Home News Speeches FBI Intelligence and Counterterrorism Program
  • Cassandra M. Chandler
  • Assistant Director, Public Affairs
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • National Air and Space Intelligence Center
  • Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio
  • September 27, 2004

Good morning. It's a pleasure to be here with you today to talk a bit about the FBI and our intelligence and counterterrorism programs. I'm actually going to try to keep my remarks under 20 minutes to give everyone the maximum amount of time possible to ask questions. So forgive me if I cover a lot of territory quickly!

At NASIC, you spend much of your time literally plucking information out of the air -- and even out of the vacuum of space. As I understand it, your focus is primarily on MASINT and SIGINT.

At the FBI, we're more "boots on the ground." While, we may occasionally collect information from cyberspace and wiretaps, for the most part, our focus is on HUMINT gathered from assets and informants and thousands of tips from ordinary citizens.

Since September 11, 2001, the FBI has worked with you and our other partners gathering and using intelligence to disrupt a number of terrorist operations both here and overseas. But, contrary to what some believe, our efforts in gathering and using intelligence and our investigation of counterterrorism did not begin on September 12 -- they have been part of the Bureau's mission for decades.

The FBI was created nearly a century ago to investigate criminal activity that had begun to cross county and state lines. As America's crime problem evolved, so did the Bureau. Its mission grew and changed through the gangster era and into the Cold War, when national security and espionage threats came to the forefront.

The FBI has always used intelligence to solve cases. It is how we pursued Nazi spies during World War II and La Cosa Nostra in the seventies and eighties. Over the years, we have developed very sophisticated intelligence-gathering capabilities.

And the FBI has always investigated domestic terrorism – whether it involved lone actors like the Unabomber or conspirators like Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

What has changed over the years is that criminal and terrorist threats increasingly have an international dimension. Jet travel, cell phones and the Internet have made it the rare case that does not cross international boundaries. The dark side of globalization is the dangerous convergence it has encouraged between terrorist, intelligence, and criminal groups, which all operate to some extent over the Internet and through interconnected, sophisticated networks. In this environment, the traditional distinctions between organized crime, cyber crime, espionage, and terrorism have broken down. Credit card fraud is being perpetrated by the Russian mafia and by al Qaeda operatives. Spies from enemies and allies alike are trying to hack into our computer systems and steal trade and defense secrets. Organized crime is laundering money for terrorists. Al Qaeda operatives are some of the world's largest heroin dealers. And earlier this year we busted yet another cigarette smuggling operation that was funneling money to terrorist organizations.

To meet the challenges of today, the FBI changed the way we did our work in three important ways.

The first is that, in the past, the investigation of terrorism threats was generally focused in the field office where they originated — along with all the information and records pertaining to that case. This made it difficult to see connections and patterns. Now the FBI operates under centralized management of our counterterrorism program. The result is better coordination within the FBI, and between the FBI and our law enforcement and intelligence counterparts.

The second change is directed at upgrading our technology. Today more than ever, the FBI must rely on integrated information technology systems. We have made significant progress in upgrading our information technology to improve our ability to search for information, analyze it, draw connections, and share it both inside the Bureau and outside with our partners. We have begun utilizing software that will, eventually, move the FBI from being a paper-driven organization to a digital organization.

The adoption of intelligence technology has already improved our capabilities. This year, during the Super Bowl in Houston, we were able to conduct over 65,000 queries in three days. In the past, an analyst would have to work three months to do the equivalent.

The third change is in how we support our operations. An organizational re-engineering is making the FBI more efficient and more responsive. We have also strengthened our recruiting and hiring to attract persons with the skills we need to carry out our counterterrorism and our intelligence missions, such as backgrounds in computer sciences, Middle-Eastern studies, or foreign languages.

Aside from our aggressive recruitment efforts, we have developed better training and new leadership initiatives to keep our employees learning and growing throughout their careers. And as a final administrative change, we have built up our internal security to protect us from spies.

