Home News Speeches Financial Crimes Investigations
  • Grant D. Ashley
  • Executive Assistant Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators International Training Conference
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • September 03, 2004

Good morning!  It is a pleasure to be with you here in the Windy City.  I know that over the past week, you have been immersed in discussions about financial crimes, from mortgage fraud to identity theft.  In looking through my program, I noticed that some of the sessions earlier in the week were entitled "Introduction to Credit Card Fraud," "Introduction to Check Crimes," and "Introduction to Internet Crimes."  It sounds like an ideal course catalogue - not just for financial crimes investigators, but also for aspiring criminals!

Back in Washington, I serve as the Executive Assistant Director for Law Enforcement Services.  Before that, I headed up the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, where every day featured a meeting of financial crimes investigators.  One of the highlights of my current job is meeting with groups like this - dedicated public servants who share the FBI's mission to protect our fellow citizens from crime and terrorism.

The FBI has long been regarded as the world's premier law enforcement agency - and it still is.  But the attacks of September 11, 2001, changed the course of American history, and of the FBI's history.  Since that day, nearly three years ago, the FBI has moved steadily from an organization that was primarily focused on traditional criminal investigations to one that is actively investigating and disrupting terrorism.

Today, I want to give you an overview of the FBI's ongoing transformation into the world's premier investigative, counterterrorism and domestic intelligence agency.  I also want to talk about the threats we face in the financial crimes arena, and how we not only can, but must work together to meet and defeat these threats.

* * *

Most of you know the FBI was created almost a century ago because crime had begun to cross county and state lines.  In the 1930s, bank robbers and other criminals took advantage of new technology - cars - to help them escape across state borders and elude capture and prosecution. Back then, bank robberies were one of the few forms of financial crime.

Nearly 100 years later, criminal activity traverses international boundaries with the click of a mouse, and criminals can hide behind the cloak of anonymity provided by the Internet.  Today, we are not just chasing bank robbers across state lines.  We are tracking Internet hackers, corrupt CEOs, identity thieves, human traffickers, and terrorists and their supporters across international boundaries.

We are seeing a growing convergence of threats both old and new.  We see organized crime laundering money for drug groups.  Drug groups selling weapons to terrorists.  Terrorists committing white-collar fraud to raise money for their operations.  All of them exploiting the Internet in one way or another.

Crime, like business, has gone global.  The threats we face today have an increasingly international dimension - from telemarketing fraud and identity theft, to computer viruses and corporate espionage, to the trafficking of weapons or human beings, to terrorism.  Criminal and terrorist enterprises have replaced the threats of the last century.  Unfortunately, these threats are the product of the modern world in which we live.  Fortunately, we in the FBI have changed to meet these new threats.  Let me give you a few examples.

First, we adjusted our priorities.  Today, our counterterrorism program is our number one priority, followed by counterintelligence and cyber crime.  This means that no counterterrorism matter goes unaddressed, even if it means a diversion of resources from other FBI programs.  Every other FBI program, including criminal, supports these top three priorities either directly or indirectly.

Second, we overhauled the structure of the FBI, adding the Office of Intelligence, the Security Division, the Terrorism Financing Operations Section and the Espionage Section to support these new priorities.  The Criminal Division and the field completed a very significant restructuring and change in business practices.  Priorities are now based on threats, and investigations are intelligence-driven.   We also realigned our workforce, shifting agents to counterterrorism and adding hundreds more agents and analysts.  We also centralized counterterrorism management at FBI Headquarters to ensure that we can coordinate investigations across the country and throughout the world.

Third, we dramatically increased our intelligence capability.  While the FBI has always excelled at intelligence-gathering, we needed to improve our ability to analyze and share that information.  We created an Office of Intelligence and appointed an Executive Assistant Director for Intelligence to oversee all intelligence functions throughout the FBI.  We are recruiting and training hundreds of intelligence analysts, and establishing an intelligence career path for both agents and analysts.  We are active participants in the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and the Terrorist Screening Center.  And Director Mueller recently proposed the establishment of a Directorate of Intelligence within the FBI, which will have broad authority over all intelligence-related functions.

Day by day, intelligence is woven more deeply into the fabric of all FBI programs and operations.  Intelligence is becoming as routine to every FBI Agent as his or her gun and credentials.

Fourth, we improved our information sharing and coordination with the private sector and our law enforcement and intelligence partners.  The Patriot Act broke down the barriers that hindered our cooperation with the CIA.  We have made a tremendous effort to strengthen and build upon our relationships with our private sector, federal, state, and local partners.  Today, we have 100 Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country.  In 2001, we had only 35.  Today, we have 49 Legal Attaché offices around the world, assisting our international counterparts in intelligence and law enforcement.  Today, we all sit at the same conference tables.  We exchange officers and agents.  We chase down leads and solve cases together.

