Home News Speeches The FBI: Changing to Meet Today's Challenges
  • Robert S. Mueller, III
  • Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Kansas State University Landon Lecture
  • Manhattan, Kansas
  • April 13, 2004

Thank you Senator Roberts and President Wefald. Thank you faculty and students, patrons, and alumni. I am indeed honored to be here. It was pointed out to me that I am the first FBI Director to speak at the Alfred Landon Lecture Series. While that may be the case, I want to point out that it is not the first time the FBI has been here.

I recall one historical visit in 1968, when the FBI was here to protect Senator Robert Kennedy. The former Attorney General had just announced his candidacy for President. Prior to his speech, Kennedy received threatening letters. And the FBI was called upon to provide added protection at that event.

The FBI's role in protecting Americans has changed with the times. Usually it changes in response to an emerging threat or a major incident.

As it happens, one of these incidents occurred in nearby Kansas City on June 17, 1933, when FBI special agents and police officers were waiting outside the train station to pick up a prisoner on his way to the penitentiary in Leavenworth.


Friends of the prisoner had an escape plan and called on "Pretty Boy" Floyd for help. At about 7:20 in the morning, Floyd and his cohorts began shooting. In about 30 seconds it was over. Two lawmen were wounded. Four, as well as the prisoner, were dead. The attacks became known as the "Kansas City Massacre."

This incident caused an uproar in the political and law enforcement communities. It changed American attitudes about crime and law enforcement. It also dramatically influenced the evolution of the FBI as an organization. Until then, the FBI had been a small agency composed of investigators who were not permitted to carry firearms or to make arrests.

That was about to change. Less than a year later, President Roosevelt signed into law several statutes increasing the Bureau's jurisdiction. The FBI would lead the fight against gangsters, earning Special Agents the name of government-men or "G-men."

Throughout its history, the FBI has always changed to meet new threats. Although, probably at no time in history has the FBI changed on such a large scale as in the past two-and-a-half years.

Today, I want to give you a broad look at these changes. I will explain why change was needed, describe these changes, and show what the FBI has accomplished by its efforts to protect Americans.

To look at "why" the FBI needed to change, think back to when it was established. Nearly a century ago, the FBI was created 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.

Today, 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.

We recently had a case in Antarctica, where a U.S. scientific research station reported to us that their systems had been hacked into and their data corrupted. They asked for our help. Antarctica was frozen over and aircraft would not be allowed to land there for another six months.

But in Washington, our investigators were able to trace the source of the intrusion to a server in a trucking company outside Pittsburgh. Soon after, we identified two suspects in Romania, and - with the help of the Romanian authorities - they were arrested and are currently being prosecuted. Today, cases with an international nexus have become the rule rather than the exception.

By September 11, 2001, we knew the world was changing. The world was growing smaller and more interconnected in an evolving crime landscape. In the wake of September 11th, it became clear that the FBI needed to change even more than had been anticipated.

Immediately following 9/11, the FBI's number one priority became the prevention of terrorist attacks. This required a systematic approach examining all aspects of Bureau operations. Everything from how we communicate inside the FBI to how we communicate outside to other agencies; how we refocus on terrorism, but continue to uphold our other responsibilities; how we disseminate our intelligence information, yet protect it from foreign spies who want to know what we know.

Our review was comprehensive. For the sake of explanation, let me approach it the way an agent approaches a case. The first questions an agent asks are who, what, where, when, why, and how. I will address each one - although necessarily not in that order.

Given the evolution of threats, we can see "why" the FBI needed to change. The next question is "what" the FBI needed to do to successfully carry out its new mission. Let me begin by offering you a look at the problem from where we stand. I want to give you four hypothetical scenarios. See if you can remember them, because I will come back to them later.


o One, a home is raided, and containers found inside test positive for ricin - a deadly poison.
o Two, a police officer pulls over an individual for exceeding the speed limit on I-70 and runs a background check which indicates that the man may be a known or suspected terrorist.
o Three, an unattended briefcase is found on a train headed to Washington, D.C.
o Four, in Abu Dhabi, a U.S. citizen is reported by her family to be missing, possibly kidnapped.

Any one of these diverse incidents could be harmless. Or any one of these could be related to terrorism. They are the kind of situations that confront the FBI each and every day. Although this list is incomplete, it does give you an idea of the range of matters the FBI is asked to resolve.

In order to emphasize our mission of prevention, we first had to look at "what" we were doing. As a result, we restructured our priorities into three areas: national security, criminal, and support. Under national security we have reorganized so that counterterrorism is the overarching priority. Every terrorism lead is addressed, even if it requires a diversion of resources from other areas.

Our second priority is counterintelligence. Spies from other countries want to steal our secrets. They have seen our successes in Afghanistan and Iraq with laser guided weapons, command and control communications. These countries want this technology without having to develop it themselves. We must protect our national secrets.

The last national security priority is preventing cyber attacks on our computers, financial institutions and infrastructure. Needless to say this is a growth industry.

Next are our criminal priorities. Those are public corruption, protection of civil rights, transnational and national criminal enterprises, major white collar crimes and significant violent crimes.

Lastly, the two support priorities are important to us because they help us to accomplish the operational priorities I have just mentioned. The first one is the development of partnerships with state and local law enforcement and our counterparts overseas. The second is completing the upgrade of our information technology.

On top of the "what" that helped us re-order our priorities, we had to look at "where" we would shift FBI resources to ensure that we could accomplish our goals. 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 doubled the number of Special Agents and analysts in counterterrorism and added approximately 450 translators.

