Home News Speeches Working Together to Protect Our Communities, Our Country, and the World
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  • Robert S. Mueller III
  • Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference
  • Los Angeles, California
  • November 16, 2004

This is the fourth IACP annual conference I have attended. This is one of my favorite events every year because it gives me the chance to speak to friends and colleagues from around the world.

I want to share a story I sometimes tell graduates of the FBI’s National Academy, of which many of you are graduates. It is about building the bonds of teamwork and sharing advice and expertise on cases. And, how, sometimes, teamwork helps solve cases even before leaving the academy.

Just last year, three National Academy students put their training and teamwork to use right at their hotel near Quantico. A 17-year-old burglar was attempting to break into a van nearby. Now, you would think that since he was local, the burglar would have known that might be a bad idea. Instead, this budding criminal mastermind quickly found himself tackled and handcuffed by a Memphis detective, a New York state trooper, and a North Carolina DEA agent.

If only all of our cases were so easy to solve. Today, I want to talk about how we are making our jobs easier by working together to protect our communities, our country, and the world.

As a great basketball player once said, “The more we play unselfishly, the more everybody gets involved, the better the flow of the game.” And with everybody involved, our teamwork is better than ever. Despite the need for us to reallocate resources to the war on terrorism, violent crime continues to drop. Our streets are safer than they were a decade ago.

Thousands of the officers responsible for these trends are here at this conference today. And on behalf of the FBI and the American people, I want to thank you for all that you have done. Members of the IACP have demonstrated remarkable leadership in the wake of September 11, and our nation is all the better for it.

This morning, I want to talk about three areas where the partnership between the FBI and state, local, and international law enforcement has improved over the past three years. These three areas are first, sharing information; second, improving our capabilities; and third, enhancing cooperation.

First, information sharing. We are sharing what we know in new ways. Indeed, I want to thank the IACP for leading the way in the development of the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan. In the spring of 2002, law enforcement executives attending an IACP summit recognized that local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement had to do a better job of gathering and sharing intelligence. The participants called for the creation of a nationally coordinated criminal intelligence council that would develop and oversee a national plan.

In May of this year, their efforts paid off, and Chief Joe Polisar, Attorney General Ashcroft, Mel Carraway, and others unveiled the finished product. This plan is serving as the blueprint for implementing our overall national strategy for intelligence sharing. The FBI is proud to have had the opportunity to work with the IACP on this plan, and we are committed to its full implementation.

One of the key issues identified by those preparing the plan was the need to break through the barriers that hinder information sharing.

We have gotten the message. We know how important it is that we share the information we collect with you and your departments. Today, one of our top priorities is improved service to our law enforcement partners around the country.

Last December we opened the Terrorist Screening Center. It has been operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ever since. The Center has consolidated an enormous amount of international and domestic terrorist information into a single database.

For the first time, federal, state and local law enforcement officials have real-time connectivity to the government’s most up-to-date terrorist watchlist. This enables officials to respond quickly when a known or suspected terrorist is encountered during a routine law enforcement stop.

To date, the Center has received over 2,000 calls from state and local law enforcement. Over 1,400 of these calls – 70 percent – resulted in matches of the individual to a name on the list. These matches generated numerous investigations, many of which are on-going today. For example, in one case, police ran a name of an individual and were prompted to contact the Terrorist Screening Center. As it turns out, the individual was affiliated with a proscribed group and was also under investigation by the FBI for his involvement in a pipe bomb incident.

The Center is a powerful tool in the war on terror and a strong link between the FBI, the intelligence community, and state and local law enforcement.

Second, in addition to sharing information more effectively, we are improving our capabilities. We are doing this in three ways – improving technology, improving training and improving our investigative techniques. Through technology, we are developing another strong link between us. The National Law Enforcement Data Exchange system, also known as N–Dex, will revolutionize the way we share information.

N-DEx is our response to requests from law enforcement and the IACP for us to find an answer to the challenge of information sharing. When complete, this will be the first truly national information sharing service. It will collect and process crime data in support of investigations, crime analyses, law enforcement administration, strategic and tactical operations, and national security responsibilities. N-DEx will correlate data from all major FBI databases, such as NCIC and others. For the first time, the FBI will be able to provide a “one stop shopping” experience where combined data can be correlated – all with an initial search response time of about 30 seconds.

This will give us the ability to execute nationwide inquiries from a single access point. To identify trends and respond appropriately. To connect multijurisdictional crimes. In short, to provide unprecedented access to information allowing us to link cases, solve crimes, and form broader investigative partnerships.

N-DEx is already being pilot-tested with the West Virginia State Police and police departments in Marietta, Georgia, and Alexandria, Virginia. I would encourage everyone to stop by the FBI exhibit space at this conference for a free demonstration so you can see for yourselves what this new system will do for all of us.

N-DEx is just one of the new ways the FBI is sharing and leveraging the benefits of technology to enhance law enforcement efforts.

Just six years ago, in October 1998, we worked with 20 state and local agencies to create the National DNA Index System. Since then, the Combined DNA Index System, known as CODIS, has helped solve, or aided in more than 18,000 investigations nationwide. This is one of the most important advances in forensic technology. It has allowed us to work together to solve cases that are often decades old.

