Robert Mueller, the director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, says the FBI's new focus on intelligence has made it more effective in the fight against both crime and terrorism. Los Angeles, Mr. Mueller says new adversaries require a smarter, more sophisticated agency.
The FBI, says Mr. Mueller, has always been known for its determined investigations and its patience. However, he says since the terrorist attacks of September, 2001, his agency no longer has the luxury of time, and that in the fight against terrorism, patience is no virtue.
"One of the key lessons of September 11 is that threats to our nation can come from just about anywhere at any time," he said. "We all know that our adversaries no longer respect either organizational boundaries or international borders. They are networked together by modern information technology that has made the world smaller than it has been in the past."
Today, says Mr. Mueller, criminal and terrorist networks can act across national borders with a single computer key-stroke.
The FBI was widely criticized, along with the Central Intelligence Agency, for failing to share information that could conceivably have stopped the terror attacks on New York and Washington. Mr. Mueller says legal restrictions at the time prevented some of that sharing, but with passage of the U.S. Patriot Act in late 2001, those legal restrictions were lifted.
The official says the FBI has launched a recruitment campaign for intelligence analysts, linguists, and surveillance specialists who will track down terrorist networks. He says a new "threat integration center" is helping "connect the dots" among the fragments of intelligence from different agencies. "Field intelligence groups," including one in Los Angeles, now coordinate regional information with police departments. And a "terrorist screening center" has brought together a number of agencies to create a terrorist watch-list.
He says the FBI's new intelligence capabilities are also combating conventional crimes committed, for example, by thousands of U.S. street gangs. He notes that many gangs are active on the West Coast.
"There are more than 110,000 documented gang members in the Los Angeles area," he said. "Working together with state and local law enforcement, we are tracking their activities using an array of investigative techniques, including surveillance, wire taps, undercover operations, in order to gather and analyze the intelligence enabling us to disrupt and take down these gangs."
Mr. Mueller, who was in Los Angeles to attend a law enforcement conference, told a civic group that improved intelligence is based on better information that gets to the people who need it, from the U.S. president to local police patrolmen.