Federal Bureau of Investigation: National Security Branch
The FBI’s National Security Branch carries out its mission while preserving the constitutional and statutory rights of Americans. The FBI’s long history of protecting civil rights provides a unique perspective on maintaining a proper balance between protection and privacy.
National Security Branch
The National Security Branch (NSB) was established on September 12, 2005, in response to a presidential directive and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Commission recommendation to create a “National Security Service” combining the missions, capabilities, and resources of the FBI’s counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and intelligence elements under the leadership of a senior FBI official.
In July 2006, the NSB created the WMD Directorate to integrate components previously distributed throughout the FBI. The NSB also includes the Terrorist Screening Center, which provides crucial, actionable intelligence to state and local law enforcement, and the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, an interagency body whose members collect intelligence from key terror suspects to prevent attacks against the United States and its allies.
Combining the FBI’s national security workforce and mission under one leadership umbrella enhances our contribution to the national intelligence effort and allows us to leverage resources from our intelligence community (IC), federal, state, local, tribal, private, and foreign partners.
The NSB carries out the FBI’s responsibilities as the lead intelligence and law enforcement agency in the nation to detect, deter, and disrupt national security threats to the United States and its interests. While maintaining the Bureau’s goal to preserve civil liberties, the branch collects and analyzes intelligence pertaining to national security threats and shares this information with our public, private, federal, state, local, and tribal partners.
The FBI continues to refine its intelligence capabilities to stay ahead of the evolving threats our nation faces. Intelligence directs how we understand threats, how we prioritize and investigate these threats, and how we target our resources to address them.
To be successful, we continue to integrate our intelligence and law enforcement capabilities in every operational program. The traditional distinction between national security and criminal matters is increasingly blurred as terrorists commit crimes to finance their activities and computer hackers create vulnerabilities foreign spies can exploit. The integration of intelligence and investigations makes the FBI uniquely situated to address these threats and vulnerabilities across programs. The FBI draws on both intelligence and law enforcement tools to determine strategically where and when to disrupt threats.
The NSB’s daily successes in addressing these national security threats are reinforced by longstanding partnerships. With thousands of private and public business alliances and more than 4,200 interagency members on our Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs)—interagency teams of federal, state, and local entities which carry out the FBI’s responsibility for leading and coordinating all intelligence and investigative activity involving terrorism—the FBI’s partnerships are essential to achieving our mission and ensuring a coordinated approach to addressing national security threats.
The Counterterrorism Division works with intelligence and law enforcement partners to provide a centralized, comprehensive, and intelligence-driven approach to address international and domestic terrorism-related matters. It also oversees the more than 100 JTTFs nationwide.
The Counterintelligence Division is charged with preventing and investigating foreign intelligence activities within the United States. The Counterintelligence Division targets both traditional and emerging nontraditional threats and investigates espionage activities using both intelligence and law enforcement techniques. The Counterintelligence Division is home to the FBI’s Counterproliferation Center, which focuses on preventing the acquisition of WMD and controlled technologies by our nation’s adversaries.
The Directorate of Intelligence is the FBI’s dedicated national intelligence workforce, with clear authority and responsibility for all FBI intelligence functions. The DI’s mission is to provide strategic support, direction, and oversight to the FBI’s intelligence program, and it carries out its functions through embedded intelligence elements at FBI Headquarters and through Field Intelligence Groups in each field division.
The Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate leads efforts to deny state and non-state sponsored adversaries access to WMD materials and technologies, to detect and disrupt the use of WMD, and to respond to WMD threats and incidents. The WMD Directorate integrates and links all the necessary counterterrorism, intelligence, counterintelligence, and scientific and technical components to accomplish the FBI’s overall WMD mission.
The Terrorist Screening Center consolidates the government’s approach to terrorist screening by creating and maintaining a single comprehensive watchlist of known or suspected terrorists, and making this consolidated list available to all federal, state, and local screeners through its 24/7 call center.
The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group is an interagency body, housed within the NSB, and staffed with members from various IC agencies. Its mission is to gather and apply the nation’s best resources to collect intelligence from key terror suspects in order to prevent terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies.
Texas Explosives Plotter Captured
The FBI arrested Khalid Aldawsari on February 23, 2011, in Lubbock, Texas, for obtaining several chemicals in order to construct an improvised explosive device (IED) and attempting to construct the IED. During the investigation, the FBI received a public tip about Aldawsari’s attempt to purchase a large amount of concentrated phenol. The Dallas Field Office quickly coordinated and leveraged the resources of multiple field offices to gather as much intelligence as possible. The investigation revealed Aldawsari researched several targets, including former members of the military stationed in Iraq; several reservoir dams and power plants; and the Dallas, Texas, home of President George W. Bush. The FBI’s legally authorized electronic surveillance further revealed Aldawsari used multiple e-mail accounts to research his targets as well as instructions for making explosive materials and for using cellular phones as remote detonators. On November 13, 2012, Aldawsari was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his purchase of chemicals and equipment necessary to make an IED and his research of potential targets.
