The Federal Bureau of Investigation is acknowledging it is no longer a law enforcement agency – at least, not primarily one.
Instead, the FBI now lists “national security” as its primary mission, and it has done so with little attention.
The old fact sheet the Bureau gave to the media said: “The primary function of the FBI is law enforcement.”
Foreign Policy reported that the Bureau’s fact sheet has been changed to say: “The primary function of the FBI is national security.”
Foreign Policy only noticed the change because a Washington D.C. lawyer named Kel McClanahan pointed it out. The Bureau wasn’t broadcasting the change. On its website, the FBI says its first mission is to “protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats.”
FBI’s Primary Mission Is Now Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Intelligence
Yet when asked about the change by Foreign Policy writer John Hudson, the FBI admitted to the change.
“When our mission changed after 9/11, our fact sheet changed to reflect that,” spokesman Paul Bresson said. McClanahan noted that the fact sheet only changed in the summer of 2013.
“We rank our top 10 priorities and CT [counterterrorism] is first, counter-intel is second, cyber is third,” Bresson admitted. “So it is certainly accurate to say our primary function is national security.”
McClanahan was skeptical of the FBI’s motives. He believes the Bureau’s real motive could be to get a larger share of the federal budget and increase its authority not to become a security force.
“If you tie yourself to national security, you get funding and you get exemptions on disclosure cases,” McClanahan noted. “You get all the wonderful arguments about how if you don’t get your way, buildings will blow up and the country will be less safe.”
FBI’s Security Focus Could Be Helping Criminals
The big winners from the FBI’s new security focus could be organized crime, con artists, gangs, bank robbers and white collar criminals. Recent news stories indicate that the Bureau is devoting fewer and fewer resources to tracking down criminals that prey on average Americans.
“Violent crime, property crime and white-collar crime: All those things had reductions in the number of people available to investigate them,” former FBI agent Brad Garrett admitted. “Are there cases they missed? Probably.”
Changes at the FBI in recent years include:
- In 2000 the FBI investigated 31,000 criminal cases, in 2005 the Bureau only investigated 20,000 cases.
- In 2000 the FBI referred 10,000 cases to federal prosecutors. In 2005 the Bureau referred just 3,500 cases to federal prosecutors. That means as many as 6,500 criminals may have gotten away with crimes.
- As many as 2,000 white collar criminals were able to get away with fraud and financial crimes between 2001 and 2006 because of resources the FBI diverted to counterterrorism, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper reported.
- Even though the overall number of FBI agents increased from 11,000 to 12,575 between 1999 and 2007, the number of agents assigned to investigate criminals fell by 1,143.
- Some observers believe that the FBI’s failure to crack down on financial crimes after September 11 contributed to the financial crisis of 2008. Among other things the Bureau failed to investigate the widespread mortgage fraud that helped trigger the crisis.
- The FBI says that it doesn’t investigate fraud and white collar crime cases that involve amounts of less than $500,000.
- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has alleged that the FBI is failing to investigate serious crimes such as murders because of its focus on terrorism and intelligence.
Do you believe it is time the FBI change its mission back to law enforcement?