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The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Change:Addressing US Domestic Counter-terrorismIntelligence

Adam D.M. Svendsen

To cite this article: Adam D.M. Svendsen (2012) The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Change:Addressing US Domestic Counter-terrorism Intelligence, Intelligence and National Security, 27:3,371-397, DOI: 10.1080/02684527.2012.668080

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The Federal Bureau of Investigationand Change: Addressing US Domestic

Counter-terrorism Intelligence


ABSTRACT In this article, shortcomings with US domestic counter-terrorismintelligence and associated efforts since 2000 are analysed. Potential suggestions forthe extended development of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are thendiscussed. Some of these propositions touch on developments involving the domesticintelligence and security services of other countries, and explore their use concerningthe future optimization of the FBI in the area of domestic counter-terrorismintelligence. Within the overall culture and operational approach of the FBI, todaygreater sustained emphasis still needs to be accorded to the ‘intelligence methodology’of ‘wait and watch’. Simultaneously, the FBI needs to keep moving more from mainly apost facto emphasis to more of an a priori one in its investigations. Thereby, the FBIcan continue to move towards improved delivery and better meet its role as a guarantorof US national security in a timely manner as the twenty-first century progresses.

We in the FBI have undergone unprecedented transformation in recentyears, from developing the intelligence capabilities necessary to addressemerging terrorist and criminal threats, to creating the administrativeand technological structure necessary to meet our mission as a nationalsecurity service.1

– R.S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI


The early twenty-first century has inaugurated a period of much change for USdomestic intelligence. This has particularly been the case for its traditionalmanager, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The long-term driversfor these trends stem predominantly from attempting to cope with thedetritus of unprecedented rapid globalization experienced during the post-Cold War era. This has included significantly elevated counter-crime

*Email:‘Statement of R.S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI’, Oversight of the FBI, Hearing before theCommittee on the Judiciary, United States Senate (25 March 2009) p.5

Intelligence and National SecurityVol. 27, No. 3, 371–397, June 2012

ISSN 0268-4527 Print/ISSN 1743-9019 Online/12/030371-27 ª 2012 Taylor & Francis

requirements.2 After the 9/11 attacks, expanded domestic and internationalcounter-terrorism needs were also firmly asserted. A complex matrix ofenhanced tasks has formed.

In this article, focus is concentrated on the post-9/11 FBI. Unsurprisingly,given the contemporary challenges confronted by the FBI, strategy and policyimplications loom large. Equally, neither exempt from consideration areimportant tactical and operational concerns. Both structural and culturalfactors likewise figure. All of these implications still need their timelyengagement and addressing by the FBI and its partners beyond. This action isrequired in order to maintain an appropriate and proportional level ofvigilance in the United States and abroad as the twenty-first centuryprogresses. This consideration emerges prominently as, into 2010, the diverseterrorism threat the US confronts continues to evolve in several differentchallenging directions. Sustained close scrutiny and monitoring of all thedimensions involved is necessary.3

To keep both identifying, and – more crucially – learning, complexlessons, the considerations presented above make the subject of this articleworthy of some further examination. This is especially as the FBI has toconstantly maintain treading a fine ‘balancing act’ in its operationsconcerning many sensitive issues. Extending a continuously evolvingapproach to learning and adaptation is clearly essential.4 During the FBI’sprocess of change, increasingly creative and knowledgeable counter-terrorism practitioners need their enhanced fostering.

‘Reforming’ the FBI

Recent history has dealt some tough hands for the FBI. Over the last decade,analysts have tabled numerous suggestions for FBI reform. Frequently, theyadopt a comparative approach. Attention is drawn to other instructivemodels for domestic intelligence and security sector reform in the UnitedStates that are available throughout the world. This extensive literatureprovides a valuable foundation upon which the connective and explorativepropositions advanced in this article are built.5

2For a mid-1990s evaluation of ‘globalization’, M. Waters, Globalization (London:Routledge/Key Ideas series 1995). For the ‘dark side’ of globalization, S. Weber, NaazneenBarma, Matthew Kroenig and Ely Ratner, ‘How Globalization Went Bad’, Foreign Policy(January/February 2007); see also J.A. Scholte, ‘Globalization and (In)Security’ inGlobalization: A Critical Introduction, 2nd ed. (London: Palgrave 2005) pp.279–315.3See, for example, C. Dickey, ‘Inside the Zazi Takedown’, Newsweek, 26 September 2009;‘Pakistan Confirms US Men Arrested’, BBC News Online, 10 December 2009; ‘UnconnectedDots, Yet Again, on a Terror Attempt’, The Washington Post, 28 December 2009; M.Mazzetti and S. Shane, ‘Evidence Mounts for Taliban Role in Car Bomb Plot’, The New YorkTimes, 5 May 2010.4See, for example, C. Johnson, ‘FBI Director Appoints Judge to Review lead up to FortHood’, The Washington Post, 8 December 2009; J. Markon, ‘FBI Walks Tightrope inOutreach to Muslims, Fighting Terrorism’, The Washington Post, 20 December 2009.5See, for instance, the texts cited throughout this article.

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Offering a ‘critical’ perspective, this article aims to provide a suitablydetached reflective overview evaluation of the ongoing changes vis-à-vis theFBI. Aiming to communicate a range of operational-to-strategy/policy-orientated lessons, contemporary historical developments since 2000 areexamined. Particular concentration is placed on the FBI’s counter-terrorismintelligence work in the early twenty-first century. Some suggestions are thenoffered for how changes might be shaped and extended over the next fewyears. These are provided to help ensure that the FBI adequately reflects anevolving ‘work-in-progress’ within the important realms of intelligence andcounter-terrorism.

The FBI and Intelligence

Intelligence forms the main concern. As former CIA Inspector General(1990–98), Frederick P. Hitz, has argued: ‘It is not fair to say, as some of itscritics do, that the bureau has no experience in this domestic intelligenceresponsibility’.6 Indeed, several longer-ranging histories of the FBI, andassociated subject texts, provide valuable insights into the extent of thatcompetency during earlier time periods.7 However, as a plethora of twenty-first-century events have shown and continue to demand, an enhancedintelligence methodology is still increasingly imperative for the FBI.8

Reflecting greater use of ‘wait and watch’ tactics, this last methodologyrequires effective implementation alongside the security methodology –characterized in turn as being more reflective of ‘see and strike’ actions. Anextended ‘intelligence methodology’ is especially important vis-à-vis theissue of terrorism. This is while it is simultaneously useful against othercontemporary pressing FBI concerns, such as organized and cyber crime.9

Forward movements can be summarized. Sustained attention towardseffectively pursuing the route of enhanced intelligence is required by the FBIin its overall law enforcement approach as time progresses. A useful place tobegin is by examining the context of recent US domestic counter-terrorismintelligence shortfalls. Especially shown is how, over the past decade,particularly emblematic examples have been tackled and where they needtheir further addressing.

6F.P. Hitz, Why Spy? Espionage in an Age of Uncertainty (New York: St. Martin’s Press2008) p.193.7See, for example, texts such as R. Jeffreys-Jones, The FBI: A History (London: YaleUniversity Press 2007); see also A.D.M. Svendsen, Intelligence Cooperation and the War onTerror: Anglo-American Security Relations after 9/11 (London: Routledge/Studies inIntelligence Series 2010) pp.42, 47–8.8See also J.N. Shapiro and R. Darken, ‘Homeland Security: A New Strategic Paradigm?’ in J.Baylis, J.J. Wirtz and C.S. Gray (eds.) Strategy in the Contemporary World, 3rd ed. (Oxford:Oxford University Press 2010) from p.288.9See also R.S. Mueller, III, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, ‘Before the SenateCommittee on the Judiciary’, FBI website, 20 January 2010.

Addressing US Domestic Counter-terrorism Intelligence 373

US Domestic Counter-terrorism Intelligence Shortcomings

In the wake of 9/11, the FBI was widely criticized regarding its competence.Domestic counter-terrorism intelligence emerged as the main focus ofconcern.10 Arguably, especially after the 1998 US embassy bombings inAfrica, the FBI’s attention span concerning terrorism had been increasinglyfocused beyond the shores of the United States. The international terrorismthreat dominated.11 Only very shortly before the 9/11 attacks was a moreconcerted domestic counter-terrorism focus and broader homeland securitythreat awareness beginning to develop.12 Ultimately, with hindsight, thiswas rather belated.

