The FBI as a Foreign Intelligence Organization

Since 2006, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has assumed growing responsibilities as a collector of foreign intelligence, FBI budget documents (pdf) indicate.

“In May 2006, the Director of the Office of National Intelligence tasked the FBI to use its collection authorities, consistent with applicable laws and protection of civil liberties, to collect FI [foreign intelligence] information against the National Intelligence Priorities Framework and pursuant to the National HUMINT Collection Directives.”

Prior to that time, “there were no concerted efforts to collect FI exclusivly, nor did the FBI have an investigative program that solely focused intelligence collection activities on FI.”

Today, the FBI is “the primary or supporting collector on ninety-eight (98) national intelligence topics that implement the [National Intelligence Priorities Framework],” according to the FBI’s remarkably detailed congressional budget justification for fiscal year 2009 (page 6-48).

Virtually all foreign intelligence gathered by the FBI comes from confidential human sources. The Bureau requested $3.2 million to pay for source recruitment, or “approximately $16,000 per Agent for 200 Agents” (page 6-50).

The FBI Counterterrorism Division validated — i.e. checked the reliability — of 60% of its confidential human sources in FY 2007. This was an increase from 0% the year before, but short of the target of 100% validation (page 4-31).

Among other notable details, the FBI budget request states that in FY2007 there were over 21,000 “positive encounters” with known or suspected terrorists (page 4-29). “A positive encounter is one in which an encountered individual is positively matched with an identity in the Terrorist Screening Data Base.”

The budget document also reports on threats to government and private information systems, stating that “more than 20 terabytes of sensitive information has been stolen to date, disrupting military operations and significantly impacting the confidence in the integrity of our national information infrastructure” (page 6-20).

A recent national security computer intrusion investigation determined that “computers were compromised at a sensitive policy making government entity” (page 6-23).