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The Honorable Robert S. Mueller, III
March 25, 2009
Good morning Chairman Leahy, Senator Specter, and Members of the Committee. I am pleased to be here today.
I want to give you a brief sense of the FBI's current priorities, the key changes we have made in recent months, and the challenges we face.
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, counterterrorism became our top priority, and it remains our top priority today. Indeed, our top three priorities - counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and cyber security - are national security related. As a result of that shift in our mission, we have made a number of changes in the FBI, both in structure and in the way we do business.
A. Restructuring of FBI Intelligence Program
But we also recognize that we must continue to move forward, to refine programs and policies already in place, and to make necessary changes to our intelligence program.
To that end, we established a Strategic Execution Team (SET) to help us assess our intelligence program, and to standardize it throughout the FBI. The SET, made up of agents and analysts, developed a series of recommendations for accelerating the integration of our intelligence and investigative work.
The SET improvements will ensure that we capitalize on our intelligence collection capabilities and develop a national collection plan to fill gaps in our knowledge base. Our objective is to defeat national security and criminal threats by operating as a single intelligence-led operation, with no dividing line between our criminal and counterterrorism programs. We want to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks.
These changes are part of our ongoing campaign to "Know Our Domain," as we say. Domain awareness is a 360-degree understanding of all national security and criminal threats in any given city or community. It is the aggregation of intelligence, to include what we already know and what we need to know, and the development of collection plans to find the best means to answer the unknowns. With this knowledge, we can identify emerging threats, allocate resources effectively, and identify new opportunities for intelligence collection and criminal prosecution.
B. Improvements to FBI Technology
I want to turn for a moment to recent improvements in FBI technology. We cannot gather the intelligence we need, analyze that intelligence, or share it with our law enforcement or intelligence partners, without the right technology.
Proper training will be provided to all users, ensuring maximum exploitation of Sentinel's capabilities.
We are also strengthening the IT programs that allow us to communicate and share with our partners. For example, we launched an initiative to consolidate the FBI's Unclassified Network with Law Enforcement Online (LEO), which is the unclassified secure network we use to share information with registered law enforcement partners.
As part of the LEO platform, the FBI is delivering the eGuardian system - an unclassified counterterrorism tool available to our federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners through the FBI's secure LEO internet portal. The eGuardian system will work in tandem with Guardian, the FBI's classified web-based counterterrorism incident management application. Guardian makes threat and suspicious activity information immediately available to all authorized users. Guardian will then make available unclassified threat and suspicious activity information through eGuardian, enabling law enforcement personnel to receive the most current information. In return, any potential terrorist threat or suspicious activity information provided by law enforcement will be made available in Guardian entries and outward to the FBI task forces.
We are also in the midst of developing what we call "Next Generation Identification" system, which expands the FBI's fingerprint-based identification, known as the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, to include a wide range of biometric data. This will better enable us to find criminals and terrorists who are using the latest technology to shield their identities and activities. In support of our multi-modal biometrics efforts, we have also established the Biometrics Center of Excellence at our Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) complex in West Virginia. Its mission is to serve as a research and development, test and evaluation, and standards promulgation center for not only U.S. law enforcement, but for other government entities that share similar challenges in the positive identification of individuals of concern.
We have also developed a system called the Law Enforcement National Data Exchange, (N-DEx). N-DEx is a national information-sharing system, accessible to law enforcement agencies through a secure website. It will allow nationwide searches from a single access point and leverages the current IT infrastructure managed by our CJIS division that already interconnects almost every US law enforcement agency. We successfully completed the initial deployment last year and will continue to refine and expand it.
Through N-DEx, law enforcement officers will now be able to search databases for information on everything from tattoos to cars, allowing them to link cases that previously seemed isolated. They will be able to see crime trends and hotspots, access threat level assessments of individuals or locations, and make the best use of mapping technology. It is not a new records management system, but one that allows us to share and link the information we already have.
We are also working to improve our confidential human source management system. Intelligence provided by confidential human sources is fundamental to the FBI mission. To better manage that data, we are putting in place a program known as DELTA. DELTA will provide FBI agents and intelligence analysts a uniform means of handling the administrative aspect of maintaining human sources. It will also enable FBI headquarters and field offices to better understand, connect, operate, and protect confidential human sources.