After 9/11, numerous reviews were conducted and a multitude of reformsto US domestic counter-terrorism intelligence were tabled. Many of the post-9/11 reviews were vociferous in calling for the radical reform of the FBI.Notably, these demands emphasized improving information sharing. Thiswas to be accomplished both internally within the FBI and externally on aninteragency basis.13

Certainly, some of the shortcomings identified during the post-9/11‘season of inquiry’ have now been addressed.14 However, some limitations

10See also Jeffreys-Jones, ‘9/11 and the Quest for National Unity’, chapter 14 in his The FBI,pp.230–52.11A. Khan, ‘Analysis: FBI Goes Global’, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 12 April 2000; see also‘George Tenet’s al-Qaida Testimony – Part 1’, The Guardian, 18 October 2002; M. Smith,The Spying Game (London: Politico’s 2003) p.444.12‘Defending the Homeland becomes a Priority for Bush’, Jane’s Terrorism & SecurityMonitor, 1 August 2001.13Many sources can be cited here: ‘3.2. Adaptation – and nonadaptation – in the lawenforcement community’ in the US National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon theUnited States of America, 9/11 Commission Report (22 July 2004), pp.73–80; M. German,‘An FBI Insider’s Guide to the 9/11 Commission Report’, (2005); P.Shenon and E. Lichtblau, ‘F.B.I. is Assailed for its Handling of Terror Risks’, The New YorkTimes, 14 April 2004; A. Cumming and T. Masse, ‘RL32336: FBI Intelligence Reform SinceSeptember 11, 2001: Issues and Options for Congress’, CRS Report for Congress, 6 April2004; Office of the Inspector General, ‘A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’sCounterterrorism Program: Threat Assessment, Strategic Planning, and Resource Manage-ment’, Report No. 02-38, September 2002; ‘Terrorist Attacks Prompt FBI Reform’, Jane’sIntelligence Review, 1 February 2002; A. Brownfeld, ‘US Intelligence Failures and theMoussaoui Case’, Jane’s Terrorism & Security Monitor, 17 June 2002; U.S. Department ofJustice, Office of the Inspector General, A Review of the FBI’s Handling of IntelligenceInformation Related to the September 11 Attacks (November 2004/declassified June 2006);see also ‘Confronting the ‘‘Enemy Within’’: What Can the United States Learn AboutCounterterrorism and Intelligence from Other Democracies?’, RAND Research Brief, 2004;see also P. Chalk and W. Rosenau, Confronting the ‘Enemy Within’: Security Intelligence, thePolice, and Counterterrorism in Four Democracies (Santa Monica, CA: RAND 2004).14See, for example, ‘Sharing & Accessing of Information Beyond the FBI’ in ‘Responses of theFederal Bureau of Investigation Based Upon the May 2, 2006 Hearing Before the SenateCommittee on the Judiciary Regarding FBI Oversight’, pp.117–18; see also R.S. Mueller,Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, ‘From 9/11 to 7/7: Global Terrorism Today and the

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remain. More than eight years after 9/11, domestic counter-terrorism effortsand intelligence gathering generally within the United States still haveample scope for being further optimized.15 Both qualitative and quanti-tative problems have been confronted. While challenging to disaggregatebecause of their close overlap, some of these pressing problems are nowevaluated in turn.

Confronting Qualitative Problems

In May 2006, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, US Senator Pat Leahy,highlighted some of the major obstacles that confronted the FBI. He assertedthat: ‘The FBI simply cannot continue to foster a culture that places a lowervalue on intelligence functions than investigative efforts.’16 During early 2008,in his testimony to a congressional subcommittee, FBI Agent Bassem Youssefwent further. He observed critically that: ‘The FBI counter-terrorism division isill-equipped to handle the terrorist threat we are facing’.17 Furthermore, heasserted that ‘counter-terrorism agents and managers at FBI headquarters oftenlack basic knowledge about Middle Eastern culture, language and terrorists’ideology’. Allegedly, high-level counter-terrorism inexperience figuredstrongly, ‘compounding matters’.18 More widely, these problems are oftenintimately connected with prominent questions regarding ‘proportionality’during the conduct of operations. They also extend to include pressing civilliberties and domestic, constitutional and civil rights considerations.19

Challenges of Tomorrow’, Chatham House Transcript, 7 April 2008; see also, for example,‘Interview: Art Cummings’, PBS Frontline, 5 June 2006; see also D. Priest, ‘FBI Pushes toExpand Domain into CIA’s Intelligence Gathering: Common Ground Not Yet Reached onAgency Roles in U.S.’, The Washington Post, 6 February 2005; see also R.A. Best Jr., ‘SharingLaw Enforcement and Intelligence Information: The Congressional Role’, CRS Report forCongress, 13 February 2007; ‘TSC Recognized for Information Sharing Initiatives’, FBI PressRelease, 6 March 2009; see also ‘Intelligence at Home . . . and Abroad?’ heading in ‘TheAgenda Ahead’, chapter 5 in G.F. Treverton, Intelligence for an Age of Terror (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press 2009) pp.120–33.15See also S. Shane, ‘Lapses Allowed Suspect to Board Plane’, The New York Times, 5 May2010.16‘Statement by Sen. Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary Hearingon FBI Oversight’, Office of Senator Leahy, 2 May 2006; see also R.A. Posner, UncertainShield: The U.S. Intelligence System in the Throes of Reform (Lanham, MD: Rowman &Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2006); for a review of Posner’s book, see S. Moskowitz,‘Intelligence in Recent Public Literature: Uncertain Shield: The U.S. Intelligence System inthe Throes of Reform. . .’, CIA Studies in Intelligence 50/3 (2006); see also R.A. Posner,‘Conclusion’ in his Remaking Domestic Intelligence (Washington, DC: Hoover InstitutionPress, 2005) pp.81–2.17Quoted in R.B. Schmitt, ‘Agent Says the FBI is Not Prepared’, Los Angeles Times, 22 May2008.18Ibid.19D. Cole and J.X. Dempsey, Terrorism and the Constitution, 3rd ed. (New York: The NewPress 2006).

Addressing US Domestic Counter-terrorism Intelligence 375

A persistent but frequently overlooked problem for the FBI is balancingmultiple roles. Most immediately after the multitude of post-9/11 reformsaround 2002 and closely following several high-profile spy cases, othersecurity anxieties re-emerged, such as regarding counter-espionage.20 Fearswere evident that too many resources, including staff, were being redeployedto combat solely the issue of terrorism. Others expressed concerns thatorganized crime investigations were simultaneously atrophying. Although,according to some – such as David Major, a former senior FBI Counter-intelligence agent – these fears could soon be somewhat placated by 2002–3.21

Yet, divided attention remains problematic. Focusing on three highlydemanding roles, that all compete for the same ultimately finite resources,means that several complications are encountered.22 Continuing into 2009–10, the diverse competing calls on the FBI’s intelligence capabilities andcapacity necessitates ever-greater resourcefulness in making allocations.23

Here, an enhanced ‘intelligence methodology’ can again assist. For example,this is in the form of introducing some more reflective planning.

These have not been the only prevailing concerns. During the FBI’sattempts to modernize, as well as to reform after 9/11, not all of itsinitiatives have gone to plan. The FBI has encountered a plethora of majorand costly information computing technology (ICT) project problems.Worse, simultaneously some of these projects have failed to deliver orproduce as quickly as required.24 In part, these struggles appropriatelyreflect the FBI’s attempts to strive to meet what criminologist JamesSheptycki has observed as an overall trend towards a ‘rise to prominence ofintelligence-led policing (ILP), which is the technological effort to manage

20G. Corera, ‘US Reforms Overlook Threat from Foreign Intelligence’, Jane’s IntelligenceReview, 1 June 2003.21See, for instance, where he is quoted in ibid.; for a later US espionage case, ‘US ScientistCharged with Spying’, BBC, 19 October 2009; D.Q. Wilber, ‘Md. Scientist Tried to Spy,Indictment Says’, The Washington Post, 23 October 2009.22See also ‘The FBI and Foreign Intelligence Penetration’, Jane’s Intelligence Digest, 30January 2009.23B. Krebs, ‘Organized Crime Behind a Majority of Data Breaches’, The Washington Post, 15April 2009; see also B. Krebs, ‘Security Fix: Is Cyber Crime Really the FBI’s No. 3 Priority?’,The Washington Post Blog, 24 September 2007; see also R.S. Mueller, III, Director FBI,‘Before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’, FBI website,30 September 2009; R.S. Mueller, III, Director FBI, ‘Statement Before the Senate JudiciaryCommittee’, FBI website, 16 September 2009; P. Slevin, ‘Rampage Kills 12, Wounds 31’, TheWashington Post, 6 November 2009; G. Jaffe, A. Gerhart and W. Booth, ‘Officials Cast WideNet in Search for Answers’, The Washington Post, 8 November 2009; E. Nakashima and J.Pomfret, ‘China Proves to be an Aggressive Foe in Cyberspace’, The Washington Post, 11November 2009; M. Glod, ‘Former FBI Employee Sentenced for Leaking Classified Papers’,The Washington Post, 25 May 2010; A. Entous, ‘Obama Starts Deploying InterrogationTeams’, Reuters, 19 May 2010.24E. Lichtblau, ‘F.B.I. Faces New Setback in Computer Overhaul’, The New York Times, 18March 2010.

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information about threats and risks in order to strategically manage thepolicing mission’.25

Significant well-documented obstacles have beset the FBI on this front.26

In August 2006, reports bemoaned that, ‘five years after the Sept. 11, 2001,terrorist attacks and more than $600 million later, agents still rely largely onthe paper reports and file cabinets used since federal agents began chasinggangsters in the 1920s’. This lack of technological interconnectivity was aconsiderable shortcoming. Not least, this paucity was occurring as the FBItried to operate in a domain where making ‘connections’ during the courseof increasingly wide-ranging investigations is crucial. This is particularlywhen operations are trying to be undertaken during an era of exponentialglobalization. Amid the fallout from these stymying ICT project failures,officials commented that in terms of technology the FBI is trapped in the1980s, ‘if not earlier’.27 Senator Leahy lamented: ‘We might be in the22nd century before we get the 21st-century technology’.28 FBI intelligenceactivities confronted being technologically stunted.

