FBI Director Robert Mueller spoke to students and community members about the changes made to the FBI since Sept. 11, 2001, and opportunities for college students to join the bureau in a talk Friday in the Ewell Recital Hall.
Mueller said the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 sparked major transformations to the FBI, saying that the organization’s failure to prevent the attacks caused Americans to change their perception of the bureau.
“Before 9/11, the American people looked to the FBI to bring terrorists to justice,” Mueller said. “But after, the American people didn’t look at the FBI to investigate terrorists, but rather to prevent future attacks.”
He did not answer political questions.
There were three general changes made to the FBI after the attacks, Mueller said.
“We needed to prioritize our efforts, develop an intelligence capacity and balance preventing additional attacks with ensuring the civil rights of those investigated,” he said.
Mueller elaborated on the need for the FBI to prioritize after 9/11, and listed national security, counter-intelligence, cyber attacks and international organized crime as some of the top issues the bureau is focused on.
The intelligence failure that allowed 9/11 to happen has also been addressed within FBI walls.
“In regards to developing an intelligence capacity, we’ve been building up domestic intelligence, in particular,” Mueller said. “We needed to know who had the potential to commit terrorist attacks.”
The third change Mueller discussed was balancing the investigation of potential terrorists while maintaining the rights of American citizens.
“It’s sometimes difficult when we’re investigating terrorists activities,” he said. “Each action you undertake, you will reach a point where you have to draw the line.”
Mueller emphasized to students that the FBI looks to recruit from a wide variety of people, as more and more cases have global connections to them.
“We seek people from all backgrounds and with all types of skills,” he said. “We need these students to address the threats of the future. We live in a globalized world now. I encourage all of you to utilize your skills for the bureau.”
Mueller also stressed the usefulness of knowing another language, particularly Chinese or Arabic.
“We have tripled the amount of language specialists since 2001,” he said. “We’re all struggling with building up language skills. Basically, though, if you speak a Middle Eastern language, have good grades, and want to join the FBI, you have a welcome home.”
Alexander Pouille ’11, a student in attendance, said he was generally impressed by the speech and pleased that the College was able to bring Mueller to the William and Mary campus, but was disappointed he couldn’t answer political questions.
“It’s really special that we were able to have an important, high-profile speaker… you don’t have this kind of opportunity everyday,” Pouille said. “There were some questions I wished he wouldn’t have dodged, but I guess it’s understandable with the election coming up.”
Mueller said regardless of which candidate wins the election, either administration will have to focus on terrorism and the mortgage crisis, as well as promote law enforcement.
He concluded his talk with a focus on the key issues the FBI focuses on today, which included counter-terrorism, white-collar mortgage fraud, and violent crime.
For counter-terrorism, Mueller highlighted the measures the FBI has taken to combat terrorism.
“We’re safer today than we were before 9/11,” he said. “We’ve established joint terrorism task forces, and have joined federal with local and state forces. The work of the CIA with the FBI has also helped in identifying the operational hierarchy of Al-Qaeda. Our over-arching concern is to deprive Al-Qaeda of a sanctuary.”
Mueller also emphasized the danger to the United States of the possibility of terrorist attacks in Europe.
“We cannot think that an attack in Europe does not mean that there won’t be an attack on us next,” he said. “Because there is no Visa needed from Europe to the U.S., if a terrorist gets into Europe, they’re just an e-ticket away from JFK or another big airport.”