Alumni E-Brief Banner

April 2024

FBI Evidence Response Team members work at the site of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore on March 26.
Evidence Response Team members and other personnel responded to the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse last month in Baltimore, Maryland. FBI Baltimore, the Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG), the Washington Field Office (WFO), and the Laboratory deployed to assist the Maryland Transportation Authority Police (MTAP). Learn more

Message from the Assistant Director, Office of Public Affairs

Hello FBI Family,

The cherry blossoms have finally arrived in Washington, D.C., which means the next iteration of the Special Agent in Charge conference is right around the corner. This year, the group will gather in Huntsville, Ala., to discuss the successes of the past year and the challenges of current and future threats.

I will be reiterating to the SACs the importance of their fieldPublic Affairs Assistant Director Catherine Milhoan offices maintaining a robust and active social media presence across all the platforms we have available to us. That’s part of our larger strategy to continue expanding the FBI’s online community outreach so we can reach the largest audience possible when broadcasting FBI news, accomplishments, and time-sensitive public safety information.

Thanks to all of you for keeping your communities informed, amplifying our good work, and staying engaged with your local office. We truly appreciate your advocacy and your partnership.

Speaking of partnerships, one of my favorite events of the year comes on the heels of the SAC Conference: the Director’s Community Leadership Awards ceremony on April 19. I’m so impressed by the selfless and profound acts of community service this year’s recipients perform daily. From expanding the reach of the FBI’s victim specialists, and enhancing the work of our community outreach specialists, to providing our investigators with vital leads to drive our cases forward, these individuals – and the organizations they represent – help us better understand and protect the American people.

I hope you’ll consider congratulating the recipients in your area and highlighting their achievements whenever and however you feel comfortable.

Thank you again for staying connected, and as always, if you have any feedback for us, please send us a note at alumni@fbi.gov.

    Cathy Milhoan

By the Numbers: U-21 and Guns

Stock image.


The 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) requires examiners at the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to go beyond running names through NICS databases. Legal instrument examiners who perform checks on prospective under-21 gun buyers also reach out to state juvenile justice, mental health, and local law enforcement agencies to see if their backgrounds contain potentially disqualifying information.


A provision in the new law extends the time examiners have to investigate under-21 cases from 3 to 10 business days. Below are the response rates from participating agencies, as well as implementation statistics. See related story.


Implementation statistics


  • Total transactions: 228,403
  • Total Proceeded: 214,329
  • Total Denied: 2,206
  • Denied based on criminal history: 1,568
  • Denied based on BSCA outreach: 638

As of close of business on February 29, 2024

Message from the Associate Deputy Director

In the two years that I’ve overseen the FBI’s business operations, we’ve been working hard every day to get the most out of ourBrian Turner, Associate Deputy Director resources, minimize risk to our organization and people, and — most importantly — serve those who serve.

Our most critical asset is our people, so at the Bureau we’ve renewed our focus on professional development through initiatives like mentoring, job shadowing, and rotation programs. We’re also committed to getting our FBI Family members the help they need during times of crisis. We recently welcomed several special guests — including the spouses of fallen agents — to share their experiences dealing with loss and discuss the support they received from the Bureau and the FBI Agents Association in their times of need.

We’re also committed to instilling and preserving the public’s trust in the integrity of our organization, and management of our information plays a big role. Our state-of-the-art Central Records Complex in Winchester, Va., now houses more than 7 million closed case files and allows us to satisfy records and information requests digitally. Winchester is also home to many of the Bureau employees who manage Freedom of Information Act and prepublication review requests, ensuring our commitment to transparency and open access to publicly available information.

These programs and many more make up the backbone of the FBI and affect every aspect of the enterprise. Ours is a no-fail mission, and our business operations equip our people and organization to keep the American people safe.

Brian Turner


News

FBI Boston Special Agent Geoffrey Kelly, a member of the FBI Art Crime Team, describes how the FBI helped in the recovery and return of 22 artifacts believed to have been taken from Okinawa at the end of World War II. These artifacts had been missing for almost 80 years.


