December 12, 2013

TEDAC Marks 10-Year Anniversary

A Potent Weapon in the War on Terror 

It has been 10 years since the FBI established the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), and since that time the multi-agency operation—sometimes referred to as America’s bomb library—has become an essential tool in the nation’s fight against terrorism.

Before TEDAC, no single government entity was responsible for analyzing and exploiting evidence and intelligence related to the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by international and domestic terrorists. Today, TEDAC coordinates all those efforts.

Located at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, “TEDAC is the government’s single repository for IEDs,” said Special Agent Greg Carl, TEDAC director. “The evidence and intelligence we gather from these explosives is used by law enforcement, the military, the intelligence community, and by our political decision-makers. There is no question that the work we have done—and continue to do—has helped to save American lives.”

Whether bombs come from the battlefields of Afghanistan or from homegrown terrorists within our borders, TEDAC’s 13 government agency partners and 17 external partners collect the devices and send them to TEDAC to be analyzed and catalogued.

“We exploit the devices forensically,” said Carl, a veteran FBI agent who is also a bomb technician. The results are analyzed by TEDAC’s Intelligence Unit (see sidebar) and disseminated to law enforcement entities and the intelligence community to provide key intelligence on terrorist networks. “Based on the forensic evidence—DNA, fingerprints, and other biometrics—we try to identify the bomb maker and also make associations, linking devices together from separate incidents.”

Since its creation in 2003, TEDAC has examined more than 100,000 IEDs from around the world and currently receives submissions at the rate of 800 per month. Two million items have been processed for latent prints—half of them this year alone. “Just from the sheer volume,” Carl said, “we have a lot of experience identifying IED components and blast damage.” As a result, he added, “we have identified over 1,000 individuals with potential ties to terrorism.”

Also based on TEDAC analysis, more than 100 people have been named to the government’s Terrorist Watchlist, a database that identifies subjects known to be or reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activity. “Putting individuals on the list prevents them from entering the country,” Carl said.

Subject matter experts from TEDAC can quickly deploy to incidents—such as the Boston Marathon bombings last April—and work with FBI Evidence Response Teams and local law enforcement to collect critical evidence and quickly transport it to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico for analysis. “We sent our folks immediately to the scene in Boston to help coordinate the collection and processing of evidence,” Carl said.

TEDAC is capable of much more than evidence collection for criminal prosecution, though. “Since we also partner with the military and the intelligence community, our work is utilized by many different sources,” Carl said. The military, for example, uses TEDAC intelligence for force protection and to disrupt terror networks. Decision-makers can count on TEDAC’s intelligence—based on forensic science—to help them form policy.

“And our interagency partners use TEDAC for research,” Carl added, explaining that agencies can “check out” a bomb—much like a library book—for testing and further analysis. “We maintain all of the devices that we’ve collected going back to the inception of the center.”

Looking back over a decade and forward to the future—TEDAC is building a state-of-the-art facility in Huntsville, Alabama—Carl said, “I see TEDAC as good government. The fact that you have multiple agencies coming together, working toward one common cause, without duplicating resources means that everyone benefits. And that helps make the country safer.”

Driven by Intelligence

TEDAC’s Intelligence Unit is composed of analysts from the FBI, Department of Defense, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The analysts are integral in finding key intelligence that connects TEDAC’s forensic examination of IEDs with past bomb events, connecting the dots between bomb makers and devices.

The intelligence analysts produce detailed reports for use by U.S. warfighters in theaters of engagement, law enforcement partners, and bomb technicians worldwide. For instance, TEDAC has shared 37,000 latent prints with partner agencies since 2003. Using their extensive knowledge of the global IED threat, analysts also work to predict the nature of possible future attacks, moving analysis from the retrospective realm into predictive analysis. Such analysis enables the government to focus on new threats and develop countermeasures or new detection techniques—thereby addressing security and intelligence gaps to further protect the homeland, our troops overseas, and our foreign partners.

White House Policy on Countering IEDs

On February 26, 2013, two decades to the day after an explosives-laden truck detonated under the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York, the White House released a policy statement outlining the government’s commitment to countering IEDs, which accounted for more than 4,000 attacks in 2011. Central tenets of the policy include enhanced training, increased sharing of information and expertise, and “effectively exploiting information and materials from IED attacks.”

The Joint Program Office for Countering IEDs, administered through the FBI, was created to coordinate and track implementation of the priority capabilities spelled out in the White House policy statement. “The threat from IED use is likely to remain high in the near future, and will continue to evolve in response to our abilities to counter them,” the statement concludes.

“TEDAC plays a vital role in the national strategy,” said Special Agent Greg Carl, TEDAC director, noting that the multi-agency organization is the government’s single strategic IED exploitation center as well as the repository for more than 100,000 IEDs collected during the past decade.