This is the truth, nothing but the truth, and the whole truth, with a waterboard as my witness!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008 this was on CSPAN and troubling if you listened

Remarks and Q&A by the Director of National Intelligence
Mr. Mike McConnell
The Richard W. Riley Institute of Government, Politics and Public Leadership
Furman University
Greenville, South Carolina
March 28, 2008

DR. DAVID SHI: Good morning and welcome. My name is David Shi and I have the privilege
of being President of Furman University, at least most days I think I am. Some days I’m not so
We especially want to thank Bill and Jenny Mayville of Miami, who have been providing
philanthropic support for Furman now for several years, that has enabled us to bring speakers of
national and international stature to the campus. And we very much appreciate their continuing
willingness to help us in this regard; welcome. (Applause.)
And we also want to thank the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, that has also helped circulate
the news about this important event this morning, and many members of the chamber are with us
It’s my great privilege, of course, to introduce Admiral Mike McConnell, United States Director
of National Intelligence, a man who briefs the President each morning and has been called one of
the 10 most powerful men in the world. Whether that is true or not – (laughter) – and I’m sure
his spouse may have a different – (laughter) – ranking, he also happens to be one of the nicest,
humblest and most self-effacing and soft-spoken people in government service. And as you
might imagine, those adjectives are not usually attached to people in government service,
especially elected government service. And as for politics, he is a partisan independent.
Many of you will recall the position of Director of National Intelligence arose in the aftermath of
the horrifying attacks of September 11, 2001 – and I might mention that just last week, a Furman
memorial to 9/11 was erected, funded by the class of 2005. That was the class for whom their
very first day as freshmen at Furman was September 11, 2001. And that beautiful granite
memorial is in front of Furman Hall, on the mall side of Furman Hall, at the main entrance, and
was designed by a member of the class of 2005.
In the aftermath of those attacks, congressional investigations revealed crucial information about
two of the hijackers might have prevented at least some of the attacks, had that information been
more effectively shared among the intelligence agencies and especially the FBI. This lack of
communication led Congress, in 2004, to pass the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention
Act, which created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. All of the 16 federal
agencies responsible for gathering foreign and domestic intelligence are now coordinated by
Admiral McConnell, including the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Defense
Intelligence Agency, the three military intelligence agencies, and the many divisions of the
Department of Homeland Security.
Mike oversees, in his role, over 100,000 people and manages a budget of $45 billion. My first
question to Mike is, when do you sleep? (Laughter.) He may not get much sleep now, but we
know where this Furman graduate slept his first semester on this campus. He slept in a closet in
the Furman gymnasium while he was the manager of the Furman basketball team.
Mike McConnell is indeed one of our own. Born in Greenville, the son of a progressive textile
worker who, in the 1930s, promoted union organization and civil rights, Mike graduated from
Furman with a degree in economics in 1966. And yes, he eventually moved from his gym closet
to the dormitories. After graduating from Furman he joined the Navy, and spent a year in
Vietnam in what was called the Brown water Navy, patrolling the Mekong River – and by the
way, my brother-in-law was a Coast Guard officer on the Mekong River and received a Silver
Star; only two Coast Guard officers received Silver Stars during the Vietnam War.
Some of the highlights of Mike’s spectacular service of his country include Commander of
Middle East Force Operations between 1971 and ’74; executive assistant to the Director of Naval
Intelligence, 1986, ’87; Director of Intelligence for the Chief Pacific Fleet, 1989, ’90;
Intelligence Director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1990 to 1992; Director of the National Security
Agency from 1992 to 1996; and of course, Director of National Intelligence since 2007.
In addition to his Furman degree, Mike earned a master’s degree in public administration from
George Washington University, a master’s degree from the National Defense University, and a
Ph.D. degree from the Defense Intelligence College. He and his wife, Terry, have four
It’s no coincidence that the United States has not experienced a major terrorist attack since 9/11.
The intelligence apparatus that has been so much better coordinated by Admiral McConnell has
helped prevent many attacks. So please join me in welcoming Mike McConnell home, and in
thanking him for making us more secure.
DIRECTOR MIKE McCONNELL: Thank you. Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate
that, and he doesn’t know what I’m about to say next. So far, I’ve retired three times; I’ve
flunked retirement each time – (laughter) – and now I’m publicly asking Dr. Shi for my fourth
job. I want to come back to Furman and teach.
DR. SHI: We’re ready. (Applause.)
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: I have had an absolutely wonderful career, and what I want to do
this morning is to share a little bit of that with you. And what I want to do primarily is talk to the
students because I want you to think about public service; I want you to think about the
intelligence profession, and maybe think about it a little bit differently than what you might see
at the movies or read in a book or even read in the newspaper.
Governor Riley, pleasure to be here with you, sir, always a pleasure to be in your presence, and
distinguished guests. Let me talk a little bit about how I think about myself. It’s kind of an odd
way to start, but what I want to share with you, as I believe I’m one of the luckiest people in the
world. And let me start by what we all share in common: We’re born in America. And that
makes a difference more than anyone can imagine when you’re in my profession and you travel
and live in places overseas. We are the pillar of democracy; we’re the beacon of hope, and we’re
in a land of opportunity.
I didn’t know Dr. Shi was going to bring up sleeping in a gym, but sleeping in a gym to a $45
billion budget, that’s not all bad. (Laughter.) This land of opportunity only requires a few
things. You got to have feasible intelligence; we all do. You got to follow the rules, you got to
respect the law, and you got to work hard. And if you do that, everything else will sort of find a
way to work itself out.
The second part of my good luck is good health. I’m 65 my next birthday. I’ve had great health
for my entire life, and I’m fortunate for it and thankful for it. I have not only a wonderful family
but a strong family, and Dr. Shi made reference to my father. The conversations around my
dinner table were very, very different from the conversations in my neighborhood: how we
thought about life and what he thought was important, what he thought about civil rights, who he
pointed me to think about and emulate – more on that a little bit later.
Another reason I’m one of the luckiest people in the world is just look around. I’m a graduate of
Furman University. This is the most beautiful campus with the greatest staff and the greatest
students in the country. (Applause.) One of my colleagues – and I have many colleagues up
north of here – he said Furman, weren’t you the guys that think of yourself as the Harvard of the
South. And I said no, no, not at all; we think Harvard is the Furman of the North. (Laughter.)
