Counterterrorism still FBI top priority: report

[JURIST] Eight years after 9/11 [JURIST news archive], counterterrorism efforts continue to dominate the operations and budget of the FBI [official website], according to a Tuesday report [text] by the New York Times. Since the attacks, the bureau has doubled the number of agents it assigns to counterterrorism efforts and has created specialized "threat squads" to investigate possible threats. Agents in those squads have said that 9/11 showed how important it is to follow credible leads, but noted that less than five percent of those they pursue are substantial enough to justify long-term investigation. FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] has also admitted that devoting 40 percent of agents to counterterrorism has reduced the amount of resources that can be devoted to fighting other crimes, but says that it remains the agency's top priority.

The report illustrates the how central counterterrorism remains to the FBI despite February statements [materials; JURIST report] by FBI Deputy Director John Pistole [official profile] that a number of agents from national security and counterterrorism activities would be reassigned to investigations involving financial fraud. In August 2008, the FBI proposed new investigation guidelines [JURIST report] designed to reflect the shift in the agency's focus. In September of that year, Mueller defended the proposed guidelines [JURIST report] before the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] as a "necessary step" in fighting terrorism. Opponents have argued [JURIST report] that the changes could allow inappropriate racial and ethnic profiling and would permit agents to open terror investigations without evidence of any crime having been committed.

 

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