A third area of difficulty has been evident. This has been seen most clearlyregarding FBI internal handling processes and procedures. Pointing to asuggested lack of micro-domain change at the daily work level, post-9/11FBI agent training has frequently been criticized. This has particularly beenin relation to the more specific domain of counter-terrorism skills.29 Businesswas impacted negatively. Poor handling, such as of records and so-called‘National Security Letters’ (NSLs)30 during the course of investigations, hasexperienced considerable criticism. In 2007, the flaws were exposed moststarkly in an official report during a review of FBI data collection.31

However, what was possibly more damning for the FBI were its subsequent

25J. Sheptycki, ‘Transnational Policing’, The Canadian Review of Policing Research, 1(2005); see also T. Connors, ‘Putting the ‘‘L’’ into Intelligence-Led Policing: How PoliceLeaders Can Leverage Intelligence Capability’, International Journal of Intelligence andCounterIntelligence 22/2 (2009) pp.237–45.26D. Eggen and G. Witte, ‘The FBI’s Upgrade That Wasn’t: $170 Million Bought an UnusableComputer System’, The Washington Post, 18 August 2006.27Ibid.28Quoted in ibid.29See, for example, S. Horwitz, ‘Old-School Academy in Post-9/11 World: New Focus is onTerrorism, but Training is Struggling to Keep Up’, The Washington Post, 17 August 2006.30NSLs are defined by the FBI as ‘a letter request for information from a third party that isissued by the FBI or by other government agencies with authority to conduct national securityinvestigations’.31Many sources can be cited here: R.J. Smith, ‘Report Details Missteps in Data Collection’,The Washington Post, 10 March 2007; see also D. Johnston and E. Lipton, ‘U.S. Report toFault F.B.I. on Subpoenas’, The New York Times, 9 March 2007; J. Solomon and B. Gellman,‘Frequent Errors in FBI’s Secret Records Requests: Audit Finds Possible Rule Violations’, TheWashington Post, 9 March 2007; D. Stout, ‘F.B.I. Head Admits Mistakes in Use of SecurityAct’, The New York Times, 10 March 2007; D. Eggen and J. Solomon, ‘FBI Audit PromptsCalls for Reform: Some Lawmakers Suggest Limits on Patriot Act’, The Washington Post, 10March 2007; R.J. Smith and J. Solomon, ‘Amid Concerns, FBI Lapses Went On: Records

Addressing US Domestic Counter-terrorism Intelligence 377

sluggish attempts to then deal with the issue once identified. This was whilethe scope of the errors, at least at first, was not fully appreciated.32 Worse,these problems were not isolated. Instead, they were more linked to issuesof a muddled methodology riddled with faults.33 Already besieged exter-nally, intelligence work suffered further from facing these substantialinternal challenges.

The faults could be exposed. According to Justice Department and FBIofficials, FBI agents repeatedly provided inaccurate information to win secretcourt approval of surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases.This prompted officials to tighten controls. Notably, this was on the way theFBI uses its powerful anti-terrorism tools, as sanctioned by legislation suchas the post-9/11 Patriot Act of October 2001.34

The spectre of some further operational constraints being raised was soonforthcoming. This was through the stricter application of the law as a greatercontrolling mechanism on FBI intelligence activities. The chief judge of theForeign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, ‘raised thepossibility of requiring counterterrorism agents to swear in her courtroomthat the information they were providing was accurate’. This was judged tobe ‘a procedure that could have slowed such investigations drastically’.35 Asharp legal warning was issued to the FBI. These developments could impactstrongly on its permissible intelligence activities and on the definition of theirlegitimate operational parameters. Many concerns for future intelligenceactivities and which ‘leads’ could be exploited were apparent.

Operational flaws were proving difficult to resolve. Although ‘riskthresholds’ had been lowered post-9/11, better balances with other pressingand frequently competing considerations were sought in the FBI’s opera-tions. This was especially so that the end goals of ‘public safety’ and‘homeland security’ could be better met in a less compromising manner towidely held higher values. In his later testimony of March 2009, the Directorof the FBI, Robert S. Mueller highlighted that: ‘We have strengthenedour training at the FBI’s Quantico Training Academy for both agents and[intelligence] analysts’.36 The improvement of practices was to be theway forward.

Arguably, however, the operational problems confronted also reflectedinstitutional overstretch. Intelligence efforts were similarly frustrated. This was

Collection Brought Internal Questions but Little Scrutiny’, The Washington Post, 18 March2007.32Ibid.33See also C.E. Lindblom, ‘The Science of ‘‘Muddling Through’’‘, Public AdministrationReview 19 (Spring 1959) pp.79–88; C.E. Lindblom, ‘Still Muddling, Not Yet Through’,Public Administration Review 39 (1979) pp.517–26; J. Solomon and C. Johnson, ‘FBI BrokeLaw for Years in Phone Record Searches’, The Washington Post, 19 January 2010.34See also P.A. Buxbaum, ‘Patriot Act Redux’, ISN Security Watch, 11 November 2009.35J. Solomon, ‘FBI Provided Inaccurate Data for Surveillance Warrants’, The WashingtonPost, 27 March 2007.36‘Statement of R.S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI’, p.7.

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witnessed vividly in mid-2007, extending into 2009, with the concerns over thebacklog exposed in the FBI’s immigration-checking responsibilities.37 Otherintelligence and terrorism experts were not impressed. With an eye on FBIdevelopments around 2006–7, Michael Scheuer, the former head of theCentral Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s Bin Laden unit, claimed: ‘The FBIcontinues to be a broken, anachronistic organization’.38 The presence of morequantitative problems, concerning the high volume of work that had to beundertaken by the FBI, was also suggested. These problems are examined next.

Experiencing Quantitative Problems

During March 2009, Mueller effectively demonstrated to Congress the sheermultiplicity of tasks with which the contemporary FBI has to deal.39 Thisheavy workload has had ramifications of a quantitative nature on dailybusiness activities, including the FBI’s intelligence activities. Indeed, some ofthese highly demanding quantitative factors continue to be experienced –especially as a plethora of high-profile US terrorism cases have unfoldedduring the latter half of 2009 and into mid-2010, including an attemptedairline attack on Christmas Day 2009 and a car bomb attempt in TimesSquare, New York, during May 2010.40 These issues take time to beaddressed, requiring the constant strict prioritization of tasks and thejudicious allocation of resources, as well as their continuous monitoring. Asdifficult trade-offs attempt to be fashioned by the FBI (together at times inconcert with other domestic and international agencies), inevitably not allactivities have gone smoothly.41 These continue to have far-reachingimplications for intelligence work in the FBI context and beyond.

Over time, the terrorist watchlist system in the United States has shownsome noteworthy inconsistencies.42 According to a Department of Justice(DoJ) audit on the FBI released in March 2008:

We found that the FBI was not always providing updated nominationswhen new information became known about a nominated individual. . . We also found that the FBI was not always removing records fromthe watchlist when it was appropriate to do so . . . Moreover, FBI

37See, for example, S.S. Hsu and N.C. Aizenman, ‘FBI Name Check Cited in NaturalizationDelays: Official Calls Backlog ‘‘Unacceptable’’’, The Washington Post, 17 June 2007; see alsoS. Fidler, ‘Fears Over Covert DNA Database’, The Financial Times, 17 November 2008; seealso N.C. Aizenman, ‘U.S. Antiterrorism Laws Causing Immigration Delays for Refugees’,The Washington Post, 12 November 2009.38Quoted in ‘INTERVIEW: With Michael Scheuer’, PBS Frontline, 30 January 2007.39‘Statement of R.S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI’, p.5.40See, for example, the several cases cited in the sources dated September–December 2009,provided throughout this article.41See also C. Johnson and S.S. Hsu, ‘Possible Agency Missteps Debated’, The WashingtonPost, 11 November 2009; ‘In Plain Sight?’, The Washington Post, 12 November 2009.42See also C.K. Ervin, ‘OP-ED Contributor: After Eight Years, Terrorists Still Fly’, The NewYork Times, 29 December 2009.

Addressing US Domestic Counter-terrorism Intelligence 379

headquarters officials reported that watchlist nomination submissionsfrom field offices were often incomplete or contained inaccuracies,which caused delays in the processing of nominations.43

With further implications for intelligence work and procedures, moreworryingly these problems had reportedly been ongoing ‘for nearly threeyears despite steps taken to prevent errors’. Furthermore, an FBI spokesmanresponded that ‘gaps identified in the system should be fixed within sixmonths’. Factors akin to bureaucratic inertia were proving hard to erode. Inthe audit’s entirety, the FBI was given ‘a mixed review’. More positively, theaudit did conclude ‘that the FBI has proper training and other internalcontrols in place to help make sure names of suspected terrorists wereaccurately added to the list’.44

Distinct deficiencies, however, have continued to be evident. Subsequentadjustments, or indeed even their lack thereof, were the complicatingfactors. For instance, once ‘blacklisted’ it was considerably challenging toget a name cleared. With ramifications for refined intelligence filtering andtargeting activities, a degree of chaos and inconsistency was reflected. Thiswas as well as, more widely, the impact of multiple overlapping agenciesfocused on the domestic counter-terrorism intelligence task continuing to bevividly apparent.45

The higher coordination of domestic intelligence tasks still appeared to bemore lacking. Or, it was more haphazard in its nature. This was at least con-cerning the management of some of these more specific issue areas, includingcounter-terrorism work.46 Moreover, extending into 2010, the challenge of ahigh volume of names needing to be processed speedily in a timely mannercontinued to be confronted in the FBI context. Tough issue management ‘trade-offs’ similarly continued to be navigated. Disappointingly, some persistent andfamiliar difficulties appeared to be encountered on occasion.47

Arguably, the FBI’s overburdened condition is one of the mainimpediments to internal reform and renewal.48 As a ripple knock-on effect,intelligence efforts are similarly constrained. This factor was apparent as

