FBI director unveils plan for agency overhaul

FBI Director Robert Mueller announced plans Wednesday to hire hundreds of new agents, replace outdated computer systems and create new offices in an effort to reorganize the 94-year-old agency and shift its mission to preventing terrorism.

Mueller unveiled a 19-item list of the FBI's future priorities, headed by protecting the country from terrorist attacks and guarding against espionage. He outlined actions the agency will take to address those priorities, including shifting agents from drug, white-collar crime and violent crime investigations to counterterrorism operations and hiring 900 agents with foreign language, technology, engineering and science skills by September. The FBI will also collaborate more aggressively with other law enforcement agencies, Mueller said.

"We have to do a better job recruiting, managing and training our workforce, collaborating with others, and-critically important-managing, analyzing and sharing information," Mueller said. "In essence, we need a different approach that puts prevention above all else."

The reorganization effort includes the creation of a new Office of Intelligence that will focus on sifting through information about potential terrorist attacks. A new security division will try to prevent incidents like last year's scandal involving FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who sold U.S. information to the Soviet Union and Russia for more than 15 years. The FBI also plans to create a new division focused on cyber crime.

Mueller's announcement comes on the heels of criticism from two of the FBI's own agents about how officials at the agency's headquarters handled information from field investigators about suspected terrorist activities prior to Sept. 11.

"Our analytical capability is not where it should be, but I believe that this plan addresses this," Mueller said. "Because our focus is on preventing terrorist attacks, more so than in the past we must be open to new ideas, to criticism from within and without, and to admitting and learning from our mistakes."

While he applauded Mueller's commitment to change, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, was critical of the director's proposal, saying the FBI is not "giving much up" under Mueller's plan.

"The number of agents reassigned to counterterrorism is relatively small…and, the FBI still plans to be involved in all its traditional operations," Grassley said. "The FBI needs to let go of these areas and recognize that we've got a Drug Enforcement Administration; a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; a Coast Guard; a Customs Service; the Secret Service; a Border Patrol and others at the federal level, along with state and local law enforcement nationwide, to handle these kinds of criminal investigations, arrests and prosecutions."

The FBI, which has about 11,000 agents nationwide, will reassign 518 of them to counterterrorism activities, according to the reorganization plan.

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