The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
is an elite law enforcement organization. This article provides
an overview of FBI teams, InfraGard and the FBI Citizens’
I. FBI Priorities
Take a moment to review the list of FBI priorities.
What you see might surprise you. Top on the list is terrorism,
intelligence threats, etc. The FBI mission has changed in
1. Protect the United States from terrorist
2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence
operations and espionage
3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks
and high-technology crimes
4. Combat public corruption at all levels
5. Protect civil rights
6. Combat transnational/national criminal organizations
7. Combat major white-collar crime
8. Combat significant violent crime
9. Support federal, state, local and international partners
10. Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI's
II. Life of an FBI Agent
FBI agents have a simple mantra. Know your
domain! Domain in the FBI vernacular refers to knowledge
of an area’s threats, population and demographics. The FBI
strives to develop alliances with American companies, universities,
and research laboratories to protect targeted technologies.
Establish a relationship with the FBI now, before an incident.
The FBI is also focused on situational
awareness: Expect the unexpected; Know your adversary; Nothing
is what it seems.
Each FBI field office has several teams.
FBI Agents are typically assigned to more than one (e.g.
SWAT as an alternate duty).
The services provided by the FBI are not
without consequences. Since its inception in 1908, 50 FBI
agents have been killed in the line of duty.
The FBI Deadly Force Policy is as follows:
“Agents may use deadly force when necessary, that is, when
an agent has probably cause to believe that the subject
of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious
physical injury to the Agent or other persons.” Use of deadly
force is a last resort.
1. White Collar Crime Program
The WCC Program has many sub-programs most
of which are focused on fraud. Fraud occurs in many businesses
including corporations, securities and commodities firms,
health care organizations, financial institutions, etc.
Fraud is not a victimless crime. It affects stocks, pension
plans, mutual funds and the people who invest in them. The
FBI’s Certified Fraud Examiners have the depth and breadth
of experience to conduct complex fraud investigations.
The FBI does not typically investigate
fraud until it hits the $150,000 mark. In the near future,
the threshold may be extended to $500,000 due to resource
constraints. For more information, refer to the Seattle
Terrorism Trade-off” article.
The WCC program includes mass marketing
fraud and identity theft crimes. The FBI also investigates
corruption of public officials at all levels of government.
2. National Joint Terrorism Task Force
JTTFs are a collective of counter terrorism
units spread throughout the U.S. The primary goal of each
unit is to prevent, disrupt and defeat terror operations
before they occur. JTTF units consist of FBI agents and
a combination of federal, state, and local law enforcement
officials (e.g. the ATF, Federal Air Marshals, State Bureaus
of Investigation, DHS, police officers, state law enforcement,
etc.). JTTF members sign a memorandum of understanding to
work under FBI leadership. Each unit is deputized by the
FBI as federal law enforcement officers and work as one
Terrorists can look like anyone. There
is no stereotype. The first phase of any JTTF investigation
is intelligence gathering. Who is involved? What are they
doing? The next phase is threat assessment. Public records
checks and database checks are conducted. This most basic
form of investigation may reveal that a suspect is lying
or has been stopped for similar surveillance at another
location. If a case is warranted, a preliminary or full
investigation is initiated. When terrorism activity is confirmed,
the decision is made whether to disrupt, arrest or deport
Each JTTF refers to a list of terrorist
groups established by the State Department. It is a felony
for any individual or organization to knowingly support
a terrorist group. When support of is identified, the FBI
works with the Treasury department to freeze assets (bank
accounts) and suspend business operations. At that point,
the FBI will also announce that anyone who conducts business
with that organization is supporting terrorism and is also
committing a felony.
3. Field Intelligence Group (FIG)
FIGs ensure intelligence gathered by field
offices is appropriately shared across the FBI and with
law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The goal of information
sharing is “share by rule, withhold by exception” and “protect
sources and methods”.