Art Crime Team: WWII Artifacts Returned

The Boston Division recovered 22 historic artifacts looted at the end of World War II and orchestrated their return to Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. The FBI began investigating the case in January 2023. Special Agent Geoffrey J. Kelly, a member of the Art Crime Team in Boston, received a complaint from a family that found the items while sorting through their deceased father’s belongings.  Details

Background: Art Crime Team

Wray: Warrant Requirement for FBI’s Section 702 Queries Would Impede Investigations

The FBI’s surveillance authorities under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act are indispensable to the Bureau’s efforts to combat threats from foreign adversaries, Director Christopher Wray said on April 9.  

"If there’s no constitutional, legal, or compliance necessity for a warrant requirement, then Congress would be making a policy choice to require us to blind ourselves to intelligence in our holdings,” Wray told the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security in Washington, D.C.

Details | Director's Remarks | FISA Section 702 Background

FBI Director Christopher Wray addresses the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Law and National Security on April 9, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

FBI Director Christopher Wray addresses the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Law and National Security on April 9, 2024, in Washington, D.C.


Hearing 'the Boatswain’s Pipe'

Director William Webster Celebrates 100th Birthday at FBI Headquarters

Director Wray and William Webster shake hands at FBI Headquarters during an event celebrating for former FBI Director's 100th birthday.

Director Wray and Judge William Webster shake hands at FBI Headquarters during an event celebrating for former FBI Director's 100th birthday.

Former Director Webster celebrated his 100th birthday with the FBI at Headquarters on March 8 in, where else but the eponymous Webster Room. Long-time friends and FBI employees gathered for an ebullient birthday party, replete with cake and a spirited singing of “Happy Birthday.”

Office of Public Affairs Assistant Director Cathy Milhoan welcomed everyone and expressed her gratitude to Webster, saying they weren’t just there to celebrate an extraordinary birthday, but “Director Webster's extraordinary life of service to this country.”


Director Wray echoed Milhoan’s gratitude for Webster’s vast contributions. “I always say the sign of a great leader is that he leaves the place even better than he found it,” he said. “And the impact that you've had on this organization is still apparent at the FBI today. And I'm confident it will be for many, many, many years to come.”

A host of notables with whom Webster had served sent him video greetings, as did the FBI Chicago Explorers Program and Headquarters employees, who formed the number “100” in the HQ courtyard.

Cake celebrating William Webster's 100th birthday at FBI Headquarters.The Society of Former Special Agents “showered” him with birthday cards from across the country, and OPA presented a tribute video “in your own words,” Milhoan told Webster, as the audio and some video came from Webster’s 1979 video, relaying his thoughts about his first year to employees.

Born in 1924 in Webster Groves, Missouri, Webster was serving in the Eighth District Court of Appeals when the Carter Administration approached him to take on the role of FBI Director.

Asked why he wanted to take the job at an FBI still digging itself out of late Hoover-era policies, he reportedly said, "I’m an old Navy man, and I heard a boatswain’s pipe.”

Nevertheless, the choice couldn’t have been that simple. He’d been shortlisted before for the Supreme Court, a lifelong dream. Torn, he reportedly consulted a fellow judge who said, “your country needs you.”

He’d answered his country’s call before. He left Amherst as a sophomore for the Navy in WWII after Pearl Harbor. Then returned to the Navy for the Korean War after earning his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis.

On Feb. 23, 1978, he was sworn in as the FBI Director. During his nine years at the Bureau, the FBI undertook enormous investigations and made many advances in science and technology. Some of those accomplishments follow.

Post-FBI

As Webster’s tenure was ending, he planned to return to private practice, but the Reagan Administration tapped him to head the CIA, then enmeshed in the Iran-Contra affair. He is the only person to ever serve as FBI and CIA Director.