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. One 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.

Remember the hypothetical scenario with the ricin found in a person's home? Our Bioterrorism Risk Assessment Group, one of our new initiatives, determines that the suspect does have access to toxins because of his job at a university, but represents a low risk for terrorism. We put that issue to rest.

Aside from where we put our resources, we also needed to question "how" we were operating. There are three important ways the FBI has changed how we do our work. 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. This year, we will implement software that will, for the first time, move the FBI from being a paper-driven organization to a digital organization.

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

The third change is in how we support our operations. An administrative 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.

And perhaps this is a good time for me to put in a recruiting plug to those of you who might be interested in coming to work for us. At the FBI, we have many different types of jobs. We have experts in fields from martial arts to graphic arts. So if you are interested in law enforcement or if you simply want to serve your country, give us a call. We always need more good people.

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.

After "how" we do business, the next element in the FBI's transformation is one of the most important. It is also an area to which Senator Roberts has focused much of his time and effort. It is the need for better intelligence information. And with regard to intelligence, timing is everything. Today's intelligence is tomorrow's old news, which is why we needed to address the question of "when." We need to have the information we need "when" we need it.

Essential to predicting and preventing future terrorist attacks is improving our intelligence analysis. 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, the FBI has developed sophisticated intelligence-gathering capabilities.

To improve these capabilities, we 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.

The goal is to integrate intelligence into all of our operations to produce a seamless, predictive, analytical capability. But intelligence can only help if it is shared. Today, we produce daily intelligence reports and bulletins to share with the intelligence community as well as with our state and local partners.

Now go back to the scenario with the suspicious man who was pulled over by the police officer. There, a call is made to the Terrorist Screening Center. An analyst runs a check on the name and indicates that the man who has been stopped is not the terrorist suspect for whom we were looking. The individual is allowed to continue on his way.

The final question we had to address was "who." We cannot defeat terrorists without strong partnerships throughout the law enforcement, the intelligence and the international communities. Knowing this, we have focused on improving the level of coordination and information sharing with state and local law enforcement. Our 84 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.

Remember our scenario with the briefcase left on a train? Here a call goes out to the local FBI office, and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force coordinate the response and determine it was inadvertently left behind by a passenger.

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. How can we defeat international terrorism without the help of countries such as Great Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Kenya?

That is why the FBI, like many institutions, has gone global. Our first international office was established in 1940. Today, we have 46 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. Amongst those trained were officers from Saudi Arabia. When the FBI responded to the bombings in Riyadh last year, the Saudi's told us: "We trained together, now we can work together."

Remember the scenario with the missing United States citizen? Thanks to our new Legal Attaché office in Abu Dhabi, we are able to work cooperatively with local law enforcement. They find the woman, who was sick and had simply been out of touch for a few days.

You will note that all four of our scenarios were found not to be terrorism-related. In each case, the FBI employed methods that are either new or improved since September 11th. While many more threats exist in the world, these examples give you an idea how many stones must be overturned in the fight against terrorism. It is an extremely difficult challenge, but we are making progress.

This is merely a broad overview of how the FBI has been changing over the past two-and-one-half years. By describing these changes, as well as some of the thinking behind them, it is my hope to give you a better idea of how the FBI is working to protect you and your families.

When Robert Kennedy spoke here that day in 1968, guarded by FBI Agents, he said, "We are in a time of unprecedented turbulence, of danger, of questioning." His statement was true then, and it is also true today.

The examples I used today show the enormity of the task we face in turning over every stone - and how many searches, thankfully, turn up nothing at all. It can be difficult to measure what you do not find. But I can say that our counterterrorism efforts have produced significant results. Since September 11, 2001, the FBI has worked with our partners to disrupt a number of terrorist operations both here and overseas.

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


We have conducted more than 70 investigations into terrorist money trails and frozen more than $125 million in assets.

We have made steady progress in the war against terrorism, but our work is not yet finished. As evidenced by the March 11 attacks in Spain, terrorists remain capable of organizing large-scale attacks.
In the midst of these organizational changes, let me state that there are some things in the FBI that should not change and, indeed, I hope will never change.

One thing we did not have to question after 9/11 is our core values. These values include strict adherence to the Constitution. The FBI is committed to protecting civil liberties. Because years from now we will be judged not only on whether we defeat terrorism, but also by how well we uphold our cherished civil liberties. These rights must not now- not ever - be taken for granted.

Another constant is the outstanding devotion to duty of FBI employees. The culture of the FBI has always been a culture of hard work, integrity, and dedication to protecting the United States. I see this culture every day, in every FBI office, and in every FBI employee.

Our transformation is succeeding, but it has been demanding. For the changes we have made, one must give full credit to the men and women of the FBI. Many of them have consistently sacrificed, placing duty to our country over their own self-interest as they undertook these new challenges.

They do this because in their hearts they know the FBI's primary responsibility is to protect the citizens of the United States, to secure freedom and to preserve justice for all Americans. The FBI has always answered this call with fidelity, bravery, and integrity. It is our motto. It is our fundamental creed.

We in the FBI have come a long way since the days of the Kansas City Massacre, since the days when Bobby Kennedy was here speaking. We in the FBI have committed ourselves to making the fundamental changes necessary to combat evolving threats that target our country. We have made progress, and we will continue to meet - and to defeat - all threats against the security of our nation and its citizens.

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

 
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