Law Enforcement and the National Security Branch:
A Partnership to Protect America
Roger Cross: Hello. I’m Roger Cross. I’ve been shot, prevented a nerve gas attack, and stopped a nuclear strike on American soil. Not bad for one day’s work. As Curtis Manning on the FOX program “24,” I portray a law enforcement officer for an agency with a mission not too different from yours. One of those agencies, the FBI, is reaching out to you, its partners, to work together to help protect the United States and its citizens.
Since the horrific acts of September 11, 2001, the men and women of the FBI have fundamentally transformed the organization with the goal of predicting and preventing another terrorist attack. They have reinforced their counterterrorism operations, expanded intelligence capabilities, modernized business practices and technology, and improved coordination with you, its federal, state, local, and tribal partners.
The threats have changed. To respond, we need to ask: Where should investigations be focused? Which countries or groups pose the greatest threat? Which U.S. Government agencies and private industries are at risk? And what military and defense industries are potential targets for terrorist attacks or for infiltration by foreign spies? To answer these questions, we need more than the resources of the FBI.
Bob Fromme, a retired North Carolina sheriff’s deputy, observed something out of the ordinary while working off duty in a tobacco company outlet store. Bob became suspicious when he witnessed a group of men carrying Wal-Mart bags filled with cash. Acting on his instincts, he returned and watched a scene that kept repeating as one individual would purchase 299 cartons of cigarettes at a time, while another individual would pay for the purchase. Operation Smokescreen came about thanks to the instincts of a law enforcement officer from a small town, and eventually led to the discovery of a terror cell connection to Hezbollah, and the convictions of 20 individuals who were part of that cell.
Bob Fromme: I started going back off duty and doing surveillance on the store. Ultimately, we were able to determine they were buying about 4,500 cartons a day. They were shipping those to Michigan, making about $13,000 a vanload profit, and averaging three vanloads a day. In the back of my mind, I was thinking terrorism, but it was one of those things that I really didn’t want to admit to myself. I knew if I looked in that venue and it was true, the case would really become a major investigation, which, ultimately, is what happened; it became a major investigation.
Roger Cross: The FBI’s broad criminal jurisdiction is directed against national criminal activities, criminal enterprises, public corruption, and other transnational crimes.
However, the FBI’s work in the national security field, though just as vital, is often carried out without press headlines and without the high-profile criminal indictments. Although much of the national security work goes unpublicized, sometimes big headlines break through when individuals are jailed, or punished for committing espionage or acts of domestic or international terrorism.
We’ve all learned that it takes a successful partnership to help prevent these acts, to keep our country safe, and to connect those sinister dots.
Bob Fromme: Everybody that came to the table left his or her ego at the door and that’s really, really hard for some people to do. This was a blueprint for how it should be.
Roger Cross: The National Security Branch is the FBI’s single voice for its Counterterrorism Division, Counterintelligence Division, the Directorate of Intelligence, and its WMD Directorate.
Bob Fromme: They can go out 20 times and do things to try and destroy America, and they only have to be lucky once. We cannot afford to be lucky; we have to be good.
Roger Cross: The National Security Branch gives you a clear and direct channel to report and resolve national security issues.
A single piece of information can be critical to a puzzle when some of the pieces are still unknown and time may not be on our side. Bob Fromme’s instincts and response contributed to the discovery, investigation, and, ultimately, the prosecution of a terrorist operation.
The counterterrorism mission of the FBI is to prevent, disrupt, and defeat terrorist operations before they occur; pursue the arrest and prosecution of those who have conducted, aided, and abetted those engaged in terrorist acts; and provide crisis management following acts of terrorism against U.S. interests.
The Counterterrorism Division depends on a partnership that spans from the national level to law enforcement on the street. Members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities can rely on information from FBI databases and analysis centers to accomplish their own mission…your mission.
Captain Ed Kreins is with the Beverly Hills Police Department.
Ed Kreins: Since 9/11, the partnerships between local and state law enforcement officers, and, in particular, the FBI, have gotten so much better. The FBI has reached out to local enforcement agencies, has asked for their assistance, and has created the JTTFs to work with national security matters and local law enforcement agencies [JTTFs were created pre-9/11]. So, today, as opposed to a pre-9/11 world, the cooperation between the local law enforcement agencies and the FBI has become really just a tremendous partnership in preventing terrorism from occurring anywhere in the United States or anywhere around the world.