43Quoted in L.J. Jordan, ‘Audit: FBI Watchlist Data Error-Riddled’, The Huffington Post, 17March 2008.44Ibid.45See also B. Debusmann, ‘The Trouble with US Terrorist Watchlists’, Reuters, 8 May 2010;Timothy J. Healy, Director, Terrorist Screening Center, Federal Bureau of Investigation,‘Statement Before the House Judiciary Committee’, FBI website, 24 March 2010.46E. Nakashima, ‘FBI’s Lapses on Terrorist Watch List put Nation at Risk, Report Warns’,The Washington Post, 7 May 2009; see also, for later concerns, ‘US Vows to Pursue PlanePlotters’, BBC News Online, 28 December 2009.47W. Pincus, ‘1,600 are Suggested Daily for FBI’s List’, The Washington Post, 1 November2009; see also K. DeYoung and M. Leahy, ‘Uninvestigated Terrorism Warning about DetroitSuspect called Not Unusual’, The Washington Post, 28 December 2009.48See also E. Lichtblau, D. Johnston and R. Nixon, ‘F.B.I. Struggles to Handle Wave ofFinancial Fraud Cases’, The New York Times, 19 October 2008; J. Carmella, ‘FBI Directorsays Financial Fraud Cases are Limiting Ability to Fight Other Crime’, Jurist, 25 March 2009;

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recently as late 2008, as the FBI kept demanding new tools. Reportedly,these were needed to better aid it ‘to assess national security and foreignintelligence threats’.49 According to an authoritative article in TheWashington Post:

The overhaul [‘to FBI ground rules’, proposed by the US Department ofJustice during September 2008, would be] the most substantial revisionto FBI operating instructions in years, also [they] would ease somereporting requirements between agents, their supervisors and federalprosecutors in what authorities call a critical effort to improveinformation gathering and detect terrorist threats.50

More of an ‘intelligence methodology’ appeared to be trying to get greaterexpression. This elevated status for intelligence was trying to be fashionedamid the overall persisting mix of methodologies used contemporaneouslyby the FBI.51 Indeed, in his response to some recent public criticism of theFBI’s performance in the intelligence area, John Miller, assistant director ofthe FBI, argued:

the FBI’s Strategic Execution Team has employed best practices fromthe private and public sectors to identify what was working well inour intelligence efforts and how we could strengthen those efforts.We have standardized the intelligence work roles and processesacross all field offices. We have added several weeks of updatedhands-on training for field-office personnel, developed new policiesand handbooks for field intelligence, and tasked the field offices touse these tools in new assessments of the potential threats in theirareas.

Providing further insights into the FBI’s internal processes, he continued:

see also ‘FBI to Play Larger Role in US Counter-terror Ops: Report’, AFP Newswire, 28 May2009.49L. Margasak, ‘FBI Wants New Tools in Terrorism Assessments’, Associated Press –Newswire, 13 September 2008; S. Gorman and E. Perez, ‘FBI Wrestling with Remake asIntelligence Agency: Critics say Bureau Needs Culture Shift; Director to Testify’, The WallStreet Journal, 16 September 2008.50C. Johnson, ‘Rule Changes Would Give FBI Agents Extensive New Powers’, TheWashington Post, 12 September 2008; see also ‘Joint Statement of Attorney General MichaelB. Mukasey and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller on the Issuance of the Attorney GeneralGuidelines for Domestic FBI Operations’, MarketWatch, 3 October 2008.51See also under sub-heading ‘Intelligence’ in Robert S. Mueller, III, Director Federal Bureauof Investigation, ‘Statement Before the House Judiciary Committee’, FBI Press Release, 16–17September 2008; Valerie Caproni, General Counsel, FBI, and Elisebeth Collins Cook,Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Policy, DOJ, ‘Statement Before the Senate SelectCommittee on Intelligence’, FBI Press Release, 23 September 2008; ‘Fact Sheet: JusticeDepartment Counter-Terrorism Efforts Since 9/11’, FBI Press Release, 11 September 2008.

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To improve the number and quality of our human sources, we createdspecial squads in every field office that will focus entirely on developinghuman sources and intelligence collection. In addition, we launched aneffort to recruit, train and enhance the roles of intelligence analysts. Allof this progress in the field is vetted personally by Director RobertMueller on a regular basis over a classified video link. These sessionsreinforce the need for leadership in the field and accountability.52

Clearly much introspection regarding the intelligence dimension wasunderway within the FBI. Also, according to the FBI, positively some ofthe computer ‘problems’ they had experienced earlier were now resolved bySeptember 2008.53 Providing updates, the recurring theme of ‘improvementsin FBI technology’ similarly figured in Mueller’s later testimony to Congressduring both March and May 2009. As he remarked, this development ‘willallow us to communicate and share information with our law enforcementand intelligence partners’.54

More intelligence-led policing activities would now be better furnishedtechnologically. However, how these most recent changes actually work inpractice over the long term – for instance, regularly at the daily operationallevel and in qualitative terms – are yet to be seen more fully and clearly.55 Thenew ‘guidelines’ have already been criticized as ‘expansive, not delimiting’from a civil liberties perspective.56 These concerns highlight others that exist,extending beyond merely those regarding the FBI.57

Many fixes in several different areas of activity were clearly required.Those most relevant to the FBI will be considered next. Capturing coreconcerns, as UK scholars Jon Moran and Mark Phythian note, those whofollow counter-terror and policing policy in the United States should now be

52J. Miller, Assistant Director, FBI, ‘The FBI is on Track with Its Intelligence Mission’, FBIPress Release, 29 September 2008, written in response to Gorman and Perez, ‘FBI Wrestlingwith Remake as Intelligence Agency’; see also ‘FBI Transformation’ in Robert S. Mueller, III,Director, FBI, ‘Statement Before the Senate Judiciary Committee’, FBI Press Release, 25March 2009.53J. Stein, ‘FBI Touts New Online Intelligence Systems’, SpyTalk – CQ Politics Blog, 24September 2008.54‘Statement of R.S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI’, pp.7–8; see also R.S. Mueller, III, DirectorFBI, ‘Statement Before the House Judiciary Committee’, FBI website, 20 May 2009.55See also C. Johnson, ‘FBI Threat Tracking Improves, Report Says: System, However, StillNeeds Work’, The Washington Post, 8 November 2008; Lichtblau, ‘F.B.I. Faces New Setbackin Computer Overhaul’.56A. D’Amato, ‘The FBI’s New Guidelines’, Jurist Forum, 7 October 2008; C. Johnson,‘Guidelines Expand FBI’s Surveillance Powers’, The Washington Post, 4 October 2008; seealso C. Savage, ‘Loosening of F.B.I. Rules Stirs Privacy Concerns’, The New York Times, 29October 2009. For FBI guidelines, see ‘Essential Documents: FBI Domestic Investigations andOperations Guide, December 2008’, US Council on Foreign Relations website (2009).57See also C. Johnson, ‘Director of FBI Urges Renewal of Patriot Act: Portions of Law toExpire This Year’, The Washington Post, 26 March 2009; D. Kravets, ‘Lawmakers Cave toFBI in Patriot Act Debate’, Blog, 1 October 2009.

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‘familiar with the controversial relationship between intelligence investiga-tion and criminal investigation with regard to the activities of the FBI’.58

Indeed, arguably the role of intelligence is central to all of thoseinvestigative efforts in the overall law enforcement approach espoused bythe FBI. This is rather than intelligence being merely juxtaposed. Somefurther changes were needed in order to realize a better balance. This was aswell as to adequately maintain that optimum balance into the future.

Changing US Domestic Counter-terrorism Intelligence

How can the FBI more effectively confront what FBI scholar Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones has appropriately termed ‘the post-9/11 challenge’?59 The suggestionstabled below encompass both structural and cultural approaches. In their closeoverlap, they intend to address the overstretched and overburdened condition ofthe FBI in the early twenty-first century. This occurs as the FBI tries to fulfil thetwin roles of being both a domestic intelligence and a security/law enforcementagency. Simultaneously, this is as the FBI tries to operate both domestically andabroad – emphasizing the wider US counter-terrorism ‘Fortress America’approach. Frequently, this FBI work is conducted alongside the CIA, with thedeployment of the FBI’s forward-posted legal attachés (‘legats’).60

The pressures of globalization have multiplied further the demands that allthese tasks have made on the FBI. The developments associated withglobalization have also required the FBI to further join up overseas withother domestic intelligence and security agencies in foreign countries, such asthe British Security Service (MI5).61 Substantially increased foreign liaison

58J. Moran and M. Phythian, ‘Introduction: In the Shadow of 9/11’, Crime, Law & SocialChange 44/4–5 (2005), p.330.59R. Jeffreys-Jones, ‘The Historiography of the FBI’ in L.K. Johnson (ed.) Handbook ofIntelligence Studies (London: Routledge 2007) p.47; see also ‘ The FBI’s New Approach’ in R.Kessler, ‘A Journalist’s View: The New Spies’, SAIS Review XXVIII/1 (2008) pp.149–51; seealso ‘A Call for an American MI5’ in ibid., pp.153–5.60For background insights into FBI foreign liaison activities, ‘The Legat Program andInterpol’ in A.G. Theoharis, ‘FBI Oversight and Liaison Relationships’, chapter 4 in A.G.Theoharis, T.G. Poveda, S. Rosenfeld and R.G. Powers (eds.) The FBI: A ComprehensiveReference Guide (Phoenix, AZ: The Oryx Press 1999) p.165; see also ‘Legal Attachés(Legats)’ in the chapter titled ‘Organization and Day-to-Day Activities’ in ibid., pp.218–19;see also ‘Federal Bureau of Investigation Legal Attaché Program’ (March 2004), 5 (accessed 19 January 2006); see also FBI,Budget Document (2008), pp.6-123–6-131 – where references are made to: ‘Expansion of CTPresence Overseas’, ‘Legal Attaché Expansion’ and (on the domestic intelligence front)‘Fusion Centers’, 5 (accessed 11 March2008); J.S. Landay, ‘FBI Questions American Held Without Charges in Gulf State’,McClatchy Newspapers, 17 November 2008.61A. Svendsen, ‘The Globalization of Intelligence since 9/11: Frameworks and OperationalParameters’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs 21/1 (2008) pp.129–44; A.D.M.Svendsen, ‘The Globalization of Intelligence since 9/11: The Optimization of IntelligenceLiaison Arrangements’, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence 21/4

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between these agencies is now a huge and complex additional task. Thiswork requires ever-greater expeditious management. Even the New YorkPolice Department (NYPD) enjoys numerous foreign liaison officersstationed abroad. They are similarly tasked with primarily addressingterrorism through extended intelligence activities.62

1. Structural Changes and Increasing the ‘Intelligence Methodology’

Several valuable ‘structural change’ suggestions can be tabled. Firstly, intothe future, the FBI will undoubtedly continue to benefit by placing moreemphasis on (i) the development, and then (ii) the sustaining, of acomprehensive and sophisticated intelligence methodology in its overallapproach to domestic counter-terrorism. More importance can be devotedto the ‘wait and watch’ and longer-term surveillance tactics in itsinvestigations. For instance, this can be best articulated in terms of increasedstaff and other resource allocations being devoted to those ends.

