The Federal Bureau of Investigation is struggling to find enough agents and resources to investigate criminal wrongdoing associated with the country’s current economic crisis, The New York Times reported Sunday.
The problem stems from the bureau stepping up its national security role after the Sept. 11 attacks.
As a result, the bureau slashed its criminal investigative work force, shifting nearly one-third of agents to terrorism and intelligence duties, current and former bureau officials told The Times.
With the economic crisis now at hand, the bureau has experienced renewed pressure to probe some of the biggest players in the collapse, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“Clearly, we have felt the effects of moving resources from criminal investigations to national security,” John Miller, an assistant director at the FBI, told the paper. “In white-collar crime, while we initiated fewer cases over all, we targeted the areas where we could have the biggest impact.”
Executives in the private sector say they have had difficulty getting the bureau’s attention when it comes to probes involving the possible fraud of millions of dollars, The Times reported.
FBI officials realized the growing danger posed by fraud in the housing market beginning in 2003 and 2004, records show, but it was rebuffed by government officials when it came to the acquisition of additional help.
“The administration’s top priority since the 9/11 attacks has been counterterrorism,” Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, told The Times. “In part, that’s reflected by a significant investment of resources at the FBI to answer the call from Congress and the American public to become a domestic intelligence agency in addition to a law enforcement agency.”
The FBI is planning to now double the number of agents working financial crimes by reassigning several hundred agents, The Times reported.