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Our Legal Attaché in Iraq

The FBI in Iraq
The Work of Our Legal Attaché

06/29/07

Map of Iraq and surrounding countries, Baghdad indicatedIn this age of globalization, protecting the U.S. takes us to many different parts of the world.  That includes the Middle East, where we now have permanent offices in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Pakistan, Jordan, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and more recently, Iraq.

Our Baghdad office was officially opened in the U.S. Embassy in March 2005, though our people were on the ground in the country two years earlier.  Today, we have dozens of special agents, intelligence analysts, and other professionals in Iraq, making it one of our largest international contingents.

“Why are we in Baghdad? Because we have to be,” says Special Agent Andrew R. Bland III, who served 19 months in the capital city as our first permanent overseas representative or Legal Attaché before being replaced recently by Special Agent Jim Davis.  “A lot of what happens in Iraq is pivotal to protecting the homeland, not to mention our soldiers and other Americans in Iraq itself.”

A few examples of what we do that’s so pivotal:

  • We interview suspected terrorists captured by the military. These suspects may have vital information about terrorist operatives and operations both inside and outside Iraq, and possibly even in the U.S.
  • We gather intelligence, which is quickly processed, analyzed, and shared, sometimes leading to still more intelligence, creating a lightning fast real-time intel cycle.  The military, in particular, increasingly relies on us for intelligence, especially about the movement of forces within the country gleaned from our investigations or other work.
  • We collect evidence from crime scenes—whether it’s from a massive car bomb or a mass grave.  As Davis says, “The U.S. military is made of war fighters. They don’t have the expertise to collect and process evidence if they come across atrocities or major crime scenes.”
  • We help find kidnapped Americans. At least 13 American soldiers and civilians were kidnapped in Iraq just between October 2006 and February 2007.
  • We investigate crimes committed by Americans against the Iraqi people, as well those Iraqis commit against their fellow citizens.  In concert with several other U.S. agencies, we recently created a major crimes task force that investigates some of the worst crimes committed by Iraqis against other Iraqis.
  • We help train the Iraqi police and intelligence forces.


According to Davis, our work in Baghdad is different than in other countries.

First, it’s probably our most dangerous overseas assignment.  Attacks on the Green Zone, where our offices are located, are common. Trips outside the zone are perilous.

Second, most of our international offices track down leads for agents in the states or in other regions of the world.  In Iraq, the work is largely self-generated: teams are actively working on cases under U.S. jurisdiction almost as soon as they’re reported.

Third, there are far more U.S. agencies and actors to coordinate with in Iraq, not to mention the many international partners.  Our relationship with the military is especially symbiotic.  “The FBI can’t succeed without working with the military, and the military can’t succeed without working with the FBI,” Bland asserts.

And the FBI can’t succeed in its mission of protecting the U.S. from attack without being in Iraq…and without having a presence across the globe.

Resources:
- Our international offices
- More on our work overseas