Now, I want to talk about intelligence as a profession. I’m a curious person; I sort of have a nose
for news, but a nose for news in what context. You can take anything out of context, you can
take any sound-bite, if you’re biased or have an agenda you can drive it in a direction. But I
always wanted the broader context. My minor here at Furman was history, but it was always a
tease because I could never quite catch up to get it all done. And when I would take history
courses, I wanted to start in 1930; we always used to end about 1900. So how did I get context
to go forward? And I had this opportunity. And my father was in World War II, my uncles were
in Korea, and so it was a war and it never entered my mind that I wouldn’t do anything than what
my family had done, is to volunteer.
Now, I went in 1967. Now, think back to 1967. Just after the turn of the year we had the Tet
Offensive. In a military context, it was a total failure; a massive force, huge losses. But in a
political context, it was a win because it created great havoc, a lot of cameras, a lot of news
reporting. What happened in this country? Riots in the streets to protest. So the context was
always so very important.
So when I think about the world today, trends, just trends in where we’re going, what’s
happening – let me just mention one: demographics. And if you think about demographics
across the globe, what does it tell you about the future? Well, let me tell you where
demographics are bad: Europe, cliffs; Russia, cliffs; Japan is a cliff. When I say cliff, I mean all
of a sudden a society that’s built on a few at the top supported by a broad base at the bottom is
going to be inverted, and a few at the bottom are supporting a lot at the top. China? A cliff; the
one-child policy is going to catch up with them.
Now, where are demographics going the other way? Two places: the United States and India.
India, for the birth rate; United States because of immigration, and that assures a society that’s
balanced and growing and prosperous and ongoing into the future. So when I think about
demographics – I majored in economics – it’s always been of interest, but the most powerful
book I ever read was Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” because it gave me context for
understanding what is a free market; why does it work? This little story about the invisible hand,
that has served me so well over the years; try to understand how do you make it work?
Economics: This will be the century of Asia. Think about that. If you’re Chinese and you think
of yourself as the Middle Kingdom, and you were exploited for 100 years, what is the future?
Now, we would rail against communism, control, and so on, but think about it: 1.3 billion people
growing at a phenomenal rate; the three largest economies in the world – four largest economies
in the world over the next 30 years will grow into this. Number one will be China, number two
will be the United States or India – we don’t know; one or the other – number four will be Japan.
So if you just think in economic terms, you see how it starts to become the century of Asia.
Technology is another interest. Think about no Internet. Think about how that has so radically
changed who we are, how we behave, what we know about the world, instant communications.
It’s a very dramatic shift. I went to NSA in 1992. NSA, if you haven’t followed the sort of
esoteric intelligence world, it’s the code-breaking organization. Their purpose is to monitor
foreign communications, break codes, and tell the President what’s going to happen, or tell
military commanders what’s going to happen.
There are two kinds of communication: wireless and wire, nothing else. When I went there, it
was all wireless. We listened to people around the world. I left four years later, it was all wire
and everybody here – let me see. Raise your hand if you have a cell phone. Now, if I say to you
that it’s all wire you say, wait a minute, I’m not sure he knows what he’s talking about; we all do
cell phones. Think of your wireless cell phone as an on-and-off ramp to a 6,000-lane highway;
90 percent of the world’s communications is inside a glass pipe, very dramatically changed who
we are as a nation, how intelligence has done, how we think about the future.
I also like to follow politics, movement, -isms. We are a font of democracy and it will be
challenged. It always has been and it always will be. Fascism, communism, today the –ism is
terrorism, and that’s what we’re attempting to do. How do we figure it out? How do we prevent
it? How do we get the trends going back in a positive direction?
Now, as has been mentioned, I’ve been an intelligence professional for almost – (muffled sound)
– years. (Laughter.) That number is closer to 40 than I’d like to admit. Day in a life: I get up at
4:00 every morning. I try to get to bed by 10:00 or 11:00 at the latest. And you do the math; that
kind of makes it a full day. Why do I get up at 4:00? I have to brief the President at 7:30 to
8:00, six days a week.
Now, a lot of people have an image of this President. The first thing that stunned me is he reads
about 3,000 words a minute, so I stay up all night, half the night, and I read all the material. I
take in an article; I read it again before I go to his office. We hand him the article. It’s four
pages long and I’m scrambling to keep up, make sure if he’s asking a question on page three and
I’m still on page two. This President has – in a personal sense moves very, very quickly, retains
incredible data, so this is a challenge. People say well, how much time in your day do you spend
worrying about current intelligence and textual intelligence, and I say about 50 percent. And
they say, well, how much time do you spend on managing the community, and I say about 50
percent. And they say, well, what about the Congress; I say about 50 percent. (Laughter.) So
that’s a day in the life, so it kind of fills up what I do
Now, Churchill is one of my favorite people in history. And Churchill said that democracy is a
terrible form of government, except for everything else we’ve ever tried. Now, did you ever
think that a person that represents the Intelligence Community would stand up and refer the
students to the United States Constitution? This is a precious document. It is why we have
survived, it is why we’ll survive and it’s why we will prevail in the future. It’s not very long;
small book here, 12 pages, only seven articles. Article one’s the legislature of Congress. Article
two is the executive, that’s who I work for. Article three is judicial. Four is relationship
between the states. Five is how would you amend it. Six is money or the national debt, and
seven is how do you ratify it.
I hope the students here have read it, and if you haven’t I would challenge you today, before the
sun goes down, to go to the website, load it, download it, go back and read it. What’s the magic?
The magic is how it starts: we, the people. For the first time in history, government was about
the people, not about a leader.
Napoleon once said, when they were asking him to step down the second time, what do you
expect of me; do you expect me to be George Washington? The first time in the history of the
world, someone who led a nation stepped down voluntarily, was George Washington because he
followed this process. The magic of this document is checks and balances. It checks power.
We, the people, have the power, and how we resolve things in his nation. Although occasionally
there’s violence in our history, but how we resolve things are at the ballot box; not by force and
not through violence.
Another concept, this is very inherently contradictory: It says we’re going to preserve freedom
and it says we’re going to preserve security. Well, you think about those two terms. Total
security is one situation; total freedom is another situation. They are diametrically opposed. So
what it allowed is a way for the people to be represented through a republic of having the debate
to decide the issue in the interest of the broadest number of people. Democracy is a wonderful
thing. We will see a movement to say let’s vote on the Internet.
Now, let me go to an extreme. At one level, a riot is a democratic process, so you don’t want to
get people angry about a thing going in a direction without some checks and balances. So we
check our own process with a republican form of government, and just make reference to the
Senate. I’ve learned a lot about dealing with the Congress, that other 50 percent. In the Senate,
for the most important issues, it takes 60 votes to get something passed, a little nuance of how do
you have a debate that turns out in the interest of all the people. Sixty votes is hard to do in the
Senate, and I’m going to talk just a little bit later about something called FISA, the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act; near and dear to my heart, and very much a requirement for this
community to be effective to protect this nation going forward.
