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What We Investigate

What We Investigate

FBI Agent Collects Evidence from Exploded Car (AP Photo)The FBI works around the globe to combat the most dangerous criminal and security threats facing our country—from international and domestic terrorists to spies on U.S. soil…from cyber villains to corrupt government officials…from mobsters to violent street gangs…from child predators to serial killers.

We currently have jurisdiction over violations in more than 250 categories of federal law. They generally fall under our three national security priorities and our five criminal priorities as follows:


National Security Priorities:

1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack

It’s our overriding priority—to head off terrorist attacks by identifying and disrupting the plots of international and domestic terrorist operatives and cells, by cutting off terrorist financing and undercutting other forms of support provided by terrorist sympathizers, by sharing information and intelligence with partners worldwide, and by providing strategic and operational threat analysis to decision makers and the wider intelligence community.

Our work locally is led by our San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force, created in 1998 and strengthened in the days following the 9/11 attacks. The task force—made up of representatives of 40 local, state, and federal agencies—conducts threat assessments on all terrorism leads, develops and investigates cases, provides support for special events, and proactively identifies threats that may impact the area and the nation. The San Diego JTTF has two JTTF working groups located in the North County and Imperial Valley.

The work of the task forces is bolstered by the San Diego Field Intelligence Group, which centralizes and spearheads the analysis and sharing of terrorism-related intelligence (and intelligence on all major threats) both inside and outside the Bureau. The field intelligence group also joins with the multi-agency Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center to form the Central California Intelligence Center, which supports law enforcement and intelligence partners across the state.

For more information on the FBI’s national efforts to prevent terrorist attacks, see our Counterterrorism webpage. Also see our Press Room for current cases and our San Diego History for past investigations.

2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage

Today, more foreign 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 of mass destruction.

In San Diego, we have a dedicated foreign counterintelligence squad that—in line with the FBI’s National Strategy for Counterintelligence—works to keep weapons of mass destruction and other embargoed technologies from falling into wrong hands, to protect secrets of the U.S. government (including the intelligence community) and critical national assets, and to help strengthen the national threat picture by proactively gathering information and intelligence. Our work includes knowing the key targets in our territory, developing strategic partnerships with area institutions, and disrupting the efforts of insiders and key nations.

For more information on the FBI’s national program, see our Counterintelligence webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our San Diego History for past investigations.

3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes

The FBI leads the national effort to investigate high-tech crimes, including cyber-based terrorism and espionage, computer and network intrusions, and major cyber fraud and identify theft. To stay in front of current and emerging trends, we gather and share information and intelligence with public and private sector partners worldwide.

In San Diego, we have a squad dedicated to cyber crimes and attacks, and we participate in a variety of multi-agency partnerships. See our Partnerships webpage for details.

For more information on the FBI’s national efforts, see our Cyber Investigations webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our San Diego History for past investigations.

Criminal Priorities

4. Combat public corruption at all levels

Corruption in government threatens our country’s democracy and national security, impacting everything from how well our borders are secured and our neighborhoods protected…to verdicts handed down in courts…to the quality of our roads and schools. And it takes a significant toll on our pocketbooks, too, wasting billions of tax dollars every year.

Our investigations in San Diego focus on violations of federal law—such as bribery, contract and procurement fraud, antitrust, environmental crimes, and election fraud—by public officials in local, state, and federal government, as well as violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

For more information on the FBI’s national efforts, see our Public Corruption webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our San Diego History for past investigations.

5. Protect civil rights

The FBI is the lead agency for investigating violations of federal civil rights laws…and we take that responsibility seriously. Specifically, we aggressively investigate and work to prevent hate crime, color of law abuses, human trafficking, and freedom of access to clinic entrances violations—the four top priorities of our civil rights program. We focus on all of these issues in San Diego.

For more information on our overall efforts, see our Civil Rights webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our San Diego History for past investigations.

6. Combat transnational/national criminal organizations and enterprises

Criminal organizations—from mob families to street gangs to drug trafficking outfits—sow violence and crime in our communities and create underground economies that undercut free enterprise

Most of our work in this priority throughout the San Diego Division focuses on violent gangs and drugs through a variety of law enforcement partnerships. See our Partnerships webpage for details.

Learn more about our national work to combat organized crime and violent street gangs. And see our Press Room for current cases and our San Diego History for past investigations.

7. Combat major white-collar crime

Fraud—the art of deliberate deception for unlawful gain—is as old as history; the term “white-collar crime” was reportedly coined in 1939 and has since become synonymous with the full range of frauds committed by business and government professionals. Today’s financial criminals and con artists are more savvy and sophisticated than ever, engineering everything from complex stock and health care frauds and intellectual property rip-offs.

For more information, see our White-Collar Crime webpage, our Common Fraud Schemes webpage, and our E-Scams and Warnings webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our San Diego History for past investigations.

8. Combat significant violent crime

Even with our post-9/11 national security responsibilities, we continue to play a key role in combating violent crime in big cities and local communities across the United States. Beyond our work targeting violent gangs and other criminal enterprises, we focus on such issues as crimes against children (including online predators), crime on Indian reservations, the search for wanted fugitives, serial killings, kidnapping, murder for hire, bank robberies, and special crimes like the carriage of weapons on aircraft and crime on the high seas.

In San Diego, we work closely with a host of law enforcement partners to address the full range of violent crimes. See our Partnerships webpage for details.

For more details on our overall national efforts, see our Violent Crime and Major Thefts webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our San Diego History for past investigations.