FBI Agent Collects Evidence from Exploded Car in Lebanon (AP Photo)

Combating terrorism is the FBI’s top investigative priority. Working closely with a range of partners, we use our suite of investigative and intelligence capabilities to neutralize terrorist cells and operatives here in the U.S., to help dismantle extremist networks worldwide, and to cut off financing and other forms of support provided by terrorist sympathizers. Our overall goal, as we lead law enforcement and domestic intelligence efforts to defeat terrorism, is to eliminate the risk of terrorism, both international and domestic, to the homeland and to U.S. interests abroad.

Definitions of Terrorism in U.S. Code 

18 U.S.C. § 2331 defines "international terrorism" and "domestic terrorism" for purposes of Chapter 113B of the U.S. Code, entitled "Terrorism.”

"International terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:

  • Involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  • Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
  • Occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.*      

"Domestic terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:

  • Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  • Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
  • Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

18 U.S.C. § 2332b defines the term "federal crime of terrorism" as an offense that:

  • Is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct; and
  • Is a violation of one of several listed statutes, including § 930(c) (relating to killing or attempted killing during an attack on a federal facility with a dangerous weapon); and § 1114 (relating to killing or attempted killing of officers and employees of the U.S.).

* FISA defines "international terrorism" in a nearly identical way, replacing "primarily" outside the U.S. with "totally" outside the U.S. 50 U.S.C. § 1801(c).

Inside Our Operations 

FBI Counterterrorism Fly Team Training
New York Joint Terrorism Task Force (AP Photo)

Joint Terrorism Task Forces 

They are our nation’s front line on terrorism: small cells of highly trained, locally based, passionately committed investigators, analysts, linguists, SWAT experts, and other specialists from dozens of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. When it comes to investigating terrorism, they do it all: chase down leads, gather evidence, make arrests, provide security for special events, conduct training, collect and share intelligence, and respond to threats and incidents at a moment’s notice. Learn more.

National Joint Terrorism Task Force

There are more than 104 FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country, where local, state, and federal agencies work together to combat terrorism on a regional scale. And coordinating the efforts of all those regional task forces is the National Joint Terrorism Task Force, a fusion of local, state, and federal agencies acting as an integrated force to combat terrorism on a national and international scale.

The National Joint Terrorism Task Force, or NJTTF, was established in 2002 to manage the burgeoning Joint Terrorism Task Force program—the number of task forces almost doubled overnight, from 35 pre-9/11 to 56 soon after 9/11 (50 more have been established since then). Of course, JTTFs have been around since the 1980s, starting in New York and Chicago.

Originally located at FBI Headquarters, the NJTTF moved to the multi-agency National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), where it performs its mission while also working with NCTC personnel to exchange information, analyze data, and plan anti-terrorism strategies.

So what exactly is the NJTTF’s mission? Managing the Bureau’s JTTFs around the country is major part of the operation, and it’s a huge job—there are currently approximately 4,000 JTTF task force members from over 500 state and local agencies as well as 55 federal agencies.

The national group supports each regional task force in every way imaginable—from sharing intelligence and terrorism threat information to providing big-picture terrorism analysis…from offering guidance and oversight to setting sound program policies…from supplying resources for manpower, equipment, and space to facilitating training.

Another vital aspect of the NJTTF’s mission is sharing information among its 70 members—officers, agents, and analysts—who then pass the information onto the 40 different agencies they represent. Those agencies—from the law enforcement, intelligence, homeland security, defense, diplomatic, and public safety sectors—include the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. military, and federal, state, and local partners. Men and women from the U.S. Secret Service, Federal Air Marshals, New York City Police Department, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Amtrak Police, and dozens of other organizations work together every day in the global war on terrorism.

NJTTF members are also working together on joint initiatives designed to address broader terrorism threats. For example:

  • Operation TRIPWIRE focuses on information and intelligence-sharing operations from the NJTTF’s participating agencies to help identify terrorist sleeper cells in the U.S.
  • Correctional Intelligence Initiative assists JTTFs and correctional facilities to combat prison radicalization and recruitment of prisoners within federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial prisons.
  • Rail Liaison Agent Program works to protect the country’s critical mass transit and freight rail infrastructure by collecting and disseminating rail-related terrorism intelligence info to JTTFs and critical rail partners nationwide.
  • Military Operations Support Team looks at military-specific terrorism threats.
  • The NJTTF and the JTTFs work tirelessly to protect Americans from terrorism, but they can’t do it alone—every law enforcement officer, first responder, military member, intelligence analyst, and private citizen has a role to play in the global war on terror.

Suspicious activity of any kind can be reported to your local JTTF or FBI field office.

Counterterrorism Fly Team

Who do we call when we need an infusion of seasoned counterterrorism investigators who can respond quickly to dangerous threats and major terrorist attacks around the country and across the globe? The FBI’s Counterterrorism Division Fly Team.

