9/11 reshaped FBI from crime-fighting to counter-terror agency
Friday, August 23, 2013
The 9/11 terror attacks on American soil reshaped the FBI from a
domestic crime-fighting force into a counter-intelligence agency with a
key role in combating terrorism, according to its outgoing chief.
FBI Director Robert S Mueller had assumed office a week before the
incident of September 11, 2001 in which al Qaeda terrorists hijacked
planes and carried out the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
"I think it took me a while to fully understand that the training that I
had had...With the FBI, (the Drug Enforcement Administration) and
others, which was to investigate criminal acts after they'd occurred,
was not going to be the paradigm for the future," said Muller, who is
stepping down next month.
Soon after the attacks, Mueller, now 69, had a conversation with the
then President George W Bush, who said, "We cannot let this happen
"I did not expect to be spending my time preventing terrorist attacks,"
Muller was quoted as saying by The Washington Post today.
The FBI expanded significantly after 9/11 attacks, investing in its
intelligence programme and information technology and opening 18
But the outgoing director remains concerned about the possibility of
another attack on a plane; a "weapon of mass destruction in the hands of
a terrorist," including a cyber-weapon that could attack financial
institutions or the energy sector; and the vacuum left behind by turmoil
in Middle Eastern nations affected by the Arab Spring uprisings.
The FBI chief, who has received a leather-bound highly classified
briefing package almost every day for more than a decade, described
homegrown "lone wolf" terrorists as the most significant threats to the
"More than half of the FBI's 36,000 employees have joined since 2001,
and Mueller said many had signed up 'expecting to protect the American
public against terrorist attacks or cyberattacks'," the Post reported.
"You have one metric, and that is preventing all attacks. ...If there's
one attack, you are unsuccessful," said Mueller, whose term was
extended with congressional approval beyond the maximum tenure of 10
Mueller, a former Marine and Vietnam War veteran, acknowledged that
counter-terrorism would remain the FBI's first priority for some time
but he disputed the idea that the focus on terrorism had prevented the
agency from fighting violent and white-collar crime.