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A Primer on the FBI'S National Counterintelligence Strategy

The FBI's National Strategy for Counterintelligence
A Primer

05/31/05

U.S. map under magnifying glass

Think spying on the U.S. went the way of the Cold War? Far from it. Today, more spies—not just traditional adversaries but also allies, hackers, and terrorists—are trying to steal more of our secrets from more places than ever before.

What do they want? Our country's juiciest classified information, of course—from military plans to national security vulnerabilities to our own intelligence activities. But increasingly, they also want our country's trade secrets—innovations that give us a leg up in the global marketplace—and seemingly harmless technologies that could be used to develop or improve weapons.

It's the FBI's job to protect the nation from these threats...and we have a plan of action. It's called the National Strategy for Counterintelligence, and it gives us a centrally directed, proactive approach that focuses our field agents and puts our resources where we need them most. For security reasons, as you can imagine, we can't post the plan here on this website for you to read, but here's what we can tell you.

First, our strategy has five priority objectives:

  1. Keep weapons of mass destruction and other embargoed technologies from falling into the wrong hands—whether terrorists or unstable countries around the globe. We've got new units focused specifically on the issue, and we're working closely with U.S. intelligence agencies.
  2. Protect the secrets of the U.S. intelligence community. To that end we've created Regional Counterintelligence Working Groups from the spectrum of intelligence agencies to identify policy issues and coordinate operations.
  3. Protect the secrets of the U.S. government and contractors—especially in research and development areas. Along with the regional groups, we have at least one Counterintelligence Working Group in each of our 56 field offices to discuss specific cases and joint operations. 
  4. Protect our nation's critical national assets—things like our weapons systems, advanced technologies, and energy and banking systems. Our role is to identify the source and significance of the threats and work with the "owners" to reduce any vulnerabilities. We've created a number of new partnerships to help make it happen.
  5. Focus on countries that pose the greatest threat to the U.S. Especially those that want information to further terrorism, economic espionage, proliferation, threats to our infrastructure, and foreign intelligence operations.

Second, we've created a five-point operational plan to meet the priority objectives: asking each of our 56 field offices to "know their domains" (the key targets in their territories); developing strategic partnerships; conducting sophisticated, nationwide operations against foreign intelligence services; having a deep and evolving understanding of the threats; and keeping policymakers informed on the issues to guide decision-making.

In the coming weeks, we'll talk more about some of the specific improvements we've made in line with this plan, including new field counterintelligence squads. Stay tuned!

Links: FBI Counterintelligence website | Part 1 and Part 2 of an interview with our top Counterintelligence executive