Fifth, we have made tremendous progress in upgrading our information technology.  We all know that it doesn't take long for criminals and terrorists to catch on to our technology and to adjust their tactics.  Secure, state-of-the-art information technology systems are critical to our ability to share information and to perform our core investigative functions.  We are well on our way toward modernizing our information technology, and we have plans in place to continually upgrade it so that we stay several steps ahead of our enemies.

Sixth, we continued to uphold our traditional criminal responsibilities.  We are still investigating violent crime, drugs, organized crime, gang activity, and financial crimes.  We are still cracking down on corporate fraud and public corruption.  We are still committed to protecting the civil liberties of all Americans.

This is no small feat.  To effectively confront all the criminal threats we face, the FBI has had to use its resources strategically, focusing on areas where we bring something special to the table or have unique jurisdiction.  Today, all assets of our criminal program are leveraged to support our counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and cyber priorities.  This strategy has helped us to eliminate institutional stovepipes, improve information sharing, and fully integrate intelligence into our criminal programs.

The criminal program has also pioneered a key counterterrorism strategy - focusing on the underlying threat and not just the overt criminal action.  It is not enough to capture terrorist operatives - we must demolish the entire terrorist organization, from financiers on up.  The same is true for criminal organizations.  Whether a criminal enterprise manipulates stocks, or smuggles drugs, weapons or humans, we must focus on dismantling the entire infrastructure of the organization, not just on nabbing the street criminals.

In every investigative area from counterterrorism, to criminal, to cyber, we in the FBI have come a long way since September 11, 2001.  But there is still much work ahead of us.

* * *

I want to turn for a moment to the threats we face in the financial crimes arena.  Financial crimes are no longer discrete entities.  Today, financial crime means health care fraud, mortgage fraud, check fraud, corporate fraud, money laundering, telemarketing fraud, public corruption, identity theft, and terrorist financing.

It has often been said that money is the root of all evil.  I don't know if that's the case, but I do know that it is the root of terrorism.  Terrorists rely on money to fund their training and operations.  They disguise their fundraising activities as legitimate charity organizations.  They resort to white-collar crime to raise money.  Money laundering is no longer exclusive to sophisticated criminals, but is now routine for terrorists.

Money can also be the fruit of terrorism and crime.  Today's terrorists and criminals use sophisticated business practices to achieve their goals, not unlike those of legitimate multinational corporations.  Criminals today are not just stealing funds, they are stealing credit card information, social security numbers - entire identities - and selling them for profit.  Those who traffic in humans, drugs, or weapons are motivated and rewarded by money.

The criminal landscape has changed dramatically since the early days of the FBI.  Our enemies have diversified, and they make it a point to be unpredictable.   And in today's world, our enemies do not fall into neatly divided categories.  The lines separating crime from terrorism have blurred.

As financial crimes investigators, it is inevitable that some of your cases will have a connection to terrorism.  Terrorists, like common criminals, cannot hide forever in remote corners of the world.  They have to interact with society, particularly if they intend to strike inside the United States.  They may apply for credit cards and set up bank accounts.  They may set up illegal money transfer systems.  They may solicit donations for charities that are fronts for terrorist organizations.  They may steal innocent identities - or create bogus ones - to set their plans in motion.

* * *

Defeating them will not be easy - but it is critical.  This is why all of you - the Nation's finest financial crimes investigators - are so important.   In today's FBI, criminal investigators scrutinize cases from credit card fraud to food stamp scams for any nexus to terrorism, particularly any terrorist-related financing.  You do the same.  Without money, terrorists cannot carry out their mission.  It is our mission and it is your mission to seize every opportunity to identify and stop them before they can harm us.  Where appropriate, we need to work closely.

In this fast-paced and rapidly shrinking world, our challenge is to hold on to what we know works, while making room for new and improved investigative techniques and technologies.  Our mission is to aggressively investigate and prevent crime and terrorism, while respecting and protecting the civil liberties of all Americans.  To do this, we must combine the tools of law enforcement with the tools of intelligence.   We must use the same investigative capabilities to catch criminals wiring funds to terrorists that we use to root out corporate fraud.  We must work locally, but think globally.  And we must apply our unique strengths even as we share them and blend them with those of other agencies.

Success demands our dedication and our continued commitment to working together.  By uniting to fight financial crimes, we are uniting to protect our fellow citizens against all threats, from fraudulent telemarketing to terrorism.  If we continue to work together, we cannot - and we will not - fail.

Thank you all for taking the time to attend this conference.  Thank you for your outstanding service to this great Nation.

 
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