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Public Papers - 1991

Remarks to the Veterans of the Office of Strategic Services Dinner

1991-10-23

Well, thank you, Judge McGivern and Geoffrey Jones and General Quinn and Vangie Bruce. Barbara and I are just delighted to be with you. I want to salute, first off, my two predecessors as DCI: Dick Helms over here and Bill Colby over there, both of whom taught me an awful lot and helped me during that one fantastic year that I was privileged to serve at Langley. And it's good to see in the audience our next Director of Central Intelligence, my dear, trusted friend, Bob Gates.

I want to salute particularly those who have come here from Norway and from France and from England honoring the memory of the OAS -- OSS. Not that I should get into this language business here, OAS, OSS, you can't tell one -- [laughter] -- no, but I think it's a wonderful tribute to the common bond that they are here with us tonight. I'm also delighted that Sophia Casey could be here this evening, Bill's widow.

And I wanted to salute another man I served with, who's not here tonight, but that's Bill Webster, upon whom I relied so heavily and who, in my view, served so very, very well as DCI. And also the man that stepped into his shoes, Dick Kerr, who stepped in and guided and is guiding this agency in complicated times when Bill left. Dick's over here, and I'm just delighted he's with us. And I'm very grateful to both of them. Also, two other special people with us tonight: A member of my Cabinet, Carla Hills, who's doing an outstanding job negotiating these trade agreements, and also my trusted NSC Adviser, Brent Scowcroft over here.

And one last one. A man that shows you can do it. When the President says let's go, he knows how to carry it out. And I'm talking about General Stiner, over here, who I'll always be grateful to.

I had no idea that I'd get such a big, heavy medal. I'm wondering if it's recording, around this crowd here. [Laughter]

But seeing Evangeline Bruce over here reminds me of a story about D-Day. General Donovan, the story goes, told David Bruce that he had arranged to be buried at Arlington and asked David if he had done the same. And suddenly alarmed, David said, ``No, and why do you ask?'' Donovan replied, ``You should get a plot near mine. Then we can start an underground together.'' [Laughter] I don't know if that's true. [Laughter]

But seriously, I will always treasure this Donovan Award. It will remind me always to honor the general's memory.

I may well turn out to be the last American President of World War II vintage. Time does march on. But I am one who will never forget the honor and the decency and the courage of the OSS. It will be with me as long as I live.

And as for William Donovan, he was one of those rare statesmen whose deeds and ideas will continue to guide and inspire free people long after his time, indeed long after your time and mine. Next year we celebrate half a century since Bill founded the OSS and established intelligence capabilities to make the United States an enduring force for world freedom. And though 32 years have passed since General Donovan's death, his legacy lives in the breezes of freedom that enliven Dresden and Kiev and Krakow.

William Donovan believed that the way to avoid a hot war was to win the cold war. And for two succeeding generations, thousands of men and women in our intelligence community fought that struggle for world peace and freedom. Many of you, you OSS veterans, stood in the front ranks.

Four OSS men became chiefs of the CIA: Allen Dulles, Dick Helms, and Bill Colby and Bill Casey. Historians will record their courage, their leadership, and yes, their patriotism.

We've heard too much, and much unfair and untrue, of failure in recent weeks and too little of CIA's crucial part in this victory for freedom. And we've heard too little of the sacrifice you and those you trained made to advance democracy. We've heard too little of the cold war victory that is indeed your special triumph.

But I am confident that history will honor the ``cold warriors'' of the agency of CIA: The men and women who struggled in the shadows, sent messages over the airwaves, smuggled forbidden books and magazines, all to help pierce the Iron Curtain. History will praise the secret strategies and operations, the personal valor and organizational excellence that gave our intelligence community success in its cold war mission.

And history will indeed marvel at the vision of William Donovan. General Donovan made a clear-eyed distinction between means and ends. He saw the need for strong intelligence capabilities even outside the wartime, but he never thought of the intelligence function as an end in itself. And though he was acclaimed in his lifetime as the father of American central intelligence, he said he would rather be remembered for his contribution to a peaceful world order, to a true community of free nations.

More than three decades ago, he foresaw today's events, miraculous events. And here's the quote, ``Someday the Iron Curtain will lift,'' he declared, ``and the captive nations of East Europe will become part of a United Europe. Even Russia, purged by future events of its desire to bully and subdue its neighbors, will be a member, and given the genius of the Russian people, a highly respected and valued member.'' How's that for your vision thing?

As Bill Donovan's bold vision becomes a reality, we must preserve solid American intelligence capabilities. We need them for this promising new era no less than we required them for the period that followed the Second World War.

I mentioned this earlier, but let me just state again: I have chosen a vigorous new leader to be the Director of Central Intelligence, Bob Gates. And he is a tough-minded innovator, and he is an independent thinker with a passion for excellence. And he has served by my side through Panama crisis, through Desert Storm, through the drama of August in Moscow, and I have the fullest trust in his integrity and ability.

