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  • John E. Lewis
  • Deputy Assistant Director, Counterterrorism Division
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • 4th Annual International Conference on Public Safety: Technology and Counterterrorism Counterterrorism Initiatives and Partnerships
  • San Francisco, California
  • March 14, 2005

Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here with so many colleagues who share the same goal—the goal of protecting innocent people from harm. John Pistole, the Deputy Director of the FBI, met with you in Ottawa last year, and I know that he made many new friends and contacts, and returned with valuable information and added insight into how we can work together more effectively.

The September 11th attacks forever changed the United States and the world. They also, by necessity, changed the way we do business in the FBI.

I just returned from an international counterterrorism conference in Siberia of all places. American author Mark Twain once said that the coldest winter he ever spent was the summer he spent here in San Francisco. One thing is certain. Mark Twain never visited Siberia in February.

I was part of a group representing law enforcement, intelligence, and special services representing more than 50 countries. We shared information about our counterterrorism programs and talked about future plans. Conferences like that, and like this one today, are taking place now around the world, on a regular basis. These gatherings, like this one today, are vitally important if you believe as I do that we cannot afford to meet our international counterparts at another crime scene, after the fact. We must work together to dismantle terrorist cells, destroy their financial networks, and disrupt their plans before they attack.

We have entered an era of unprecedented information sharing within the law enforcement and intelligence communities. We are sharing our expertise and our intelligence, our criminal and financial data, our training and our technology. And, most importantly, we are working together in new ways and with new partners.

So, with that in mind, today I want to talk about some of the changes we have made in the FBI to further information sharing among international law enforcement officials and intelligence agencies, and what those changes have meant to our efforts.

Twenty years ago, the idea of sharing intelligence and technology with countries around the world was as foreign as the Internet or the mobile phone. But times change. We face new and constantly evolving threats to our safety. And in this new world, we cannot stand alone. We must work together. The sharing of information and intelligence will be the hallmark of our success against threats from home and abroad.

Before September 11th, we collected information to solve crimes. For the most part, we shared information and collaborated with other officials and agencies on a case-specific basis. Now, we are sharing information and working together every day to prevent crime, and to prevent the next terrorist act.

We are thinking in new ways about using technology to share information, about collaborating with international law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and about the benefits of these global partnerships.

We are using technology to share up-to-the-minute information with law enforcement officers and intelligence agencies around the world.

As an example, within the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, we operate an information system known as the Investigative Data Warehouse. The IDW provides our agents and analysts with instant access to photographs, biographical information, physical location information, and financial data for thousands of known and suspected terrorists. The database comprises more than 100 million pages of terrorism-related documents, and billions of structured records such as addresses and phone numbers. Much of this information came from our international partners.

Our Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System is another example of improved technology. This searchable database comprises fingerprints from known and suspected criminals from around the world. To date, the FBI has obtained fingerprints for more than 10,000 terrorist suspects and detainees from more than 16 countries. And we have made these prints available to law enforcement, military, and homeland security personnel.

Our information-sharing efforts are giving people on the front lines the resources they need to fight crime and terrorism. For example, we have bridged the National Crime Information Center or NCIC as it is known to many of you, to the U.S. Government’s Terrorist Screening Center. This was recently accomplished to ensure that federal, state, and local law enforcement officers have ready access to the information and expertise they need to respond quickly and appropriately when a suspected terrorist is screened or stopped.

How does this work in practice? A local police officer pulls an individual over for a routine traffic stop and runs a check on that individual. The officer’s query runs up against the NCIC. Simultaneously, that same name query is run up against the Terrorist Screening Center and appropriate immediate alerts and/or instructions are made to the officer on the spot if that individual is a known or suspected terrorist.

The officer is provided contact information for the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center enabling one on one contact between that officer and an Intelligence Analyst at the Center. By combining our resources and sharing information, every federal, state, and local police officer has an immediate, hands-on role in disrupting the next terrorist attack.

We are making good use of this type of information-sharing technology. But technology doesn’t help if you don’t know how to use it. For that reason, training also is vital to our information-sharing efforts. Since 2001, the FBI has trained more than 20,000 law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, and state officials from Russia, Canada, England, Australia, and Saudi Arabia, among others.

We have shared our knowledge of terrorist financing and money laundering, intelligence collection and dissemination, fingerprinting, cybercrime, and forensic science with countries around the world. In this past year we have made numerous trips around the globe for this very purpose.

We provide continuous training opportunities for international law enforcement and intelligence officials at our International Law Enforcement Academies in Hungary and Thailand, and at our counterterrorism training center in Dubai. We also regularly receive international law enforcement executives for the National Academy program, the National Executive Institute program, and several other programs at our Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

These training initiatives are ongoing. At the conference in Siberia, I discussed with my counterparts from the Russian Security Service the final plans for several Russian explosives experts to attend counterterrorism training at an FBI facility. In the near term, FBI Special Agents will do likewise and train at a Russian facility. Through training, we will continue to strengthen our relationship, and improve our ability to share information.

In addition to our training initiatives, we routinely collaborate with law enforcement and intelligence officials around the world. I would like to elaborate on a few of these partnerships, including our Legal Attaché offices, joint terrorist financing investigations, and joint terrorism task forces.

The FBI has more than 50 Legal Attaché offices—known as “Legats” —around the world. Through these Legats, the FBI shares information with our international law enforcement and intelligence partners and assists with international investigations. Legats are the eyes and ears of the FBI overseas. They are vital to the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts and to addressing international crime. They also provide excellent linkage to our intelligence community partners also operating overseas.