Now, with that as context, we sort of get to the next level. How many of you know about James
Bond? How many of you have seen a movie about James Bond? How about reading some of
the spy novels? We really are excited about, you know, spy books and how it works and so on.
So we love stories about spies, but this nation does not like spies. We’ve never maintained them;
we don’t want them in our presence.
Now, you think about spies. For the most part, in most of the nations of the world, they’re
targeted against their own citizens. Someone who’s in power, who wants to stay in power, who
won’t give it up, has an intelligence service with a nominal external mission, but by and large
what it does is spy on its own people.
So when our framers created the magic of this Constitution, the context was we don’t want
someone to ride in on a white horse, George Washington, and win a battle and ensconce himself
as an emperor, and forevermore it’s about the family or the individual or that line of succession
as opposed to the people. So early on, we didn’t like much – we didn’t care much about spies.
We didn’t capture that very well.
So what does that mean to us in a practical matter? Every time we need them, we don’t have
them. Best example is World War II. We weren’t ready. We didn’t know what was going on in
Germany; we didn’t know and oftentimes because we weren’t confronted it, we didn’t want to
know. So early on, we didn’t know much about what was going on in the fascist world.
We had some people that were dedicated; there were two groups. Someone that represented
human intelligence – these are people who do lots of pushups. They are very dedicated and they
were willing to parachute behind the lines along resistance movements; Human intelligence,
referred to as HUMINT. The second group was a group of crazy mathematicians. Their passion
was code-making, scrambled your text so you could send it wireless in one point of the world to
the other and nobody could read it; or code-breaking. That’s what NSA does.
So early on we didn’t know much. We pooled our resources; we created OSS, the Office of
Strategic Services, that’s the HUMINT guys. We created in the Navy and in the Army and in the
State Department code-breaking groups, and we were successful working with the British to
break the German codes. The situation was, for most of World War II, we were reading, the
United States and Great Britain, were reading the orders that Hitler was sending to his field
commanders before the German field commanders were reading the orders.
Now, when you read back in your history books – remember my comment on the context;
remember the long forced marches, you absolutely got to take this point. Well, it’s a little easier
to know exactly what you’ve got to do when you’re reading the other guy’s game plan. So a lot
of those successes were driven by the fact that we were reading German code.
Let me flip to the other side. Pacific’s a maritime theater; I’m a maritime guy. Should we have
prevented Pearl Harbor? The answer is yes. Should we have prevented 9/11? The answer is
yes. We don’t want to maintain spies, so we tend not to invest in it, so I’ll go back to World War
II. Did we fail? We failed. It was preventable, we should have known – but let me fast-forward.
We scrambled, we got code-breakers, we got serious. This is America; we can do anything.
So now, after Pearl Harbor, most of the U.S. fleet’s damaged or destroyed. The Japanese fleet’s
underway. Where is it? There’s a context in the Navy – remember what, there are only two
kinds of communications, wire and wireless. You can’t run a wire out to the ocean, so you do it
through wireless. It’s high-frequency communications hits the ionosphere, bounces, goes across
the ocean. So the fleet is at sea; Tokyo says, go here, do that. The fleet doesn’t answer because
if the fleet answers, they’re vulnerable. So what we knew is the fleet’s underway; Japanese
fleet’s underway. We knew they were going to attack something. We didn’t know if it was
Singapore, or Manila, or Hong Kong, or San Francisco, or Alaska, or San Diego; pretty big
ocean. I don’t know if you checked a map recently, that’s about half the world’s size.
So what do we do? A group of Navy guys had figured out how to break a lane of traffic in the
Japanese naval code. So they went to Admiral Nimitz and said sir, we need to come up with a
way to make the Japanese command in Tokyo talk about their intended target. So they looked at
all the targets. One of them was Midway, so they communicated with Midway on an undersea
cable – can’t be heard outside.
There’s no fresh water in Midway. And they said, you tell us in a wireless communication that
you’re suffering a water shortage; it’s an emergency and we must immediately send you a water
tanker. Within 12 hours of the commander at Midway transmitting that wirelessly, Tokyo said to
the fleet, target X suffering a water shortage; Nimitz had his answer. What was left of the United
States fleet was placed at Midway. The battle ensued; the United States prevailed, and the battle
in the Pacific was all downhill for the Japanese from that point on, just on the idea of codebreaking.
So what I’m attempting to do here is to communicate with students about a life of public service,
considering something like intelligence because it’s a fascinating career and it’s a way to serve.
Many times not to the pleasure of those on the Hill or in the public or in the newspapers about
what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and why, but I go back to my comments opening up.
As long as you have respect for the law and you follow the rules, it will find a way of working
itself out. Post-Cold War, what do we want to do, take it all apart. It served us well; we don’t
trust it, let’s get rid of it.
Let me go back to Churchill, amazing gift of choosing the right words at the right time: Cold
War, Iron Curtain, does that sort of convey an image, Cold War, Iron Curtain. Now, we have the
debate, George Kennan said, you know, this communism thing is really bad. We have to find a
way to contain it. Nuclear weapons of course had been invented and used, so Cold War, Iron
Curtain, containment, nuclear deterrence. I’ve just given you U.S. foreign policy for 50 years.
Well, you have this nation, Russia, Soviet Union, committing to global domination. And so the
situation was plain; if we’re going to resist, we have to have robust intelligence.
So while in World War II we did code breaking and human operations behind the lines, what did
we do in the Cold War? Well, if you look at the old Soviet Union, there’s 14 time zones of
denied territory; it means you have no access. So we invented space; and think about it, the first
launch was Sputnik. We scrambled; we went and put a man on the moon, but now the issue is
how do we penetrate 14 time zones of denied territory? So we, with the theory of space and the
capability of space, got up in space so we could look and listen and observe and we did just that.
The Soviets could not think about, plan for, build, test, and field a platform that we could not
inform our national leadership not only what was happening and what the capabilities were but
we had already built countermeasures before it was fielded operationally.
Now, if you are a critic or a cynic – I am not, but this is a democracy and we need those kinds of
folks to make those kinds of observations to keep us honest – but if you’re a cynic, you say the
Intelligence Community failed. It failed to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union. Well, let’s
examine that another way. I think we won the Cold War. I think we could see and look and
listen and inform the leadership in a way they could do the things that needed to be done
politically, economically, strategically, to position us to prevail and ultimately win the Cold War.
