FBI Counterintelligence National Strategy
A Blueprint for Protecting U.S. Secrets
Surveillance photo of two subjects of Operation Ghost Stories, an investigation into a Russian spy ring operating in the U.S.
Espionage may seem like a throwback to earlier days of world wars and cold wars, but the threat is real and as serious as ever.
We see it—and work hard to counter it—all the time. It’s not just the more traditional spies passing U.S. secrets to foreign governments, either to fatten their own wallets or to advance their ideological agendas. It’s also students and scientists and plenty of others stealing the valuable trade secrets of American universities and businesses—the ingenuity that drives our economy—and providing them to other countries. It’s nefarious actors sending controlled technologies overseas that help build bombs and weapons of mass destruction designed to hurt and kill Americans and others.
In late October, in fact, we took part in a multi-agency and multi-national operation that led to the indictment of five citizens of Singapore and four of their companies for illegally exporting thousands of radio frequency modules from the U.S. Allegedly, at least 16 of these modules were later found in unexploded improvised explosive devices in Iraq.
As the lead agency for exposing, preventing, and investigating intelligence activities on U.S. soil, the FBI continues to work to combat these threats using our full suite of investigative and intelligence capabilities. We’ve mapped out our blueprint in what we call our Counterintelligence National Strategy, which is regularly updated to focus resources on the most serious current and emerging threats.
The strategy itself is classified, but we can tell you what its overall goals are:
- Keep weapons of mass destruction, advanced conventional weapons, and related technology from falling into the wrong hands—using intelligence to drive our investigative efforts to keep threats from becoming reality. Our new Counterproliferation Center will play a major role here.
- Protect the secrets of the U.S. intelligence community—again, using intelligence to focus our investigative efforts and collaborating with our government partners to reduce the risk of espionage and insider threats.
- Protect the nation’s critical assets—like our advanced technologies and sensitive information in the defense, intelligence, economic, financial, public health, and science and technology sectors. We work to identify the source and significance of the threats against these assets, and to help their “owners” to minimize vulnerabilities.
- Counter the activities of foreign spies—whether they are representatives of foreign intelligence agencies or governments or are acting on their behalf, they all want the same thing: to steal U.S. secrets. Through proactive investigations, we identify who they are and stop what they’re doing.
One important aspect of our counterintelligence strategy involves strategic partnerships. And on that front, we focus on three specific areas:
- The sharing of expertise and resources of the FBI, the U.S. intelligence community, other U.S. government agencies, and global partners to combat foreign intelligence activities;
- Coordination of U.S. intelligence community efforts to combat insider threats among its own ranks; and
- Partnerships with businesses and colleges and universities to strengthen information sharing and counterintelligence awareness.
Focus on cyber activities. Another key element of our counterintelligence strategy, according to FBI Counterintelligence Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi, is its emphasis on detecting and deterring foreign-sponsored cyber intelligence threats to government and private sector information systems. “Sometimes,” he said, “the bad guys don’t have to physically be in the U.S. to steal targeted information…sometimes they can be halfway around the world, sitting at a keyboard.”
The FBI’s Counterintelligence National Strategy supports both the President’s National Security Strategy and the National Counterintelligence Strategy of the United States.