Undertaking greater contextualization efforts similarly offer tangiblebenefits when applied. More closely tied to prevailing details and specificsacquired through improved intelligence collection activities, these move-ments allow for the establishment of some more robust ‘connection’possibilities during investigations.63 Through implementing some structuralchanges, an enhanced contribution can be made towards better fostering achanged culture of intelligence. This is particularly towards one that ceasesto prioritize merely ‘see and strike’ police-style and security dominatedinvestigations. Offering the potential for greater clarity to be brought intoanswers arising from overall intelligence analysis (‘what is it?’) andassessment (‘what does it mean?’) activities, by adopting this approach,further-reaching improvements have increased possibilities to be realized.Simultaneously, both the qualitative and quantitative problems experiencedby the FBI are more effectively addressed. In short, engaging in greaterintelligence efforts can offer much to practitioners.

Evidently movement in this direction has already begun. For instance, theFBI has created the Directorate of Intelligence within the National SecurityBranch, and it has ‘established Field Intelligence Groups in all 56 field offi-ces’. This is as well as having ‘established Intelligence sections in each

(2008) pp.661–78; P. Finn, ‘U.S. Citizen Sues over Treatment in ‘‘Rendition’’’, TheWashington Post, 11 November 2009; J. Markon and S. Hussain, ‘N.Va. Men AllegedlyTried to Join Jihadists’, The Washington Post, 11 December 2009.62Many sources can be cited: E. Kaplan, ‘Hometown Security’, Council on Foreign Relations,2 January 2007; E. Kaplan, ‘Backgrounder: New York Spurs Counterterrorism Efforts’,Council on Foreign Relations, 28 December 2006; B. Hope, ‘Police Counterterror OfficialTouts Importance of Local Role’, The New York Sun, 18 August 2006; B. Nussbaum,‘Protecting Global Cities: New York, London and the Internationalization of MunicipalPolicing for Counter Terrorism’, Global Crime 8/3 (2007) pp.213–32; see also J. Dwyer, ‘CityPolice Spied Broadly Before G.O.P. Convention’, The New York Times, 25 March 2007;‘Christopher Dickey: Intelligence The NYPD Way’, NPR, 15 February 2009.63Svendsen, Intelligence Cooperation and the War on Terror, p.233.

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operational division at FBIHQ’.64 However, despite these positive develop-ments, many critics have suggested that this is more of a peripheralenhancement. It is claimed little is done to change activities at the centre.Indeed, the ‘centre of gravity’ around which the FBI – as an organization –and its investigations pivot, continues to be subject to close scrutiny.65

Questions have also been asked about the effectiveness of coordination,especially in relation to intelligence. The FBI tradition of local investigationby scattered field offices across the United States persists, including itsextension across the globe, with several FBI ‘legat’ offices abroad. Furtherameliorative adjustments can be suggested through some greater centraliza-tion. However, these centralization movements must be carefully undertakenhand-in-glove with the local developments. Here, the technological impro-vements, together with their further advancement, can come in mostusefully. Positively, these technological improvements can be seen to beunderway by 2009–10, as cited above by both Mueller and Miller. Thisapproach must include ensuring that there is the effective recognition of andcapitalization on contemporary ‘glocalization’66 trends. Namely, this istackling areas where ‘local’ extending through to ‘global’ factors fuse.Simultaneously, ‘human factors’ should not be neglected during the strongemphasis on what technology can deliver.67 Implemented in balance witheach other, both human and technology factors must be carefully addressedby the FBI.

Moreover, developments must not be undertaken too much in isolation.This includes avoiding an overly individualistic emphasis and over-relianceon certain key members of staff or particular managers. This is a trait thatimpacts negatively on future business continuity. Leadership is undoubt-edly important, as Miller has already highlighted, but it must not beimplemented alone. This is without adequate support from, or theleadership failing to be taken up by, other members of staff within andthroughout the entire organization. Otherwise, sustaining stronger intelli-gence initiatives and prolonging their underpinning rationale andmomentum is not fostered.

Together with occurring at a quicker rate, arguably cultural change withinthe FBI must reach further down. This is into the micro levels of operationand activity, witnessed at the daily work level. Enhanced and collectivetraining programmes, such as those referred to above by Mueller, are acommendable way forward. However, these, too, always have ample scopeto be extended. This is accomplished through their further optimization, inseveral different directions, as time progresses. Equally, they require theircontinuous evolution through being constantly kept up-to-date. Moreover,

64‘Intelligence’, FBI fact sheet.65See, for instance, the testimony of FBI Agent Bassem Youssef in 2008, cited above.66A. Mooney and B. Evans (eds.), Globalization: The Key Concepts (London: Routledge/KeyGuides 2007) pp.117–8.67See also the comments of John Miller, FBI assistant director, cited above.

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pro-active intelligence gathering must be kept well reflected in the FBI’soperational culture. These movements are particularly essential vis-à-visindividual FBI agents as they daily go about their work. Regularization iskey, addressing more haphazard, ad hoc tendencies.

Observations can be extended further. As ‘Americans spying onAmericans’ is such a strong anathema, a separate European-style domesticsecurity service would sit very uncomfortably with the American politicalconstituency.68 However, worthy of pursuit is some greater separation of (i)the intelligence (‘wait and watch’) and (ii) the security (‘see and strike’)functions and methodologies – or, at least, aspects of them. Although moreintelligence input is required in overarching strategic and policy termsorganizationally by the FBI, adopting more of this ‘firewall’ approachelsewhere would help the FBI towards better resolving the tensionsencountered between these two methodologies. This is particularly at the‘lower’ and more ‘micro’ tactical and operational levels, especially within theinvestigations domain of the FBI’s activities. Notably, this is accomplishedthrough some enhanced reconciling disaggregation of these differing areas –or, at least, their increased harmonization. This includes that processoccurring embedded within the pursuit of the FBI’s overall law enforcementapproach. Several complexities must be better resolved through at least adegree of further methodological refinement.

Some further explanation is helpful. During the above process, animproved way forward is offered. Instead of competing and clashing (in aversus mode), the different methodologies are turned into more comple-mentary force multipliers (in a vis-à-vis mode). Greater synergy between thetwo is also generated, offering some ‘added value’ to investigations. As againreferred to above by Mueller, having both ‘analysts’ and ‘agents’ respectivelyadopting those roles and specializing more in those methodologies does offera viable pragmatic and practical way forward. However, the importance ofthe intelligence dimension in the training of FBI ‘agents’, while it might beconfigured differently, must not be weaker than that provided to ‘analysts’.Intelligence constructs must be maintained and communicated across thewhole organization. All of the FBI’s employees need enhanced intelligenceawareness being consistently encouraged. This is best accomplished throughtheir greater education in those terms.

Some qualifications apply to the above discussion. The tensions observedbetween the intelligence and security methodologies in the overall approachtowards domestic counter-terrorism in the FBI context will never becompletely resolved. As frequently seen played out in institutional form,tensions always remain. Some contradictions also always remain inherent.These can be witnessed in the so-called ‘turf battles’ between dedicatedintelligence and security/law enforcement agencies, notably, in the United

68M.M. Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, 3rd ed. (Washington, DC: CQ Press2006) p.1; see also J. Risen and E. Lichtblau, ‘Early Test for Obama on Domestic SpyingViews’, The New York Times, 18 November 2008.

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States, the CIA and FBI, and when they are operating abroad.69 Thesetensions include concerning at what point in time are ‘purer’ intelligenceoperations stopped and is ‘security’ applied? They include clustering aroundwhen the law should be enforced, typically achieved through the interdictingof suspects.

