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America's New War: Bush Speaks at CIA Headquarters

Aired September 26, 2001 - 13:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush at this hour visiting the Central Intelligence Agency, of course the heart of America's intelligence gathering information. He is there meeting with employees to take a tour, to give them a pep talk, and we're told, based on what White House spoksemsan Ari Fleischer just said, the president still has full faith and confidence in the director of the CIA, George Tenet.

Now we hear the applause, and we assume the president will be speaking any moment now.

Earlier, just a few days ago, the president visited FBI offices. So you could say, in effect, the president is making the rounds of these agencies so crucial in preventing another attack like the one on September 11th.

This is the president, I believe, standing alongside George Tenet, the director of the CIA, and perhaps even leading an applause. Although I'm having a hard time.

GEORGE TENET, DIRECTOR OF THE CIA: Mr. President, the exceptional men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency and our entire intelligence community, the wonderful patriots with whom I'm honored to serve, welcome you back at this turning point in the life of our nation. On September 11, the forces of terror issued a brutal challenge to civilization itself. And under your leadership, the American people are responding with unity, resolve and enormous strength. All of us here and at places of duty around the world know that the present fight will neither be short nor easy. But our shared determination to see that fight through to victory -- the victory of life and freedom -- could not be greater.

That is what we pledge to you today, Mr. President -- our greatest service in this greatest of causes.

(APPLAUSE)

Now it is my high honor and privilege to introduce our great commander-in-chief, the president of the United States, the Honorable George W. Bush.

(APPLAUSE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all very much.

Well, George, thank you very much and thanks for inviting me back.

(LAUGHTER)

There's no question that I am in the hall of patriots, and I've come to say a couple of things to you. First, thanks for your hard work.

You know, George and I have been spending a lot of quality time together.

(LAUGHTER)

There's a reason. I've got a lot of confidence in him and I've got a lot of confidence in the CIA.

(APPLAUSE)

And so should America. It's important for America to realize that there are men and women who are spending hours on the task of making sure our country remains free. Men and women of the CIA, who are sleeping on the floor, eating cold pizza, calling their kids on the phone saying, "Well, I won't be able to tuck you in tonight," because they love America.

And I'm here to thank everybody who loves America in this building, and I want to thank you for what you're doing.

We are on a mission to make sure that freedom is enduring. We're on a mission to say to the rest of the world, "Come with us. Come with us, stand by our side to defeat the evildoers who would like to rid the world of freedom as we know it."

There is no better institute to be working with than the Central Intelligence Agency which serves as our ears and our eyes all around the world.

This is a war that is unlike any other war that our nation is used to. It's a battle and -- it's a war of a series of battles that sometimes we'll see the fruits of our labors and sometimes we won't. It's a war that's going to require cooperation with our friends. It is a war that requires the best of intelligence. You see, the enemy is sometimes hard to find. They like to hide. They think they can hide, but we know better.

This is a war that not only says to those who believe they can disrupt American lives or for that matter any society's, that believes in freedom, lives. It's also a war that declares a new declaration that says, if you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorists. If you provide safe haven to a terrorist, you're just a guilty as the terrorist. If you fund a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist.

And in order to make sure that we're able to conduct a winning victory, we've got to have the best intelligence we can possibly have. And my report to the nation is we've got the best intelligence we can possibly have, thanks to the men and women of the CIA.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: The cooperation with Capitol Hill is unique, and I hope lasting. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the work of Senator Daschle and Senator Lott, Speaker Hastert, and leader Gephardt of deep concern in both Republicans and Democrats at Capitol Hill to do what's right for America -- is to come together to provide the necessary support for an effective war.

And that includes making sure that the CIA is well funded, well staffed, has got the latest in technology. I believe we can work together to make sure that's the case. After all, as America is learning, the CIA is on the front line of making sure our victory will be secure.

I intend to continue to work with Congress to make sure there are law enforcement officials at home have got the tools necessary, obviously within the confines of our Constitution, to make sure the homeland is secure, to make sure America can live as peacefully as possible and to make sure that we run down every threat, take serious every incident. And we've got to make sure as well that those who work for the nation overseas have got the best available technologies and the best tools and the best funding possible.

There's a good spirit on Capitol Hill, because Americans want to win. They want to win the first war of the 21st century, and win we must. We have no choice. We can't relent.

Now, there's going to be a time hopefully in the near future where people say, gosh, my life's almost normal. September 11 is a sad memory, but it's a memory. But those of us on the front lines of this war must never forget September 11. And that includes the men and women of the CIA. We must never forget that this is a long struggle; that there are evil people in the world who hate America. And we won't relent.

The folks who conducted the act on our country on September 11 made a big mistake. They underestimated America. They underestimated our resolve, our determination, our love for freedom. They underestimated the fact that we love a neighbor in need. They underestimated the compassion of our country. I think they underestimated the will and determination of the commander-in-chief, too.

