Home News Speeches Transnational Criminal and Intelligence Threats and How They Affect America's Economic Security
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  • Bruce Gebhardt
  • Deputy Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • International Security Management Association
  • Scottsdale, Arizona
  • January 12, 2004

Good morning. It's great to be here once again. At least when you get invited back, you know you must not have been too awful. Lately, I find myself behind a podium more often than I ever expected when I began my career. Not because I'm closer to the end of my career, it's because, in the past, we in the FBI didn't speak to outside groups very often. We did our job of going after criminals and that was that. But not anymore. We are talking to outside groups more often because we recognize that, more than ever, protecting the United States requires all of us to work together.

Last time I spoke, I talked about the FBI's new priorities and how the Bureau has changed its focus and its organization to prevent terrorist attacks. Today, I want to speak more broadly about the transnational threats facing your companies and how they affect America's economic security. These emerging threats require a new kind of strategy from us in the FBI, and each of you, your organizations, and the clients you represent, are a vital part of our mission to protect the United States.

Nearly a century ago, Americans faced new and growing threats from crimes that crossed county and state lines. The FBI was created to address these new threats. Today, with jet travel, faxes, cell phones, and particularly the Internet, it is a rare case that does not cross national and international jurisdictions.

As business has gone global, unfortunately so has crime. The threats we face today have an increasingly international dimension - from telemarketing fraud and identity theft, to computer viruses and corporate espionage, to the trafficking of weapons or human beings, and terrorism.

International terrorist groups continue to evolve and threaten our economy and our lives in new ways. For al-Qaeda, assaulting our economy is a way to destroy America and all that it represents. Their targets include skyscrapers, shopping malls, power plants, railways, and cities like New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. The global presence of American-owned businesses everywhere have created a world of targets for our enemies.

We are also increasingly threatened by criminal enterprises that cross borders and oceans. Organized crime has diversified into telemarketing fraud, stock manipulation, and cyber crimes, and they are very much an international force.

We are seeing a convergence of threats: organized crime laundering money for drug groups; drug groups selling weapons to terrorists; terrorists engaged in cigarette smuggling or credit card fraud to raise money for their operations. And all of them exploiting the Internet in one way or another.

Last year in Charlotte, North Carolina, the FBI's local Joint Terrorism Task Force assisted in a multi-agency operation, known as "Smokescreen." Working closely with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the task force linked cigarette smugglers to a terrorist cell. Its members were found guilty of visa and marriage fraud, plus a series of financial crimes committed to raise money for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

To Al-Qaeda, your customers' credit card data or your million dollar trade secrets are potential funding for attacks. This convergence means that the private sector must be engaged in security efforts and information sharing like never before and in areas that once seemed remote from business concerns.

This is certainly true of the evolving threat from espionage against the United States. We are deeply concerned about the potential for an agent of a hostile group or nation to produce or use weapons of mass destruction. We are also alert to the potential for a foreign power to penetrate the U.S. Intelligence Community, to target government supported R&D, and to compromise Critical National Assets.

We are seeing a rise in incidences of economic espionage. The increasing value of proprietary information and new technologies have combined to increase both the motives and the opportunities for these crimes. Theft of trade secrets and critical technologies is costing the U.S. economy upwards of $250 billion per year. The counterfeiting of U.S. goods overseas costs at least the same amount.

The players in the espionage game have diversified. The number of countries engaged in espionage against the U.S. has actually risen since the end of the Cold War, and we are not dealing exclusively with intelligence agents. Today, the threat can come from university students or business executives. According to one study, about 75 percent of economic espionage cases involve company insiders.

In the cyber area, we continue to see a dramatic a rise in computer-related crimes, such as denial of service attacks, and in traditional crimes that have migrated online, such as identity theft, copyright infringement, and child pornography.

Thanks to our increasingly interconnected world, isolated individuals can now launch attacks that cost billions of dollars and impact millions of people. A powerful computer virus can be launched across a global electronic network connecting hundreds of millions of people, and set off a worldwide chain reaction costing millions or billions of dollars in economic loss.

We are also seeing increased trafficking in personal information databases on U.S. citizens, manipulated on-line brokerage accounts, and fraudulent electronic payments. In some cases, lone hackers or small groups are behind the attacks, but many more assaults are from organized international groups, often in Eastern Europe.

Last spring, a United States scientific research station in Antarctica reported to us that their systems had been hacked into and their data corrupted. They sought our help.

Normally, we send our Agents to the scene to investigate. But due to sub-freezing temperatures, no aircraft would be able to land in Antarctica for months. But working from a distance, our investigators were able to trace the source of the intrusion to a server outside Pittsburgh. From there, we identified two Romanian suspects. With the help of the Romanian authorities, they were arrested outside Bucharest shortly thereafter.

Successes like these are due in large part to the FBI's efforts to reorganize around our top three priorities: counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and cyber. We have dedicated new resources and built up our capabilities in these areas. We will continue to use our resources strategically, focusing on areas where we bring something special to the table. But these changes are only the beginning. Threats continue to evolve, and the FBI must continue to evolve. If we are to address growing threats, the FBI must build up our capabilities to address crimes that cross borders, and we must remain as agile and adaptive, as the global networks and organizations that threaten us.

The age of global threats has moved the Bureau into an age of global partnerships. The clear-cut divisions of responsibility and jurisdiction that once existed between agencies - and even between the United States and other countries - are becoming less and less relevant. How can we defeat international terrorism, for example, without the help of countries such as Great Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Kenya?