A way forward can be readily suggested. While still allowing the FBI tobuild and contribute towards legal cases, other security and stronger lawenforcement characteristics instead should be effectively toned down. Forinstance, this is through those attributes being devolved more to the localpolice authorities. This would involve removing the need for FBI agents topossess the powers of arrest and removing their requirement to be (overly)absorbed in actually physically implementing the law – i.e. needing toundertake the ‘striking’ actions characterized above. This proposed re-fashioning can be envisaged as being conducted along similar lines to howMI5 and the UK police interact in concert during their joint counter-terrorism investigations.70 As William Rosenau of RAND argued during2006: ‘‘‘The British trump us in their use of police in counterterrorism,’’while in the U.S., police are viewed largely as first-responders . . . The policeare integrated into the intelligence community in Britain in ways they aren’tin the U.S., except perhaps in New York, L.A., and Chicago’.71

More recently, some commendable changes are afoot. Through the furtherbuilding up of their capacity and capabilities, local police authorities caneffectively take on greater security and law enforcement task burden sharingwith the FBI. This includes the police undertaking more of the local physicaland mechanical activities, such as actually carrying out raids and arrestingthe targets. These movements also include the police doing more of the in-the-field ‘legwork’ and ‘operation space’ (stakeout) preparation, as well asdealing with the local community. Such a division of tasks is intended so thatFBI agents, in their ‘grander’ role as protectors of national security, do nothave to expend their time and effort on instead undertaking those lower andmicro level modes of tasks. Not least this is helpful as those tasks are already

69For CIA and FBI tensions, Priest, ‘FBI Pushes to Expand Domain into CIA’s IntelligenceGathering’; see also R. Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit ofits Enemies Since 9/11 (London: Simon & Schuster 2006) pp.92–4; ‘US Intelligence Wars’,Jane’s Intelligence Digest, 4 November 2005; J. Warrick and W. Pincus, ‘CIA Finds Holes inPre-9/11 Work’, The Washington Post, 22 August 2007; D. Linzer, ‘In New York, a Turf Warin the Battle Against Terrorism’, The Washington Post, 22 March 2008; D. Johnston andW.K. Rashbaum, ‘New York Police Fight with U.S. on Surveillance’, The New York Times,20 November 2008; C. Johnson and S.S. Hsu, ‘Justice Dept., NYPD Tussle Over FISAWarrants’, The Washington Post, 20 November 2008.70See also K. Weston, ‘The Changing Nature of Counter-Terrorism Policing, RUSI Monitor8/1 (2009) pp.19–20.71E. Stables, ‘Alleged Plot in U.K. Highlights Improved Intelligence-Sharing with U.S.’,Congressional Quarterly –, 10 August 2006; see also Michael Downing, LAPDDeputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism, ‘Counterterrorism and Crime Fighting in LosAngeles’, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 22 October 2009.

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equally familiar to those operating in the general crime-fighting world.72

Effective lines of communication and flows of information between thedifferent levels and entities need to be strenuously managed, however,allowing for best intelligence fusion possibilities. Also a degree of theobservable ‘nationalization of intelligence’ process is reflected.

Regarding the tackling of organized crime overseas, in 2009 the UKSerious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has been going down a similarroad. Significantly, so-called ‘vetted units’ consisting of approved local lawenforcement personnel have been fostered in strategically importantcountries across the globe.73 Adopting and extending these sorts ofapproaches, both domestically (nationally) in the United States and out inoperational contexts abroad (on international, even globalized, bases),would then allow ample room for the FBI to better: (i) address itsoverburdened status; (ii) concentrate more on its investigations at a higherand macro level of investigative and operational activity; as well as (iii) focuson the enhancement of the intelligence methodology as more of an integraland increased part of those investigations. Strategic impact would likewisebe better realized.

The extended use of various configurations of intelligence ‘fusion centers’(and related concepts) similarly must be better encouraged.74 Tacticallythrough to strategically, the value of adopting this approach has already beeneffectively demonstrated. For instance, this was seen during 2008–9 with theFBI’s development of the El Paso Intelligence Center.75 Greater room formanoeuvre to develop these highly supportive intelligence dimensions furtherinto the future would also be permitted in a suitably opportunistic manner.

However, acute vigilance must be maintained. Movements in thisdirection must not be applied in a mutually exclusive and all-encompassingblanket manner. As David Thacher has cautioned, the devolving of onlysome security and law enforcement responsibilities from the macro andhigher-sited FBI to more micro and lower-situated local police forces mustbe undertaken carefully.76 This is to ensure that already present higher-level‘qualities’ are not lost or diminished during any change-processes. Thisincludes regarding more specialist counter-terrorism expertise – e.g.

72See also J. Weaver, ‘Sept. 11 Attacks Helped Forge Bond between FBI and Local Police’,Miami Herald, 11 September 2009; S. Saulny, ‘Prayers and Criticism in Wake of DetroitImam’s Killing by F.B.I.’, The New York Times, 31 October 2009.73Based on information from a non-attributable source. For more on SOCA, see Svendsen,Intelligence Cooperation and the War on Terror, pp.20–1.74‘Transformation through Integration and Innovation’, US Office of the Director of NationalIntelligence (ODNI), The National Intelligence Strategy of the United States of America,October 2005; J. Rollins, ‘Fusion Centers: Issues and Options for Congress’, CongressionalResearch Service Report for Congress, 18 January 2008; ‘Fusion Centers: UnifyingIntelligence to Protect Americans’, FBI Press Release, 12 March 2009.75‘Statement of R.S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI’, p.29.76D. Thacher, ‘The Local Role in Homeland Security’, Law & Society Review 39/3 (2005)p.637; see also S. Pickering, D. Wright-Neville, J. McCulloch and P. Lentini, Counter-Terrorism Policing (New York: Springer 2007) p.106.

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concerning chemical, biological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) compo-nents and forensic skills. The change-processes should not be too sweeping.Important ‘top-down’ (central/national), and equally ‘bottom-up’ (periph-eral/local), filtering and informing investigation information and skill-setflows do not want to become detrimentally impeded as a byproduct or side-effect. Equally, the valuable qualities do not want to become jettisoned.Careful balances must be fashioned and then constantly maintained in futureactivities.

Of course, clearly no single approach is entirely perfect. The intelligencemethodology itself is also not without flaws. Developments occurring in real-time can be missed. ‘Time lags’ belonging to processes can have an impact,such as during the translation and interpretation of the information gathered.Naturally, it is also impossible for investigators to always be everywhere atonce. However, constant monitoring activities undertaken more system-atically, and in a more consolidated form, can help to minimize those risks.The cleavage has to be fashioned along lines that effectively navigate thedifficulties highlighted by Sheptycki, where, on the one hand, ‘Governmentsat every level advocate putting more police on patrol but, at the same time, re-organise and centralise policing systems around the intelligence-led policingparadigm that puts more and more officers behind desks analysing criminalintelligence’.77 Adopting a plurality of approaches therefore emerges as themost effective route to pursue. The FBI can learn much.

Indeed, a proven method for enhanced directing is proposed. Increasinglyadopting the ‘medical triage’ process appears to be a commendable prudentway forward in contemporary circumstances.78 This helps to better ascertainFBI prioritizations, together with better allocating its case burden-sharingand division of labour requirements with other collaborative partners – suchas local law enforcement (police) agencies. The potential for introducingmore reflective planning can be facilitated. In the 2008–9 global economicdownturn, a successful implementation of this approach has already beenwitnessed amid the FBI and police based in New York City.79 This allowsthe FBI to remain sufficiently focused on the contemporaneous ‘big’ or‘headline’ issues, without simultaneously becoming (too) overwhelmed byother seemingly more amorphous or ‘micro’ considerations. This isparticularly relevant in light of the contested domestic terrorism ‘threat’the United States has appeared to confront over time.80

77Sheptycki, ‘Transnational Policing’; see also J. Sheptycki, ‘Organizational Pathologies inPolice Intelligence Systems’, European Journal of Criminology 1/3 (2004) pp.307–32.78On ‘triage’ systems, see D. Alexander, Principles of Emergency Planning and Management(Harpenden: Terra 2002) pp.200–11.79P. Hurtado, ‘FBI Uses Triage to Shift from Terror to Madoff, Subprime Probes’,Bloomberg, 22 December 2008.80J. Mueller, ‘Is There Still a Terrorist Threat?’, Foreign Affairs (September/October 2006).However, see also A. Elliott, ‘A Call to Jihad, Answered in America’, The New York Times,12 July 2009; for recent cases, see P. Bergen, ‘The Terrorists Among Us’, Foreign Policy, 19November 2009; B. Ghosh, ‘Domestic-Terrorism Incidents Hit a Peak in 2009’, TIME, 23

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Furthermore, the ‘pure’ intelligence elements within the FBI must notbecome encumbered by more ‘pedestrian’ producing-for-court requirements.Sensibly, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) explicitly notes that:‘The Service collects information relating to Canada’s security, not evidence fora court of law’.81 Unfortunately, in its own contemporary overstretched andoverburdened condition, the UK’s MI5 appears to be going more down theproducing-for-court route.82 Indeed, from a ‘purer’ intelligence perspective,this appears to be a counter-productive development for that agency. Thissuggests its greater enmeshment in a web of highly set law courtrequirements.83 Much can therefore be learned from these developments.Before introducing the Arar Commission recommendations in Canada during2006, the Canadian intelligence and security system similarly had its ownportfolio of shortcomings from which valuable lessons were drawn.84

Generally, intelligence targeting must be kept carefully refined. Anadvisable move is for all agencies to engage in a greater degree of reflectionabout their methods and processes. A better recall of their functional ‘roots’and ‘heritage’ is helpful. This is not least through adequately rememberingthe historical dimensions of their functional rationale. This is a movementthat is especially useful in our contemporary era, which has beenappropriately characterized as being substantially ‘back to the future’.85

