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  • Ray P. Churay
  • Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Division
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Before the House Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations
  • Washington, DC
  • March 22, 2002

Good morning Chairman Horn, Members of the Subcommittee and distinguished Members of the Arizona Delegation. I value the opportunity to appear before you and discuss terrorism preparedness, including threats posed by attacks involving biological, chemical or nuclear agents, as well as measures being taken by the FBI and our law enforcement partners to address these threats.


The mission of the FBI's counterterrorism program is to detect, deter, prevent, and swiftly respond to terrorist actions that threaten U.S. interests at home or abroad, and to coordinate those efforts with local, state, federal, and foreign entities as appropriate. The counterterrorism responsibilities of the FBI include the investigation of domestic and international terrorism. As events during the past several years demonstrate, both domestic and international terrorist organizations represent threats within the borders of the US

The Phoenix Division of the FBI

The Phoenix Division of the FBI encompasses the entire Federal Judicial District of Arizona. The Division has investigative responsibilities in 15 counties with an approximate population of six million. The headquarters office for the Division is located in Phoenix with satellite offices, or Resident Agencies (RAs), in Tucson, Lake Havasu, Flagstaff, Sierra Vista, Pinetop, Yuma, and Gallup, New Mexico. The Division personnel resource staffing level for Special Agents is 217 and the professional support complement is 126.

Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs)

Cooperation among law enforcement agencies at all levels represents an important component of a comprehensive response to terrorism. This cooperation assumes its most tangible operational form in the joint terrorism task forces (JTTFs) that are established in 44 cities across the nation. These task forces are particularly suited to responding to terrorism because they combine the national and international investigative resources of the FBI with the street-level expertise of local law enforcement agencies. This Agent-to-Officer cooperation has proven highly successful in preventing several potential terrorist attacks.

JTTFs are coordinated with the newly created Anti-Terrorism Task Forces located in the offices of US Attorneys throughout the country. This coordination is crucial, to avoid duplication of effort and enhance the exchange of information and overall counterterrrorism objectives.

The Phoenix Division has a JTTF which includes members of the United States Attorney's Office, the FBI, the INS, the IRS-CID, the US Postal Service, the ATF, the Secret Service, the US Customs Service, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Phoenix Police Department, and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. The Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency will have a representative on the Phoenix JTTF in the very near future. The Phoenix JTTF covers both international and domestic terrorism matters. The JTTF is also responsible for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) matters, and Special Events. The Phoenix JTTF exemplifies the axiom that the ability of agencies to share intelligence and pool investigative resources is key to preventing terrorist acts.

Phoenix JTTF Activities

FBI Special Agents assigned to the Phoenix JTTF meet with their federal, state and local counterparts in designated alternating locations for training, discussion of investigations, and to share intelligence. For example, members of the JTTF meet with the Arizona Emergency Response Commission, an entity that has access to chemical reporting and tracking within private industries. This program (AZSERC) provides the FBI with a CD that contains information on chemical storage in general, and a secure Internet program that tracks current chemical stockpiling in particular.

The Phoenix JTTF also benefits from a productive working relationship with the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). The state bioterrorism lab, an entity of the ADHS, is the only lab in the state certified to conduct evidence identification in regards to bioterrorism. This lab tested more than 1,100 samples during the national anthrax investigation. This department also tracks hospital cases in order to identify any spikes in and/or unexplained illnesses.

Another example of information sharing between the Phoenix JTTF and other state and local agencies, is the liaison with the Metropolitan Medical Response System. The cities of Phoenix, Mesa, and Tucson are members of this program which is federally funded by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). This program integrates the communication and planning aspects of fire, police, and emergency medical response. This program has received praise from the DOJ. There are other programs with which the Phoenix JTTF has liaison, including the Arizona Homeland Defense, and the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs.

JTTF preparedness includes field and table top exercises which test the ability and response capabilities of agencies who would participate in responding to a disaster involving biological, chemical, or nuclear attack. The Phoenix JTTF has participated in exercises held in Phoenix, Mesa, the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant, Lake Havasu City, and Maricopa County.

The JTTF also handles "special events." The Phoenix Division has covered several high profile special events, including the 2002 World Series, the Fiesta Bowl, and Phoenix International Speedway NASCAR events. These events were attended by tens of thousands of fans and had national exposure. All FBI field offices were queried for information related to possible criminal activities directed against the events or participants. The Phoenix JTTF worked closely with state and local entities to ensure that these events were safe and secure for the public.