So you can say we failed because we didn’t predict a point in time. Incidentally when a reporter
asked me that, I said, are you rich? And he said, well, no. And I said, well, if you were really
smart you would’ve bought Microsoft stock at the right point in time, you’d be rich today. So it
depends on how you ask the question or phrase it.
Now, students of today, the United States Congress has not declared war since World War II;
however, I remind you of Korea, Vietnam, Panama, the Gulf. We are the bastion of democracy
and I hesitate to say it, but the police force of the world to try to help move it in the right
direction. So my guess is you could choose this as a public service career and you would never
hear the words of winning a war. It is prevailing in a situation that’s very important. What is the
solution for our Intelligence Community to win the next series of battles? We did code breaking,
we did human operations, we’ve captured space, we went underwater; we did lots of things.
Let me just do an underwater story for you, the Cuban Missile Crisis. Some in the room
remember it very well; most of you say, well, it’s kind of something back in history. The issue
was a missile in Cuba, flight time to Washington was eight minutes. You could decapitate the
national leadership before you could react, therefore you could not deter, so big showdown, big
face-off. President Kennedy prevailed in that situation and forced the Soviets to back down.
What was their next move? They put a submarine off of Norfolk, it’s called a Yankee-class
SSBN, SS submarine, B ballistic missile, N nuclear. What that meant was a nuclear-powered
submarine sitting off of Norfolk with missiles that have nuclear warheads. What was the issue:
eight minutes of flight time to Washington, D.C., to decapitate the national leadership, could not
respond. We had to respond to that threat.
That Yankee showed up in 1968. I joined the Navy in 1966. After I got back from Vietnam, I
was trained as an intelligence officer, and my first issue was neutralize that Yankee. So for the
majority of my career, I worked a maritime problem focused on the Soviet Union and how would
we counter a capability that could inflict not only damage but to the point of national survival of
the country. So that’s why I found it so challenging, stimulating, and regarding to be able to
prevail in that context.
So what do we do for the future? There’s some HUMINT. HUMINT’s coming back big time
because now those who wish us harm tend to be people as opposed to machines. We have to
find them if we’re going to be able to neutralize them. Second thing is – remember I talked
about communications – only two kinds, wire and wireless. Well, if you’re wired and it’s global
and it’s all one global net, maybe what we need to do is live in that net where we can find those
who would coordinate from Pakistan to Algeria to come up with a plot, do training, and provide
manuals of instruction if their intended targets are in Spain or France or U.K. or the United
Today, al Qaeda is sitting in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. They’re
recruiting operatives from Europe, why? If you’re from Europe, it doesn’t require a visa to fly to
the United States. So if you can get a disgruntled person in Europe to come to Pakistan to be
trained in how to buy something commercially, hydrogen peroxide, use it in a particular way,
you could have mass casualties in the United States greater than 9/11. That’s their intent. How
do we know? That’s what I do every day. The community of all 100,000 all at huge investment
is attempting to figure out how do we look, listen, and most importantly prevent these terrible
acts from happening? This country and this democracy have been challenged many times in the
past, isms: fascism tried, communism tried, terrorism is currently trying.
So how do we prevail going forward and my message to the students is we will not prevail unless
some of you not only believe what’s in this little book, but you’re willing to engage in public
service and you’re willing to dedicate yourselves to this kind of a profession. And I’d like to
encourage you to think of the United States Intelligence Community the same way you would
think of the United States military: very capable, apolitical, serves the commander in chiefs,
commander in chief’s direction, the policy of the nation. It’s a political process; some agree,
some disagree, but that process will get us to the right place and it follows the direction of the
commander in chief. That’s what my community does. Dr. Shi has grabbed me as a partisan,
apolitical figure, that’s how I try to describe myself. I vote both ways but I am an independent
and I believe I’m representing a community that is professional first and foremost and is
dedicated to serving the interests of the nation.
I want to close with some comments about FISA. FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act. I mentioned my father earlier, Dr. Shi mentioned my father. We were riding
in the streets of Greenville out on the superhighway. When I was a youngster, that was a big
deal, the superhighway had four lanes. The big signs said impeach Earl Warren. And I said,
Dad, who’s Earl Warren? And he said, son, that’s the chief justice of the Supreme Court. I said,
well, why do they want to impeach him? He said, well, some people don’t like the policy he’s
presented. Well, what is that? And he said, remember those discussions around the dinner
table? They believe that he’s going to lead the nation to a nation to be integrated as opposed to
segregated. And that sort of stuck with me. That sounds like it’s important to me, I need to
think about that.
Now, later on, I start to focus on Hugo Black. He is a justice of the Supreme Court. He was a
member of the KKK. He’s one of my heroes, not because he was in the KKK; it’s because he
became the key in the Supreme Court process for integration, not segregation. Now, what did
my community do? We tapped the telephone of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and
Justice Black. Why? Uncontrolled power; if you look back in our history, the executive branch
has used this community, either my community or law enforcement, to spy on Americans a
number of times: internment of the Japanese, terrible thing; it didn’t look so terrible when the
Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, but intercepting mail, tapping telephones. And that is if you
look at any period that at least I’ve examined from the ’40s, the ’50s, the ’60s, and the ’70s, there
was some abuse of power about spying on Americans either through law enforcement or through
the Intelligence Community.
Now, what was happening in the late ’60s, early ’70s? Vietnam protests were very, very strong.
Fast forward to Watergate and the big investigation on the Hill, two committees, Church and
Pike, what is this all about and how do we prevent it from ever happening again? So they
decided out of that process to put some rules in place. We are a nation of laws. We respect the
rules. Let’s write it down, what are the rules? One of the things that came out of that was FISA,
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. What was the dilemma, 1978, think about the world:
Cold War, got to do intelligence of foreign things, domestic situations. So it made a very simple
rule. If you’re doing foreign intelligence overseas, no warrant, just go do what you got to do. If
you do foreign intelligence inside the United States, a lot of foreigners here, some people might
side with the Russians and be spies, so if you’re doing foreign intelligence inside the bounds of
the United States for foreign intelligence purposes, you’ve got to get a warrant. So it was an
elegant solution to a very hard problem; one little flaw: when you picked up a telephone in 1978,
what was hanging down the line of the phone?
