FBI director says agency has become 'flexible and agile'

The FBI is using new anti-terrorism powers in a responsible manner, is boosting its intelligence capabilities and is progressing toward upgrading what agency officials have acknowledged as weak information technology capabilities, Director Robert Mueller said on Wednesday.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee jointly with Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security at the Homeland Security Department, Mueller trumpeted the bureau's progress in its quest to become a "more flexible and agile" agency.

He particularly highlighted the bureau's progress in upgrading its antiquated computer systems and its ability to make use of the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act, which he said has greatly aided the fight against terrorism.

Mueller praised a provision in the PATRIOT Act that lets criminal prosecutors use information obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He said the change "effectively dismantled the wall between law enforcement and intelligence personnel. The resulting free flow of information and coordination between law enforcement and intelligence has expanded our ability to use all appropriate resources to prevent terrorism."

He also highlighted two other key provisions of the law: the ability for prosecutors to obtain nationwide court orders in terrorism cases and its anti-money-laundering features.

But Mueller did not mention two PATRIOT Act provisions that have become increasingly controversial. One lets investigators access library, bookstore and other business records under FISA, and the other lets investigators conducted secret searches of property.

Privacy advocates succeeded Tuesday in getting the House to vote to bar the latter provision. The vote came on an amendment to the fiscal 2004 spending bill for the Commerce, Justice and State departments.

Electronic surveillance conducted under foreign intelligence law continues to rely upon a lower standard than surveillance conducted under criminal law: probable cause to believe that the individual is a foreign agent, as opposed to the criminal law's standard of probable cause to believe that the target has broken the law.

But the provision of the PATRIOT Act opened the door for criminal prosecutors to use FISA wiretaps and to direct the conduct of such surveillance. A November ruling by the 2002 FISA Court of Review affirmed the Justice Department's position encouraging broader use of such wiretaps.

Mueller also noted that the FBI implemented a common information technology platform in March 2003 and anticipates completion of its "virtual case file" by the end of the year.

But senators from both parties put the agency on notice that they are watching its progress in updating its computer capabilities. "We all know what a sorry state of affairs it was when you came into office," said Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio. "Everyone on this panel has complained about" your computer systems.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., also asked Hutchinson whether Homeland Security is seeking to integrate its computers with those of the Justice Department and the FBI. He replied that the agency's chief information officer had his hands full in integrating pre-existing agencies' systems, hence information sharing is currently limited to "watch lists" of terrorism suspects.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.