(APPLAUSE)

So I was sitting around having coffee with George and Michael...

(LAUGHTER)

... I said I think I'd like to come out to thank people once again.

I'd like to come out to the CIA, a center of great Americans, to thank you for your work.

I know how hard you're working, and I hope all the Americans who are listening to this TV broadcast understand how hard you're working, too. You're giving your best shot, long hours, all your brain power, to win a war that we're going to win. And I can't thank you enough on behalf of the American people.

Keep doing it. America relies upon your intelligence and your judgment. America relies upon our capacity to work together as a nation to do what the American people expect. They expect a 100 percent effort, a full-time, no-stop effort on not only securing our homeland, but to bring to justice terrorists, no matter where they live, no matter where they hide. And that's exactly what we're going to do.

Thank you very much. May God bless your work, and may God bless America.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: Two weeks after the terrible attacks of September 11th and what many called a massive failure of intelligence on the part of the United States, President Bush visiting the Central Intelligence Agency, the place which in essence is the heartbeat of intelligence gathering, to say, I have confidence in you, I have faith in you and your leaders, you're working hard, keep on working hard. Very much a pep talk on the part of the president to these people who have to had a severe morale -- dip in their morale after the events of the last -- of what happened two weeks ago.

The president saying, among other things, that the head of CIA, George Tenet, is somebody I spend a lot of quality time, and I have a lot of confidence in him; I've got a lot of confidence in the CIA. And at that point, the president was interrupted by applause.

I think there at the end -- David Ensor, our national security correspondent joining me here in the Washington bureau. We're watching as the president moves through the crowd of employees at the CIA to shake hands and to speak to them individually. We're hearing the president make a very important point. He said a lot of people will soon get back to normal, he said, but some of us must never forget what happen on September the 11th.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The whole nature of the way the CIA works is going to have to change from now on. You heard the president talk about the mattresses in the hallways, and the extra people in the counterterrorism center. There are many more people in that center than have ever worked there before, and that's going to be the way it is from now on. The whole area of counterterrorism is going to become a much larger part of what U.S. intelligence does for a living. You heard him talk about the long hours and the cold pizza. That's literally I'm told by people who work up there, very much the way it is. People are staying in and sleeping in their offices, some of them anyway.

WOODRUFF: Very much the president moving through the crowd at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, which is just across the Potomac River from Washington.

Kelly Wallace at the White House watching as the president greets some of these intelligence employee one by one.

Kelly, I think some people watching this are going to say, this looks wonderful, but how is it that the White House can except the fact that no one knew, or anyone new nothing was done to stop what happen on September the 11th?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, that is really the key question, and certainly, probably a big part of what the president's trying to do today. Certainly to kind of boost the morale of the men and women who are working at the CIA, saying full faith and confidence in them. You know, this administration, we're asking them repeatedly about the president's position. While he says he has full faith and confidence in CIA director George Tenet, doesn't he feel that in some way, the fact that the CIA did not have any specific warning of these attacks that took place on September 11th, isn't that somewhat of an indictment?

You see the president getting tremendous cheers there. Somewhat of indictment of U.S. intelligence operations. And, Judy, the administration saying the president not looking back, that he is looking forward, that the CIA has been successful in the past in detecting such terrorist threats. They obviously didn't detect these. But that he will work the intelligence operations with law enforcement to give them the tools they need to fight this war that he calls against terrorism.

Clearly -- go ahead, Judy.

WOODRUFF: I just want to ask, because we've had some members of the Congress, notably Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, saying Tenet ought to be replaced, that this was an inexcusable lapse on the part of the American intelligence structure, and I'm just curious to know how the White House can except that?

WALLACE: Well, it is interesting, because it seems to be the first lawmaker publicly, the vice chair, as you noted, Senator Richard Shelby coming forward on the morning talk shows, basically saying he thinks the agency is getting away from George Tenet. He didn't come forward and absolutely call for his resignation. He said that's really a decision for President Bush, but made it clear he thought that the agency was getting away from Tenet.

We asked Ari Fleischer earlier today, the president's spokesman, asked him this again. The message is the president has full faith and confidence in George Tenet, so they are saying that the president still sticking with him. As you see, he has obviously a good relationship, a warm relationship, the CIA director over here every day as part of national security council briefings, so the administration not willing to even privately point fingers anywhere, saying these terrorist threats were clearly not detected. But they are obviously doing whatever they can with the Congress, with law enforcement, with the CIA itself, to try and prevent this from ever happening again -- Judy. WOODRUFF: All right, Kelly Wallace at the White House.

David Ensor here at the bureau, who's been following the national security beat. I don't think the president could have made a stronger statement of support for the CIA and for the thousands of people who work there.

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