We are also improving our crisis management systems. The Operational Response and Investigative Online Network (ORION) is the FBI's next-generation Crisis Information Management System, which provides crisis management services to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and/or emergency personnel. ORION standardizes crisis and event management processes, enhance situational awareness, and support the exchange of information with other command posts.
ORION provides a web-based crisis management application hosted on the Sensitive But Unclassified and FBI Secret networks that is also deployable in a stand-alone configuration via Critical Incident Response Group Fly-kits to locations without Internet or Secret network access. The ORION application is accessible from almost any desktop with FBINET or UNET connectivity using a standard web browser. It has been used at both the Democratic and Republican national conventions, major sporting events, to include the Olympics, and this year's Inauguration.
I know the FBI's progress in reducing the backlog of name check requests, especially in the area of immigration, has been of great interest to Members of Congress. We have made significant improvement during Fiscal Year (FY) 2008, with that trend continuing into FY 2009. At the beginning of FY 2008, the FBI had over 402,000 pending name check requests submitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), with over 380,000 of those pending for more than 30 days. In FY 2009, the FBI is processing over 98 percent of all incoming USCIS name checks within 60 days, and as of March 9, 2009, has only 34 USCIS name check requests pending for more than 30 days. The FBI will build on this success and will further streamline and improve the name check process.
C. Human Capital
These improvements in structure and technology will strengthen the FBI's intelligence capabilities. But we know that people are the FBI's best and strongest asset - one we must capitalize on to achieve our mission.
As you know, we have been hard at work building a strong Human Resources program to ensure we have the optimum recruiting, hiring, training, and retention practices for our employees.
The changing workforce of the United States will have different expectations than previous generations, challenging the FBI to evolve its career development practices and offer new opportunities for growth in order to attract talent. We must also continue to enhance our intelligence capabilities, adding to the skill sets of on-board employees. Finally, we must ensure there is sufficient leadership bench strength to lead the organization now and into the future.
But as we develop into a national security agency, we also require employees with specialized skills -- intelligence analysts, surveillance specialists, scientists, linguists, and computer experts.
Our hiring for Fiscal Year 2009 includes goals to bring on board approximately 2,800 professional staff, including intelligence analysts, information technology specialists, language specialists, and 850 new agents. Through our recruiting efforts, we have received more than 300,000 applications. We have extended more than 4,400 job offers and continue to work through the tremendous response from Americans who want to dedicate their careers to public service.
Finally, a 2009 priority is to revamp our approach to developing leaders at all levels of the FBI. To that end, we have launched a leadership development initiative to identify and implement an interconnected set of leadership training and developmental experiences for all employees, at all levels.
In order to support our human resources programs, we have also launched an initiative to transition the FBI to an updated Human Resources Information System. We are moving forward to implement a best-in-class platform that is already utilized across the government community, which will provide us with the technological infrastructure that managing a strong Human Resources program requires.
II. Threat Overview
These improvements are necessary for the work ahead of us. The threats we face are diverse, dangerous, and global in nature.
As you know, terrorism remains our top priority. We have not had a terrorist attack on American soil in more than seven years. But we are not safe, as illustrated by the recent attacks in Mumbai, India.
Our primary threat continues to come from the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. But we are seeing persistent activity elsewhere, from the Horn of Africa to Yemen.
Given these substantial threats, terrorism will remain our top priority. But it is by no means our only priority.
While Americans justifiably worry about terrorism, it is crime that most directly impacts their daily lives. We understand that national security is as much about stopping crime on our streets as it is about preventing terrorism.
It comes down to squaring priorities with limited resources. We currently have roughly a 50/50 split in resources between national security and criminal programs. To make the best use of these resources, we will continue to focus on those areas where we bring something unique to the table, and to target those criminal threats against which we will have the most substantial and lasting impact, from public corruption, violent gangs and transnational criminal enterprises to financial fraud and crimes against children.
Since 2001, our gang cases have more than doubled. We have more Safe Streets Task Forces in more mid-size cities. We have more than 200 Safe Streets, Gang, Violent Crime, and Major Theft Task Forces across the country, with more than 850 FBI agents. And we continue to work in tandem with our state and local partners to provide a balance between immediate responses to surges in violent crime and long-term solutions.