Over the years, he’s repeatedly answered the call to serve. He’s been on numerous boards, including as the chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, and on multiple commissions, including the Robert Hanssen spy case, the Fort Hood shooting and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

He’s the recipient of countless awards, medals, honorary degrees, including the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Security Medal.

He continues to participate in public life, with op-eds published in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Recently, he took part in an FBI campaign on elder fraud, after a scammer, later sentenced to more than five years, called to say Webster had won the Mega Millions lottery and needed to send $50,000 to cover the taxes.


Webster’s Impact


White collar crime

Webster dedicated hundreds of agents to combat white collar crime in the 80s. Then, it was very lucrative, hard to prove and carried relatively light sentences. Also in the 80s, hundreds of savings-and-loan companies collapsed because of lax oversight and fraud. It cost the public billions. Despite the cases being extremely time-intensive, the FBI secured thousands of convictions.

Public corruption

Knowing accusations of entrapment could undermine the FBI’s two biggest public corruption cases then — ABSCAM and Operation Greylord — Webster oversaw both closely.

Organized crime

Organized crime was former Director Clarence Kelley’s priority. Webster adopted it with vigor. On his watch, the FBI took down the Hells Angels, Asian organized crime and the mafia using RICO charges, video evidence and deep undercover agents.

Drugs

To combat the crime, DOJ considered merging the Drug Enforcement Agency with the FBI. Instead, the FBI and DEA were given concurrent jurisdiction over federal drug violations, and the DEA Administrator began reporting to Webster. To cement the relationship, Webster brought the DEA over to train with the FBI at Quantico.

Terrorism

Webster was the first FBI Director to make terrorism a priority. Webster relied on intelligence to stop the threat. He also authorized the Hostage Rescue Team, which is still the U.S.’s only full-time, civilian counterterrorism team with a law enforcement mission.

Capabilities of the FBI

During his tenure, the FBI accelerated moving from paper to computer records. Eventually, employees were able to link incoming fingerprint cards with existing records and could fulfill computer record requests in just minutes, as opposed to weeks.
Webster also prioritized diversity. During his tenure he appointed the FBI’s first Black SAC, John Glover, in 1979. Glover went on to become the first Black EAD in 1986.

Milhoan affirmed that the elder-fraud video Webster made with the Office of Public Affairs is one of the most popular on FBI.gov. 

After Director Wray spoke, Milhoan invited Webster to the podium to speak. He received a standing ovation as he made his way up to thank Director Wray and all those who had gathered.

“I shall never forget the quality and the fidelity of the friends who serve in the FBI," he said. "You are wonderful, wonderful people and you are wonderful, wonderful friends, and you care about your country and your communities and the law itself…and you treat it nobly. I have never failed to be in admiration for the men and women of the FBI. And I know that Director Wray knows what I'm talking about. I don't know how you do it, but keep on doing it, please.” 

He continued, “I shall carry with me the honor that you gave me with the invite to appear before you today so that I could, in person, thank you and express my deepest admiration, my deepest appreciation and my confidence that you will go on as you have in the past under the kind of leadership that you now have and will continue to have — and that those who serve here will be the very best there is in all this world. Thank you so much.”

More than one employee wiped away tears as he spoke, perhaps hearing an inspiring “boatswain’s pipe” of their own in Webster’s wonderfully encouraging words for all who’ve chosen a life of service at the FBI.

"I shall never forget the quality and the fidelity of the friends who serve in the FBI."

- William Webster, former FBI Director


Going to Be in D.C? Come See What's New at the FBI Experience

The FBI Experience is a self-guided tour offered at FBI Headquarters.Logo for the FBI Experience, a self-guided tour open to the public at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Through interactive multimedia exhibits, content and artifacts, visitors will learn how the Bureau operates in the field, at Headquarters, and within communities across the country. The rich experience tells the story of the FBI’s internal operations and history, providing insight into the organization’s investigative divisions, laboratory resources, professional occupations, and more.