Like most intelligence organizations, FIGs
are drowning in information and starving for knowledge.
Intelligence collection is the primary role of Special Agents
(answering the 5 Ws). Intelligence Analysts evaluate information,
identify trends, recommend options, and forecast outcomes.
Finally, FIGs develop Intelligence Information
Reports and disseminate them within approved channels in
a timely and usable manner.
The expression “I could tell you but, then
I’d have to kill you” applies here. Much of the tactics
of a FIG are classified.
4. Violent Crimes & Major Offenses/Drug Program (VCMO)
The VCMO team is primarily focused on organized
crime and bank robbery. Typical investigations include gangs,
mafia and drug trafficking. Gangs are active in 40 states
and DC. The FBI’s National Gang Strategy is to investigate,
disrupt and dismantle violent gangs. Gangs have a hierarchical
structure with leaders and defined roles and operations.
Accordingly, the FBI focuses on prosecuting gang leadership
to “cut the head off the snake”. Gangs use sophisticated
technology to secure their communications (e.g. cell phone
encryption, wire detectors, spy gear, codes and ciphers).
The FBI uses safe streets programs and violent gang task
forces to disrupt their operations. The FBI maintains SWAT
teams and is well equipped to arrest violent criminals.
The FBI is famous for solving armed bank
robberies. Bank robberies account for 50% of all robberies.
Typically $5,000 or less is stolen.
The FBI also investigates kidnapping, extortion,
cold case homicides, serial killers and interstate domestic
5. Evidence Response Team (ERT)
An ERT has all the capabilities of a Crime
Scene Investigations unit and more. ERTs work federal crime
scenes (e.g. Indian reservations, national parks and terrorist
events). ERTs have investigated cars, violent bank robberies,
plane crashes, 9-11 and bomb incidents.
When a crime scene is discovered, the area
is cordoned off to preserve evidence. ERTs follow well-defined
procedures when processing a crime scene. Anyone entering
the scene is signed in and must wear a Tyvek suit to prevent
contamination (e.g. hair from an Investigator). A photographer
takes pictures before Investigators enter, during evidence
collection and upon exit. Footprints can be captured by
photograph or plaster cast. Vacuum canisters with filters
are used to collect small particles such as hair or clothing
fibers. DNA evidence is detected with Alternate Light Source
equipment. Investigators also lift latent fingerprints and
use rods with laser pointers to trace bullet trajectory.
The FBI investigates any commuter plane
crash. When processing a crash, ERT sifts through debris
fields and searches for black boxes. Survey equipment is
used to produce a three dimensional map of the crime scene.
Each ERT has the support of sophisticated
labs at the FBI headquarters in Washington DC.
6. Civil Rights Program
The FBI investigates a variety of civil
rights violations. Hate crimes are motivated by bias against
persons or property based on race, religion or ethnic/national
origin. Housing discrimination, church burnings and voting
rights violations are classified as hate crimes.
Color of law abuses occur when a public
official uses their authority to deprive someone of a right
protected by US laws or the constitution. Color of law violations
are obvious (e.g. the Rodney King arrest).
Human trafficking is a form of modern day
slavery. The FBI prosecutes anyone responsible for capture,
detainment or transportation of a person for labor, through
the use of force, fraud or coercion.
7. Polygraph/Profiling Program
FBI Agents use polygraph tests to get to
the truth. Polygraph sensors include: a cardio cuff to measure
blood pressure, two chest tubes to measure breathing and
two electrodes to monitor sweat activity. Examiners ask
questions that are known truths and known lies to determine
a physiology baseline. Next, questions related to the situation
are asked. When a particular question or line of questioning
causes an issue, the Examiner asks in different ways and
in different orders to isolate the lie. The work is getting
the innocent person to think, “I’m OK, I didn’t do it” and
the guilty person to think, “I did it, I’m so done”. When
a FBI Examiner conducts a polygraph, a supervisor reviews
results before a finding is issued. Polygraph test results
are: deceptive, non-deceptive or inconclusive.
