According to the FBI website, the FBI is America’s principal law enforcement agency with primary responsibility for investigating federal and oftentimes state laws. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), on the other hand, is a foreign intelligence agency with a mandate to protect America’s national security. Traditionally, both have co-existed with one another and had separate roles and objectives. However, has this arrangement changed to the point that the FBI is now on top?
Former FBI Deputy Director Mark F. Giuliano believes that in many respects, the FBI has become the lead agency in national security in the United States. He has maintained that the Bureau’s functions often step outside the conventional law enforcement framework and into the foreign intelligence community.
Giuliano states that the FBI’s Directorate of Intelligence “now has the capability to place targets of investigations anywhere in the world, just as the CIA can.” Furthermore, he asserts that the FBI’s monitoring capabilities equals that of the CIA. Giuliano’s view is one shared by many security experts.
Experts believe that the 9/11 terrorist attacks transformed the operational environment of the US intelligence community. In the wake of the tragedy, the US government formed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which governs the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the FBI. The FISC armed the Bureau with an impressive array of powers which effectively allowed the FBI to function as a domestic intelligence agency with the same capabilities of the CIA.
One security expert noted that with respect to the National Security Agency (NSA), the Bureau “has taken over a lot of the work that used to be done by the CIA, including counterterrorism and espionage.” This has included the deployment of undercover agents and the use of remote listening posts.
Moreover, the FBI has also gained new powers by virtue of the foreign intelligence investigation reform implemented in 2008, which granted the agency access to information held by the military and other government authorities.
Given these developments, it can be argued that the FBI has effectively become a hybrid agency; one which operates both in the domestic and international realms. Moreover, its capabilities and reach eclipse that of the CIA in many respects.
FBI Surveillance Capabilities
The FBI’s surveillance capabilities have also become increasingly sophisticated, allowing for intelligence gathering both within and outside of the country. In 2011, the Bureau went through notable changes, including the establishment of the National Security Branch (NSB) to “oversee the FBI’s intelligence, counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations.”
Since then, the NSB has become the driving force for the Bureau’s intelligence operations. This branch has been entrusted with developing the “FBI’s capabilities, resources and technology needed to carry out the intelligence mission,” said Giuliano.
The increasing boundaries between the domestic and international roles of the FBI have thus been enabled by the significant investments made into the agency’s capabilities and technology. Indeed, the FBI has become a global agency with the ability to conduct monitoring, data collection and surveillance operations in foreign countries.
The Bureau’s Foreign Intelligence Electronic Surveillance (FIS) programme, for instance, is particularly impressive. This programme gives agents the ability to wiretap suspected terrorists across international borders. Additionally, the FBI and CIA have worked together to establish the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which is responsible for creating and maintaining the Terrorist Watch List.
Overall, the surveillance capabilities of the FBI have expanded significantly in recent years, leading to enhance its monitoring and data collection activities in foreign countries. This, in turn, has enabled the Bureau to operate as a domestic and foreign intelligence agency, essentially placing it above the CIA.
Law Enforcement Role of the FBI
The FBI has also taken on an increasingly active law enforcement role in recent years. Drawing on its unique ability to investigate both federal and state laws, the agency has gone beyond traditional law enforcement operations and into the realms of counter-terrorism and national security.
Following the terror attacks on Washington and New York on September 11, 2001, the FBI shifted its focus from fighting traditional crime to protecting the nation from terrorism and other security threats. In the years that followed, the Bureau set up the Counterterrorism Division, the Counterintelligence Division and the National Security Branch.
In 2012, the FBI partnered with the Department of Homeland Security to set up the National Terrorism Center, which serves as the primary center for intelligence analysis and operations against terrorism. The Deputy Director of the FBI, Mark F .Giuliano, has acknowledged that this organization has become the “central source of information, analysis and investigation into domestic terrorism, foreign intelligence activities and threats to our homeland.”
Moreover, the FBI has also assumed a more proactive role in international law enforcement operations. The agency has assisted numerous foreign governments in investigations related to security concerns and terrorism. In addition, the agency has jointly set up the International Law Enforcement Academy with the US Department of State, Guatemala and other partners. This academy has trained over 17000 law enforcement officers from over 100 nations since its inception in 1995.
