Home News Speeches Tomorrow's FBI: Changing to Meet New Challenges
  • Robert S. Mueller III
  • Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • Washington, DC
  • June 22, 2004

Today marks the anniversary of two significant events. The first is that 134 years ago, Congress created the Department of Justice. Apparently the Department was founded because private attorneys hired to handle the increased litigation following the Civil War were becoming too costly. Even in 1870, lawyers were too expensive.

Later, as crime began to cross county and state lines, the FBI was established. Soon, the gangster era demanded a federal force that could track bank robbers, bootleggers, and violent criminals crossing state lines to evade capture.

The second event occurred on this day in 1932. In response to the much-publicized Lindbergh kidnapping, Congress gave the FBI authority to investigate kidnappings nationwide.

A great deal has changed since then, but there is also much that remains the same. It is in the context of this juncture of old and new that I want to discuss today's changing threat, our new mission, and the future of the FBI.

Technology and travel have made the world smaller than ever. Criminal activity not only crosses state lines, it traverses international boundaries at the stroke of a computer key. Crime is more diverse than ever before. It includes terrorism, corporate fraud, illegal weapons trade, and the trafficking of human beings.

And there is a growing convergence of these 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.

Today's threat is increasingly asymmetrical and complex. During the Cold War, the United States had in the Soviet Union a relatively predictable enemy which it fought in relatively predictable ways. Like chess, it was complicated, but there were only two sides and a limited number of moves available to each. Now, the dynamic more closely resembles the latest computer game than an old-fashioned chess game.

The international threat of criminal and terrorist organizations is the product of the modern world in which we live. Today, terrorists and criminals use sophisticated business practices to achieve their goals, not unlike that of legitimate multinational corporations.

This is how Al Qaeda functioned before 9/11. Since then, they have shown an ability to evolve. Today their control is more fragmented. Al Qaeda is working with other independent groups and individuals sympathetic to their cause. And they are recruiting outside the Middle East to find individuals who will easily blend with the American population as well as those who are disenfranchised within the United States.

In the war against terrorism one cannot help but be struck by the dichotomy of old and new airplanes used as weapons, plastic explosives hidden in donkey carts, and videotaped beheadings posted on the Internet. Terrorists who shun our way of life are more than willing to use our technology to carry out and publicize their attacks. Increasingly, the global community of the Internet is used not only to break down barriers, but also to sustain and nurture centuries-old hatreds.

These are problems as old as human history, and we cannot expect them to be solved overnight. In 1946, George Kennan issued his Long Telegram, urging a strategy of containment against the Soviet Union. He said that it would be longer and tougher than Americans had realized, but that he believed freedom would prevail.

So it is with terrorism. Again, it will be a long and difficult war. However, this time, mere containment will not suffice. We must fight back on multiple fronts, with methods both old and new. We must go after terrorists and stop them before they strike.

With globalization, the ability of nation-states to effectively respond to criminal activity is seriously challenged. To confront this dangerous new landscape, law enforcement must continue to evolve. We in the FBI have already changed to meet these new threats, but more change is needed. Immediately following September 11th, our primary mission became the prevention of terrorist attacks.

As a result, our top three national security priorities are now counterterrorism, counterintelligence and cyber security.

This means every counterterrorism lead is addressed, even if it requires a diversion of resources from other areas. All other programs support this goal either directly or indirectly. Despite the progress we have made by removing the sanctuary of Afghanistan and detaining two-thirds of their leaders, Al Qaeda still has the desire and the means to attack us. This will likely be the case for years to come.

In counterintelligence we are alert to the potential for a foreign power to penetrate the U.S. Intelligence Community and to compromise Critical National Assets. We are also deeply concerned about an agent of a hostile group or nation producing or using weapons of mass destruction.

Furthermore, the players in the espionage game have diversified. The number of countries engaged in espionage against the U.S. has risen since the end of the Cold War. And we are no longer dealing exclusively with intelligence agents. Today the threat can just as easily come from students, business executives, or hackers.

In the cyber area, we continue to see a dramatic rise in computer-related crimes, such as denial of service attacks, and in traditional crimes that have migrated on line, such as identity theft, copyright infringement, and child pornography.

Thanks to our increasingly interconnected world, isolated individuals can now launch attacks costing billions of dollars and impacting millions of people. You may recall the Love Bug from a few years ago developed by a student from the Philippines. By the time the "Love" virus had run its course, millions of systems had been disrupted. Total damages worldwide were estimated at 8 to 10 billion dollars. This trend will increase as criminals discover new ways to exploit the Internet.

