The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces, or JTTFs, 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.
The task forces are based in 104 cities nationwide, including at least one in each of our 56 field offices. A total of 71 of these JTTFs have been created since 9/11; the first was established in New York City in 1980.
Today, the JTTFs include approximately 4,000 members nationwide—more than four times the pre-9/11 total—hailing from over 500 state and local agencies and 55 federal agencies (the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. military, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Transportation Security Administration, to name a few).
The JTTFs provide one-stop shopping for information regarding terrorist activities. They enable a shared intelligence base across many agencies. They create familiarity among investigators and managers before a crisis. And perhaps most importantly, they pool talents, skills, and knowledge from across the law enforcement and intelligence communities into a single team that responds together.
Their contributions are more than we could possibly capture here, but JTTFs have been instrumental in breaking up cells like the “Portland Seven,” the “Lackawanna Six,” and the Northern Virginia jihad. They’ve foiled attacks on the Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey, on the JFK International Airport in New York, and on various military and civilian targets in Los Angeles. They’ve traced sources of terrorist funding, responded to anthrax threats, halted the use of fake IDs, and quickly arrested suspicious characters with all kinds of deadly weapons and explosives. Chances are, if you hear about a counterterrorism investigation, JTTFs are playing an active and often decisive role.
The task forces coordinate their efforts largely through the interagency National Joint Terrorism Task Force, working out of FBI Headquarters, which makes sure that information and intelligence flows freely among the local JTTFs and beyond.
And here’s the final—and most important—thing you should know about these JTTFs: They are working 24/7/365 to protect you, your families, and your communities from terrorist attack.