Learn how to plan your visit. 


Behind the Mic

FBI Director Christopher Wray delivers remarks at the FBI and University of Kansas Cybersecurity Conference on April 4, 2024, in Lawrence, Kansas.

FBI Director Christopher Wray delivers remarks at the FBI and University of Kansas Cybersecurity Conference on April 4, 2024, in Lawrence, Kansas.

'Hit Them Everywhere It Hurts'

Director Christopher Wray described the Bureau’s aggressive efforts to counter cyber threats and go after attackers in an April 4 speech at a conference in Kansas City of leading cybersecurity experts.  

“We use a wealth of hard-earned experience to design operations to hit them everywhere it hurts, and put them down, hard,” Wray said at the FBI and University of Kansas Cybersecurity Conference. “We’re developing all these operations based on decades of experience battling nation-state and criminal threats across high- and low-tech domains.”

Details | Wray's Full Remarks


In Case You Missed It

The Jacksonville FBI’s "Be Smart With Your Kids' Smartphone" program aims to help parents and educators understand potential threats that accompany cellphones and how to prevent online sexual predators and violent extremists from engaging their kids online. Details

This series features stories, images, and videos produced by the team that manages fbi.gov.


InfraGard

Want to stay actively involved in the protection of our nation?

Sign up!

InfraGard is a partnership between the FBI and members of the private sector for the protection of U.S. critical infrastructure. Learn more.


Features

HRT: 40 Years of Saving Lives

Hostage Rescue Team operator trains alongside helicopter.

HRT was founded on “Servare Vitas,” or “to save lives.” At HRT’s 40th anniversary, the current commander said, “Servare Vitas is not a motto. It’s not a mantra. It is our purpose. It’s why we exist. It’s why we make the immense sacrifices we make.”

Genesis

During the 1972 Munich Olympics, Black September militants shot their way into the Israeli quarters, murdered two Israeli athletes and took another nine hostage.

The media covering the Olympics turned to cover the incident, and an estimated 900 million people worldwide witnessed tracksuit-clad, machine gun-toting militants strut Olympic village balconies with impunity.

Although militants had bombed, hijacked, assaulted and assassinated since the '60s, law enforcement in the '70s still carried revolvers. The five German officers picked to ambush Black September had military rifles and no sniper training.

Pitted against highly trained, heavily armed militants at night during a chaotic scene at an airbase, the officers failed, and Black September murdered the hostages savagely.

In the aftermath, militaries and law enforcement scrambled to assemble domestic counterterrorism teams.

In the U.S., the debate was spirited. Who’d own the team, military or law enforcement? Many cited the Posse Comitatus Act, a one-sentence post-Reconstruction law that, with few exceptions, bars troops from domestic law enforcement.

Tactical thinkers in the Training Division stood up FBI SWAT in 1973 but warned: Only a fulltime, highly trained, well-equipped team would be a match for a Munich-level event.

Los Angeles’ landing its bid in 1978 for the 1984 Summer Olympics (and Lake Placid, New York, hosting the 1980 Winter Games) helped Training Division leaders begin to see it that way too.

The division quietly stood up a research unit. Its members fanned out to the new European counterterror teams, then embedded a year with the nascent 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment — Delta.

Training with Delta confirmed their fears that FBI SWAT teams — which wore soft armor — carried pistols and shared long guns — were no match for a large-scale threat. They arranged for then-Director Webster to see Delta and the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) conduct a hostage rescue exercise at Fort Bragg.

After a deafening live-fire battle in which “kills,” not arrests, were effected, Director Webster was invited to review the teams’ submachine guns, night-vision goggles, explosives, hard body armor and high-tech comms devices.

In what’s become Quantico lore, he asked about handcuffs. There are as many tales as tellers about the colorfully crisp response he got, and from whom, but the gist was a military remedy for a hostage taker doesn’t involve handcuffs.