December 2009; S. Shane, ‘News Analysis: A Year of Terror Plots, Through a Second Prism’,The New York Times, 13 January 2010.81Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Communicating with Canadians (Ottawa:Government of Canada 2006) p.6.82See, for example, G. Corera, ‘The Reality of MI5’s Work’, BBC News Online, 10November 2006.83‘MI5’s ‘‘Torture’’ Evidence Revealed’, BBC News Online, 21 October 2005; ‘Lords RejectTorture Evidence Use’, BBC News Online, 8 December 2005; ‘Judge Critical of MI5Testimony’, BBC News Online, 12 October 2006.84W. Wark, ‘Learning Lessons (and how) in the War on Terror: The Canadian Experience’,International Journal 60/1 (2004–2005) pp.71–90.85For the ‘dangers of a debased collective mentality, tenuous grasp of history’ and relatedissues, see W.K. Wark, ‘Introduction: ‘‘Learning to Live with Intelligence’’’, Intelligence andNational Security 18/4 (2003); see also C. Andrew, ‘Intelligence Analysis Needs to LookBackwards Before Looking Forward,’ History & Policy (June 2004); R. Popplewell,‘‘‘Lacking Intelligence’’: Some Reflections on Recent Approaches to British Counter-Insurgency, 1900–1960’, Intelligence and National Security 10/4 (1995) pp.336–52. Forother ‘historical resonances/parallels’, e.g. G. Stewart, ‘Al-Qaeda, Victorian Style’, TheTimes, 5 August 2005; B. Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (New York: Columbia University Press2006) p.7; R.B. Jensen, ‘Daggers, Rifles and Dynamite: Anarchist Terrorism in NineteenthCentury Europe’, Terrorism and Political Violence 16/1 (2004) pp.116–53; E. Aydinli,‘Before Jihadists There Were Anarchists: A Failed Case of Transnational Violence’, Studies inConflict & Terrorism 31/10 (2008) pp.903–23; R.B. Jensen, ‘The International CampaignAgainst Anarchist Terrorism, 1880–1930s’, Terrorism and Political Violence 21/1 (2009)pp.89–109; W. Kassel, ‘Terrorism and the International Anarchist Movement of the LateNineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 32/3 (2009); J.Lyon (ed.), ‘Introduction’ to J. Conrad, The Secret Agent (Oxford: Oxford University Press2004 [1907]) p.xi.

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Intelligence degradation must be strenuously avoided. Increasingly, theshortcomings of pursuing a route that concertinas specialist, higher, andmacro level ranging intelligence capabilities appear to be exposed publicly.Instead of becoming overly focused on fast moving day-to-day operationalminutiae, an appropriate long-view strategic focus simultaneously needs tobe carefully maintained.86 Once the more structural changes have beenimplemented, some more cultural changes can be pursued. These can bewider and deeper-reaching in their impact.87 They are examined next.

2. Cultural Change and Investigations Becoming More A Priori

As already introduced above, the FBI continues to require an extendedcultural transformation. In its domestic counter-terrorism investigations, theFBI can effectively realize a yet greater capacity for agility and flexibility.This involves a movement from investigations being so mainly post facto intheir nature to being more a priori.88 Or, to use a constructive distinctionborrowed from US Judge Richard Posner, culturally the FBI must be less like‘dogs’ and more like ‘cats’ in terms of its outlook and behaviour.89 Such ashift in the FBI’s domestic counter-terrorism investigations brings an addedbenefit: arguably, the requirement to better pre-empt domestic terroristattacks is more advantageously reformed. The FBI would undergo a shift tobeing more proactive and ‘ahead of the curve’ of events.90

Further emergency preparedness offers a helpful way forward. Bysuccessfully adopting these constructs, the FBI is better placed to implementa greater forward-looking risk management and opportunity-generationapproach. This offers improved ‘risk pre-emption’ possibilities. This is ratherthan instead emphasizing more after-the-event crisis management or first-responder approaches. Adopting this proposed ‘forward’ approach is highlyadvisable, helping the FBI to better foresee and prevent potential terroristattacks.

Simultaneously, the process of ‘reflecting back’ and ‘learning lessons’during, or from, investigations should not atrophy. However, while being‘bottom-up’ informing, these activities must be marginally rolled back fromthe real-time frontline ‘current affairs’-focused dimensions of the FBI’s

86M.V. Rasmussen, The Risk Society at War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2006)p.206; H. Strachan, ‘Strategy as a Balancing Act: The UK’s Dilemma’, RUSI Journal 153/3(2008) pp.6–10.87See also C.S. Gray, ‘Out of the Wilderness: Prime Time for Strategic Culture’, ComparativeStrategy 26/1 (2007) pp.1–20; J.D. McCausland, Developing Strategic Leaders for the 21stCentury (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College 2008).88See also R.S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI, ‘Speech – Council on Foreign Relations,Washington, D.C.’, FBI Press Release, 3 February 2009.89Judge Richard A. Posner, ‘Why the United States Needs a Counterpart to CSIS or MI–5’,talk delivered at the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies (CASIS) 2006Annual International Conference, Ottawa, Canada, 26 October 2006.90See, for example, A.K. Cronin, ‘Behind the Curve: Globalization and InternationalTerrorism’, International Security 27/3 (2002–3) pp.30–58.

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police-work. Thereby, more appropriate supportive ‘top-down’ intelligence-associated informing and warning qualities can be offered.91 The ‘seeing thewood for the trees’ analogy resonates, also allowing for some extendeddirecting and thinking ‘outside of the box’.92

The improved intelligence penetration of terrorist activities also assists.An extended intelligence methodology, involving the employment ofextended surveillance activities, allows authorities much. This includesthe confidence to permit a terrorist operation to mature to a sufficientlyconvincing extent before arrests are made. Two important advantages ofadopting this approach can be highlighted: firstly, the terrorists readilyproduce valuable future investigative leads. Secondly, arrests made at alater stage in the development of a plot can offer distinct ‘added value’.Arrests at this later stage tend to uncover considerably less disputable(physical) evidence. Broadly ranging consensus can be built by demonstrat-ing convincingly, e.g. communicating to the public via the media, that thethreat is sufficiently genuine. Facts can have greater potential to ‘speak forthemselves’. Thereby, more of a self-generating and sustaining ‘uniqueselling point’ (USP), and hence legitimacy, for the case is offered publicly.Enhanced potential for successful subsequent prosecution similarly is betterrealized.

Ultimately, there is the increased potential for the application of a morerefined mode of pre-emption. As Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz hasobserved, pre-emption is a risky approach to adopt, as it is a ‘knife thatcuts both ways’.93 Therefore, by applying a greater intelligence methodol-ogy, the scenario that eventually emerges is increasingly engineered. Thisensures that there are better possibilities engendered for the course ofaction adopted to ‘cut’ (work) more the way as desired. Borrowing fromSir David Omand, the former Intelligence and Security Coordinator in theUK Cabinet Office, overall this approach allows for the better applicationof the ‘rapier’, rather than the ‘bludgeon’, in intelligence and securityoperations.94 This scenario can be contrasted with the Padilla case from2002, which posited a ‘dirty bomb’ plot directed at Chicago. Here, overlyzealous early action was counter-productive and left the authorities with

91‘Second Sight – Michael Heimbach, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counter-terrorismDivision’, Jane’s Intelligence Review, 19 February 2009.92For the value of ‘scenario’ and ‘horizon-scanning’ work, B. Ralston and I. Wilson, TheScenario Planning Handbook: Developing Strategies in Uncertain Times (Mason, OH:Thomson South-Western 2006); G. Ringland, Scenario Planning, 2nd ed. (London: Wiley2006).93For more on ‘pre-emption’, A.M. Dershowitz, Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways(London: W.W. Norton & Co. 2006); see also the cautions in B.E. Harcourt, AgainstPrediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age (Chicago, IL: University ofChicago Press 2007).94D. Omand, ‘Reflections on Secret Intelligence’, Gresham College Transcript, 20 October2005.

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embarrassingly little material with which to later make a compellingprosecution case.95

Whatever the mixed eventual outcome of contemporary change develop-ments currently underway vis-à-vis the FBI, some clear conclusions emerge.Implementing a shift in investigative approach demonstrably would be oflong-term value to the FBI. This is particularly where the intelligencemethodology of ‘wait and watch’ continues to burgeon and figures through(i) its rigorous application in a substantially extended and enhanced systemicand systematic form, and where (ii) it is then constantly maintained into thefuture in a consistent manner. A brief examination of how the domesticintelligence services of other countries can be drawn on as viable models forthe FBI is now undertaken. Both in organizational (structural) and cultural(even philosophical) terms, the value of adopting an enhanced intelligencemethodology is demonstrated.

The Domestic Intelligence and Security Services Model

Usefully applied intelligence methodologies exist elsewhere. In recent years,there has been a sizeable amount of discussion about whether the BritishSecurity Service (MI5) would be a commendable model on which to basereform for the FBI.96 However, eventually Washington decided againstpursuing this option.97 Understandably in the United States, where ‘internalliaison’ is a sizeable challenge between the multiple agencies that alreadyexist, there was opposition towards the creation of yet another separateagency to handle domestic counter-terrorism intelligence. Such a proposalwas viewed as unhelpful from several vantage points. This included from aUS domestic intelligence-sharing perspective.98 Partly as a consequence ofthese arguments, the United States decided that the FBI would keep itsdomestic counter-terrorism intelligence role. This was despite the perceivedshortcomings around 9/11.

The FBI’s remit has since continued to proliferate exponentially. This hasbeen along with the tensions between the differing intelligence and securitymethodologies trying to be reconciled within the one agency. By 2006, as

95M. Davis, ‘Padilla Case Highlights Terror Debate’, BBC News Online, 22 November 2005.96See, for instance, T. Harnden, ‘US May Set Up MI5-style Spy Agency in Security Shake-up’,The Daily Telegraph, 31 October 2002; see also T. Masse, ‘Domestic Intelligence in theUnited Kingdom: Applicability of the MI-5 Model to the United States’, CongressionalResearch Service, 19 May 2003; J. Burns and M. Huband, ‘US Considers Security ReformsAlong UK Lines’, The Financial Times, 5 May 2003; G. Corera, ‘USA Studies UK SecurityService’, Jane’s Intelligence Review, 23 January 2003; see also US National Commission, 9/11Report, 22 July 2004, p.423; RAND, ‘Confronting the ‘‘Enemy Within’’’; S.J. Paltrow, ‘MI5Could Be Model for Revamped U.S. Intelligence Agency’, The Wall Street Journal, 10October 2004.97‘Bush Sets Up Domestic Spy Service’, BBC News Online, 30 June 2005.98‘Statement of William P. Barr to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon theUnited States’, Sixth public hearing of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Uponthe United States, 8 December 2003.