Today, you all think, what’s he talking about? You pick up a phone, it’s wireless. Well,
remember back about 40 years – wire. If you had a wire, the debate was, wire says there’s an
expectation of privacy. So the way the law was crafted is if you tap a phone in the United States
with the expectation of privacy, if it’s on a wire, you have to have a court order. And remember
I mentioned cyber, global, one net? Today, terrorists in Pakistan that would like nothing more
than to obliterate this campus, if they’re planning with the terrorists in Iraq, more often than not,
the communications will flow through the United States.
So we’ve got foreign terrorists in Pakistan talking to a foreign terrorist in Iraq who want to attack
the members of this audience and a law said, Mike McConnell, you can’t listen to that
communication unless you have a warrant. Now, this is a global situation. It moves at light
speed. That communication from Pakistan to Iraq would flow through the United States because
it’s the cheapest and the fastest and moves literally at the speed of light and there’s lots of them.
The court is a very measured process. If I’m going to tap a telephone, I have to deliver
documents almost two inches thick that’s got all the details, who’s the person, what’s the phone
line, all designed to protect U.S. persons in the United States but I’m giving that warrant of
protection to foreigners.
So I said, well this is – why are we doing this? So I made the case, let’s go to the Congress and
get this changed. I went up to the Hill and I said, Mr. Congressman, Senator, three points: first
point is do not require this community to get a warrant for a foreigner in a foreign country
regardless of where we intercepted or how we intercepted because if we’re getting it here now,
I’ve got to go to court and I can’t keep up and I can’t protect the country. It kind of makes sense.
I said, now second part, if it’s a U.S. person, think U.S. citizen or U.S. person, a corporation is a
U.S. person if it’s predominantly here, warranted protection anywhere on the globe, not just in
the country, anywhere on the globe. So we protect what we hold dear and our citizens and our
U.S. persons and we don’t restrict our community for going after foreigners who wish us harm,
pretty simply.
I said, now Mr. Senator, the third point, 98 percent of this infrastructure is owned and operated
by the private sector. We can’t do it without the assistance of the private sector. Now, the
private sector is being sued currently for alleged, alleged violations of spying on Americans,
billion dollar suits. And I said I have to have two things: I have to have a way to compel the
private sector and those that operate this infrastructure to help me do my foreign job and I have
to give them liability protection. If we can’t give them protection, they’re not going to support
us. Sarbanes-Oxley law, pushed and run, said the board of directors is personally liable for the
financial condition of a company and if they make decisions that risk that company, they give up
their own good fortune.
So if now I’m a board member of a large corporation and I’m being sued for billions of dollars
because I cooperated with the government to tap a foreign telephone; am I incentivized to do that
again? I think not. So we have made our case. We worked – this is a very complex law, very
long and convoluted in the wording because this is hard. This is very difficult. So if you change
a word or phrase or a comma, you could have operational impact. So we sat down with the
Senate, bipartisan, Republicans and Democrats. The Intelligence Community, it took us three
months, three months, and we worked through, all right, what are you trying to protect? How
does this work? What are the complexities? And we finished that.
We had a bill go into the Senate. It was debated vigorously. There were some who said we
shouldn’t have an Intelligence Community. Some have that point of view. Some say the
President of the United States violated the process, spied on Americans, should be impeached
and should go to jail. I mean, this is democracy, you can say anything you want to say. That
was the argument made. The vote was 68 to 29. It’s a bill we can live with. It’s the right bill.
We should have it passed by both House and the Senate.
On the House side, took a different point of view. It wasn’t bipartisan; it was partisan, and so a
bill was crafted. The bill that exists today would basically have severe operational impact on my
community. So the President said if you send that to my desk, I’ll veto it. So where it’s going
now, the Senate passed a bill. The House passed a bill. The House bill is back over to the
Senate on Monday and the good old American way, we’re going to argue. (Laughter.) And
we’re going to argue and we’re going to argue. But I have every confidence that when we get
beyond the partisan or the political points that are being made, we’ll get to the right place
because that’s what democracies do.
We have those out there who wish us harm. What I hope is that one or two or six or 12 of you
get interested, and this is a pretty exciting career. I’ve lived in the Persian Gulf. I’ve lived in
Europe. I’ve lived in Japan. I served in Vietnam. I’ve been all over the Indian Ocean. I’ve been
all over Africa. I’ve been to Beijing. I’ve served in Berlin and London and lots of other places.
The best place I’ve ever been is Greenville, South Carolina. (Applause.) And I am absolutely
delighted to be back. I look forward to any questions you might have. Thank you so much.
DR. SHI: I know some of you need to rush off to class or other obligations, and that’s fine. But
we are delighted that Mike is going to field some questions. And if you would just raise your
hand and stand up and shout out your question so everyone can hear. Right here, gentleman.
Q: (Inaudible, laughter) – okay, excuse me. I would like to thank you again for visiting our
community here today. I’m sure you’re delighted to be back where you belong. Before I run off
to my 12:00 class, I would like to ask you what advice would you give in preparation for
students who are considering pursuing intelligence as a vocation.
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Well, if you choose intelligence, about 90 percent of success is
being there. That means you kind of come early and you stay late. But the biggest challenge is to
take a world of complexity – and you think about how complex this world is or how complex our
systems are or what we’re doing – and reduce the complexity to something a policymaker can
understand to make a decision and move on. So the big challenge is you’ve got to work hard.
That goes with any profession. But how you communicate in the most effective way so it’s
understood with confidence; decision is made; and you move on – that’s a challenge.
We all live in our own little world with our acronyms and our professional jargon. But how do I
speak English to a policymaker who has got lots of other competing interests to make a decision
to move on in the interest of the nation?
DR. SHI: And on a more mundane level, and especially from our students’ perspective, from the
point of view of the intelligence agencies, what are they looking for in terms of young college
graduates? Particular majors, particular linguistic skills – what kind of resume is going to excite
the CIA, the FBI, and the other agencies?
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: The thing that is most in demand at the moment are language
skills. And increasingly, the nation will struggle with how do we incentivize language, not only
those who would take language courses but become fluent and so on; how do you sustain it for a
lifetime? So as you might imagine, from an organization that flies satellites in space and does
the cyber-process and so on, doubly electrical engineering, computer science, political science,
history, foreign relations, and language of virtually any language. The ones that we are most in
need of at the moment: Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and related to that part of the world. What will be
more important as we go forward, perhaps most important will be Chinese.