These developments indicate that the FBI is no longer a traditional law enforcement agency. Rather, its role has transformed significantly and it now functions as both a domestic and foreign intelligence agency as well as a law enforcement agency. This puts the FBI above the CIA in many respects.
FBI Technology Resources
Technology has played a major role in the enhancement of the FBI’s capabilities and reach. By investing heavily in technology, the Bureau has been able to expand its intelligence gathering capabilities and operations with relative ease.
The Bureau has access to a wide range of sophisticated databases and networks. In 2010, the FBI implemented the Biometrics Technology Program, which “uses biometrics to help identify persons of interest and provide intelligence in combating terrorism and conducting criminal investigations.” The agency has also created the Human Intelligence Library, a powerful database that stores biometric, demographic and behavioural information.
Additionally, the FBI operates the Sentinel system, which is a secure platform that is used to share intelligence with partner agencies. The Sentinel system is also used to store, manage and disseminate analytical products, such as threat assessments and intelligence profiles.
Overall, the Bureau has heavily invested in technology to ensure that it can access and analyze data quickly and accurately. In doing so, the FBI has been able to develop its intelligence gathering capabilities, making it a powerful domestic and foreign intelligence agency.
Impact of the FBI’s Expansion
The expanded role of the FBI has had a significant impact on the US intelligence community. The increased sophistication of the Bureau’s capabilities has effectively enabled the agency to assume the role of the lead intelligence agency in the country. Thus, the CIA has had to take a backseat and allows the FBI to take the initiative when it comes to domestic and foreign intelligence operations.
Moreover, the FBI has also been able to share intelligence with other agencies more effectively. The agency has pre-existing partnerships with the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and State, as well as with international agencies. The Bureau’s ability to share intelligence has enabled it to gain access to a wide array of data and insights.
It is therefore evident that the FBI has become the lead agency in the US intelligence community. The Bureau has aggressively expanded its capabilities and resources over the past decade, enabling it to transform itself from a traditional law enforcement agency into one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world.
The Growing Competitiveness between The FBI and CIA
The growing powers of the FBI have led to increased tensions between the agency and the CIA over jurisdiction and intelligence gathering techniques. In particular, the FBI’s mandate to investigate criminal activities has overlapped with the CIA’s role in intelligence gathering and analysis. This has led to a number of turf wars between the two agencies, particularly in regards to the roles of covert operations and spying.
As a result, the CIA and FBI often compete with each other in terms of mission objectives and intelligence gathering operations. This is particularly evident in the cyber security realm, where the two agencies have been involved in a number of disputes.
In many cases, the CIA has grown increasingly frustrated with the FBI’s approach to intelligence gathering. The CIA believes that the FBI has become too reliant on traditional police tactics and has been overzealous in its data collection operations. This has led to allegations that the agency is infringing on civil rights and privacy.
Additionally, the CIA has accused the FBI of undermining the intelligence community by failing to share data and implement strategic intelligence operations. The agency has also criticized the FBI for its lack of experience in foreign operations and its heavy reliance on technology and data collection.
Overall, the tension between the two agencies is likely to remain high as long as the FBI is on top of the intelligence hierarchy. The agency’s growing powers and capabilities have enabled it to assume the role of lead agency in US intelligence, which has irked not only the CIA, but other agencies as well.
The Impact of the FBI on International Security
The increasingly prominent role of the FBI in the US intelligence community has been felt around the world. The agency’s impressive capabilities, resources and technology have enabled it to become a major player in international security.
The FBI has become an integral part of the global fight against terrorism and crime. The agency has conducted numerous joint operations with foreign intelligence agencies and has played a major role in counter-terrorism, espionage and other security operations.
The FBI has also developed strong partnerships with the international law enforcement community over the years. This has included the establishment of numerous liaison offices and training centres across the world. Additionally, the agency has taken part in major international conferences and events to share intelligence and conduct joint operations.
Furthermore, the FBI has been actively engaged in international investigation and other security operations. The Bureau has been a major participant in the Global Magnitsky Act, which was created to punish countries and individuals engaged in violations of human rights, corruption and other serious crimes.
The increased involvement of the FBI in the international security arena is thus an indication of the agency’s rising significance in the US intelligence landscape. The Bureau has effectively become the lead agency in US intelligence and its role has been greatly felt in the global security arena.