By Jim Kouri
Yesterday morning, Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee regarding his proposed budget for FBI’s fiscal year 2013. In an environment that is witnessing major budget cuts across the board, Mueller decided to personally highlight the primary national security and criminal threats that the Bureau is focusing its resources on, including threats to homeland security by enemies both foreign and domestic.
In the area of national security, the Mueller discussed the new terrorism paradigm that includes threats from self-radicalized individuals as well as attempts by al-Qaeda to use online chat rooms and web sites to recruit and radicalize followers.
Mueller also highlighted the foreign intelligence threat — in particular “insiders” who steal their company’s secrets to benefit another country and/or company — and he warned of the increasing number, sophistication, and danger of cyber attacks and cyber crimes to the nation’s security and economy.
According to Mueller, domestic and international criminal threats facing the U.S. — posed by criminal organizations and individuals — include financial and mortgage fraud, health care fraud, gangs and violent crime, violence along the Southwest Border, organized crime, and crimes against children.
In addition, the terrorist threat facing the United States remains complex and ever-changing. Americans are seeing more groups and individuals engaged in terrorism, a wider array of terrorist targets, greater cooperation among terrorist groups, and continued evolution and adaptation in tactics and communication, according to Mueller.
Al-Qaeda affiliates and surrogates, such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, represent significant threats to the U.S. These groups have attempted several attacks against the homeland and our citizens and interests abroad, including the failed Christmas Day airline bombing in 2009 and the attempted bombing of U.S.-bound cargo planes in October 2010, Mueller testified.
In addition to al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the United States faces a terrorist threat from self-radicalized individuals. Self-radicalized extremists—often acting on their own—are among the most difficult to detect and stop. For example, just last month, the FBI arrested Amine El Khalifi, a 29-year-old Moroccan immigrant, for the suspected attempt to detonate a bomb in a suicide attack on the U.S. Capitol building
Director Mueller also warned lawmakers about the “new espionage” that targets both public and private sectors.
“While foreign intelligence services continue traditional efforts to target political and military intelligence, counterintelligence threats now include efforts to obtain technologies and trade secrets from corporations and universities. The loss of critical research and development data, intellectual property, and insider information poses a significant threat to national security” Mueller said.
“Cyber attacks and crimes are becoming more commonplace, more sophisticated, and more dangerous. The scope and targets of these attacks and crimes encompass the full range and scope of the FBI’s national security and criminal investigative missions,” he added.
According to Robert Borens, director of security for a large international corporation, if a company spends three million dollars on research and development only to later have a Chinese company steal the company files, then that Chinese company will be able “to produce and sell the item at a reduced price while making bigger profits.”
Boren told the Law Enforcement Examiner that he believes more is done to cover up an espionage incident by companies than is done to prevent or investigate the loss of confidential information.
“No CEO wants to tell his stockholders that they were robbed of millions of dollars in profits,” said Borens.
U.S. national security secrets are regularly targeted by foreign and domestic actors; our children are targeted by sexual predators and traffickers; our citizens are targeted for fraud and identity theft; our companies are targeted for insider information; and our universities and national laboratories are targeted for their research and development, Mueller told the panel of congressmen.
“Since 2002, the FBI has seen an 84 percent increase in the number of computer intrusions investigations opened. Hackers—whether state sponsored, criminal enterprises, or individuals—constantly test and probe networks, computer software, and computers to identify and exploit vulnerabilities,” Mueller noted.