So language skills and then anything you do as a profession or major you have in college now
has a place in this community. It’s huge. It’s 100,000 people. And there is a contractor force
that also supports this community. So there is a place for everyone. My email address is
[*] And my assistant sitting right here, Julie Foster, answers every one of those. And
it doesn’t matter to me if she stays up late answering my email. (Laughter.) So if you want to
ask me a question about an application or who to talk to, [*]
DR. SHI: Other questions? Yes, sir, in the back, white shirt.
Q: University of South Carolina has one of the top Homeland Defense-funded programs in
deception detection.
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: In what? Say it again?
Q: Deception detection. Determining the likelihood that someone they’re interviewing, whether
in the hot seat or in the line for security at the airport. And I’d like you to comment on their
reports in ’05 and ’07 on what appears to be endemic stagnation and corruption and chaos in
those studies. Effectively, despite billions of dollars of investment in just that single program,
they report that an entire area of studies has produced absolutely no results. They have limited
themselves to purely biometric measures. They rejected utterly – (inaudible) – measures, which
have proved themselves for – (inaudible).
And they are reporting now that a number of scientists in the community break off and are
selling, to their own profit, snake-oil solutions for quick fixes that sound sexy on Capitol Hill
that in some cases – in most cases, if not all – are completely ineffective. And in some cases, are
actually dangerous to use on –
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Are you asking a question or making a statement?
Q: Is that indicative of what is going in homeland defense and security?
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Is that the question?
Q: Yeah, I’d like you to comment on that. Also –
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Let me answer the question, if I may. The answer is no.
Q: Okay, and one other issue is –
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: So you are making a statement?
Q: If the KGB was for advancing those studies and they answered correct. And I asked, since
we were on friendly relations in the ’90s, so many KGB agents moved to the U.S. and became
U.S. citizens, what became of those studies? Did they reveal them and turn them over to the
CIA? They said yes, but they have disappeared, either out of incompetence or the desire for
those studies to disappear.
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: I take it that you are a journalist.
Q: I’m sorry?
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: What do you do for a living?
Q: Oh, I’m in media.
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Does that mean journalist? So one of those skeptics? You’d
probably start, well, we failed to predict the collapse of the Soviet – are you one of those guys?
Q: I’m just interested in what happened. If the KGB was advancing those studies –
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: The point I was trying to make earlier to the audience is being
made for you now. You can pick up an issue any particular way. I was trying to share with you
a point of view about public service. This is a line of questioning that will eventually go to
waterboarding and torture. And let’s see if we can get the director to make a statement that will
be on the nightly news because it’s all being photographed back there and there’s a tape going.
So just the context – I’m one of those context guys, make sure we get the context of the question
that is being asked. The specific answer to your question is no and no. Did you have another
Q: Well, that really doesn’t answer my question, either one. But that’s fine.
(Cross talk.)
Q: What did you do with the submarine off Norfolk?
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Now, depending on your political persuasion, you might find this
answer interesting. A nuclear submarine is a very expensive thing. And if you can’t afford it,
you can’t operate it. They collapsed; they all went home. So that’s a stretch, but for the time
they were there, we found them and held them at risk. And in the context of the nation, we
worked the process until they imploded and they couldn’t afford them and they had to pull them
DR. SHI: Yes, right in the middle. Mr. Walters, former Commissioner of the IRS. (Laughter.)
Why don’t you return?
Q: Having spent some 15 of 16 years in public service, a lot of it in Washington, I am interested
to know whether you think you really need 16 agencies. And how do you coordinate and govern
16 agencies?
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Yes, sir, a wonderful question. And at one level, the answer is we
don’t – (laughter) – and that we should have a Department of Intelligence. That’s a very
different model from what we’ve chosen to have. The situation is such that we have intelligence
organizations that serve the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the State Department, Treasury
Department, Department of Homeland Security, and so on. So the issue was, how do you
preserve a capability to serve the interests of an organization and integrate it in a way that you
share information, prevent another 9/11? So that’s the task that I was given.
I am referred to as the Director of National Intelligence. A more apt term today would be the
coordinator of National Intelligence because I don’t have the authority to be directive; 15 of
those 16 agencies work for another Cabinet officer. So this is a challenge; and here is the game
plan to fix it.
I came in and have been around a long time, so I assessed it. I looked back at what’s happened
in this community since 1947. That’s when the community was created, 1947, National Security
Act; created the CIA and the Director of Central Intelligence and so on. It’s been studied 40
times every 18 months, very high-level commissions, and they all came out with the same six
conclusions. And the number-one conclusion of every study was it must be a more integrated
So my challenge is to get that integration and to change something – I’ll just call it a mindset.
We grew up with the idea, need to know. So go back to World War II; you and I are old enough
to remember that – loose lips sink ships; need to know. What that means is I own it; I control it;
you have to demonstrate a need before I’ll share it with you. That’s why we had 9/11. We had a
bureaucratic situation where we were more interested in the security of information than we were
in sharing the information.
What I’m attempting to do is to change the 16 agencies. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t
think, need to know; I have it; you have to prove to me you need it before I’ll share it with you. I
wake up thinking: I have a responsibility to provide. I have a responsibility to know who are my
customers, wherever they are, and what are my sources; how do I task those services to serve
those customers? And it’s a little bit akin to the free market. You think about how we serve
customers. The most successful companies serve customers.
So if we wake up one morning, the most important customer we serve might be the police chief
in Seattle. There might be a threat to a bridge in Seattle and I know that from a top-secret ,
compartmented piece of information of foreign intelligence. And as an analyst, I need to know if
there’s something going on in Seattle, how do I get that information to the right person to prevent
something terrible from happening?
So that’s the approach. We’ve got a board of directors and we’re having the dialogue. We’ve
written the papers. And it’s a pretty vigorous process to try to get us to share and collaborate,
even though we maintain some independent identities serving the agencies that we’re responsible
– that the department is responsible for serving.
DR. SHI: Over here with the hat on.
Q: What do you consider the most dangerous enemy of the United States?
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Well, the most dangerous would be someone with a nuclear
capability that could threaten us, and there are a number of those. I think there are seven or eight
nuclear states. I think probably terrorism cannot threaten our survival. They can do terrible
things. They could get weapons of mass destruction. They could unleash a biological agent that
could kill lots of people, but they can’t threaten our national survival. So as we go forward, I
think the biggest threat to us is how do we think about democracy; how do we play our role in
the world; how are we seen in the world; how do we engage to try to get the world to look at the
way we do it and maybe adopt the process that we have? And so that’s how I think about the
next century.
Q: What I’m wondering about is the fact that our – (inaudible) – terrorists. We kill 205,000
people a year, 561 a day, or 11 each day in each state.
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Who was it, sir? I didn’t catch what you said. Who?