That unsettling answer; Posse Comitatus; the military’s resistance to being subject to any post-operational legal process, such as having to testify in court; plus, the White House finally deciding the FBI was the domestic authority, is how the Hostage Rescue Team came to be.

First Generation and Certification

HRT’s founders didn’t see themselves as simply mustering the FBI’s stellar agents, but as creating a team founded on, and bound by, an ethos.

In the sweltering summer of ’82, they sat the team’s first candidates before an Academy blackboard. Chalked across it in big letters was “To Save Lives.” That’s your only mission, they were told.

As it is now, selection then was grueling. One hundred of the 150 agents who attended washed out.

On a few hours’ sleep, candidates ran for hours and hauled themselves up rope after rope. They tackled obstacle courses, including the Marine Corps’ confidence course, pulling themselves up its 30-foot-high ladder of truncated utility poles.

They were given odd instructions to see if and how closely they’d follow them. They were probed for fears and character flaws. They wrote research papers and powered through hostile “press conferences.”


The FBI's Hostage Rescue Team is the nation's only elite full-time, civilian counterterrorism team with a law enforcement mission. The team, part of the Critical Incident Response Group's Tactical Section, celebrated its 40th year last October. Included here are some “snapshots” of their history.


Hostage Rescue Team

Founders

John Simeone, who became an HRT deputy commander, assembled the Training Division’s Special Operations and Research Unit. Known affectionately as the “wild bunch” for their eclectic talents and visionary bent, they were Jim Adams, Tase Bailey, Don Bassett, Ed Kelso, Roger Nisley and Bob Taubert. Nisley is a lifetime member of the Hostage Rescue Team Association; the others were made honorary members last fall.

Servare Vitas

HRT was founded on “Servare Vitas,” or “to save lives.” At HRT’s 40th anniversary, the current commander said, “Servare Vitas is not a motto. It’s not a mantra. It is our purpose. It’s why we exist. It’s why we make the immense sacrifices we make.”

Selection and NOTS

During selection, candidates wear numbered pennies and are referred to by number, not name. Those selected move on to New Operator Training School, or NOTS, which is 10 months.

The Teams

In 40 years, HRT has deployed more than 900 times. Today, the teams are Blue, Gold, Silver and Grey; they rotate from active mission to training to support. Grey has the mobility, breacher, tactical bomb tech and canine teams; the other teams are the assaulters and sniper-observers.

Operators

Only about 400 agents have ever been selected to the team; about 100 are on the team today. Women have tried out, including during the first selection, but have yet to make the operational team.

Expertise

HRT trains with domestic and international special forces components worldwide. Among other skills, they are experts in close-quarters battle, sniper-observer operations, full spectrum breaching, helicopter operations and insertions, mobile assaults, tactical diving, parachuting and austere and cold-weather environments.

Operations

Operations include complex hostage rescue, stronghold assault, unconventional law enforcement operations, high-risk arrests and searches, support to field office tactical operations, undercover operations, tactical surveillance, tactical radiological and nuclear search, maritime operations, aircraft or ship recovery, force protection and DoD support operations.
More HRT images, video, resources

Hostage Rescue Team Operators train for close-quarters battle

Surprise, speed and violence of action are vital for close-quarters battle.

Selecting officials looked for tenacity, humility, creativity, intelligence and team spirit. Also a sense of humor.

Forty-nine male agents made the team as operators. The 50th spot went to the one female agent who tried out and made it through to the end, possessing every quality except the requisite upper-body strength.

The first “generation” was housed at WFO, still investigated cases, and immediately began training with the military. They practiced getting to a scene: fast-roping from helicopters onto roofs, climbing up ship bows in tossing waves and filing into aircraft cabins filled with armed “terrorists.”



Hostage Rescue Team operator jumps from aircraft.
Hostage Rescue Team operator trains with helicopter.
Parachuting enables operators to insert quickly and stealthily into all kinds of terrain. HRT constantly practices rescue and recovery operations.

