CIA Director on 9/11: America's Strength Is in Its Diversity

The annual 9/11 message from the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, to his employees:

Tomorrow, our country will remember the terrible day on which nearly 3,000 Americans were killed by terrorists.  Because al-Qa'ida's victims were innocent men, women, and children going about their daily lives; because the fanaticism and cruelty of the murderers were so vile; and because their hatred was aimed squarely at the values we stand for as a nation, September 11th, 2001 will forever be a defining moment for Americans.  We will always grieve for those taken from us so violently.  And we will both honor their memory and answer the enemy by showing our American character.  We act justly and decisively against threats to our people, our freedom, and our nation.

That's our mission at CIA.  We are entrusted with the high privilege and hard work of tracking down the terrorists who threaten our country.  Al-Qa'ida recognizes no legal or moral constraints.  We do, and can be especially proud of how we have answered the President's call to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa'ida and its allies.

With patience and skill, we have intensified the pressure on the terrorists by gaining greater access to their secrets, going after them in places they once considered safe, and keeping them on the run.  Their objective is to take innocent lives--ours is to save them.  By disrupting plots and targeting the terrorists with unprecedented accuracy, we protect our fellow citizens and uphold our values wherever we serve.

And it is our values, not blood or background, that ultimately define America and Americans.  We are united by our shared belief in liberty, equality, tolerance, fairness, and better lives for our children.  By these lights, we know who the enemy is, and why we fight them.

The enemy is defined not by any religion, but by their actions--their atrocities.  They represent no culture, but rather contempt for all cultures.  As the enemy demands brutal conformity, the United States embraces the world in its infinite variety.  America itself is, after all, a nation of nations, the product of every faith and race.  We can never forget that.  With a system of government designed to keep us free, our people--brought together by choice and by principle--are what give our nation its character and place in the world.

Our Agency draws enormous strength from that fact.  The diversity of talent that we send into the field against al-Qa'ida includes officers with roots in the countries and communities suffering and sacrificing on the front lines--Arabs and South Asians, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  I see the powerful contributions they make by virtue of their knowledge, insight, and sheer courage.  They are our brothers and sisters.  I hope many more Americans like them will join us.  We are one family, bound together by our values, our liberty, and our Constitution.

Protecting America is the work of all Americans.  To defend the things we all hold dear takes teamwork, strength, and determination.  That's the best possible response to the terrorists who planned the attacks of nine years ago, and all who threaten our nation today.  Drawing resolve from that tragedy, the men and women of this Agency pledge that we will never forget September 11th, and that we will continue to fight for the safety and freedom of the American people.

Leon E. Panetta