We are deeply concerned about the high levels of violence along the Southwest border. All too often, this violence can be traced back to three things: drugs, human smuggling, and gang activity. Because gangs are a transnational threat, the FBI formed the MS-13 National Gang Task Force. These agents and analysts coordinate investigations with our counterparts in Mexico and Central America.
Of course, drug-related violence is not new to the border area. But there have been shifts in alliances among Mexican drug trafficking organizations. These Mexican cartels are vying for control over Southwest border territory, leading to an increase in violence.
Mexican authorities are struggling to cut off drug smuggling routes from Mexico to the United States. One of the consequences of their efforts has been a surge in violent crime, particularly homicides. As law enforcement organizations crack down on these drug trafficking organizations, they turn to other means to make money, including kidnapping and extortion.
To address the surge in kidnappings, the FBI works closely with Mexican police officials on a Bilateral Kidnapping Task Force. This task force investigates cases along the border towns of Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. To combat drug-related violence, FBI agents participate on Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces strike forces, which target the most significant drug trafficking organizations in the region.
In sum, we are taking what we have learned about intelligence and we are applying it to criminal investigations. Rather than focusing on the number of arrests, indictments, and convictions, we are focusing on the intelligence we need to prevent crime in the first place. And we are maximizing limited resources by working with partners here at home and abroad.
C. Economic Crime
We will continue to dedicate the necessary resources to defeat these diverse violent crime threats. But we must also focus on white collar and economic crime, including public corruption and mortgage fraud.
In the wake of September 11th, we were confronted with radical changes to the FBI - changes that were necessary to address the terrorist threat. Yet at the same time, we faced a rash of corporate wrongdoing, from Enron and WorldCom to Qwest. We needed to prioritize our resources.
Public corruption is our top criminal priority. We have 2,500 pending public corruption investigations - an increase of more than 58 percent since 2003. In the past five years, the number of agents working public corruption cases has increased by almost 60 percent. And we have convicted more than 1,618 federal, state, and local officials in the past two years alone.
Apart from public corruption, economic crime remains one of our primary concerns. Our mortgage fraud caseload has more than doubled in the past three years, from 700 cases to more than 2,000. In addition, the FBI has more than 566 open corporate fraud investigations, including matters directly related to the current financial crisis.
Unfortunately, there is no sign that our mortgage fraud caseload will decrease in the near future. To the contrary, Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) from financial institutions have indicated a significant increase in mortgage fraud reporting. For example, during Fiscal Year 2008, mortgage fraud SARs increased more than 36 percent to a total of 63,173. So far in FY 2009, there have been 28,873 mortgage fraud SARs filed. While the total dollar loss attributed to mortgage fraud is unknown, seven percent of SARs filed in Fiscal Year 2008 indicated a specific dollar loss, which totaled more than $1.5 billion.
To make the best use of our limited resources, the FBI has found new ways to detect and combat mortgage fraud. One example is the use of a property flipping analytical computer application, first developed by the Washington Field Office, to effectively identify property flipping in the Baltimore and Washington areas.
This original concept has evolved into a national FBI initiative that employs statistical correlations and other advanced computer technology to search for companies and persons with patterns of property flipping. As potential targets are analyzed and flagged, information is provided to the respective FBI Field Office for further investigation.
In addition, sophisticated investigative techniques, such as undercover operations and wiretaps, not only result in the collection of valuable evidence, they provide an opportunity to apprehend criminals in the commission of their crimes, thus reducing loss to individuals and financial institutions. By pursuing these proactive methods in conjunction with historical investigations, the FBI is able to realize operational efficiencies in large scale investigations.
In December 2008, the FBI dedicated resources to create the National Mortgage Fraud Team at FBI headquarters. The team has specific responsibility for the management of the mortgage fraud program at both the origination and corporate level. They will assist FBI field offices in addressing the mortgage fraud problem at all levels. And they will provide tools to identify the most egregious mortgage fraud perpetrators, prioritize pending investigations, and provide information to evaluate where additional manpower is needed.