The Phoenix JTTF is responsible for numerous ongoing investigations. A recent example is an eco-terrorism investigation that involved an individual who identified himself as the Coalition to Save the Preserves. The perpetrator set fires to luxury homes under construction at or near the mountain preserves in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, in an effort to stop urban sprawl. Months of hard work resulted in the arrest of the responsible party. This individual pled guilty, was sentenced to 18 years in prison and was ordered to pay approximately four million dollars in restitution. In addition to the permanent JTTF member agencies, the Phoenix Fire Department, the Scottsdale Police Department, and the Rural Metro Fire Department also participated to bring this matter to a successful conclusion.

Steps Taken After September 11, 2001

In addition to continuing all of the activities detailed earlier, in light of the events of September 11, 2001, the Phoenix JTTF is implementing several changes. The JTTF is in the process of adding six additional state and local agency members. The JTTF is also expanding to the Flagstaff and Tucson Resident Agencies to better facilitate the coverage of terrorism related issues in outlying areas of the state. These satellites of the Phoenix JTTF will include representatives of the FBI, as well as representatives of state and local agencies. Training will be provided to new members to facilitate bringing new local agencies "up to speed" on JTTF matters.

The Phoenix JTTF has within its territory the Palo Verde nuclear power facility. Palo Verde is the world's largest producer of nuclear energy. The most recent joint "tabletop" exercise hosted by the Phoenix JTTF, was conducted at the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant. These exercises involved numerous federal, state, and local agencies and included more than 300 participants. Although this exercise took place before September 11, 2001, the Phoenix JTTF has been in constant contact with Palo Verde concerning aircraft flying close to Palo Verde and other security related issues since September 11, 2001. The security of Palo Verde is a top priority with the Phoenix JTTF.

Other key logistical assets, such as lakes, dams, and facilities owned and operated by the Salt River Project (SRP), are monitored via cooperation and liaison with various agencies. For example, after September 11, 2001, the SRP and the Phoenix JTTF had a meeting to discuss the infrastructure and security of SRP's water facilities, and steps that needed to be taken to ensure the integrity of Arizona's water supply. SRP briefed the JTTF on new security measures that were implemented in light of the events of September 11, 2001.

National Infrastructure Protection Center

Because of its relevance to the topic of this hearing, specifically the threat to nuclear and chemical facilities, I would like to briefly discuss the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), which was created in 1998. The NIPC represents a joint government and private sector partnership that includes representatives from the relevant agencies of federal, state and local government. The NIPC's mission is to serve as the US government's focal point for threat assessment, warning, investigation and response to threats or attacks against our critical infrastructures, both domestic and international.

To facilitate its ability to investigate and respond to attacks, the FBI has created a National Infrastructure and Computer Intrusion Program (NIPCIP). Under this program, managed by the NIPC at FBI Headquarters, NIPCIP investigative teams have been established in each of the FBI's 56 field divisions, including the Phoenix division. The field NIPCIP investigators conduct computer intrusion investigations, respond to threats, and collect information on "key assets" within each sector.
Through a 24-hour watch and other initiatives, the NIPC has developed processes to ensure that it receives information in real-time or near-real-time from relevant sources, including the US intelligence community, FBI criminal investigations, other federal agencies, the private sector, emerging intrusion detection systems, and open sources. This information is quickly evaluated to determine if a broad-scale attack is imminent or underway.

The National Infrastructure and Computer Intrusion Program also has a role in preventing terrorist acts. The focus of NIPC's "Key Asset Initiative" includes asset identification and protection, improving cyber and physical security, and enhancing ongoing coordination with other federal, state and local government entities, to ensure their involvement in the protection of critical infrastructures. Assets include the major electrical, communications, and water facilities; transportation hubs; energy plants and other infrastructure which are instrumental in supporting societal activities and which, if attacked, would represent a major loss or disruption to Arizona and US communities. Computer intrusions financially impact the business community and computer systems may be used to gain illegal entry into governmental or military agencies. Computer terrorists may conduct clandestine communications via computers located in educational institutions or elsewhere without the knowledge of the computer system's sponsor.

InfraGard Program

InfraGard is an information sharing and analysis alliance between government and the private sector that provides formal and informal channels for the exchange of information about infrastructure threats and vulnerabilities. The FBI started the alliance as a pilot project in 1996. Today, all 56 field divisions of the FBI have initiated InfraGard chapters, with hundreds of private companies participating across the nation. The Phoenix Division InfraGard Program incorporates business, governmental, and military communities into a system similar to a Neighborhood Watch. They conduct regular meetings to discuss awareness of computer issues and operate a self warning system.