To confront an enemy as cunning as Al Qaeda, it was clear that the FBI would have to become more flexible, more agile, and more mobile. First, we needed more manpower. Since September 11th, we have not only doubled the number of Special Agents, but we have also increased the number of intelligence analysts. We expanded their career path, set performance standards, and developed training that will be ongoing for their entire career. And we have incorporated elements of our basic intelligence training course into the New Agents Class curriculum.

We also established specialized operational units that give us new capabilities to address the terrorist threat. One focuses on terrorist financing, and another exploits evidence found overseas. Yet another conducts background checks on individuals seeking biological agents here in the United States. A special task force is dedicated solely to finding terrorists overseas and keeping them out of the United States, while multiple "Fly Teams" travel wherever and whenever they are needed to lend their counterterrorism expertise.

And our new Field Intelligence Groups (FIGs) integrate analysts, Agents, linguists, and surveillance personnel in the field to bring a dedicated team focus to intelligence operations.

The goal is to integrate intelligence into all of our operations to produce a seamless, predictive, analytical capability. And, as a result of these efforts, we are on course to triple our intelligence production this year.

But intelligence can only help if it is shared. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall hang separately." Today, we produce daily intelligence reports and bulletins to share with the intelligence community as well as with our state and local partners. We cannot defeat terrorists without strong partnerships throughout the law enforcement, the intelligence and the international communities.

Today, we all find ourselves standing on the 50-yard line, suited up and facing tough opponents. The only way we can defeat today's sophisticated criminal and terrorist's networks is with strong networks of our own. More than ever, we have to come together as a team. And that means everyone -- law enforcement, the intelligence community, small businesses and large corporations, and the community as a whole. One team. One motivation - protecting our country. All of us are part of that team.

Knowing this, we have focused on improving the level of coordination and information sharing with state and local law enforcement. Our 100 Joint Terrorism Task Forces put federal, state, and local law enforcement together to investigate threats and share information. In communities across the country, they are the eyes and ears in the fight against terrorism.

And our partners in the CIA and the military have removed the sanctuary of Afghanistan. Working together, we have captured thousands of Al Qaeda operatives around the world, including much of their leadership.

While we have made steady progress in the war against terrorism, our work is not yet finished. As evidenced by the March 11 attacks in Spain and other recent incidents overseas, terrorists remain capable of organizing large-scale attacks.

The age of global threats has moved the Bureau into an age of global partnerships. The clear-cut divisions of responsibility and jurisdictions that once existed between agencies – and between countries – are becoming less and less relevant.

That is why the FBI, like many institutions, has gone global. Our first international office was established in 1940. Today, we have 56 of these "Legal Attaché" offices in embassies around the world.

To help strengthen our partnerships at all levels, the FBI provides training to state, local and international law enforcement. We offer FBI academies in Budapest and Dubai, where the FBI trains officers from other countries. And we reap the benefits of that training in improved international cooperation. For example, we have trained officers from Saudi Arabia. And when the FBI responded to the bombings in Riyadh, the Saudi's told us: "We trained together, now we can work together."

Just last spring, our improved international relations helped us tackle crime on the South Pole. That's right, Antarctica. A United States scientific research station located in the coldest spot on the planet called us for help after their computer systems had been hacked into and their data corrupted.

Because of the sub-freezing temperatures, it was impossible to send Agents to the scene – no aircraft could land or take off from the site for months. But working from thousands of miles away, our investigators were able to trace the source of the intrusion to a server outside Pittsburgh. From there, we identified two Romanian suspects. Thanks to the cooperation and hard work of the Romanian authorities, they were arrested outside Bucharest shortly thereafter.

Conducting operations in Antarctica from FBI offices in DC; Los Angeles; and Mobile, Alabama. Working hand-in-hand with police in Romania based on data from a server in Pittsburgh. It's a whole new world. But it's a world that the FBI is adapting to cope with, as we have throughout our history. And it's a world in which we will still fulfill our primary mission in partnership with others, like you -- to protect America.

Thank you for having me today. I am happy to take your questions

 
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