One of the best tools the FBI has for combating mortgage fraud is its long-standing partnerships with government and industry partners. Currently, there are 18 mortgage fraud task forces and 47 working groups across the country. These task forces are strategically placed in areas identified as high threat areas for mortgage fraud.
Partners are varied, but typically include representatives of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Internal Revenue Service, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and State and local law enforcement officers. This multi-agency model serves as a force multiplier, providing an array of resources to identify the source of the fraud and finding the most effective way to prosecute each case.
Last June, for example, we worked closely with our partners on "Operation Malicious Mortgage", a multi-agency takedown on mortgage fraud schemes, with more than 400 defendants across the country. Thus far, 164 defendants have been convicted in federal, State, and local courts for crimes that amount to more than $1 billion in losses. Forty six of our 56 field offices took part in the operation, which has also resulted in the forfeiture or seizure of more than $60 million in assets.
The FBI is one of the Department of Justice (DOJ) participants in the national Mortgage Fraud Working Group (MFWG), which DOJ chairs. Together, we are building on existing FBI intelligence databases to identify large industry insiders and criminal enterprises conducting systemic mortgage fraud.
We also continue to foster relationships with representatives of the mortgage industry to promote mortgage fraud awareness. We are working with industry partners to develop a more efficient mortgage fraud reporting mechanism for those not mandated to report such activity. This Suspicious Mortgage Fraud Activity Report concept is under consideration by the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Like other federal agencies, we are worried about the economic downturn and the impact on criminal and terrorist threats against the United States. But at the same time, we understand that our role cannot be limited to the domestic front. Just as there are no borders for crime and terrorism, there can be no borders for justice and the rule of law.
Through our 61 Legal Attaché offices around the world, our international training programs, and our joint investigations, we have strengthened our relationships with our international law enforcement partners and expanded our global reach.
Global cooperation is not merely the best way to combat global crime and terrorism, it is the only way. And we must cooperate not only with our international law enforcement and intelligence partners, but with our private partners as well.
Consider cyber crime, for example. As the world grows more dependent on information technology systems, keeping these systems viable and secure has become an increasingly urgent national priority. Our increased reliance on technology has created an irresistible target for criminal activity, and that activity is by no means limited to the United States.
Currently, the largest source of transnational cyber crime is Eastern Europe. Annual estimated loss to financial institutions in responding to these attacks exceeds $200 million in the United States alone.
To combat this growing threat, the FBI has developed close working relationships with law enforcement partners within high-value target countries such as Russia and Romania, and also with allies who are victimized by these cyber criminals. We have close working relationships with countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Poland, Estonia, and Japan, and these partnerships are paying off.
For example, in November of last year, cyber criminals executed a highly sophisticated scheme to defraud a major payment processor. Hackers gained access to the network of this payment processor and increased the funds available for a small number of payroll debit cards.
From a law enforcement perspective, the ability to respond to these attacks is hampered by their scale and their international scope. We simply do not have the resources required to address this problem in its entirety. The growing global threat will continue to pose problems so long as attacks continue from technically sophisticated, underemployed, underpaid actors operating from countries whose diplomatic relations with the United States may be less than ideal.
We also confront a patchwork of laws, regulations, and private industry requirements - all of which prohibit reporting and investigation on an international scale. By extension, a lack of reporting of such security breaches inhibits information sharing and hampers law enforcement and private industry in the long run.
Global cooperation addressing these cyber threats would better equip victim organizations and support a comprehensive and unified approach by law enforcement, giving us the means to leverage the collective resources of many countries. A global response will ensure deterrence, enhance confidence, and increase security in the long run. For these very reasons, we will continue to build partnerships with our international law enforcement and intelligence counterparts, and our private sector partners as well. And we will continue to investigate these kinds of transnational threats to the fullest extent of our reach and our resources.
Over the past 100 years, the FBI has earned a reputation for protecting America that remains unmatched. Many of our accomplishments over the past seven years are in part due to your efforts and your support, and much of our success in the years to come will be due to your continuing support. From addressing the growing gang problem to creating additional Legal Attache offices around the world, to compensating our personnel and protecting the American people from terrorist attack, you have supported our mission and our budget requests.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to conclude by thanking you and this Committee for your service and your support. On behalf of the men and women of the FBI, I look forward to working with you in the years to come. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.