Suspects cannot be compelled to take a
polygraph (by the FBI or anyone else). FBI agents are polygraphed
initially, at the five year mark (reinvestigation) and before
leaving the country. Polygraph is not a perfect science.
It is a tool to point in a direction. Polygraph alone cannot
be used to convict someone.
8. FBI Hostage Rescue Team
HRT offers a tactical option for any extraordinary
hostage crisis or other law enforcement situation that may
occur within the U.S. For more information on the HRT, read
Whitcomb’s Cold Zero. It is an intriguing look within
the HRT and includes details of Waco and Ruby Ridge.
9. FBI Public Relations
The Public Relations team is responsible
for releasing information to the media and ultimately the
general public. There is a delicate balance between the
public’s right-to-know how the federal government operates
and need-to-know criteria restricting sensitive information
from the public domain. Limiting factors include FBI investigations
policy, Department of Justice media policy, and numerous
FBI security and accuracy guidelines for releasing information.
In some states, there is only one FBI media representative.
Given policy and resource constraints, the PR mission can
10. Computer Crime Program
The Computer Crime Team’s # 1 priority
is to prevent, detect and prosecute computer intrusions.
Typical intrusions include illicit bank transfers and theft
of classified information. Insider threat is also a serious
consideration. In fact, FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen
began spying for the KGB in 1979 and was not discovered
Under the Innocent Images initiative, the
FBI combats child sexual exploitation via Internet. Child
pornography is prevalent today due to the ease of use of
computers, the number of children online and the amount
of images available. Prosecution is complicated by jurisdictional
complexities, lack of coordinated law enforcement and coordinated
efforts by offenders.
Internet fraud is a federal crime prosecuted
by the FBI. Many common cyber crimes fall under this category
(e.g. credit/debit card fraud, reshipping, and investment
The FBI also protects intellectual property
rights (trade secrets, copyrights and trademarks). Economic
espionage is an underreported crime when it is detected
at all. U.S. businesses estimate monetary losses in the
billions in addition to countless jobs. The outflow of information
has eroded the US global military and economic advantage.
Economic espionage affects the bottom line.
The # 1 way spies obtain information is
by asking for it (social engineering). The best form of
protection is to become a difficult target. Make them go
IV. FBI Outreach Programs
FBI Citizens’ Academy
Citizens’ Academy is an eight-week program that gives
business, religious and community leaders an inside look
at the FBI. This article was written from extensive Citizens’
Academy briefings and handouts.
InfraGard was established by the FBI to
promote protection of critical information systems. The
key benefits of InfraGard membership are daily industry
reports, bi-monthly meetings, interaction with industry
peers, presentations by industry specialists and sensitive
FBI briefings. Membership also connects businesses with
specific FBI resources to contact in the event of an emergency.
Join by surfing to www.infragard.net.
V. Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: How can I learn more about the FBI?
A: The FBI Citizens’ Academy is a great
place to learn more. Your local FBI office is also just
a phone call away. Consider inviting a FBI agent to your
professional organization as well (e.g. ISSA,
ISACA and ASIS).
Q. How can I contact the FBI with an issue?
A. Contact your local
FBI field office. The FBI also maintains a Tips
and Public Leads web site to report suspected terrorism
or criminal activity.
Q. What can the FBI do for my organization?
A. The FBI is available to investigate
any of the crimes detailed above. If your organization is
critical to the U.S. economy, provides critical infrastructure
services or conducts government research, the FBI is available
to partner with you.
VI. Final Thoughts
George Orwell is often quoted as “Good
people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because
rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
Sleep tight America, the FBI is looking
out for your best interests.
Gideon T. Rasmussen is a Charlotte-based
information security professional with a background in Fortune
50 and military organizations. His website is http://www.gideonrasmussen.com.
Originally published in Help Net Security (October 15, 2007)