Roger Cross: The most visible arm of the Counterterrorism Division is its Joint Terrorism Task Forces. Throughout the United States, members of the JTTFs represent not only state and local agencies, but a variety of federal intelligence and law enforcement organizations ranging from the Department of Defense to the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Energy. Together in a single location, JTTF members—and the many resources they bring—can resolve the challenging terrorism threats we face today.
Todd Pooler is a former Lexington, Kentucky, police officer. Today, he’s an FBI Supervisory Special Agent.
Todd Pooler: The local and state law enforcement officers are the backbone to the Joint Terrorism Task Forces; they provide a strategic partnership with the FBI to help us enhance our intelligence space and coordinate our terrorism investigations.
Roger Cross: Working side-by-side with the Counterterrorism Division is the Counterintelligence Division. Counterintelligence squads in each FBI field office conduct both criminal and intelligence investigations. Often, people think that foreign spies are only in Washington, DC, or in big cities with consulates or embassies. Not true. Spies are everywhere in the United States, looking for the easiest way to gather information about our military, scientific, or corporate research and development, and political information that can be used against the United States and its interests.
In all counterintelligence investigations, the FBI’s objective is to identify foreign intelligence officers and operations and disrupt their operations. The Counterintelligence Division reaches out to the business, educational, and scientific communities because they are at the forefront of research and development, which makes them attractive targets for foreign intelligence services.
Barry Babler is a former Milwaukee police officer and a long time FBI Special Agent.
Barry Babler: I want a police officer to notify us, for instance, if they happen to see a diplomatic license plate in an area that it might not ought to be in. I would like a police officer to call us if they come across foreign language material, perhaps, as part of a search of a suspect. They have to be our eyes and ears, just as we would try to be theirs in some other law enforcement situation.
Roger Cross: There are other potential targets called critical national assets. Among these are nuclear power plants, national laboratories, hospitals, airlines, dams, bridges, water treatment plants, and military facilities. Jim Severson is the Director of Criminal Investigation in South Dakota.
Jim Severson: For instance, if you go out in the country in South Dakota, there are lots of electrical substations and water pump stations. We have hydroelectric dams, Ellsworth Air Force Base, and a lot of different places. Those officers and those people that work around those facilities know what’s normal and what’s not normal. So, when they see something that is out of the ordinary, that’s when they need to call.
Roger Cross: No one knows better than the person who drives the streets or walks the beat what is out of the ordinary. If you encounter something that isn’t right when patrolling such facilities, call the counterintelligence squad at your local FBI office.
Barry Babler: We received a telephone call from the Milwaukee Police Department. They were reporting what effectively was just a smash-and-grab theft of a briefcase from an automobile. When they contacted the complainant, however, they found that, in addition to the complainant having a weapon and some ammunition in the briefcase, he was also carrying a schematic of a component for a part that goes on to a nuclear submarine. The police department realized that this might be an issue we would have to address and called us, and we were able then to begin immediately running it down.
Roger Cross: The third component of the National Security Branch is the Directorate of Intelligence, our dedicated national intelligence workforce. Anya Kendall is an Intelligence Analyst in the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Anya Kendall: Pretty much everyday we have call-ins. People call into the FBI for the most random stuff: bomb threats, people thinking their neighbor is a little weird, that kind of thing. It takes the partnership between the FBI agents; the federal task force officers; and our state, local, and tribal officers on the team to use everybody’s resources to find out whether or not the person who people called in about is actually a threat and is actually somebody we should be worried about. All of our interactions with all of our local, state, and tribal authorities are on our team. They work with us, and our cases, and we help them as well with all of the things they have to do dealing with terrorism in their own departments.
Roger Cross: The mission of the Directorate of Intelligence is to integrate intelligence into criminal and national security investigations. Becca Miller is an Intelligence Analyst in the FBI’s Springfield, Illinois, Field Office.
Becca Miller: The information that we get from state, local, and other federal agencies flows to us through a number of ways: sources, the regular course of investigations, our regional intelligence meetings, and a whole variety of formats and methods. We take that and oftentimes research it, vet it, that kind of thing, and we will send that up to FBI Headquarters, into the broader Intelligence Community. The length of time it takes to ratify and disseminate the information coming into us to the Intelligence Community can really be very quick, an hour or less in many cases.
Roger Cross: The Directorate of Intelligence has authority and responsibility for all FBI intelligence functions, and carries out its functions through intelligence elements at FBI Headquarters and each field division. Mary Beth Krone is a Supervisory Intelligence Analyst in the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office.