And I was very pleased and I'm sure you were, by the strong Senate Intelligence Committee vote to endorse Bob's nomination. And let me just say, I hope you will join me in urging the full Senate to confirm him promptly. He's got a big and important job to do.

Bob's mission is to lead our intelligence community in changing as profoundly as the world has changed. The collapse of Soviet communism will affect the world as dramatically and favorably as did the defeat of Hitler and the Axis.

After V - E Day, the OSS no longer needed to parachute Jedburghs into Germany. By the same logic, we have less need to apply some of our more daring and costly collection methods to gain intelligence from post-communist Europe and Russia. Just as we can now afford to make sweeping cuts in nuclear forces once used to deter the Soviet threat, we can and we will make better use of the assets we once needed to penetrate Soviet secrecy.

By no means can we or should we or will we let our guard down. Let no one mistake our confidence and goodwill for weakness. We're not about to dismantle the intelligence capabilities that we've worked so hard to rebuild, but we must adapt them to new realities.

Success in the struggle against communism does not mean the CIA's work is done. Bob Gate's challenge, the community's challenge, the challenge of the excellent men and women in Langley and elsewhere in the intelligence community, is to move beyond the cold war to the complex problems of the 21st century. Tomorrow's intelligence community will need to consolidate and extend freedom's gains against totalitarianism. Intelligence will enhance our protection against terrorism, against the drug menace. Intelligence will help our policymakers understand emerging economic opportunities and challenges. It will help us thwart anyone who tries to steal our technology or otherwise refuses to play by the competitive rules. It will help us seek peace and avert conflicts in regions of dangerous tension.

One task for tomorrow's intelligence community is especially urgent: Stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, biological weapons, chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles. This is a life-or-death mission, and I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure American intelligence has the resources and the leadership to get the job done.

Tomorrow's job will be easier because today's intelligence community has given its successors a head start. As President, I'm privileged to know some unsung American heroes of the here and now, heroes who will never wear a medal; they'll never sit at the head table. It's well that we remember past embodiments of American courage: the Swamp Fox; the ragged Continentals; the men of the Fighting 69th; the poets and lawyers, women and men, of the OSS. But be assured that right this very day, our intelligence professionals are performing deeds as brave and vital as those of any heroes in our history. Be assured that victory in Desert Storm cost so few American lives because, in my view at least, our intelligence community did its work with characteristic brilliance.

America will keep faith with these women and men. Under Bob Gate's direction, we will dramatically expand our human intelligence collection efforts. We will give our officers and analysts the very finest in support technology. And we will show no tolerance for those who leak secrets that protect our intelligence professionals' lives.

I was only out at Langley a short time. And just before I went there -- I want to relate something to you because few moments for me have been more painful than the occasion I had just before I became DCI: To meet with the son of Richard Welch, a CIA station chief murdered by left-wing terrorists after his name and position had been disclosed to the press. What was I to say to this young man? Why has his father died? So that a reckless ideologue could sell more books, Philip Agee's ``Counterspy'', having blown Richard Welch's cover? I don't care how long I live, I will never forgive Philip Agee and those like him who wantonly sacrifice the lives of intelligence officers who loyally serve their country.

Not long ago, not long ago over in the Roosevelt Room in the White House, I invited a group of CIA station chiefs who had been instrumental in the success of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. They were the station chiefs from that whole Middle East area. And I explained that I just wanted to shake their hands and address them face to face and tell them how deeply I appreciate their courage and devotion to our country. And I wish I could personally thank every individual who serves selflessly out there, takes the risks that they do.

But I forgot to tell them one thing: I am sick and tired of those in the political arena or, yes, in the media who do nothing but carp and criticize and second-guess the intelligence community of the United States. Measuring intentions, as everyone in this room knows, is an extraordinarily difficult task, and no one can expect every estimate to turn out to be 100 percent correct or 100 percent perfect.

Let me sum it up this way. I am absolutely convinced -- and I have a responsibility, I think, to the American people to see that this is true -- but I am absolutely convinced that we have the finest intelligence service in the world. It is second to none and as President of the United States of America I intend to keep it that way, to support it, to strengthen it, and to honor those who serve with such selfless dedication.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:38 p.m. at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Prior to his remarks, the President received the William J. Donovan Medal, awarded to those who have rendered distinguished service in the interest of the democratic process and the cause of freedom. In his remarks, the President referred to Owen McGivern, chairman of the Donovan Award Committee; Geoffrey M.T. Jones, president of the Veterans of the OSS; Lt. Gen. William W. Quinn, Ret., emcee for the dinner; Evangaline Bell Bruce, former OSS official and wife of the former U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James, David K.E. Bruce; former Directors of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William E. Colby, William H. Webster, and William J. Casey and his wife Sophia; Acting Director of Central Intelligence Richard J. Kerr; nominee for Director of Central Intelligence Robert M. Gates; U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills; Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Gen. Karl Stiner, Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. William J. Donovan was founder and Director of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Richard S. Welch, a CIA official, was killed in Athens, Greece, on December 23, 1975. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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