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The White House

Remarks by the Vice President at the ceremonial swearing-in of Leon E. Panetta as Director of the CIA

CIA Headquarters
McLean, Virginia
2:02 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Director Kappes.  (Applause.)  I was a senator for 36 years before this job, and I knew the CIA always stands -- (laughter) -- they always stand.  And I appreciate it.  (Applause.) 
Well, thank you, Steve, for your introduction.  And, Director Panetta -- or soon to be officially Director Panetta; Admiral Blair; distinguished guests:  My name is Joe Biden, and I'm proud to be one of your leading customers.  (Laughter and applause.)
Folks, many years ago, before -- looking at the faces over there -- before many of you came to work in the agency -- (laughter) -- I served as one of the original members that was then called the Select Committee on Intelligence.  And I had the privilege of serving on that committee for 10 years.  And I'm deeply familiar with the workings of this agency.  And I continue to admire, as I did then, the dedication and commitment for all of you, every one of you here who continue to serve this country. 
It's an honor to be here in the George Bush Center for Intelligence, named for a former director of this agency, and I believe one of the great public servants of our time.
And I'm proud to swear in another exceptional public servant, a man I've known a long time -- Leon Panetta -- a close friend, a former colleague in the Congress, a man who also served as chief of staff to President Clinton.  And the most important thing for this job, in my view, as Leon knows, that the job of chief of staff, like the intelligence chief, is to give the President of the United States the unvarnished truth, not what he thinks the President may want to hear.
Leon, the President has absolute confidence that you have the experience, the independence and the judgment to lead this agency.  Together with Steve Kappes -- who I am literally so thankful and appreciative that he's willing to stay as Deputy Director -- with you both, and the man I'm about to talk about in a second -- we have a first-rate team. 
Although the intelligence community is now a broad constellation of 16 agencies, this agency remains America's premier national security agency.  And we deeply appreciate the risks and the sacrifices that so many in the past and in the present continue to take for this country.  The 89 stars on the wall behind me are a testament to the ultimate sacrifice made by truly courageous, patriotic CIA officers, many of whom are still anonymous.
After 9/11, thousands -- thousands of young women and men stepped forward to serve their country, inspired many of you to join this agency.  We were talking upstairs in the Director's office about how many of you, after 9/11, with a sense of purpose, idealism and patriotism, joined this great agency.  You were inspired to join and serve, the same kind of inspiration that existed six decades ago -- six decades ago when this agency was formed.
Leon, it's going to be your challenge -- but great opportunity -- to harness the energy and idealism and capacity of a whole new generation of intelligence professionals.  This new generation comes in the intelligence community has experienced considerable change in the last few years.  A law enacted in 2004 established the Office of National Director -- Director of National Intelligence, and requires greater cooperation among all intelligence agencies.
We all know that bureaucratic conflicts, when they occur, distract us from the core mission that we have as a nation or as an agency.  And I'm confident -- I'm confident that Director Panetta and Admiral Blair will make this work, because in those  -- these two men, you have me of exceptional capacity and exceptional capability, and who are on -- as I was saying upstairs -- the same page.
Ladies and gentleman, I believe this cooperation that's about to take place with these two newly appointed members of -- the director of our intelligence community and the Director of the CIA, I hope is going to set a standard of cooperation within the intelligence community that all of the agencies in our government will observe.
Ladies and gentlemen, the next four years will be a time of great challenge -- I need not tell any of you this.  Al Qaeda continues to pose a serious threat to the United States and to our friends.  We remain at war in two faraway countries.  The global economic situation, as the agency has pointed out, could make the world considerably more unstable.  The proliferation of dangerous weapons and technologies threatens our security.  New challenges to the established order, such as climate change and other not yet known to us challenges, will emerge.
In his first few weeks in office, the President has begun to meet these challenges head on.  He ordered the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan.  He ordered a review of the down -- of the drawdown options in Iraq.  Our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan is also under review -- and our strategy for a cybersecurity network, a cybersecurity capacity -- all three of which have been recently ordered.  He named a special envoy to the Middle East, a special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and an envoy for climate change.  He issued an executive order to reverse the policies that -- in my view and the view of many in this agency -- caused America to fall short of its founding principles, and which gave al Qaeda a powerful recruiting tool.
As a result of these orders, we will close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.  We will have a single standard across the government for interrogation in armed conflict.  And we'll ensure the Red Cross access to all those who are detained in armed conflict.
The President has made it clear that he wants to hit the 'reset' button on our relations with Russia, and will seek diplomatic engagement with Iran.  This administration -- this administration's national security strategy will use all the elements of our national power -– our military, which is absolutely essential but not sufficient; our economic; our political; and our cultural and diplomatic tools that exist in the toolbox of any President.
We will use force if necessary.  But we will engage in aggressive and active diplomacy.  And we'll be true to our own values, because America is more secure when the example of our power is matched by the power of our example.
This strategy cannot succeed, though, without timely, credible and accurate intelligence -- it's the foundation of all we're about to do.  It will remain your paramount duty, in my view, to provide such intelligence to the President, the Congress and the military; to protect our fighting men and women and our fellow citizens, who -- to inform -- who are able to make the informed choices about the decisions that we make.
That's why, in my view, this agency was established in 1947.  And that's why it remains the premier intelligence agency for our government –- for that matter, I believe the premier intelligence agency in the entire world.
We're going to ask a lot of you.  And it's only fair to tell you what we expect of you, because we're going to ask a lot.  We expect you to be able to look around corners occasionally, to imagine the unexpected.  We expect you to provide independent analysis, and not engage in group-think.  And we expect you to tell us the facts as you know them, wherever they may lead –- not what you think we want to hear.  And we expect you to give us the -- your best judgment.  We will ask no more –- but we will ask no less.
On the wall facing me there is a quotation from the New Testament, put there by -- at the request of Director Allen Dulles when this building was constructed.  It has become your motto.  It reads:  "And Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free."
For the President and me, the truth is this:  Your mission is more important than any time in all of our history.  The country needs you more than we ever, ever have.  And we're profoundly -- profoundly grateful for your service.
Director Panetta, are you ready to have me take a crack at administering this oath?  Are you ready?  (Laughter and applause.) 
Well, ladies and gentleman -- (applause) -- if you'll step forward, we'll administer the oath. 
                            (The oath is administered.)