Home News Stories 2009 September Legat Building Relationships in Jordan

Legat Building Relationships in Jordan

Building Relationships Abroad
The View from Amman, Jordan

Surrounded by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Israel, Jordan is located in a critically important region in terms of the FBI's intelligence-gathering efforts and the ongoing fight against terrorism.

Surrounded by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Israel, Jordan is located in a critically important
region in terms of the FBI’s intelligence-gathering efforts and the ongoing fight against terrorism.

09/10/09

We opened our international office in Amman, Jordan on January 11, 2001—exactly eight months before the attack on the World Trade Centers. Today, in the post-9/11 era, our presence in Jordan and elsewhere overseas is more important than ever to our security at home.

The FBI has more than 60 international offices—called legal attachés, or legats—located around the world. Our agents who lead them act primarily as diplomats, building relationships with host countries and fostering the exchange of information with our international law enforcement partners.

“Our mission is to develop liaison relationships to further the FBI’s counterterrorism, intelligence, and criminal investigations,” said Special Agent Timothy Kirkham, who became the Jordan Legal Attaché in June. He quickly offers a simpler explanation: “The overall goal is to prevent acts of terrorism in the United States.”

Surrounded by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Israel, Jordan is located in a critically important region in terms of our intelligence-gathering efforts and the ongoing fight against terrorism.
“We are continually monitoring and sharing any bit of intelligence we can find,” Kirkham said. “Instead of only focusing on a single bad guy, we’re more focused on a region and all the pieces of intelligence from that region. We send that information back to the States to see how it fits into the overall threat picture.”

“We try to meet the intelligence and law enforcement needs and requests of our host country, and we try to meet those same needs of our agents back home and our partners in the intelligence community.”

- Special Agent Timothy Kirkham
Legal Attaché, Amman

“We are also facilitators,” he added. “We try to meet the intelligence and law enforcement needs and requests of our host country, and we try to meet those same needs of our agents back home and our partners in the intelligence community. We serve as a conduit.”

Legats can only assist in investigations overseas with the knowledge and support of the host country. That kind of cooperative arrangement requires trust, and that’s where relationship building comes into play—it’s a role Kirkham is uniquely qualified to play.

In addition to temporary duty assignments in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in 2002 and 2007, Kirkham’s last assignment out of our Springfield, Illinois office was as a liaison with the Arab and Muslim communities. Along the way, he learned Arabic through our Foreign Language Training Program and now speaks the language with proficiency.

In addition, he has participated in our Arabic Language Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar (ALLEEDS), a three-week course held annually since 2006 at the FBI’s Training Division in Quantico, Virginia for Arabic law enforcement officials who don’t speak English well enough to attend our National Academy program.

High-ranking Jordanian law enforcement officials have taken part in ALLEEDS, and Kirkham became friends with them before assuming his new post. “We have a different type of relationship now as a result of that experience,” he said.

On a personal level, Kirkham said moving from a small Illinois town to a city with a million people has been interesting. Although he and his wife and three children live in a modern Amman neighborhood, he said, “it’s common to see young boys riding donkeys, guiding herds of sheep up the hill, and the sheep stopping to graze wherever they find a patch of grass.”

Of his experience with the Jordanian people, Kirkham said, “What you find out is that we’re are all the same. We all want to ensure the security of our families and the security of our countries.”

That, in essence, is what our legat program is all about.

Resources:
- FBI Legal Attachés
- More international stories