Through the FBI’s Terrorism Financing Operations Section, we are working with international intelligence and financial officials to investigate and dismantle terrorist financing mechanisms. In multiple instances, we have joined with our international counterparts and today work full-time along side them. Money is the lifeblood of terrorist organizations. If we cut off the funding, we can disrupt, dismantle, and eliminate the threat.

For example, we are collaborating closely with the Russians in the war on terror. Agents from the FBI, along with our colleagues from the CIA, work with Russian security and intelligence officials to monitor, prevent, and disrupt terrorist attacks both here and abroad. Agents from our field offices regularly meet with their Russian counterparts to share information and to discuss strategy. Gone are the days of the Cold War. Today, we are fighting a common enemy.

While it may not be what you would expect, we are also working with our international partners to fight domestic terrorism. During the past decade, special interest extremist groups have emerged as terrorist threats. Some extremist groups act without harm to people or property. But for others, volatile protest has turned to unlawful action. In recent years, animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists have become the most active criminal extremist elements in the United States.

The eco-terrorist movement has given rise and notoriety to groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, or ALF, and the Earth Liberation Front, or ELF. These groups exist to commit serious acts of vandalism, and to harass and intimidate owners and employees of the business sector.

One animal rights extremist group, called “Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty,” or SHAC, targets Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British company that does business around the world. SHAC is based in England and has operations as well in the United States.

In recent years, members of SHAC have vandalized personal and corporate property and committed numerous acts of arson. They have harassed owners, employees, and their family members, and have disrupted the business activities of Huntingdon and its American business partners, including Bank of America, Marsh USA, and Deloitte and Touche.

Members of groups like ALF, ELF, and SHAC have used homemade explosive devices against their targets, accompanied by threats of continued bombings and even potential assassinations of corporate officers and employees, until their demands are met.

In August and September of 2003, in California, an animal rights extremist named Daniel San Diego detonated several improvised explosive devices on the properties of two American businesses—the Chiron Corporation and the Shaklee Corporation—to protest alleged animal rights violations. These devices were intended to cause both structural damage and human injury.

The search for San Diego has turned into an international manhunt. In the course of our investigation, we learned that he has numerous ties around the world. It is highly likely that when we find San Diego, we will find him overseas. For that reason, it is crucial that we keep in contact with our international counterparts.

On our own, we might not be able to detect and disrupt the activities of groups like these. Extremist groups are difficult to track. They are loosely organized, without firm structure or organization. They typically have no center of operations. Their membership is multi-national, but their activities are local, often involving only a few members of the group, without direction from above. And it often is difficult to distinguish the acts of one group or movement from another, unless a particular party claims responsibility.

Working together, we can pool our resources to paint a complete picture of an extremist group. By way of example, today we are working with our Canadian counterparts and authorities in England to monitor SHAC’s activities, both here and abroad. Just three weeks ago, several FBI agents from our headquarters Domestic Terrorism component traveled to the United Kingdom to meet with their international counterparts to discuss SHAC’s recent activities and future plans. In the months before that, we hosted similar meetings with our UK counterparts at FBI Headquarters.

In addition to working together on individual cases, we are sharing information and strategy with many countries that face similar domestic terrorism issues. In May of this year, we will participate with Finland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands in a conference about animal rights and eco-terrorism extremist groups. This type of ongoing dialogue is critical to our efforts to fight these splintered and diverse groups.

By combining our efforts, we have been able to put together a better picture to help us prevent acts of terrorism before they occur. And we will continue to work together on this threat to law-abiding citizens and their legitimate business pursuits.

In Pakistan, our Legat team worked with local police to solve the brutal murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The FBI’s forensic examination of a laptop computer seized by police led to the capture and conviction of Omar Sheikh and his co-conspirators. Without a physical presence in Pakistan, or such a high level of cooperation from the local authorities, we might not have been able to bring these criminals to justice.

In Moscow, undercover FBI agents teamed up with their counterparts from the Russian Security Service to engage an alleged terrorist suspect dealing with a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Their success has led to this subject’s arrest and at this moment he is currently facing prosecution. Three weeks ago, two Russian security service agents traveled to the United States to testify in Federal court against this alleged terrorist. We will continue to work together to bring international criminals to justice.

We have already seen a number of successes. With our partners, we have deprived al Qaeda of its sanctuary in Afghanistan. Thousands of al Qaeda operatives have been detained. Investigators have followed terrorist money trails, and have frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. Because of our efforts—all of our efforts—al Qaeda has been disrupted and diminished.

These are just a few examples of our international partnerships. And these partnerships have paid off. We have identified, disrupted, and neutralized numerous terrorist threats. We have broken up terrorist cells from Buffalo to Bali, from Seattle to Singapore, and from Tampa to Thailand.

These partnerships are not a fad; they are a new way of doing business. In this global era, we are all interconnected—law enforcement and intelligence agencies, private citizens and multi-national corporations. What happens to one of us will affect all of us.

Where will we be in five years…10 years? What new threats will we face? It is impossible to say. But it is clear that we must continue to work together.

In today’s changing world, no law enforcement or intelligence agencies can stand alone. We must rely on each other for human resources and technology, experience and expertise. We must work to create a seamless network of law enforcement and intelligence, at least to the extent constraints of these two disciplines will allow. And we must constantly search for more interactive ways to conduct our business.

There is no greater calling than to be in service of the United States and its people. Today, we also have an expanded role of service to help all nations, and all people who embrace freedom.

To this end, the FBI is proud to be working with its international partners in making the world a safer place in which to live.

Thank you for inviting me today.

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