They also learned close-quarters battle, or CQB: a live-fire exercise of breaching a door, casting in flashbangs and firing, usually while running, in a carefully choreographed pattern at targets inches away from hostages.

The “hostages” were team members who consented to sit still as bullets whizzed past their heads.

The first generation had one goal. That was to excel enough to be certified as a full-time, domestic counterterrorism team with capabilities akin to Delta’s and DEVGRU’s.

In October 1983, they were ready. FBI, Justice, Pentagon and White House brass, who’d be conferring certification, gathered in New Mexico to observe “Operation Equis Red.”

Packed into a tiny two-room building, team members were told terrorists had holed up in a cabin in the desert. They had a nuclear device and had taken hostage a scientist who could detonate it.

HRT snipers in ghillie suits crept into positions around the cabin. They sent back intel about its structure and occupants. With that information, breachers built a replica of the cabin and conducted exhaustive rehearsals and contingency planning.

At 3 a.m., word arrived negotiations had failed.

In short order, the breachers descended on the cabin, blasted down the door, tossed in flashbangs, ran in through the blinding flash, smoke and ear-splitting concussion and neutralized the terrorists, securing both the hostage and the nuclear device. It took 30 seconds.

The “terrorists” were the team’s founders and instructors; they’d barely been able to react, they said. And with that, HRT was certified.



From the beginning, helicopters were
critical to HRT’s mission.
The first operators wore all black; here they practice marksmanship, one of the team’s most critical skills.
The first operators wore all black; here they practice marksmanship, one of the team’s most critical skills. Since the beginning, helicopters have been critical to HRT’s mission.
In 40 years, HRT has deployed more than 900 times. Today, the teams are Blue, Gold, Silver and Grey; they rotate from active mission to training to support. Grey has the mobility, breacher, tactical bomb tech and canine teams; the other teams are the assaulters and sniper-observers.

Early Domestic Success

Shortly after HRT was certified, President Reagan gave the team its first job: counterterrorism lead at the ’84 Summer Olympics. The event that motivated the U.S. to form a domestic counterterror team fortunately was peaceful.

Helping to ensure that, the new team spent months in tactical planning, including surveying and collecting blueprints of every venue and other potential targets, like UCLA and Disneyland, over the 135 square miles of the event.

The media ballyhooed the U.S.’s security efforts. And in case would-be terrorists still missed the point, HRT brought reporters in for a two-hour firestorm of a demo of what a U.S. response would be for anyone trying to recreate the ’72 Munich Olympics.

As a new team whose capabilities not everyone understood, HRT had a slow start in requests for help, until they were called in to arrest members of the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord (CSA) the next year.

A heavily armed, apocalyptic white-supremacy militant group deeply dug-in in the Ozarks, they declared war on the U.S., then prosecuted it with petty, sovereign citizen-like crime — until a member killed a Black state trooper during a routine traffic stop.

Executing a search warrant at a fortified, heavily patrolled compound in the woods in spring with little leaf-cover, and where townspeople would note a suspiciously fit cohort suddenly descending upon its motels, required finesse.

Operators posed as fishing parties in surrounding towns.

A CSA patrol tripping up on a sniper-hide was the group’s first inkling they were surrounded. Negotiators and the HRT commander capitalized on the psychological advantage of having invaded the group’s space undetected — and existing “out there” as an unseen multitude in the scrub.

When the group’s leader ventured out to meet with the HRT commander, snipers stood up along the pathway, revealing themselves, tens-of-people-deep along his way. The group’s leader quickly agreed to work with the FBI to ensure his members surrendered peacefully.

The next few years were building years for HRT domestically, as people began to understand the expertise they contributed to an operation. Soon, their purview would grow to overseas.


President Reagan had to approve the international operation to arrest Fawaz Younis, the U.S.’s first international arrest. The team sent him an HRT shirt as a symbol of their pride in being part of the operation.

