Home News Speeches Using Intelligence to Protect Our Communities
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  • Robert S. Mueller, III
  • Director
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • San Diego, California
  • November 10, 2008

Good morning. It is great to be able to see so many familiar faces in such a large crowd. This is actually the eighth time I have been before you. And I have had the privilege of getting to know many of you at various conferences in Washington and in your cities.

The first time I spoke before the IACP, dust still drifted in the air above Ground Zero. In those early years after the September 11th attacks, we talked a great deal about counterterrorism and national security threats. And over the past several years, as we have watched the UCR statistics rise in some cities, we have also talked about ways to combat violent crime.

The issue we come back to again and again is this: How do we protect the country from terrorism while at the same time protecting our communities from crime?

Today, Americans look to law enforcement to dismantle gangs openly wreaking havoc on the streets while also detecting terrorist cells operating in secret. They need us to investigate white collar crimes on Wall Street while also nabbing bank robbers on Main Street.

The reality for the FBI and for each of your departments is that we must accomplish all these missions. And the only way to do that is through intelligence—determining what we know, what we don’t know, and finding ways to fill the gaps. Intelligence lets us target our finite resources where they will make the most difference to the safety of our communities.

And so today I want to talk about the FBI’s intelligence capability, and how we are using the intelligence tools we built to combat terrorists and spies to also fight crime in your communities.

Mark Twain once said, “It is wiser to find out than to suppose.” His words ring true in an age when crime and terrorism converge, when local gangs and international drug cartels cooperate, and when foreign spies and child predators haunt the Internet.

Given the vast array of threats, we cannot afford to suppose. If we are to protect our communities, we must find out exactly what we are up against.

In the FBI, we have a mantra: “Know Your Domain.” Knowing your domain means understanding every inch of a given community—its geography, its populations, its economy, and its vulnerabilities.

Take the San Diego area as an example. San Diego is known as a hub of biotechnology, telecommunications, and software engineering. It has a major port and many military installations. It has national sports teams and several colleges and universities. And it shares a border with Mexico.

Threats range from espionage to border security to violent gangs to terrorism. The city’s infrastructure and neighborhoods could be targets or incubators for crime or terrorism. Remember, two of the September 11th hijackers lived in San Diego as they prepared for the attacks.

As you can see, the directive to “know your domain” is a daunting task. But it always begins with intelligence.

One of the most important lessons the FBI learned from the September 11th attacks was the need for better intelligence—better collection, better analysis, and better dissemination. We built a framework at Headquarters to manage intelligence. We created Field Intelligence Groups in each of our field offices. We improved both the quantity and the quality of our intelligence reports. We upgraded our technology and expanded our task forces to make sure our partners had access to our intelligence.

We did all this in service of our highest mission—preventing terrorism. That remains the FBI’s number one priority and it is not going to change.

But we realize that counterterrorism might not be your primary mission—especially those of you whose cities have experienced a spike in violent crime. Your highest priority is keeping your communities safe.

Yet the intelligence tools we built to combat national security threats can be applied to criminal threats as well. And every day we are leveraging these tools to fight crime together. Let me give you three examples. The first is geospatial mapping technology. Many of your departments may be using some form of it, and have seen its benefits.

The FBI’s version is called Project PinPoint. It allows us to combine and visually map crime data from a multitude of agencies—everything from shootings to sources, and from outstanding warrants to open investigations.

The genius of mapping technology is that any crime data can be compared to any other investigative data set. And it is when we combine the FBI’s data with your data that we can view intelligence in a new light.

It is one thing to suppose there might be a connection between firearms seizures, narcotics arrests, and shootings in a certain quadrant of your city. It is another thing to find out by seeing the connections on a computer screen.

On the strategic level, visual mapping shows us our domain. It reveals connections among our cases we might not otherwise see. And it helps us better manage our resources.

On the tactical level, seeing crime problems and patterns on a map points us to doors we can knock on and persons who can give us information. Simply put, it gives us actionable intelligence.

For example, in 2005, a nine-year-old boy named Wander de Jesus sat in a minivan in North Philadelphia, waiting for his father to close his corner store. A bullet suddenly flew through the windshield and struck Wander in the chest, killing him instantly. Everyone in the neighborhood was afraid to talk.

So the FBI and the Philadelphia police mapped open arrest warrants in the area of the shooting. They went out as a team to conduct interviews in the hopes of finding someone with information. They found the answer in the second house they visited. For once, it was just like on Law & Order.

The resident told them who and where the shooter was, and gave our team the location of the gun. We executed search warrants together and the case was solved within eight hours.

This case is just one of many that show the value of merging our intelligence with yours. We have piloted this technology in several cities, and hope to expand it in the future.

Mapping technology is a one-size-fits-all intelligence tool. But the criminal problems you face are unique to your communities, and so we are also trying to design custom solutions.

For example, we are working closely with law enforcement in Chicago to combat gang violence. Chicago law enforcement estimates there are at least 60,000 gang members in the community—far outnumbering police officers. There are hundreds of homicides each year, the majority of which are gang-related.