Mary Beth Krone: A few years back, we received some information from a local law enforcement agency about some suspicious males videotaping a critical infrastructure location in Georgia. The information was taken in here at the FBI and fully vetted by investigative personnel and analysts. It was determined that these suspicious individuals were referenced in several FBI investigations nationwide. This information was disseminated to our Intelligence Community and our law enforcement partners throughout the nation, so that they can all be put on alert. But it was also later determined that the same individuals were attempting to infiltrate military operations overseas. This information then went further, as we shared it with the Department of Defense; they were able to resolve several significant threats to our armed forces in Iraq.
Roger Cross: The newest component of the NSB is the Weapons of Mass Destruction, or WMD, Directorate. Terrorists have expressed their intent to acquire and deploy chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological weapons against the United States. The use of these weapons is perhaps the most serious threat posed to the modern world. The WMD Directorate works closely with our interagency partners in the prevention, interdiction, and disruption of the acquisition and possible deployment of weapons of mass destruction.
The FBI’s Supervisory Special Agent Marilyn Quinn is an expert on WMD counterproliferation issues.
Marilyn Quinn: Our job is to keep our troops and allies from having to face stolen American technology. It’s up to all of us in law enforcement and intelligence to work together and stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Roger Cross: The National Security Branch consolidates the FBI’s intelligence, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and WMD missions into a single national security mission. From gangsters in the 1930s, to intelligence threats during the Cold War era, from organized crime in the 1970s, to drug trafficking in the 1980s, the FBI responds to the changing world, its new adversaries and threats. The citizens of the United States count on you to work hand-in-hand with your colleagues around the country and around the world to protect our national security. Today’s FBI is better equipped to work side-by-side with you to share information and share databases. E very piece of information matters. It’s that one piece of information that can make a difference. It’s information that could have made a difference.
- May 2001—Nawaf al-Hazmi reports being robbed to law enforcement in Fairfax County, Virginia; September 11, 2001 - Nawaf al-Hazmi hijacks American Airlines flight #77, which crashes into the Pentagon.
- July 2001—Mohammed Atta is stopped in Tarmac, Florida, fined for driving without a valid license; September 11, 2001 - Mohammad Atta hijacks American Airlines flight #11, which crashes into the World Trade Center.
- August 2001—Hani Hanjour is pulled over for speeding in Arlington, Virginia; September 11, 2001 - Hani Hanjour hijacks American Airlines flight #77, which crashes into the Pentagon.
- September 2001—Ziad Jarrah is stopped by a Maryland State trooper for driving 90 mph in a 65-mph zone on his way to Newark; September 11, 2001 - Ziad Jarrah hijacks United flight #93, which eventually crashes in a field in Pennsylvania.
Roger Cross: Ken Nacke is a police officer in Baltimore, Maryland. His brother, Louis Joseph Nacke II, “Joey,” was aboard United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.
Ken Nacke: What comes to mind is: How do we prevent this from happening again? The way that happens is we have to be better listeners. We just have to be better; we have to keep our eyes open. When someone calls you and says, “Hey, this guy is weird or he’s acting suspicious,” don’t play it off. Maybe just take that extra few seconds or minute out of your day to say, “Oh maybe she’s right.”
I think maybe it might be valuable if you really look at how information sharing happened on Flight 93, and how there were 40 individuals who in a period of 30 minutes turned into one team. That is now our building block for the future because that just goes to show you that 40 different agencies can come together, share information, and become one arm, so to speak.
What I would say to a police officer today is to take the extra moment. We all know who our bad people are. We all know the people who have a lot of information and are willing to give it. Now, it’s our job to take the time to talk to these people, to gain the information, and to share it once we get the information. It’s not doing us any good when we don’t share information, because if we don’t share it, there is going to be another September 11. And trust me, you don’t want to go through that because it could be one of your family members, like it was my brother on September 11.
One of the things I always try to tell the young guys on my shift is, “Go home safe.” Make sure you go home to your family every night. If that means you have to talk to someone you really don’t want to talk to, or give it the time that it needs, do it. Maybe that’s going to help someone else to go home to a loved one.
Roger Cross: No Hollywood script could capture the essence of what you do everyday. As actors, we do it for entertainment value. You, as law enforcement professionals, do it to save lives and protect our way of life.
In the blink of an eye, everything can change. As law enforcement professionals, you see it every day. The world saw it on September 11, 2001. And it’s up to you, working together, to ensure no one will witness a day like that ever again.
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For further information:
Contact FBI Headquarters
National Security Branch