Addressing US Domestic Counter-terrorism Intelligence 393

Senator Leahy observed, this had been accomplished to an extent. Yet,simultaneously, much work remained to be done. The debates over whetherthe United States needs a separate domestic intelligence agency also continueto be aired, demonstrating the distinct lack of consensus on this issue.99

Further insights have been forthcoming. As explored in-depth by RAND,other domestic intelligence and security services, or at least aspects of theirfunctioning, can be used as viable referential models for the basis ofdomestic counter-terrorism intelligence reform to the FBI. This remains thecase even if a separate domestic intelligence agency or bureaucracy, addingto the 17 (including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence –ODNI) that already exist in the United States, is not created. The servicesdrawn upon for illustrative purposes notably include MI5 and the CanadianSecurity Intelligence Service.100 Their instructive utility to the FBI continuesto be upheld into 2010. Most significantly, this is because those servicesrepresent ‘purer’ intelligence organizations and are (generally) exponents ofa stronger intelligence methodology. Despite some renewed US Departmentof Homeland Security (DHS) and Congressional interest being emergentduring late October 2008, the creation of another US intelligence bureau-cracy is still unlikely to be easily introduced or to be forthcoming anytimesoon.101 The FBI therefore has no choice but to continue to raise its ownintelligence game.

Other conclusions crystallize. Some separation, particularly of certainpowers – such as that of arrest, allocated to the police in the other countriescited here (the UK and Canada) – continues to be highly advisable. Again,this is so that the ‘ends’ of those types of domestic counter-terrorismintelligence operations do not conflict, or at least do not clash so strongly,with the ‘means’ deployed. The balance between methodologies beingpursued can move increasingly from figuring in more of a versus(oppositional) and divided form, to a vis-à-vis (complementary) and unifiedmode of operating. Further empowering shifts, allowing for improvedmethodological fusion, can still be undertaken in a viable manner.

Ultimately, whatever is decided, any lessons learnt from these modelsshould not be assimilated uncritically. This is not least as those agencies(MI5 and CSIS) similarly have their own portfolio of shortcomings, as theylikewise continue to undergo their own changes in such dynamic operating

99See Discussants: Richard A. Posner, Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the SeventhCircuit, Senior Lecturer, University of Chicago Law School and Juliette Kayyem, ‘OnlineDebate: Does the United States Need a Domestic Intelligence Agency?’, Council on ForeignRelations (CFR), 17 November 2006; Svendsen, Intelligence Cooperation and the War onTerror, p.55; see also as cited below.100See, for example, the in-depth RAND report on this issue, Chalk and Rosenau,Confronting the ‘Enemy Within’.101See, for instance, ‘U.S. Policymakers Mull Creation of Domestic Intelligence Agency’,, 20 October 2008; see also ‘Should the United States Establish a DedicatedDomestic Intelligence Agency for Counterterrorism?’ RAND Research Brief, October 2008;G.F. Treverton, Reorganizing U.S. Domestic Intelligence: Assessing the Options (SantaMonica, CA: RAND 2008).

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environments. However, a conclusion that emerges clearly from examiningthese models is that by overall adopting a greater ‘intelligence methodology’significant benefits can be brought to the FBI. Notably, this is throughout itswhole organization and in relation to all of its operational processes. This isespecially when those movements are implemented comprehensively,including in cultural terms. This observation now opens the way for somewider conclusions.


Valuably, Hitz observed in 2008 that: ‘I believe it is too early to conclude, assome important observers apparently have, that the FBI cannot perform itsdomestic intelligence role competently’. He continued:

Congress and the executive branch will have to monitor carefully theFBI’s success in creating a domestic intelligence career service to gaugewhether or not the bureau’s law-enforcement culture can be modifiedto adopt an MI–5 competence. I believe that it will, as . . . cross-cuttingresponsibilities like the [(US Intelligence Community-spanning) Na-tional Counterterrorism Center] NCTC gather importance and effec-tiveness, but the jury is still out.102

Whichever developments are particularly highlighted for examination, theongoing requirement to engage more with an intelligence methodology inthe FBI context continues to need to be energized and extended further.Moreover, this must be accomplished in a long-term sustainable manner.103

Otherwise, any viable post–9/11 reforms of the FBI in the area of domesticcounter-terrorism intelligence, and the driving momentum behind them, willinstead increasingly stagnate. This last development would be counter-productive for both the United States itself, as well as for its key counter-terrorism partners, such as, internationally, the UK and Canada.

Alternatively, concerns abound that we will have to wait for the leastdesirable ‘spark’ in the ‘tinderbox’ to act as a stimulus for more substantialchange. Namely, this is some future attack on American soil that wouldsurely provoke a further wave of reform. Indeed, a claim has surfaced that itis likely that the ‘MI5-model’ would be adopted by the United States in theaftermath of another ‘mass casualty’ attack similar to 9/11.104

Whatever transpires, to paraphrase the observation of an anonymouscommentator: ‘Americans are more interested in results; Europeans are moreinterested in process’.105 Today, however, the FBI and all of its personnelthroughout the whole organization must become more interested in its

102Hitz, Why Spy?, p.193.103For some FBI recognition of this factor, FBI Director Mueller, ‘Director to Police Chiefs:Intelligence is Our Future’, FBI Press Release, 10 November 2008.104Information from a non-attributable source.105Based on paraphrased information from a non-attributable source.

Addressing US Domestic Counter-terrorism Intelligence 395

process(es). Otherwise, the results that the American people most desire –notably long-term sustainable public safety and security – are going to beincreasingly elusive. Without getting too constrained by bureaucratic factorsand machinations, ‘culture-change’ stands out as the best area on which toconcentrate. This is also the best area to continue investing and drivingtransformative efforts vis-à-vis the twenty-first-century FBI.

A commendable way forward is pursuing more of an intelligence-dominated approach. Rightly, as the FBI has recognized in 2009, this canbe characterized as consisting of the effective distribution and balance of theelements of ‘assess, evaluate, monitor, and – if required – disrupt’.106

Regardless of the perceived scale of the domestic terrorist threat confrontedover time, as recent terrorism-related cases towards the end of 2009 and into2010 have served to highlight, a more considered form of vigilance shouldnot be neglected by the United States.

Moving along the proposed lines of extended ‘waiting and watching’activities is key. This offers (i) an approach that strives to reach wider anddeeper than current efforts, also (ii) allowing for the setting of more suitablyrefined (and higher) risk management thresholds, while (iii) simultaneouslytaking ‘proportionality’ considerations adequately into account during ope-rations.107 Clearly adopting an enhanced comprehensive intelligence metho-dology can offer an appropriate panacea to all of those concerns.Qualitatively, as well as quantitatively, the FBI would do well to continuerigorously pursuing this route in a sustained manner into the future. Thisincludes in both structural and cultural terms.

Finally, as FBI Director Robert Mueller argued in his Congressionaltestimony of March 2009:

Today, the Bureau is a stronger organization, combining betterintelligence capabilities with a longstanding commitment to protectingthe American people from criminal threats. And we are also mindfulthat our mission is . . . also to safeguard American liberties.108

Broadly, when reflecting over the long term of the years 2000–10, althoughthere have been significant problems and paucities encountered along theway, the contemporary FBI has made some progress. In its condition ofongoing transformation, so far the FBI appears to be heading in a more

106Philip Mudd, Associate Executive Assistant Director, National Security Branch, FBI,‘Statement Before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’,FBI Press Release, 11 March 2009; see also E. Schmitt, ‘F.B.I. Agents’ Role is Transformed byTerror Fight’, The New York Times, 19 August 2009.107On ‘proportionality’ considerations, A.D.M. Svendsen, ‘Strategy and Disproportionality inContemporary Conflict’, Journal of Strategic Studies 33/3 (June 2010) pp.367–99.108‘Statement of R.S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI’, p.5; for later insights, R.S. Mueller, III,Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, ‘Statement Before the House Committee onAppropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies’, FBIWebsite, 17 March 2010.

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positive than negative direction. Its increased adoption of intelligenceelements is commendable.

Complacency, however, should not ensue. Further time is now required tosee where the most recently implemented developments take us in thefuture.109 While notes of caution should still be sounded on a regular basis,whichever road is taken, and whatever various ‘moments’ of weakness areencountered, the intelligence dimension remains central and essential for theFBI. This is especially for its counter-terrorism work, with added use beyondfor the tackling of other concerning crimes. By comprehensively implement-ing an enhanced intelligence approach in an effectively inter-connected way,the contemporary FBI can continue to transform in a most expeditiousmanner as the twenty-first century progresses.


This article is based in part on papers delivered at the British Association forAmerican Studies (BAAS) Conference, held at the University of Edinburgh inMarch 2008, and the annual conference of the American Politics Group(APG), held at the Rothermere American Institute and St. Anne’s College,University of Oxford, in January 2009.

109See also S.S. Hsu, ‘FBI Names Veteran Officer to Oversee Intelligence Divisions’, TheWashington Post, 21 April 2010.

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