The future is sure to bring further challenges. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called 9/11 a failure of imagination. In the future, we must have the creativity to think of possibilities we have not yet imagined. We must become more flexible, more agile, and more mobile. I envision tomorrow's FBI as a highly-trained, electronically sophisticated, internationally networked organization that has terrorism as its principal target.

To confront tomorrow's threats, we must continue developing our capabilities in intelligence, in technology, and internationally.

The FBI has always used intelligence in pursuing its criminal cases. It is how we fought Nazi spies during World War II, Soviet espionage during the Cold War, and La Cosa Nostra in the seventies and eighties.

While the FBI has always excelled at intelligence-gathering, we need to improve our ability to analyze and share that information. We cannot prevent terrorist attacks without the ability to identify potential terrorists, predict their actions, and neutralize them before they attack.

This is why we are establishing a Directorate of Intelligence within the FBI -- one with broad authority over all intelligence-related functions. This is the next logical step in the current evolution of the FBI's intelligence capability.

This service within a service maintains our commitment to the integration of our law enforcement and intelligence operations. At the same time, it would create direct lines of authority and accountability.

Intelligence is a tool. That tool becomes increasingly important when there are more threats than we can physically pursue. We need an edge to tell us what to investigate. Soon, all counterterrorism cases will be intelligence-driven operations with law enforcement sanctions as an ancillary aspect. Intelligence will be as routine to every FBI Agent as his or her gun and his or her credentials.

Likewise, intelligence analysts will need new tools and capabilities. It does not take long for terrorists to catch on to our technology and to adjust. In the future, it must be upgraded on a continuous basis so that we stay several steps ahead of our enemies.

We will have a fully operational modern information technology infrastructure. One with seamless information sharing that will close the communication gap with our law enforcement partners and the intelligence community. Our overriding goal is to provide the right information, to the right people, at the right time.

In addition to being connected through technology, we need enhanced connections internationally. Indeed, these relationships will be the key to our success. No nation, or agency, can fight crime and terrorism alone.

Since 9/11, our 48 international offices or Legats have become increasingly important to our overall operations. What began strictly as a liaison, now assists our counterparts overseas on joint investigations, intelligence-sharing, and the development of new methods to prevent attacks.

In one recent case, an e-mail contained a threat to bomb the New York subway. Working with our counterparts we were able to trace the message to a Russian address and ask the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry to investigate the credibility of the threat. They mobilized their resources and resolved the threat. This is an example of the instantaneous, 24-hour cooperation we now enjoy with our former Cold War adversary.

In the future, the FBI will have offices or Legats in every country with a major impact on the United States. Their resources will include agents, analysts and reports officers who will be instantly connected throughout the world.

U.S. law enforcement will have to be aligned with our counterparts overseas much like our military forces are aligned with their counterparts overseas. Some day, there will likely be an official international anti-terrorism alliance, with a structure similar to NATO -- united partners joined against a common enemy.

To meet the growing international challenge, the FBI will need a truly diverse workforce of individuals who think differently and have different views of the universe. In hiring employees, we will still need those with a background in law enforcement and the military. But we will also need individuals with specialty backgrounds, who understand international law, are fluent in foreign languages, or have a background in intelligence.

We need to bring people from other countries Indonesia or Pakistan -- here to work jointly with the FBI. We need to send FBI Agents to foreign countries to become familiar with other cultures and better understand their people. We have always moved agents around to new postings. In the future, we need agents who are capable of changing countries as easily as they change cities.

Even as the FBI moves forward, it is vital that we preserve the best of an agency with a long and distinguished history. We must continue to serve as guardians of civil liberties operating with full adherence to the Constitution. We must uphold our fundamental values of Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. With the full measure of our dedication, we in the FBI will preserve these traditions, even as we evolve to meet today's new threats.

The enemies of the United States seek to take full advantage of our technology to attack us. They think they are stealing the best part of the West to use against us. But they do not understand what the best part is. It is not our technology; it is not our weaponry; it is not our wealth.

The best part of America is freedom -- freedom to think, freedom to create, freedom to change. These are the true treasures of this nation. And they are the tools we will use to defeat this enemy.

The threat is real. The stakes are high. We cannot, and we will not fail.

 
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