Mueller Overhauls FBI to Combat Terrorism
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 29, 2002 Bob Mueller, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer and Vietnam veteran, is overhauling the Federal Bureau of Investigation to adapt to its new counterterrorism mission.
Mueller, who became the agency's director on Sept. 4, 2001, says the FBI must be able to 'connect the dots' to prevent the next terrorist attack.
Attorney General John Ashcroft opened a briefing at FBI headquarters this afternoon expressing support for Mueller as the man to reorganize the bureau. He said the FBI is on the front lines of the war on terrorism, and the former Marine has served the nation on the front lines "where the fight is always the most fierce."
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, Ashcroft noted, Mueller activated a 24-hour-a-day command center at the FBI's strategic information operations center to track terrorists around the world. The FBI launched the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history, deploying 6,000 special agents who tracked more than a quarter of a million investigative leads and received close to half a million tips and phone calls.
The FBI is working to enact new laws to dramatically strengthen the agency's information-gathering capacity, Ashcroft added. It also is sharing intelligence and investigative information more broadly than ever before within the law enforcement and intelligence communities, he said.
"Where there are responsible changes to be made, we will make them," Ashcroft vowed. "Where there are mistakes to acknowledge we will not shy away from doing so. Those who step forward to voice their legitimate concerns will be welcomed and often their ideas reviewed and embraced."
Ashcroft said the FBI would strive to better determine how "enemies of freedom seek to exploit our system in order to murder innocent civilians. We will never shy away from making the tough decisions to keep our citizens safe and our liberties secure."
The Sept. 11 terrorist attack on America made it clear the FBI had to change the way it does business, Mueller said at a news conference this afternoon. "Responding to the post- 9-11 realities requires a redesigned and refocused FBI," he said.
The agency needs new technologies and must do a better job at recruiting, managing and training its work force, he said. The FBI also needs to do a better job of collaborating with others as well as managing, analyzing and sharing information.
"We need a different approach that puts prevention above all else," the director said.
"In the last few weeks," Mueller said, "two separate matters have come to symbolize that which we must change. First, is what did not happen with a memo from Phoenix, which points squarely at our analytical capacity. Second, the letter from Agent (Colleen) Rowley in Minneapolis points squarely to a need for a different approach, especially at headquarters."
In the Phoenix memo an FBI agent raised serious concerns about Middle Eastern men attending U.S. flight schools. The memo never made its way up the chain of command. Rowley informed her superiors last August about Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker and the sole person charged in the Sept. 11 attack. Rowley criticized the FBI for operating in "a climate of fear" that has "chilled" aggressive law enforcement action.
Mueller thanked Rowley for her letter, noting that it's important to hear criticism of the organization, and himself, in order to improve the FBI.
"Because our focus is on preventing terrorist attacks, more so than in the past, we must be open to new ideas, to criticism from within and without, and to admitting to and learning from our mistakes," he said.
In December, Mueller said he restructured FBI headquarters to "support, not hinder" the work of FBI employees around the world. "It is critically important to our ability to address terrorism that we have a vibrant, active, aggressive headquarters and it has the analytical capability to support that mission," he said.
The FBI's top two priorities are to protect the United States from terrorist attack and against foreign intelligence operations and espionage, Mueller said. The agency also must protect the country against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes. Other priorities include combating public corruption, protecting civil rights, and combating transnational and national criminal organizations, combating white-collar crime and significant violent crime.
To achieve these goals, Mueller said, he is now submitting plans for the second phase of the reorganization. The plan includes restructuring the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, establishing a national joint terrorism task force, and setting up flying squads to coordinate national and international investigations. Mueller also seeks congressional approval to establish an office of intelligence to oversee both counterintelligence and counterterrorism.
FBI headquarters has to be the focal point for the intelligence from agents around the country, the CIA and from countries overseas, he said. The bureau should be in the position to take that intelligence, analyze and disseminate it, and suggest avenues of investigation to the field.
The agency must become "predictive" and "proactive" in anticipating attacks, Mueller said. "We have to take a management and a responsibility role for assuring that the investigations are going well and that we are gathering and getting the intelligence we need to prevent additional attacks."
The FBI's technological infrastructure is years behind where it should be, Mueller said. The need to upgrade includes not just getting computers on board, he noted. Everyone in the agency needs to use computers and understand how the technology can help them do a better job. New information technology is critical to sharing information on a real-time basis, he said.
Mueller realigned the FBI work force with 900 new agents scheduled to come on line by September. A massive campaign is under way to recruit computer specialists, linguists, engineers, scientists and other specialists.
The FBI is also increasing the number of analysts devoted to terrorism. Prior to Sept. 11, Mueller said, there were 41 analysts at headquarters and 112 in the field. The bureau is recruiting and hiring another 108 by this fall. The CIA has agreed to loan 25 analysts in the meantime. Mueller has also decided to realign 518 FBI agents who currently work on drugs and white-collar and violent crimes. He said 480 would now work on counterterrorism and 38 would work on security and training.
Overall, Mueller concluded, the agency is undergoing a substantial shift in its culture and mission. "There is not an agent out there, there is not a support person, there is not an analyst that does not understand that and want to participate in protecting the United States from such attacks."
The FBI has 56 field offices, about 400 satellite offices known as resident agencies, four specialized field installations, and more than 40 foreign liaison posts. The foreign liaison offices, each of which is headed by a legal attach or legal liaison officer, work abroad with American and local authorities on criminal matters within FBI jurisdiction.
The FBI has approximately 11,400 special agents and over 16,400 other employees who perform professional, administrative, technical, clerical, craft, trade or maintenance operations. About 9,800 employees are assigned to FBI headquarters; nearly 18,000 are assigned to field installations.