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FBI reorganises, focuses on cybercrime
Thursday, May 30 2002
by Andrew McLindon

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A major new reorganisation at the US Federal Bureau of Investigation will see it increase its use of technology and step up efforts against cybercrime.

The FBI's director, Robert Mueller, told a press conference on Wednesday that the crime-fighting body had to be "refocused and redesigned." His remarks were made in the wake of reports that the FBI had evidence and clues in its possession that could have been used to uncover the 11 September plot.

As part of this reorganisation, the FBI will now be giving a higher priority to cyber-crime, which now becomes the organisation's number three priority behind protecting the United States from terrorist attack, and guarding against foreign intelligence operations and espionage.

"Foreign intelligence services continue to target US secrets and technology, often for their own countries' economic advantage," commented Mueller in early May. "Cyber-space is threatened by increasingly malicious criminal activities. Organised crime of all types operates without regard to geographic borders."

Muller added in the press conference that preventing high-tech crime "is a protection of our infrastructure," and since cybercrime can happen anywhere, "you need the overarching responsibility in an agency such as the FBI."

This renewed focus on cybercrime comes just months after the FBI established a Cybercrime Division to co-ordinate the agency's technology-related efforts. The division includes the bureau's National Infrastructure Protection Center, which tries to protect the United States' most important computer networks from attacks.

In addition, Mueller said the re-organisation would see the FBI adopt new technologies to support new and different operational practices. "We have to do a better job recruiting, managing and training our workforce; collaborating with others; and, critically important, managing, analysing and sharing information on a real-time basis," he commented.

As part of its "key near-actions" in countering terrorism, Mueller said the bureau would expand its use of data mining, financial record analysis and communications analysis. An Office of Intelligence would also be established to oversee this activity.

He added that the upgrading of technology was now a major concern for the FBI. "This means not just getting our computers on board and our hard drives, but everybody from the top to the bottom getting used to and using the technology. We are years behind where we should be," he remarked.

Among the recent allegations of FBI mis-handling of investigations into possible terrorist activity was the revelation that there had been a fault in its e-mail wiretap system.

The restructuring announced this week will also see a doubling of the number of agents devoted to counterterrorism, and hundreds of linguists, scientists and other specialists will be hired to focus on preventing terrorist attacks.

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