WASHINGTON – With massive realignment of agents and a move toward specialized intelligence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will shift its structure, culture, and mission from a law enforcement agency to a domestic intelligence agency with the primary goal of preventing terrorism, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Wednesday.
In an official announcement at the Justice Department, Ashcroft who was joined by FBI Director Robert Mueller, praised the man who took over control of the bureau a week before the Sept. 11 attack, and said he will lead the agency's restructuring.
"This battle-tested leader will execute his mission. This reformer will overhaul the FBI," Ashcroft said.
The impending overhaul at the FBI, first reported in a Fox News exclusive, will affect all areas of the bureau including structure, investigative techniques, culture, attitude, procedures and methodology, hiring and technology.
Mueller said his priorities will be to have the bureau do a better job of recruiting, training and managing its workforce and information.
"We have to do a better job at collaborating with others. And as critically important, we have to do a better job managing, analyzing and sharing information. In essence, we need a different approach that puts prevention above all else. And simply put, we need to change, and we indeed are changing," he said.
The most sweeping changes in the agency's 94-year history amounts to a shift from a "reactive to a proactive orientation." Many reforms had been proposed for years but, until Sept. 11, the FBI resisted change.
"After 9-11, it became clearer than ever that we had to fundamentally change the way we do business," Mueller said.
Fox News has obtained several line items that will be FBI priorities:
• Protect the United States from terrorist attack
• Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage
• Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes
• Combat public corruption at all levels
• Combat transnational and national criminal organizations and enterprises
• Combat major white-collar crime
• Combat significant violent crime
• Support federal, state, local, and international partners
• Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI's mission
• Protect civil rights
To begin with, 900 new agents will be hired by September, joining the 7,000 already in the agency. Before the terror attacks, only 153 agents were assigned to the Counter-Terrorism Division. That number will be quadrupled by 2004 to 682 agents in counter-terrorism, with a third at headquarters and more than 400 in the field.
The CTD will be expanded, adding 14 new "sections" and "units" specializing in terrorism, technology, world cultures, languages and intelligence gathering.
Another 518 agents will be reassigned to counter-terrorism operations from within the agency. Of them, 400 will come from the anti-drug crimes division, 59 will be shifted from white-collar crime divisions and another 59 will be transferred from the violent crime-fighting sections.
There will be a new emphasis on computers and technology. For years, the FBI's technology has been woefully outdated - many networks are not linked and analysis is inadequate.
The new National Joint Terrorism Task Force, already in operation, will establish an Office of Intelligence that will encourage analytical capabilities.
More critically, the new intelligence section will have sweeping investigative authority in the U.S., authority that has not existed recently, as the Central Intelligence Agency cannot spy in the United States and FBI undercover work has until now been limited to probing crimes that are assumed to have already occurred.
The new Mobile National Terrorism Response Capability will also include "flying squads," elite teams to travel the world collecting information.
Among the key near-term actions on counter-intelligence, the FBI will:
• Redefine the relationship between headquarters and the field so that agents in the field will have more power to investigate;
• Establish a new Espionage Section in the Counterintelligence Division to spy on those who spy on the United States;
• Re-orient counter-intelligence strategy to identify and protect key targets of foreign interests. That means electric grids and other such strategic interests. The FBI will also focus on emerging strategic threats that range from China to Cuba to Al Qaeda;
• Upgrade analytical capabilities with training and technologies;
• Establish counter-intelligence career paths for special agents. Recruiting specialists with specific skills is a fairly new concept for the FBI;
• Adopt security measures to protect FBI investigations and information;
• Target recruitment to hire agents, analysts, translators, and others with specialized skills.
To tighten cyber-security, the FBI has several short-term plans, including the development of a new Cyber Division with new Regional Computer Forensic labs nationwide. The FBI will expand alliances with federal agencies like the CIA, and build a new Investigative Technology Division for better electronic surveillance of potential terrorists.
The famed FBI forensics labs are also targeted for a shakeup. Mueller will propose splitting the lab into two parts, each with a separate director. One will be a cyber-crime and high-technology division to deal with emerging computer crime and make better use of computers for analysis. The second will be for forensics and scientific work, like fingerprint and DNA analysis.
FBI officials argue that the reorganization will help avoid the types of mistakes made in the past, and also help prevent future attacks.
Several planned changes were made possible by the USA Patriot Act that swept through Congress immediately following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Some reforms are already underway.
Many of the reforms seem to be direct responses to missed leads and bureaucratic inaction in the months before Sept. 11.
FBI field alerts to Washington of Middle Eastern men training at U.S. flight schools during the summer of 2001 were buried in paperwork, and agents in Minneapolis who circumvented normal channels to contact the CIA about suspected "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui were reprimanded.
"Our analytical capability is not where it should be," Mueller said as he thanked Coleen Rowley, the Minneapolis agent who wrote Mueller to describe the congestion at headquarters that was hindering the investigation into Moussaoui.
Fox News has reported that there may be a dozen more instances of missed opportunities and overlooked information relating to the September terror attacks.
Others parts of the reorganization can be attributed to pre-existing controversies, such as the case of Robert Hanssen, sentenced this month to life in prison for spying for Moscow, and the case of Wen Ho Lee, a nuclear scientist suspected, imprisoned and then cleared of spying for China.
Justice Department officials, perhaps anticipating congressional criticism of the new measures, pointed out to Fox News that critics of pre-Sept. 11 intelligence and investigative failures have frequently been quick to decry perceived threats to civil liberties.
The officials said that those who criticize mistakes made in the past but now balk at steps to prevent recurring problems or attacks in the future either want it both ways, are playing politics, or both.
Carl Cameron currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) Washington-based chief political correspondent. He joined FNC in 1996 as a correspondent.