“Puffer Fish” Toxin Attack Thwarted
The FBI’s JTTF arrested Edward F. Bachner, IV on June 30, 2008, outside of a UPS store after he picked up a package containing tetrodotoxin (TTX), a neurotoxin found in certain animal species, which results in fatal poisoning when consumed. Thanks to an FBI “tripwire” program which educates private sector companies—especially those with products extremists can purchase for operational plans—on what activities are suspicious and when to notify authorities, an employee of the company producing the TTX contacted the FBI after Bachner made a suspicious order. The FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit took possession of the toxin and transported the material to the FBI Laboratory for analysis. FBI forensic teams conducted a search of the Bachner residence and found additional materials later determined by the lab to contain TTX. In 2012, Bachner was convicted of one count of wire fraud and one count of possession of a neurotoxin with intent to use as a weapon. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
The Alaska Peacemakers Militia Disrupted
In 2009, the Anchorage Field Office in coordination with the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, began an initial investigation on The Alaska Peacemakers Militia and its leader, Schaffer Cox. Cox preached violent rhetoric and encouraged violence toward federal employees. Specifically, he advocated a retaliation plan he dubbed “241,” calling for the militia members to kill or kidnap two officials for any member of the group who might be killed or arrested. The FBI’s Anchorage Field Office and Counterterrorism Division—along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Alaska State Troopers, and the Fairbanks Police Department—coordinated investigative efforts and resources to gather intelligence on the terrorist threat Cox and members of the Alaska Peacemakers posed. The Cox case was the largest and most complex domestic terrorism investigation ever worked in the Anchorage Field Office. In June 2011, members of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, including Cox, were found guilty of conspiracy to possess silencers, hand grenades, and other illegal weapons. Cox and co-conspirator Lonnie Vernon were also found guilty of conspiracy to murder federal officials.
U.S. Capitol Bombing Attempt Foiled
The FBI arrested Amine El-Khalifi on February 17, 2012 as he walked to the U.S. Capitol building intent on detonating a bomb inside. Starting in 2010, El-Khalifi had an interest in joining the mujahedeen to fight in Afghanistan. Coordinating with Counterterrorism Division, the Washington Field Office’s JTTF used a confidential human source to collect intelligence and gain insight into El- Khalifi’s operational plans. After being introduced to an undercover JTTF officer, whom El-Khalifi thought to be a member of al Qaeda, El-Khalifi began discussing options for carrying out an attack. El-Khalifi’s proposed targets included a building containing U.S. military offices, as well as a synagogue and a restaurant frequented by military officials, before he decided on the U.S. Capitol. In September 2012, El-Khalifi was sentenced to 30 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release.
Plot to Steal Trade Secrets Uncovered
FBI Special Agents arrested two People’s Republic of China (PRC) nationals, Qi Xiao Guang and Huang Ji Li, in a Kansas City, Missouri, hotel room on September 2, 2012, after the men paid $25,000 in cash for stolen documents containing Pittsburgh Corning trade secrets used to manufacture cellular glass insulation. FBI surveillance experts recorded Qi and Huang meeting with a person the men thought was a Pittsburgh Corning employee willing to steal and sell trade secrets. Instead, their contact was an experienced and trusted employee serving as an FBI confidential human source. Company officials contacted the FBI after an advertisement placed with a local newspaper in July 2012 sought to hire “technical talent” with foam glass experience for a new Asian factory. Using an FBI-provided e-mail address, the source exchanged FBI-monitored e-mails with the PRC contacts during the summer of 2012. The conspirators detailed plans to use the stolen secrets to open a competing plant in the PRC to manufacture cellular glass insulation, a product in high demand for industrial piping systems and liquefied natural gas storage tanks. Qi and Huang reached plea agreements with federal prosecutors in November 2012.
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The FBI has a rich history of using intelligence to solve cases. Ranging from investigating gangsters in the 1930s; to unraveling intelligence threats during the Cold War era; to fighting organized crime in the 1970s; to combating drug trafficking in the 1980s; to identifying and disrupting terrorist networks in the past decades, we have accepted the nation’s most pressing challenges and risen to the occasion. In our role as both an intelligence agency and a law enforcement agency, we are uniquely positioned to respond to the changing world with its new adversaries and threats.
Please contact your local FBI office and ask to speak with a representative for national security matters.
You may also contact the FBI’s national Headquarters at 202-324-3000, or write to us at:
National Security Branch
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535