That's why the FBI, like many institutions, has gone global. In 1940, we established our first international office - what is called a Legal Attaché or Legat. Today, we have 45 Legal Attachés around the world. Not only in cities like London, Paris and Rome. But also in places like Islamabad, Riyadh, Moscow and Beijing.

Increasingly, these Legats are helping to stop crime and terror from being exported to our shores. FBI Agents today are working with counterparts in places like Romania and Russia to track down cyber criminals. They are joining forces with the Hungarian National Police to tackle organized crime syndicates. They are gathering intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan and hunting down terrorists in concert with partners in countries like Pakistan, Morocco, and Indonesia. We currently have 44 FBI Agents in Baghdad conducting interviews, investigating bombings, and exploiting intelligence.

Last May, after nine Americans lost their lives in the bombing in Riyadh, the Saudi government allowed the FBI to send a large forensic team to assist in their investigation. The result was an unprecedented cooperation. One reason was because the FBI had trained more than 100 Saudi police in the National Academy. We were using the same methods of evidence collection and the same terminology. As they told us, "We were taught together, now we can work together." This is going on all over.

In an age where attacks on our economy come from the four corners of the globe, from the streets of Detroit to the shores of Yemen, the FBI must be able to call upon a full range of capabilities. We must combine the tools of law enforcement, with the tools of intelligence to identify and disable threats. We must fight crime even as we roll up terrorist cells, using the same investigative capabilities to root out corporate fraud that we use to catch criminals wiring funds to terrorists. We must work locally, but think globally.

And we must apply our unique strengths even as we share them and blend them with those of other agencies. The war on terrorism prompted legal and cultural changes that have enhanced our ability to work together. First among them, is that we no longer have legal obstacles to coordination and information-sharing between law enforcement and the intelligence agencies. The walls have been removed and now law enforcement and intelligence can coordinate their approach to terrorist targets.

We have also seen the collapse of the cultural and operational wall between the FBI and the CIA. There is growing operational integration between the two agencies. In the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, known as "T-TIC," FBI and CIA analysts work shoulder-to-shoulder to "connect the dots" of incoming intelligence information.

In addition, the FBI's Counterterrorism Division pours over intelligence information. Once this information is pulled together and coordinated, there are daily discussions with the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Recently, this partnership resulted in the threat level being raised from yellow to orange. A number of factors went into that decision: 1) an increase in threat reporting suggesting the possibility of large-scale Al-Qaeda attacks against the United States; 2) recent attacks in Saudi Arabia and Turkey; 3) information indicating potential threats to the U.S. over the holidays and beyond; and 4) information indicating continued Al-Qaeda interest in carrying out airline attacks. On Friday the threat level went back to yellow, but we still must remain vigilant and alert!

Every bit as important as our federal partnerships, are the FBI's partnerships in the private sector. Just as the days are gone when law enforcement agencies acted independently and kept information to themselves, the days are also gone when businesses can stand alone.

Within the past two years, the FBI has established unprecedented liaison with the private sector. For example, when reporting indicated a possible Al-Qaeda threat to U.S. financial institutions, the FBI alerted the financial and banking sectors and worked to ensure that needed information flowed between the Federal Government and the financial services industry. They have also helped us, track down sources of terrorist funding.

To coordinate these efforts, the FBI leads Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) in each of our field offices. Their purpose is to investigate threats and with the SACs, Chiefs, and Sheriffs, share information with the public and private sector. Police as well as the public/private sectors are the eyes and ears in the fight against terrorism. No one can do it alone.

We are making progress, but we will continue to need your help in the future. Terrorists cannot hide forever in remote corners of the world. They have to interact with society, particularly if they intend to strike inside the United States. They will go shopping and set up bank accounts. They will rent cars. They will buy equipment, communicate with fellow operatives, or try to cross borders - all of these are opportunities to identify and stop terrorists from doing harm. And everyone can play a role by reporting suspicious activities to their local FBI field office or JTTF or police departments.

Not only are private sector partnerships necessary to prevent terrorism, they are also essential for our fight against other transnational threats. We can and must work together to protect your proprietary information and America's Critical National Assets.

I encourage each of you and your companies to establish a relationship with your local FBI office or police department. If your organization is not already part of an InfraGard chapter - join. Look into attending the FBI Citizen's Academy at your local field office. These relationships will pay high dividends in the future - for your mission and for ours.

We understand how important it is for the FBI to get information to your businesses when there are threats. If we learn that a terrorist is targeting a local power plant or a hacker is going after your company, someone from the FBI will make sure you have the details. It is up to us to help you understand what to look for, to share strategies, to work with you to harden targets, and most importantly, to share threat information. If you have questions, concerns, ideas, or issues, please do not hesitate to contact us. Cooperation is key to success against future transnational threats and terrorism.

In closing, the increasing globalization of crime and emergence of transnational threats will continue to bring new challenges to business and the law enforcement and Intelligence Communities. In partnership with you, we are committed to protecting your companies, protecting our economy, and protecting this great nation in the years to come. Your philosophy should be nearly the same as our philosophy:

(1) Know your domain;
(2) Identify the threat and vulnerabilities;
(3) Partner up;
(4) Use sophisticated operations to protect your critical assets; and
(5) Neutralize the goals and objectives of those who wish to do us harm.

In partnerships we can protect your interests and this great country we love.

Thank you ISMA for inviting me back.

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