Q: The alcohol industry.
DR. SHI: Alcohol.
Q: They control that – (inaudible) – industry if they control everything else. The alcohol
industry doesn’t pay for their dead. We pay for it.
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Well, sir, I don’t disagree with you. But that’s not something I
have to worry about every day, so let me just agree as a citizen.
DR. SHI: In the back?
Q: So you work for the President, so I suppose those – (inaudible) – you like to give him
information he likes.
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: I don’t particularly like it, but I do work for the President, yes.
Q: (Inaudible) – if it’s something you don’t think he’s going to like.
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: I’m sorry. Say it again.
Q: Who takes your word?
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Well, let me go back to the point I was trying to make. I am
apolitical professional. My job is to speak truth to power. My job is to speak truth to power. So
the messages I deliver, wherever I deliver them, are often not warmly embraced. I won’t
comment on what happens in the Oval; that’s sort of a privileged discussion. But most often –
and it goes back to a discussion we were having just a moment ago – most often, I have to push
back very hard with the audience for whom I am attempting to serve with a point of view that
would rather have it a different way. So it’s a reality; truth to power is the way that works.
Q: Kind of a follow-up to his question, if you had to give the President the top-five – (inaudible)
– that you talk about every day that – (inaudible).
DR. SHI: You might want to repeat the question.
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: If you couldn’t hear the question, it was, you said top five leaders
that might pose the greatest threat; but rather than focus on personality, let me just talk about
threats. One of the – and you maybe haven’t thought about it this way – one of the biggest
challenges that we have as a nation is access to energy. You think about that. Now, we’re all
sitting here enjoying the comforts of this campus and room and there is an air conditioner and
there is an elevator. And we all have credit cards and we all buy gas. All that runs off energy.
Well, you think about where does energy come from? Predominantly, it comes from areas that
are pretty unstable.
So until we invent an alternative to fossil fuel – and we will some day – we’re going to figure out
hydrogen someday, but the estimates are 30 to 50 years – so I would say in the interim, in the
meantime, a more stable Middle East, access to energy are one of the things that’s going to be
most important to us as a nation – and not only us in the United States, but the people of the
markets we engage with: Europe and China and India. And it’s one global economy. If one
thing I can leave you with is a thought is that when I grew up, we had great saltwater moats and
friendly neighbors north and south. Today, it’s one globe and I can have somebody get sick in
Hong Kong and have an epidemic breakout in New York City 10, 12 hours later. So it’s the
global – it’s the connectedness of the world.
Now, terrorism is a terrible thing. There are radical elements in every society, every society.
We have our own Timothy McVeigh. We’ve had, you know, those kinds of issues. With a
global network, what al Qaeda’s been able to do is to connect the radical elements and maintain a
dialogue and to show what they do and to talk about what they do and train. So that is – that’s
something we focus on every day.
My biggest worry at the moment: nuclear weapon in Iran. If the Iranians are successful in
achieving fissile material, which they are pursuing, and if they turn it into a nuclear weapon, the
dynamics in the Middle East will change literally overnight. We will have a nuclear-arms race
because if the Iranians have them, my guess is all of the surrounding nations would immediately
attempt to secure nuclear weapons and now we’ve got a situation where we have to have access
to energy and not only is in destabilized in the current politics of what we all know about, you
have the risk of weapons of mass destruction added to it.
Q: Talking about your career for a second, if you could look back on your career – two-part
question – looking back on your career, would you say that communications changed the
trajectory of your career? And then, looking forward, you can tell us what you want to teach at
Furman. (Laughter.)
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Changed my career. When I went to Vietnam, it wasn’t much fun
and I was in the Brown water Navy. And the real Navy was out in blue water. So as I thought
about that, I said, driving ships is not my thing. So I’ll just go serve overseas and I’ll get out and
I’m going to come back to Greenville. I wanted to be a banker. I was very close to my mother.
She passed at a young age. I had to do a little bit of time before I was able to get out of the
Navy, so I decided the intel thing is kind of interesting and I’m kind of a history buff. Maybe
that’s a way I can learn about red China or Taiwan. What’s that really all about?
So I decided, I applied for an intelligence course and was accepted and went. And I lived for the
first time in a toxic world: censors, sources, methods, and way to look at things you couldn’t
look at as a private citizen. So my first assignment as – once I’m trained – was in something
called the undersea-warfare plot. It was in the Pentagon, Navy. I walk – I show in, I’m the new
watch officer and they said, what do you know about a Yankee? And I said, well, that’s what we
talk about down South. (Laughter.) I mean that wasn’t a civil war; it was a war of northern
aggression. (Laughter.) No, nope, different Yankee. Yankee-class SSBN off Norfolk, eight
minutes, you know the story. And so I said, well, what do we do about that? And I was
fascinated. How do we even know? So the process was just fascinating to me.
And I fast-forward just little bit – I got to be the supervisor of that plot. And on Saturday
morning, we were going to move from one space to another space because we were doing some
renovations. So I went in, in my blue jeans and a sweatshirt because we had sliding boards,
magnetic little tags up, sort of file it, very different today; it’s all computerized. So we’re taking
down the boards and one of the petty officers came in and said, there’s a GOLF in Cuba. There
was a GOLF in Cuba? I said, I didn’t know the Cubans played golf. But, no, GOLF submarine,
SSB, not only that it was a nuclear submarine but it had a nuclear missile. So this was 1971, I
believe. It might have been ’72.
We were reliving the Cuban Missile Crisis all over again, 10 years later. So, in my blue jeans, in
my sweatshirt, Lieutenant McConnell whipped out a piece of paper and started – got a map of
Cuba and wrote it down and the captain, 06 – I’m an 03 – walked in and said, you’ve got to get
that to the chief of naval operations. I said, but, sir. He said, it doesn’t matter; go do it. So I
took my piece of paper with my little map, I went down to see the chief of naval operations and
he said, get this down to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Yes, sir. I’m going down to the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs – (laughter). He said, get this to the White House. The White
House, sir? Yeah, I’ve got a limousine waiting out front. I went to the White House.
(Laughter.) So I’m sitting there with the National Security Advisor with, well, how do we know
this? Well, sir, it’s complicated; telling him about the – well, how did it get there?
Well, and I’m the expert telling the national security advisor, here’s the situation; it’s called the
hook. (Laughter.) At that moment, I was hooked because I’m a lieutenant and I’m – that’s the
life I lived since that day. Who do I talk to? Who’s ever heard of Mike McConnell? Nobody.