Threat Warning Systems

Because warning is critical to the prevention of terrorist acts, the FBI also has expanded the National Threat Warning System (NTWS) first implemented in 1989. The system now reaches all aspects of the law enforcement and intelligence communities. Currently, sixty federal agencies and their subcomponents receive information via secure teletype through this system. The messages also are transmitted to all 56 FBI field offices and 44 legal attaches. If threat information requires nationwide unclassified dissemination to all federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the FBI transmits messages via NLETS. In addition, the FBI disseminates threat information to security managers of thousands of US commercial interests through the Awareness of National Security Issues and Response (ANSIR) program. If warranted, the expanded NTWS also enables the FBI to communicate threat information directly to the American people.

On January 16, 2002, the FBI disseminated an advisory via the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications Systems (NLETS) regarding possible attempts by terrorists to use US municipal and state web sites to obtain information on local energy infrastructures, water reservoirs, dams, highly enriched uranium storage sites, and nuclear and gas facilities. Although the FBI possesses no specific threat information, these types of activities on the part of terrorists pose serious challenges to our national security. Since the terrorist attack of September 11, the FBI has disseminated 37 warnings via the NTWS. The FBI also has issued more than 40 "be on the lookout" (BOLO) alerts via the NLETS system. BOLO alerts provide the names of individuals who are of investigative interest to the FBI.

Bioterrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction

The FBI Counterterrorism Division's Weapons of Mass Destruction Countermeasures Unit (WMDCU) plans and conducts Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) exercises which address the specific needs and objectives of state and local emergency responders. State and local emergency management officials may request this assistance through their respective FBI WMD Coordinators who forward the request to WMDCU. Every FBI Field Division, including the Phoenix Division, has a WMD Coordinator. WMDCU fully integrates state and local planning officials into the exercise planning process to ensure their requirements are specifically met. WMDCU also co-chairs the Interagency Board (IAB) for Equipment Standardization and Interoperability. The IAB consists of more than 48 separate local, state and federal organizations. The IAB is responsible for the creation of the Standardized Equipment List and is recognized as the leading authority in the area of WMD response equipment.

The bioterrorism threat has risen to a new level. The federal government, in partnership with state and local law enforcement agencies, has always taken threats concerning the intentional release of biological agents seriously. However, until recently, neither the federal government nor state and local responders have been required to utilize their assets to coordinate a response to an actual release of anthrax. The intentional introduction of anthrax into our infrastructure has resulted in significant alarm concerning our health and safety. I would like to comment on the manner in which the law enforcement community responds to a suspected act of terrorism involving biological agents, and reinforce the cooperative effort that is in place between the federal government and the myriad of first responders who provide guidance, assistance and expertise.

The response to a potential bioterrorism threat can be broken down into two different scenarios: overt and covert releases. The distinction between the two involves the manner in which the biological threat agent is introduced into the community and the nature of the response. Regardless of whether a biological release is overt or covert, the primary mission of law enforcement and the public health community is saving lives.

An overt scenario involves the announced release of an agent, often with some type of articulated threat. An example of this would be the receipt of a letter containing a powder and a note indicating that the recipient has been exposed to anthrax. This type of situation would prompt an immediate law enforcement response, to include local police, fire and emergency medical service (EMS) personnel. As noted earlier, each FBI field office is staffed with a WMD Coordinator whose responsibilities include liaison with first responders in the community. Due to this established relationship with first responders, the local FBI WMD Coordinator would be notified and dispatched to the scene.

Depending upon the magnitude of the threat, the response protocol could involve initiating the FBI's interagency threat assessment process. The FBI's WMD Operations Unit of the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters, coordinates this threat assessment with the FBI Laboratory's Hazardous Materials Response Unit (HMRU) to determine the credibility of the threat received, the immediate concerns involving health and safety of the responding personnel, and the requisite level of response warranted by the federal government. The FBI obtains detailed information from the on-scene personnel and input from the necessary federal agencies with responsibility in the particular incident. In a biological event, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are the key agencies called upon to assist FBI personnel in assessing the particular threat. Based upon the assessment, a determination is made as to the level of response necessary to adequately address the particular threat, which could range from a full federal response if the threat is deemed credible, to collection of the material in an effort to rule out the presence of any biological material if the threat is deemed not credible. (In the event of a chemical, nuclear or radiological threat, a similar threat assessment would occur.)

The FBI Headquarters Counterterrorism Division interaction with each FBI field office and their WMD coordinators, along with other internal and external agencies, has improved the threat assessment process, allowing federal, state, and local agencies to scale back and provide a more measured response. In many cases, the situation is handled with minimal publicity, therefore limiting the impact of the terrorist objective. The process has been effective in saving the federal government, and the state and local communities, time and money, and has allayed the fears of victims in rapid fashion on numerous occasions.