As you know, the FBI has in the past investigated gangs as criminal enterprises. Our traditional approach has been to target their leadership and dismantle them from the top down. In Chicago we have two gang squads that focus on such cases—both of which include local task force officers.

But the increase in gang violence called for a non-traditional approach. It is not enough to just gather intelligence about the violent offenders; we have to interrupt that violence. And so we formed a third, tactical gang squad to focus on shorter-term cases—even at the street level.

This squad works with state and local law enforcement to fast-track those who are directly responsible for the most violence on the streets. Some of these offenders are lower down on the food chain, and ordinarily would not be dealt with in a long-term case until the leadership had been dismantled. But they are causing the death toll to rise in Chicago. They must be taken off the streets.

Each of these cases is driven by intelligence. And each produces new intelligence as well. Short-term investigations turn up intelligence that informs our long-term investigations, and vice versa.

For instance, intelligence indicates that the MS-13 gang does not have much of a presence in Chicago. That’s good news—but we cannot be satisfied until we understand why that is, where they are instead, and where the threat might next emerge. We do not want to have to form another task force five years down the road to combat a threat we could have anticipated.

So the FBI in Chicago set a series of intelligence tripwires with state and local police agencies—such as typical MS-13 tattoos and common MOs. The state and local police would be the first to see signs of an MS-13 presence. If they see any red flags, they can alert us, and together we can address the threat before it has a chance to take root.

That is how intelligence should work. When we all bring some pieces of the puzzle to the table, we can put the picture together much faster.

This focus on learning through intelligence works both ways. The FBI has learned from your innovation. We have begun using the COMPSTAT process that was pioneered by local law enforcement. As most of you know, COMPSTAT uses computers, statistics, and mapping, and it has proven to be a powerful tool for understanding and combating criminal threats. We are now using a similar process to map key threats from region to region. It helps us to think strategically, not just statistically. We analyze not just the quantity of our intelligence, but also the quality. This gives us a better picture of what we know and what we don’t know, and helps us drive accountability.

If we have a clear picture of one gang’s activities here in San Diego, but little reporting on another gang, does that mean they are less active? Or does it mean that we need better coverage to fill that intelligence gap?

Whether the threat is from gangs, terrorists, or spies, in these COMPSTAT meetings, Special Agents in Charge answer such questions about their domain. The COMPSTAT process forces us to look beyond what is in our cases so we can see the broader threat. And it helps us re-direct our resources, re-task our current sources, and recruit new ones.

Geospatial mapping, task forces, and COMPSTAT—these are all vital intelligence tools that help us know our domain. They help us to see around corners and anticipate oncoming dangers. They help us triage threats, target resources, and ultimately prevent crime and terrorism.

But at the end of the day, even the best intelligence tools are useless without the men and women on the front lines. Despite my earlier example, our work is not usually like an episode of Law & Order, where one clue leads effortlessly to the next, and a complex investigation can be wrapped up—and prosecuted—in an hour. Our work is dangerous, and painstaking, and critical to the security of our nation.

And it demands great sacrifice. I am thinking in particular of Federico Borjas, an officer with the San Diego Police Department, who went all the way to the front lines of the war in Afghanistan. He was killed last month when his Army convoy was ambushed. Our hearts go out to his fellow officers in the San Diego Police Department. And our thanks go to all law enforcement officers, for whom this service and sacrifice are second nature.

All too often, your efforts go unnoticed, but you deserve the highest credit for the work you do. And you also deserve more resources.

Every time I testify before Congress, I make it clear that you are the first line of defense against crime and terrorism. And while a great deal of important funding appropriately goes to the homeland security mission, not enough goes to your crime-fighting efforts.

Our experience has proven that our strength lies in our partnerships. That is why I have always advocated funding our joint task forces, where state and local law enforcement play a crucial role. And I always will. Because the FBI relies on your eyes and ears and expertise as we work together to prevent both crime and terrorism.

Since its inception 100 years ago, the FBI has always worked with police, sheriffs, and troopers to protect our communities. And we always will. We may not be able to assist on every bank robbery and drug case. But we remain committed to using our intelligence resources to focus on the most significant crime problems where we can add value. Whether that comes in the form of a new technology or a new task force, we will be there with you.

If you will forgive a sports analogy, there is a scene in the football movie Any Given Sunday where Al Pacino, playing the coach, gives a rousing pre-game speech.

Football, he says, is a “game of inches,” where “the margin of error is so small…one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it.”

He goes on to say, “the inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.”

Protecting our country is also a game of inches, and the stakes could not be higher.

Yet the intelligence we need is everywhere around us. It is in our case files and on our streets and just beneath our radars.

But we cannot go it alone. The partners we need are everywhere around us, too. They are back at our Headquarters. They are out in our communities. They are all over the world. And they are right here in this room.

When we add up all those inches—when we combine our intelligence tools with our strong partnerships—that is what will make the difference between winning and losing…between life and death.

In our post-September 11 world, our responsibilities are greater than ever. But so is our resolve. No matter what agency, what state, what country we come from, we are all here because we believe in our mission.

And working together, inch by inch, we will protect our citizens, secure our cities, and defend our country.

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