President Reagan had to approve the international operation to arrest Fawaz Younis, the U.S.’s first international arrest. The team sent him an HRT shirt as a symbol of their pride in being part of the operation.

First International Mission

In the '70s and '80s, America was a frequent target overseas. Ambassadors, CIA chiefs of station and military personnel were assassinated. Military installations were bombed or attacked, as were embassies, including the embassy in Tehran, where Iranian students held more than 50 hostages for 444 days.

Americans argued about how to respond: Continue to denounce attacks and be seen as a paper tiger or be lured into reactionary attacks and be branded as no better than terrorists.

Then Hezbollah bombed the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut in '83, killing 241 U.S. service members. In response, Congress created a lawful path for action: they extended U.S. federal jurisdiction to overseas when Americans were harmed.

HRT was now international.

Its first test was Fawaz Younis, the lead hijacker of Royal Jordanian Flight 402. In 1985, Younis and his men overpowered the crew in Beirut, rigged the cabin with explosives, then demanded to go to Tunisia to meet with Arab League leaders, or they’d kill the passengers.

Hostage Rescue Team seal

But the Tunis airport blocked its runways. After several rebuffed landing attempts — and two refuelings in other countries — Younis demanded to return to Beirut, where he ordered the hostages onto the tarmac, blew up the plane and fled.

Two Americans happened to be on board, and that was enough for a U.S. response.

Knowing there’d be little or no international cooperation, and that straying into any sympathetic country’s territory could jeopardize an arrest, HRT operators had to figure out how to keep the entire operation in international territory.

In what is still one of HRT’s lengthiest, most complicated arrests (President Reagan had to approve it), they decided to turn to the Navy for its sea and air capability.

To lure Younis into international waters, HRT operators anchored out a rented yacht just off Cyprus. Younis’s friend drew him there for a phony drug deal, and they arrested him.

Working with the Navy, operators were able to transfer to an ammunition ship that steamed four days to an aircraft carrier. From there, two HRT members, an FBI medic and Younis boarded a jet and were flown 13 hours, with three in-flight refuelings, to Andrews Air Force Base. It was then one of the Navy’s longest continuous flights from an aircraft carrier.

The operation made headlines for its audaciousness and Younis, who was neither a high-level operator nor had targeted Americans, was sentenced to 30 years. Would-be attackers saw for themselves the U.S.’s new resolve — and attacks on Americans waned.

“HRT is a collective of selected problem solvers, forged through diverse experience, sustained by a culture of creativity, mutual support and collective success, purpose-driven to win.”

Brian Driscoll, commander, Hostage Rescue Team

Selection candidates in numbered pennies run with current and former operators in yellow shirts.
HRT constantly practices rescue and recovery
operations.
Selection candidates in numbered pennies run with current and former operators in yellow shirts. HRT operators constantly practice rescue and recovery operations.

Reimagining and Growth Years

HRT’s expertise often draws other agencies seeking help, including after they run into trouble during an operation.

In 1992, the U.S. Marshals Service’s attempted arrest of Randy Weaver on federal gun charges at his remote cabin in Idaho led to the 11-day Ruby Ridge standoff. Negotiators resolved it, but not before a deputy marshal and Weaver’s wife and son were killed.

In 1993, an attempted ATF raid at the highly fortified Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, left four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians dead and led to a 51-day standoff. After gas was inserted to drive the Davidians out, they set fire to their compound, killing 76, including many children.

The FBI was asked to take over after both incidents began. Afterward, the public and Congressional scrutiny of the FBI was intense, as was the Bureau’s own self-scrutiny.

Though the public conversation, enshrined in records, reports and copious articles, uniformly criticizes the Bureau, it also captures concerns about how long-term standoffs affect HRT. There was only one team then, and operators stayed for the duration of the standoffs.

What happens to the team’s perishable skills if they can’t practice them, particularly highly perishable close-quarters-battle and firearms skills, was one of the questions. How long can HRT go with no respite? What happens if such a standoff precludes operators from responding elsewhere?

