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Inside the FBI's Internet Tip Line

Special Agent Eric Reese, watch commander of the Public Access Center Unit, describes what happens when crime tips are submitted on the FBI website.


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Special Agent Eric Reese, Watch Commander, FBI Public Access Center Unit:

The tip line works because the www.fbi.gov, the FBI’s interface with the Internet, has on its main page a way for people to submit tips, whether they be crime tips, intelligence tips, or counterterrorism-related tips..

There’s a form that you can access. It’s a very simple form. You provide whatever information you feel comfortable with: your name and your telephone number, your e-mail address. And then it’s just a free form for you to submit whatever information you feel like the FBI would need to know about.

It comes into the Public Access Center Unit at FBI Headquarters, which processes all the tips. And analysts will vet them, they’ll review them for believability, credibility, check internal databases and external databases to verify the information is a valid tip regarding criminal activity or counterterrorism activity.

Once that it’s determined that there is additional investigative merit to information that’s submitted, depending on whether it’s a criminal tip or a counterterrorism tip or a counterintelligence tip, it’ll be routed differently.

At each step there’s a human interface. When it goes into the Pyramid system—when it’s first captured or submitted—that’s automatic. But every single tip is looked at by at least two individuals who have independent quality assurance checks. And then once a tip is determined to have further investigative merit a supervisor would actually review the tip, and it would be formatted into electronic communication or entered into eGuardian for further entry into the Guardian system and follow onto the Automated Case Support system. So there’s a third level at which point it’s leaving FBI Headquarters to go out to the field.

I think one of the most important things to know about the FBI’s tip line, at www.fbi.gov, is every single piece of information that’s submitted by an individual is reviewed by FBI personnel at FBI Headquarters. So there’s nothing that goes unaddressed. We basically listen to everything that people want to submit and we give it its due diligence.