I want to talk briefly about one of these cases that began back in 1986. In October of that year, a young woman in Maryland was sexually assaulted and murdered in her home. DNA evidence was collected and tested and preserved for the future. Two years later, another woman, out for an early morning jog, was also assaulted and killed. Again, police were unable to charge anyone, but the DNA evidence was preserved. In January 1993, a high school freshman was murdered on her way to school. Near her body, police found an unlit cigarette with saliva possibly from her killer.

Maryland detectives never gave up on any of these cases. And last year they submitted DNA from Alexander Wayne Watson, Jr., an inmate sentenced to life in prison, in 1994, for murdering a mother of two. Eventually, matches came back for the three earlier killings, and it became clear that Watson was a serial killer who preyed upon local women. Thanks to the work of Maryland cold case detectives and CODIS, three families finally knew that the killer of their loved one was safely behind bars.

Aside from technology, we are providing training. One of our most successful efforts has been in training the nation’s bomb technicians at the Hazardous Devices School in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. This September, we dedicated a new, state-of-the-art facility for the school. It provides bomb technicians with the latest tools and techniques for confronting suicide bombers, large vehicle bombs, weapons of mass destruction, and other threats.

Every year, the FBI trains more than 1100 students at the Hazardous Devices School. We provide millions of dollars of equipment to local bomb squads at more than 400 agencies. And all of this equipment is standardized. This means that a bomb tech from California should have no problem operating equipment in Texas, New York, or anywhere else in the United States. Our nation’s police and fire departments are the front line of defense against terrorists and criminals. And providing you with training, as well as equipment, is key to our counterterrorism mission.

In addition to training, the FBI is working with our state and local partners to develop even newer techniques for analyzing evidence and combating crime. These include new methods for extracting DNA from bone, identifying latent prints from children, and testing explosives. This year, in partnership with departments in Ohio, Texas, and elsewhere, we are working on flat fingerprint technology, license plate readers, and other tools that will help us track down criminals and better integrate our investigations.

Beyond improving our capabilities, the third way we are strengthening our partnerships is through better cooperation. We have worked hard to improve cooperation at all levels. For example, FBI squads are working closely with local police to address gang issues across the country.

There are more than 20,000 active gangs in the United States. The gangs are getting bigger. They are getting more organized. And they are getting more dangerous.

There were nearly 8,000 gang-related homicides in California alone from 1992 through 2003. People in certain neighborhoods do not feel safe in their own homes – how can they, when at any time, a bullet could come flying through the wall? There are parents who put their children to sleep in the bathtub every night so that they will be safer. Police officers are slain by gang members. And generations of youth are being lost to gang recruiters.

Together, we must address this problem. We must stop their recruiting and arrest their leaders. Cracking down on gangs will help lower homicide rates and make our communities safer. With your on-the-street information and by sharing intelligence, we can work together to cut the head off the dragon – to use our joint resources to target gangs and get them off the streets.

By working together with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, we tackled gang problems in the largest housing project in the country – Nickerson Gardens. We are also tackling emerging gang issues on the East Coast. For example, in Virginia, cooperative efforts between the FBI and local law enforcement have led to successful federal prosecutions of more than 70 gang members. Recently, we used RICO statutes there to help us bring down two dangerous Vietnamese gangs.

We are now completing a National Gang Threat Assessment in cooperation with other federal, state, and local partners. This assessment will help us target our anti-gang efforts where they are most needed. With funding that Congress has provided and with your help, we are compiling a gang database. It will provide information and links that can assist our mutual investigative efforts.

What is more, we are working with international partners to address this problem. Just last month, police in El Salvador met with law enforcement officials in Southern California to discuss new ways to share information on multinational gangs. El Salvador’s police chief has directed his intelligence officers to provide us with quick access to his agency’s gang database.

We are even cooperating better on far continents. FBI Agents are working with our law enforcement partners from Russia to Romania to track down hackers and other cyber criminals. We are joining forces with the Hungarian National Police to tackle organized criminal syndicates. We are gathering intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we are hunting down terrorists with our counterparts in countries like Pakistan, Morocco, and Indonesia.

As threats continue to evolve, we must evolve with them. In an age where attacks can come from anywhere in the world – from the streets of Detroit to the shores of Yemen – the FBI must be able to call upon a full range of capabilities. We must combine our traditional law enforcement tools with new intelligence tools to prevent attacks. We must combine old-fashioned detective work with state-of-the-art technology. And, most importantly, we must work together both locally and globally.

Together, we are making progress. Terrorists cannot hide forever in mountain ranges and deserts. They have to interact with society, particularly if they intend to strike inside the United States. They will go shopping and set up bank accounts. They will rent cars. They will buy equipment, make mobile phone calls, set up meetings, and try to cross borders. Each of these activities is an opportunity for us, together, to identify them and stop them from doing harm.

By sharing information, improving our capabilities, and working together, we can and we will succeed. And with that, I will close with the words from a speech President Kennedy was supposed to deliver at the Trade Mart in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. I quote, “We in this country, in this generation, are – by destiny rather than choice – the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint.”

That speech was never delivered. On that day, together, Dallas police officers and FBI special agents answered the call of a grieving nation and undertook the investigation into the killing of President Kennedy.

Nearly 41 years later, together, we are serving as the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. And together, we will continue protecting our country and our citizens. Thank you again for your cooperation, your support, and your leadership. God bless you all.

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