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Evolution of FBI Intelligence

Evolution of FBI Intelligence

The FBI has always used intelligence to investigate and solve cases. Throughout the Bureau’s history, its ability to successfully adapt to new threats included the development of increasingly sophisticated methods of gathering, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence. The FBI history page provides a glimpse at the Bureau’s intelligence role from its founding to the present day.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the FBI recognized the need to establish centralized control over intelligence operations throughout the Bureau. It began in 2001 with a dedicated analysis section in the Counterterrorism Division (CTD), and, in 2002, led to the creation of an Office of Intelligence within CTD. This structure and capability significantly enhanced the Bureau’s counterterrorism operations and those of its partners.

In 2003, the FBI extended this concept across all programs—Criminal, Cyber, Counterterrorism, and Counterintelligence—and unified intelligence authorities under a new FBI Office of Intelligence led by an executive assistant director for intelligence (EAD-I). The Office of Intelligence leveraged U.S. Intelligence Community tradecraft to direct all FBI intelligence activities. Congress and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (“The 9/11 Commission”) reviewed these efforts and provided recommendations to further strengthen the FBI’s intelligence capability.

The FBI was first directed to create a Directorate of Intelligence through a November 23, 2004 presidential memorandum for the attorney general (titled “Further Strengthening Federal Bureau of Investigation Capabilities”) and later through The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 reiterated this guidance and formally acknowledged the significant progress made by the FBI in improving its intelligence capabilities since the 9/11 attacks.

The Directorate of Intelligence was established in February 2005 as a dedicated national intelligence workforce within the FBI—a service within a service. The central mission of the FBI’s Intelligence Program is to optimally position the Bureau to meet current and emerging national security and criminal threats. The Bureau does this in cooperation with its fellow intelligence organizations.

In June 2005, the president directed the attorney general to create a “National Security Service” within the FBI, as recommended by the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD Commission).

The attorney general implemented the president’s directive in September 2005 by creating the FBI’s National Security Branch (NSB), which combines the missions, capabilities, and resources of the Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence divisions and the Directorate of Intelligence under the leadership of a senior FBI official. In July 2006, the newly-created FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate (WMDD) also became part of the NSB. The branch oversees the national security operations of these four components and is accountable for the national security functions carried out by other FBI divisions.

For more information about the NSB, visit the NSB webpage.