A covert release of a biological agent invokes a different type of response, driven by the public health community. By its nature, a covert introduction is not accompanied by any articulated or known threat. The presence of the disease is discovered through the presentation of unusual signs and/or symptoms in individuals reporting to local hospitals or physician clinics. In this situation, there is initially no crime scene for law enforcement personnel to investigate. The criminal act may not be revealed until days have elapsed, following the agent identification and preliminary results obtained from the epidemiological inquiry conducted by the public health sector. Contrary to an overt act where law enforcement makes the necessary notification to public health, in a covert release, notification to law enforcement is made by the public health sector. The early notification of law enforcement in this process encourages the sharing of information between criminal and epidemiological investigators. Once an indication of a criminal act utilizing a biological agent is suspected, the FBI assumes primary authority in conducting the criminal investigation, while public health maintains responsibility for the health and welfare of the citizens. An effective coordination has been accomplished to address the requisite roles and responsibilities of each agency at the local level, involving the FBI WMD Coordinator and the state or local public health department, and at the national level between FBI Headquarters and the CDC.

A recent example of a WMD matter in Phoenix was the handling of more than 1100 reports of possible anthrax contamination. As discussed above, to address WMD matters, the Phoenix JTTF is in constant communication with members of the law enforcement, fire, emergency management, and medical communities. That partnership was clearly evident in the cooperation that occurred addressing those perceived threats. Since October 2001, the FBI nationally has responded to more than 16,000 reports of use or threatened use of anthrax or other hazardous materials.

To deal with the Arizona portion of the anthrax crisis, a meeting was held with appropriate Phoenix response agencies and FBI personnel, to include the Phoenix Division WMD Coordinator. A course of action was agreed upon. The law enforcement, fire, emergency, and medical agencies quickly agreed on the manner of handling the responses and protocols for handling potential evidence. The state lab agreed to receive suspect packages from any fire, police, or emergency agency.
The FBI Laboratory Division is also a key component in dealing with incidents involving the release of biological, chemical or nuclear agents. The FBI Laboratory has developed a response capability to support counterterrorism investigations worldwide. The FBI's mobile crime laboratory provides the capability to collect and analyze a range of physical evidence on-scene, and has been deployed at major crime scenes, including the World Trade Center bombing, Khobar towers, and the East African embassy bombings. The mobile crime laboratory contains analytical instrumentation for rapid screening and triage of explosives and other trace evidence recovered at crime scenes.

The FBI Laboratory also provides the capacity to rapidly respond to criminal acts involving the use of chemical or biological agents with the mobile, self-contained fly away laboratory (FAL). The FAL consists of twelve suites of analytical instrumentation supported by an array of equipment which allows for safe collection of hazardous materials, sample preparation, storage, and analysis in a field setting. The major objectives of the mobile crime laboratory and the FAL are to enhance the safety of deployed personnel, generate leads through rapid analysis and screening, and to preserve evidence for further examination at the FBI laboratory. In addition, the laboratory has developed agreements with several other federal agencies for rapid and effective analysis of chemical, biological, and radiological materials. One partnership, the Laboratory Response Network (LRN), is supported by the CDC and the Association of Public Health Laboratories for the Analysis of Biological Agents.


Terrorism represents a continuing threat to the US and a formidable challenge to the FBI. In response to this threat, the Phoenix Division of the FBI has developed, and is expanding, its broad-based counterterrorism program, which is integrated into the local and state law enforcement and first responder network. The Phoenix Division intends to disrupt terrorist activities by continuing to support and use it's JTTF, and by continually expanding interagency cooperation. While this approach has yielded many successes, the dynamic nature of the terrorist threat demands that our capabilities continually be refined and adapted to continue to provide the most effective response.

Within the Phoenix Division, all of the FBI's aforementioned investigative responsibilities are conducted jointly with other law enforcement agencies represented on the Phoenix JTTF, and at times, with additional agencies such as the intelligence community, fire, emergency response, and medical agencies. It is impossible for the FBI to conduct investigations and obtain intelligence without the assistance of all the Arizona federal, state, and local agencies. Communication and coordination are exceptional in all areas and the Phoenix Division consistently strives to maintain and improve that cooperation.

Chairman Horn, this concludes my prepared remarks. I would like to express appreciation for this subcommittee's concentration on the issue of terrorism preparedness and I look forward to responding to any questions.

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