What the concerns revealed was a growing recognition of HRT’s singular importance as the U.S.’s only full-time domestic counterterrorism team, and the concomitant need to invest more in it.

Many changes followed. First, the team grew from 52 to 77 operators and split into two teams so one could relieve the other. Then in 1994, Director Freeh stood up the Critical Incident Response Group, or CIRG.



HRT’s K-9s can take part in arrests. Unlike
other agencies’ K-9s, HRT’s dogs go home with
their handlers, where they’re treated as a
member of the family.

HRT’s K-9s can take part in arrests. Unlike other agencies’ K-9s, HRT’s go home with their handlers, where they’re treated as a member of the family.


For the first time, all critical response was housed together and could coordinate quickly. That included operators, crisis managers, crisis negotiators, behavioral analysts, bomb techs, rotary and fixed-wing pilots, surveillance and strategic information groups.

The Tactical Section, which houses HRT, added capabilities throughout the 2000s, including a tactical mobility team, which is expert in every form of transportation, including horseback.

The section brought in DoD-trained K-9s that can detect explosives and help with apprehensions on arrest operations. Unlike other agencies’ K-9s, these “fur missiles” go home with their handlers, where they’re another member of the family.

A jump program now enables operators to parachute stealthily into all kinds of terrain, and from high altitudes. It also enables HRT operators to integrate with JSOC partners on international missions. The latest addition is an operational medical unit. They train HRT and SWAT and provide operational support.

Today, a full-out HRT operation — by their own rules, they must deploy anywhere within 3.5 hours from notification — is an astounding tribute to four decades of dedication and purposeful, ceaseless evolution.

It means that, at the compound, the gear is always packed, and the 757 is always on standby.

It also means everyone from operators to negotiators, to transportation, logistics, medics, intelligence and communications personnel are ready to take off and, wherever they land, set to contribute everything they have to carrying out the three simple words HRT’s founders wrote in big, bold letters on an Academy chalkboard 40 years ago: To Save Lives.



History

This collection of forged baseballs containing professional baseball player Babe Ruth’s autograph were recovered in Operation Bullpen, an FBI investigation that dismantled a major, nationwide network of forgers, authenticators, wholesalers, and retailers responsible for the creation and sale of up to $100 million in forge memorabilia across the entire U.S.

Play Ball!

For fans, baseball season means hot summer days at the ballpark, home runs, curveballs, and peanuts and cracker jacks. For criminals, though, it may seem like a prime opportunity to make money through fraud. And that’s just what happened in the U.S. in the 1990s.

Operation Bullpen, which included forged Babe Ruth baseballs, stands out among FBI investigations for the successful infiltration and dismantling of a major, nationwide network of forgers, authenticators, wholesalers, and retailers responsible for $100 million in forged memorabilia.

Read about it.


It's Summertime, Ready to Get Fit? This App Can Help

Whether you’re an aspiring agent or a fitness enthusiast curious about agent training, the Physical Fitness Test app will help you learn the benchmarks of the official FBI Physical Fitness Test (PFT).


Stay in the Loop

You can follow @FBI on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram to stay up to date on the Bureau's latest news and stories. 

X Post on Kansas City Field Office

The FBI Alumni E-Brief is distributed through our alumni and family organizations. These groups share it through their membership lists, we do not maintain an individual email list. Currently, the groups receiving the AEB are:

  • The Society of FBI Alumni 
  • Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI
  • FBI Agents Association
  • FBI National Citizens Academy Alumni Association
  • FBI National Academy Associates
  • FBI National Executive Institute Associates
  • FBI LEEDA
  • InfraGard
  • Not a member of one of these organizations? The AEB is on Facebook: FBI-Federal Bureau of Investigation Family (Current/Retired) 

If you are aware of another group to assist in sharing this AEB with the FBI family, please let us know. You can also send content suggestions, photo or story submissions, as well as critiques to alumni@fbi.gov