Who’s heard of the President? Everybody. I go in and start his day and I’ve done that, had the
opportunity to do that with the chief of naval operations, the commander of the entire Pacific
fleet, commander of the seventh fleet, commander of the Mideast Forces. So I’ve found it a
fascinating career for where it was and what it did. And it was so stimulating for me personally.
DR. SHI: In that regard, I’m going to pose a question. You had the good fortune of being able
to serve directly with Colin Powell and I’m sure everyone would love to hear a little bit more
about Colin Powell and your relationship with him and your impressions of him.
DIRECTOR McCONNELL: And that’s what I want to teach. (Laughter.) People ask me why
do I speak and, quite frankly, one of the reasons I speak is I only know one story so I keep
looking for new audiences. (Laughter.)
Colin Powell – he hired me as his intel officer and I relieved in July. And, if you recall, the
Iraqis invade Kuwait on the second of August. So I had about five days to relieve and I’m
wearing a white suit and white shoes and a white belt and shoulder boards. And the Iraqis were
massed on the Kuwaiti border and I go in and I’m going to tell someone that’s dressed up like a
tree about ground warfare? (Laughter.) I did not know a tank from an armored personnel carrier
because I was a Navy guy. What do I know about that stuff?
So I went in and what I learned early is he could take information from multiple sources:
telephone, he’s writing, television’s on, he’s talking to one of his aides. And I go in and he says
– and I go up and wait for him to stop something so I can talk to him, you see. (Laughter.) Go
ahead, go ahead. So I would get about 90 seconds a day. So I’d give him what I had and, now,
three weeks later, he remembered the details better than I did. I’ve never seen anyone that could
multitask in such an impressive way.
So, now, early, this is now – I relieve in July, the Iraqis are going to invade on the second of
August. We counted all of the stuff. I went in and I’m ready. So I’m going to tell him how
many divisions. So I’m ready. I go in. Sir, go ahead. Sir, a lot of Iraqis on the Kuwaiti border.
Yeah, I know, I know. Now, I’m waiting for him to say, how many divisions? I even knew the
divisions. I could tell you where their armor or infantries. I had stayed up all night learning that.
He said, how many maneuver brigades? (Laughter.) I didn’t even know what that was.
So body English speech right now. (Laughter.) I walk across the room and he’s still – he always
had everything going on. And I’m almost out of the room. He said, Mike. And I, I literally felt
two inches high. I’m trying to serve the guy, give him what he needs. I turned around, he said,
we can work together. And I said, wow, I would do anything. From that moment, I would do
anything for this guy.
So I did stay up all night and I did learn all of that stuff. Now, let me fast-forward. He caused
me to go from Mike McConnell, brand-new one-star, to Mike McConnell, three-star. Now, if
you don’t know military stuff, that means I went from being an 07 one-star to being an 09 three20
star and it happened nine months after I pinned on one star. Now, I’m not saying that to brag.
I’m just telling you that’s how it played.
Somebody made the mistake of telling the secretary of Defense, sir, you can’t promote him from
one-star to three-star. He said, oh, I can’t? (Laughter.) So I went to be the new director of the
National Security Agency. Now, I had worked for Powell at that point for almost two years and
he’s such an inspirational speaker and such a smart person. Everybody wants him to come talk.
So I get down in my new place and we’re doing our global thing and I said, now, what I need, I
need to get the Chairman to come out to NSA and speak to the workforce. I worked for him; I
know him. Mr. Chairman, this is Mike. Mike who? (Laughter.) He knew. I said, I need you to
come out and speak. He said, Mike, you know, look, I get 25 invitations a day. There’s no way
I can do this. I said, sir, I mean, I really, I’m just up the road, we really want – and he said, I
can’t. I can’t work it in. So I went back. I went back. I did it about four or five times. And,
finally, I came up with a plan. All of these Army guys, different from Navy guys – Navy guy
doesn’t have a gun: there’s no pistol; there’s no belt; the Army guys back here know exactly
what I’m talking about – sam brown belt, right?
Navy guys don’t have that stuff. Somewhere on your uniform, there’s something that says
you’re an expert marksman. Is that fair? Right. Now, you have to qualify on a periodic basis,
right? Now, if you weren’t wearing – if you dressed up like a tree – (laughter) – and your thing
is troops, this is success in the Army: you lead troops; you march; you – I never figured them
out. If they’re cold and wet and hungry, they’re happy. (Laughter.)
So, anyways, I called the Chairman. I said, Mr. Chairman, when is the last time you qualified as
expert pistol? Uhh – (laughter) – I said, so I got a pistol range; I’ll go down and pick you up. He
said, all right, all right, all right. I’ll do it. So we go down and pick him up. It’s a big limousine.
The Chairman and I got in the backseat. Otis, his driver, is in the front seat, big, black
limousine. So we were going up to NSA.
And the travel time is normally about 40 minutes. So we were clicking along at a pace that was
going to make it about 30 minutes. And the Chairman said, Otis, you’re not driving fast enough.
He said, yeah, Mr. Chairman? The last time you told me that, I got a ticket and I can’t afford any
more tickets. (Laughter.) He said, Otis, pick up the pace. Sir, I just can’t do it. I’d lose my
license. He said, Otis, pull over.
So the Chairman got out and got in the front seat. Otis got in the back seat with me. He said,
here we go. (Laughter.) Going to Fort Meade. So we’re screaming down the highway, a big
four-lane, you know, nobody on it that day. So we got there and we pulled onto the campus, Fort
Meade. And Sergeant Smith, no, no, Specialist Smith had the duty. And so, here comes the big,
black limousine. It was doing 65 miles an hour in a 30-mile zone. So he whips out his cruiser
and turns on the little whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, pulls him over.
So the specialist comes back to the car and the Chairman rolls down the window. He said, wait
right here. So I rolled down my window. He went back to his car and he said, Sergeant, I’ve got
a little problem here. (Laughter.) And the Serge said, what’s the problem? He said, sir, I’ve got
a vehicle doing 65 miles an hour in a 30-mile zone. And he said, give him a ticket. He said, sir,
you don’t understand. He said, what’s the problem? It’s a car on this base violating the posted
speed limit. Give him a ticket. He said, sir, you just don’t understand.
He said, give him a ticket, specialist. And he said, sir, there’s somebody really important in that
car. He said, I don’t care how important he is; give him a ticket. He said, you don’t understand:
really important. He said, well, who is it? He said, sir, I don’t know who’s in the backseat of
that car, but his driver is Colin Powell.
(Laughter, applause.)

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