraud, corruption, and greed.

We have seen criminals lurking in the shadows of cyberspace…hostile foreign powers stealing our secrets…and organized criminal syndicates moving from money laundering to health care fraud and human trafficking.

We must continue to balance these diverse threats, because they are all threats to our national security.

Let me turn to the state of our relationship.

Ten years ago, when confronted by a surge in street crime, the migration of MS-13, or even a child abduction, the question to any one police department might have been, “What are you going to do about it? Today, the question is, “What are we going to do about it?”

Our success comes down to two abiding principles: commitment and connectivity.

We are committed to working together to prevent crime and terrorism, here at home and with our partners around the world.

For example, agents and officers are working side-by-side to protect the Southwest border. The FBI and the LAPD have joined forces to close cold-case homicides—27 cases in just three months.

With our partners in New York, New Jersey, Nebraska, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom, we recently disrupted an international ring of computer hackers. And just two weeks ago, together we arrested 73 individuals running the largest Medicare fraud scheme in history.

There was a day in law enforcement when teamwork and partnership were virtues. But today, they are absolute necessities. And yet we are more than just colleagues. We have become trusted partners and, indeed, friends.

The National Academy is another focal point of commitment and connectivity. Many of you have yellow bricks on your desks and in your bookcases.

And with more than 44,000 yellow bricks around the world, and 1,000 new bricks every year, you can pick up the phone and find the help you need, day or night. The National Academy reminds us that we are all part of the larger law enforcement family.

I now have attended nearly 40 National Academy graduations. Each time, I am struck by the fact that officers from across the country and around the world willingly leave their families and their departments to come to Quantico for 10 weeks.

One of my favorite stories comes from an earlier session. Those of you who graduated recently may have heard it before, but it is worth repeating.

Some time after he graduated, one former student was reminiscing at the breakfast table about the good times he had at Quantico. He said that the 10 weeks he spent at the academy were the best 10 weeks of his life. His teenage daughter looked at him and said, “Dad, to be perfectly honest, they were the best 10 weeks of my life, too!” From that perspective, it is a “win-win” for the officers and their families alike.

From time to time, some have said that we should cut the budget for the National Academy. And the answer has always been a resounding “no.”

A few years back, I myself might have suggested that we shorten the program by two weeks. The reply was, “Director, you will not interfere with the National Academy.” I will say the word “Director” was used rather loosely.

Your state and local fusion centers are another strong example of collaboration. In a few moments, Secretary Napolitano will speak about the importance of working together to strengthen these partnerships.

Our special agents in charge have examined each fusion center to determine where we need to enhance our cooperation. We now have FBI personnel assigned to more than 80 percent of these fusion centers. And we will continue to increase our participation.

Turning for a moment to Joint Terrorism Task Forces…the 104 JTTFs are among our longest running and most successful partnerships. They are at the center of our collective efforts to prevent terrorism.

Consider the Zazi case. Najibullah Zazi was arrested last year in connection with a plot to bomb the New York subway system. He was working on behalf of al Qaeda. The Denver and New York JTTFs tracked and ultimately stopped Zazi before he could execute his attack.

This is how our partnership can and should work, every day, in every case.

We have also strengthened our connectivity, in terms of sharing information.

When I was the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco, the law enforcement community in the Bay Area sought to enhance information sharing. We found that databases in San Francisco could not share information with databases in Contra Costa or Marin or Santa Clara.

Aside from the technical issues, there were policy concerns to overcome. San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose would generally see these issues in the same way.

But then there was Berkeley, which had a different take on things.

We have made substantial progress since then and overcome many of these hurdles. But we still have a ways to go.

Let me talk briefly about two new tools that will further improve our information sharing: N-Dex and e-Guardian.

First, N-DEx. N-DEx gives criminal justice agencies a tool to search, link, and share criminal information on a national scale.

To date, more than 100 million records have been included in the N-DEx database, from more than 3,000 agencies. Data includes incarceration records and information about cases and persons of interest, with phone numbers, associates, and locations.

N-DEx is not just the flow of information from you to the FBI—it is one of the best ways we can share information with you in real time.

For example, this past spring, a homicide detective in Oregon was searching for several individuals who lived out of state. Using N-DEx, he found records on these same individuals in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He traveled to Los Angeles to interview one of the individuals, and obtained sufficient evidence to extradite him to Oregon, where he is currently awaiting trial.

In San Diego, the license plate for a getaway car in a bank robbery was traced to a woman with no criminal record in California. But when investigators ran her name through N-DEx, records revealed that she had a criminal history of bank robbery, with a list of possible accomplices in two other states.

N-DEx has the potential to be a “game-changer,” much like the National Criminal Information Center was more than 40 years ago. We will continue to make N-DEx easier to access and to use. And we will continue to add new partners and new information.

Another important tool is the FBI’s e-Guardian system.

E-Guardian makes the FBI’s terrorist threat and suspicious activity information readily available to state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners. In turn, any threat or suspicious activity information provided by law enforcement will be added to e-Guardian and pushed out to Joint Terrorism Task Forces. I should add that we look forward to the inclusion of SARs from fusion centers and DHS, which will only make information sharing that much more effective.

Just as we are making use of new technology, so are criminals and terrorists. And this has made electronic surveillance and threat warning more difficult for all of us.

Critical laws covering court-ordered intercepts have not been updated since 1994, when we moved from a copper-wire phone system to digital networks and cell phones.

Technology, however, has expanded exponentially since then. And many providers are not equipped to deliver copies of communications in response to court orders.

We all face the same challenge. The majority of our cases have criminals using some form of electronic means to communicate. We must find a way to access the information we need to protect public safety, and the evidence we need to bring criminals to justice.

Together with the Department of Justice, the IACP, and key law enforcement groups, we are working both to update the laws and to create a national resource center to address this complex issue.

In particular, I want to recognize your incoming president, Mark Marshall, as well as Pete Modafferi, Harlan McEwen, and Rick Fuentes. They have been instrumental in moving this ball forward.

This is my final IACP Conference as Director of the FBI, and with that comes a degree of nostalgia.

Today, we all understand that the foundation of our partnership rests not only on training, task forces, and technology, but on friendship and trust…on our willingness to pick up the phone, walk across the hall, or meet after work for a beer or a glass of wine.

And we know that this foundation of friendship will outlast any Director, any police chief, any agent, and any officer.

We are smarter and stronger than we were 10 years ago. And it is my hope that 10 years from now, we will be stronger still, with new leaders, new perspectives, and continued success.

As always, thank you for having me here today. It has been my honor and my privilege to work with each of you over the last several years.

Thank you and God bless.

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