The FBI was founded on July 26, 1908, 100 years ago. Marking this historic milestone, Director Robert Mueller sat down with TODAY's Meredith's Vieira to discuss the evolution of the agency and the values that remain at the core of its agents. Below are excerpts of their conversation.
Meredith Vieira: Bob, it’s the 100th anniversary of the FBI. How has the training changed over the years?
Robert Mueller: The big change since September 11th is recognizing that we have to prevent another September 11th, as opposed to solving a crime and bringing people to justice.
Q: So it's all about anticipating?
A: To anticipate and also prevent the theft of secrets in our counterespionage program. And so our training is changed to recognize the importance of intelligence, to recognize the necessity of pulling together disparate pieces of information so that you paint a picture that'll enable you to find a terrorist among the 300 million that we have in the United States.
Q: What makes somebody a good FBI agent?
A: Things that are most important to us are judgment and leadership. One of the things we're always concerned about is the fact that agents have a great deal of power to affect persons' lives. And we want to make certain that those to whom we provide a badge and a gun and the ability to enforce the laws of this country have the experience, the judgment and the capability to wield that power. Threats change over a period of time, and regardless of what the threat is -- it can be espionage, it can be public corruption, it can be terrorism, it could be gangs -- whatever it is, in order to prevent crime and terrorism we have to do it within the Constitution and under the statutes that Congress has passed. And so that recognition, that judgment -- the ability to exercise those powers within the constraints of the Constitution -- are tremendously important.
Q: With the Patriot Act, the FBI was given greater latitude in terms of its investigative powers and its ability to question individuals. And there were criticisms that came with that, that maybe it was overstepping, at times, its position. I know that several of those reports, you were concerned about. Quite clearly you said, “This is not right. This is not something that I'm comfortable with.”
A: Well, every organization of our size will trip occasionally. But what the Patriot Act did principally was to break down the walls between intelligence and law enforcement so we could speak to each other. That was the prime result of the Patriot Act. Now yes, we had additional capabilities when it came to national security letters, and when we were not following our own protocols, we had to face up to it, admit it, change it and move on. And so that's what we've done over our history. Whenever we've had an issue that is resonant, where we have stumbled -- to acknowledge it, admit it. Make certain it doesn't happen again.
Q: At the time you simply said, “I'm ordering additional corrective measures.” How do you make sure that those measures are being followed?
A: Well, one of the things we learned in this was that while we have procedures in place, we did not have a compliance program to ensure that people were following those procedures. So one of the beneficial outcomes of that series of events is we have a compliance program. And we look for vulnerabilities where we could potentially stumble in advance. And so the compliance program hopefully will make certain that we do not stumble in the ways that we have in the past
Q: It's important that the American public trust the FBI? I get the sense that means a great deal to you.
A: The most important thing for the bureaus is its integrity. Our motto is, fidelity, bravery, integrity. And fidelity's tremendously important -- fidelity to the country, the American people. Bravery is something that is more or less instantaneous when you're under fire, but integrity is something that you have to build. And for the 100 years of the Bureau, it's been integrities that have... given us the reputation we have. We tell each of our agents, each of our analysts, each of our professional support, it's integrity that's most important.