CIA has asked for robust authorities so that we can better fulfill our responsibility to prevent another attack like 9/11--but not without congressional oversight. Close interaction with Congress is an essential part of our social contract with the American people.
I'll give you some statistics--all of them are for calendar year 2007--that underscore our vigorous support of the oversight process:
Everything is on the table. I personally have briefed the Hill nine times on renditions, detentions, and interrogations.
I mention all this because, contrary to some of the things you might read in a book, glean from a movie, or read in a newspaper, CIA acts within a strong framework of law and oversight. We are responsive to both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. We have an Office of General Counsel that is larger than many foreign intelligence services, and our OGC officers have a defining say in how we conduct our operations.
We work very hard to earn the public trust we need to do our job. This is especially important because the counterterrorism part of our global mission isn't going to go away anytime soon. This war will define our priorities well into the future.
All of you here at the Council play a special role in informing the public debate on this and every other major issue of foreign policy and national security. I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about the work we do at CIA, and to contribute to the public's understanding of our war effort.
I came here as a member of two organizations that mean a lot to me. And this month marks the 60th anniversary of both the United States Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency.
I've been with the Air Force for 38 of its 60 years. I'm proud to be an airman, to wear the uniform, and to be part of that great family.
I've been with CIA for about 16 months, but I've worked closely with its officers for much of my career. I have a much deeper familiarity with the Agency than those 16 months would suggest.
We at CIA are no strangers to criticism, and that's been true throughout our history. Sometimes it's justified. But often it is not.
Much of what I've seen in the press and read in some books simply doesn't square with the devotion and skill I see everyday, whether at Langley or in a war zone. The men and women of CIA are among the most gifted, talented people I've ever had the good fortune to work with. And at 130,000 applications a year, we've had the opportunity to pick some exceptionally intelligent, creative officers.
We haven't just been lucky, and it isn't as if the terrorists have been lazy. Such notions fail to explain the lack of an attack inside the United States in the last six years.
Our nation's bulwark is that group of experts--at CIA, the National Counterterrorism Center, and across the Intelligence Community--who help prosecute this war with their deep knowledge of the enemy and their tight collaboration against a shared target.
I've been out to visit our people in Iraq , Afghanistan , and other places where the risk and hardship for CIA employees are greatest. I've seen them work seamlessly with their colleagues in the armed forces, participating in joint operations that have brought the fight directly to the enemy's redoubt.
And I've seen our officers here at home take quiet satisfaction in seeing the photograph of a terrorist they've tracked for years appear on CNN after his capture. It might be a face and a name unrecognizable to most viewers, but not to those who have written countless cables, drafted finished intelligence reports, and briefed dozens of policymakers and congressmen on that one target.
Each of these victories adds up to a safer nation. Each is testimony to the tireless dedication and resolve of our men and women, for whom the memory of 9/11 is neither distant nor diminished.