Protecting the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage is one of the FBI’s top priorities, second only to preventing the next act of terrorism on U.S. soil. For the FBI’s counterintelligence (CI) program, the years since 9/11 have seen historic events and significant progress in furthering national security.
In 2001, veteran FBI Supervisory Special Agent Robert Hanssen was arrested and charged with committing espionage on behalf of the intelligence services of the former Soviet Union and its successors. Hanssen was the most damaging spy in FBI history. Important systemic and internal security improvements to the FBI’s CI program were established in the years since Hanssen’s arrest, and the program’s accomplishments reflect the success of these changes.
Since 2001, the CI program has made a total of 249 arrests, 46 of which have been related to espionage. Significant advances have been made in clarifying and rectifying intelligence gaps and requirements through the formation of liaison and working relationships with other U.S. intelligence community agencies, foreign partners, the private sector, and academia.
Among its greatest accomplishments, the CI program has proactively addressed the threats posed by the Russian foreign intelligence service (SVR). This effort was brought to bear in June 2010 with the arrest of 10 SVR officers operating in the United States, all of whom subsequently pled guilty to acting as unregistered agents of the Russian SVR.
Intelligence-Driven Strategy and Operations
- The FBI continues to be the lead agency investigating CI activities in the United States, overseeing the integration of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence efforts in protecting the U.S. from foreign intelligence operations and espionage.
- The FBI’s national CI strategy focuses resources on counterproliferation, counterespionage, and protection of critical technology and information.
- Field office CI programs are now evaluated using metrics tied to the national CI strategy.
- The Counterespionage Section was established at FBI Headquarters to focus and consolidate espionage investigations.
- Investigations are now focused on both traditional and non-traditional foreign intelligence threats.
- The FBI practices enhanced vetting and validation of human sources.
- The FBI now has concurrent jurisdiction to investigate violations of certain munitions and export-control laws.
- The National CI Working Group coordinates CI operations at the interagency level.
- Regional CI Working Groups were established to implement the national CI strategy by reviewing joint operations, identifying priorities and trends, and providing a forum for interagency deconfliction.
- The CI Strategic Partnership Program is now the FBI’s outreach platform to academia and the private sector, directly supported by CI Strategic Partnership Program coordinators in each FBI field office.
- The National Security Business Alliance Council was established to further partnerships with leading defense companies who are stakeholders of key technologies targeted by foreign adversaries.
- The National Security Higher Education Advisory Board was created in 2005 to bridge gaps between the U.S. intelligence community and academia with respect to national security issues that pertain to universities with significant research and development programs.
- The FBI is currently in the process of establishing a National Security Technology Alliance Council to centralize and enhance outreach efforts to Internet service providers and the technology sector.
- The FBI established the Agents in the Lab initiative, placing FBI agents in Department of Energy facilities to raise CI awareness and broaden the FBI's access to intelligence within the labs.
- The FBI has increased its production of intelligence information reports and strategic studies since 2002.