Genesis: On June 21, 2002, the FBI Director announced to Congress the establishment of the Fly Team as a significant counterterrorism initiative under the reorganization plan to refocus the Bureau’s mission and priorities following the 9/11 terrorism attacks.

What is it exactly? A small, highly trained cadre of counterterrorism investigators—including special agents and intelligence analysts—based at FBI Headquarters who stand ready to deploy anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice.

Fly Team mission: To bring the FBI’s strategic and tactical counterterrorism capabilities to bear in partnership with other U.S. government agencies and foreign partner-nation entities in critical overseas locations to detect, penetrate, and disrupt terrorist networks.

What specific training and skills do Fly Team members have?

  • Counter-terrorism subject matter expertise;
  • Advanced interview and interrogation;
  • Human intelligence operations;
  • Evidence collection and sensitive site exploitation;
  • Digital media exploitation and forensics;
  • Explosive post blast investigations;
  • Biometrics;
  • Advanced tactical and force protection skills;
  • Advanced medical training;
  • Tactical evasive driving;
  • Hostage survival and resistance training;
  • Foreign language skills (Arabic, French, Somali, Spanish);
  • Foreign weapons knowledge and proficiency; and
  • Advanced surveillance techniques.

Since its creation, the Fly Team has conducted hundreds of strategic deployments throughout the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, the Horn of Africa, and the war zones of Iraq & Afghanistan. The Fly Team has also responded to numerous counterterrorism critical incidents over the years, with recent examples listed below:

  • Boston Marathon bombing;
  • Benghazi, Libya – U.S. Consulate Attack;
  • Nairobi, Kenya - Westgate Mall attack;
  • Kampala, Uganda – World Cup bombing; and
  • Abuja, Nigeria – Boko Haram kidnapping of school girls.

Terrorist Financing Operations Section

The Terrorism Financing Operations Section (TFOS) coordinates efforts to track and shut down terrorist financing and to exploit financial information in an effort to identify previously unknown terrorist cells and to recognize potential activity/planning. TFOS builds on the FBI’s expertise in conducting complex criminal financial investigations and long-established relationships with the financial services sector. Through this effort, the FBI has made tremendous progress in tracking and freezing terrorists’ assets.

The work of TFOS includes conducting full financial analysis of terrorist suspects and their financial support structures in the United States and abroad; coordinating joint participation, liaison, and outreach efforts to appropriately utilize financial information resources of private sector, government, and foreign entities; utilizing FBI and legal attaché expertise to fully exploit financial information from international law enforcement, including the overseas deployment of TFOS personnel; working jointly with the intelligence community to fully exploit intelligence to further terrorist investigations; working jointly with prosecutors, law enforcement, and regulatory communities; and developing predictive models and conducting data analysis to facilitate the identification of previously unknown terrorist suspects.

Video: A Look Back at 9/11 Attacks and Flight 93 

After planes crashed in New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001, employees at the Pittsburgh FBI weren't sure where to respond. Then news came of a fourth plane--United Flight 93--heading their way.

How to Help Prevent Terrorist Attacks 

This is a message that bears repeating, no matter where you live in the world: Your assistance is needed in preventing terrorist acts.

It's a fact that certain kinds of activities can indicate terrorist plans that are in the works, especially when they occur at or near high profile sites or places where large numbers of people gather—like government buildings, military facilities, utilities, bus or train stations, major public events. If you see or know about suspicious activities, like the ones listed below, please report them immediately to the proper authorities. In the United States, that means your closest Joint Terrorist Task Force, located in an FBI field office. In other countries, that means your closest law enforcement/counterterrorism agency.

Surveillance: Are you aware of anyone video recording or monitoring activities, taking notes, using cameras, maps, binoculars, etc., near key facilities/events?

Suspicious Questioning: Are you aware of anyone attempting to gain information in person, by phone, mail, email, etc., regarding a key facility or people who work there?

Tests of Security: Are you aware of any attempts to penetrate or test physical security or procedures at a key facility/event?

Acquiring Supplies: Are you aware of anyone attempting to improperly acquire explosives, weapons, ammunition, dangerous chemicals, uniforms, badges, flight manuals, access cards or identification for a key facility/event or to legally obtain items under suspicious circumstances that could be used in a terrorist attack?

Suspicious Persons: Are you aware of anyone who does not appear to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment, or near a key facility/event?

"Dry Runs": Have you observed any behavior that appears to be preparation for a terrorist act, such as mapping out routes, playing out scenarios with other people, monitoring key facilities/events, timing traffic lights or traffic flow, or other suspicious activities?

Deploying Assets: Have you observed abandoned vehicles, stockpiling of suspicious materials, or persons being deployed near a key facility/event?

If you answered yes to any of the above...if you have observed any suspicious activity that may relate to terrorism...again, please contact the Joint Terrorist Task Force or law enforcement/counterterrorism agency closest to you immediately. Your tip could save the lives of innocent people, just like you and yours.

Suspicious Package Poster

Tips on how to handle a suspicious package or letter.