Return to the USDOJ/OIG Home Page
Return to the Table of Contents

Federal Bureau of Investigation Legal Attaché Program*

Report No. 04-18
March 2004
Office of the Inspector General


Chapter 2: Legat Office and Country Information

The following sections in this chapter present background information on each Legal Attaché office we reviewed and the country or region covered by these offices.  We selected these locations judgmentally to obtain a cross section of offices, taking into consideration factors such as the number of staff assigned, number of countries covered, geographic location, workload, crime problems, ongoing terrorism-related work, and prior inspection findings.  Although the mission of each Legat office is the same, the activities of offices vary because of the differing political and cultural settings in which they operate and because of the nature of the crime problems that exist in the host country or region that have a connection to the United States.  Thus, no single Legat office can be considered typical.

Legat Ottawa

The Legat office in Ottawa has responsibility for FBI liaison matters in Canada (see Exhibit 2-1).  Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of land area.  It is comprised of ten provinces and three territories spanning five time zones and has a population of over 31 million.  About 80 percent of the population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border.  Canada’s major population centers are Montreal, Quebec; Toronto, Ontario; and Vancouver, British Columbia.  Ottawa, the capital, is located in the St. Lawrence Valley between Montreal and Toronto.  The official languages in Canada are French, spoken primarily in the Province of Quebec, and English, the dominant language for the rest of the country.  According to a Department of State Background Note, the bilateral relationship between Canada and the United States is probably the most extensive in the world as evidenced by the $1.4 billion in daily trade and the 200 million people who cross the border annually.17

The Legal Attaché office in Ottawa, opened in 1942, is one of the oldest of the FBI’s foreign offices.  As of April 2003, it was staffed by a Legat, four ALATS, and four office assistants.  Because of the heavy


Map of Canada showing  location of the Legal Attache Office in Ottawa, the existing sub-office in Vancouver and the proposed sub-office in Toronto.

workload, additional personnel are frequently assigned on temporary duty.  A sub-office, staffed by one ALAT and one Office Assistant, was established in Vancouver in May 2001 and covers the Province of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.  The FBI has been authorized to open an additional 3-person sub-office in Toronto.

Most of Legat Ottawa’s workload before and after September 11, 2001, has been focused on addressing terrorism matters.  According to Legat Ottawa’s September 30, 2002, Annual Accomplishment Report, the PENTTBOM investigation alone generated more than 7,000 requests for assistance from FBI headquarters and field offices.  The office receives many other requests relating to national security, national infrastructure protection/computer intrusion, telemarketing fraud, organized crime, drugs, money laundering, Canadian-based car theft rings, and fugitives.

Legat Ottawa’s workload is the largest among all Legal Attaché offices due largely to the country’s proximity to the United States.  The common, lengthy, and largely unguarded border makes it relatively easy for crime to traverse the two countries.  [CLASSIFIED INFORMATION REDACTED].

Legat Berlin

The Legal Attaché office in Berlin has responsibility for liaison matters in the Federal Republic of Germany (see Exhibit 2-2).  Germany consists of 16 federal states, 5 of which comprise the former German Democratic Republic.  It has a population of over 83 million inhabitants, the largest in Europe after Russia.  It also has the largest economy in Europe.  Germany’s land area is comparable in size to Montana.

The Legal Attaché office used to be located in Bonn, the former capital of West Germany.  Shortly after the reunification of Germany in 1990, the German government designated Berlin as the new capital and later, the American Embassy and the Legal Attaché office moved to Berlin.  Various German law enforcement agencies maintain headquarters offices in cities other than Berlin, thereby requiring Legat staff to travel throughout the country.  In addition, there are a large number of U.S. military facilities located in the country.


Map of Germany showing the location of the Legal Attache Office in Berlin, the existing sub-office in Frankfurt and the proposed sub-office in Bonn.

As of June 2003, the Berlin Legat was staffed by a Legat, one ALAT, and two Office Assistants.  The Legat and the ALAT were fluent in German.  The Legat told us that most of the discussions with their liaisons are carried out in German.  At the time of our visit, a special agent was also assigned on temporary duty to this office for a 6-month period; this agent had been previously detailed to the office several times and was also fluent in German.

A Legat sub-office is located in Frankfurt and, at the time of our review, was staffed by two ALATS, two Office Assistants, and one analyst on temporary duty assignment.  The two ALATS were conversant in German.  There were also two special agents who were on temporary duty assignment at a German counterterrorism center in Meckenheim.  One ALAT from Frankfurt supervises these two special agents.  A sub-office is expected to open in Bonn in the near future, and the FBI expects to staff it with two ALATs and one Office Assistant.

Terrorism matters are the number one priority worked by Legat Berlin and because one of the key terrorist cells responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks was located in Hamburg, a considerable amount of the office’s time was spent on the PENTTBOM investigation.  According to the FY 2002 Legal Attaché Annual Accomplishment report for Berlin, the office processed over 1,400 requests for assistance during the first month of this investigation, and about 100 FBI personnel were sent on temporary duty to Germany in support of the PENTTBOM investigation during calendar year 2002.  The Legat office also works other requests relating to terrorism, foreign counterintelligence, organized crime, and fugitive cases.

Legat Pretoria

The Legat office in Pretoria, South Africa has responsibility for FBI liaison matters in 15 sub-Saharan countries in Africa:  Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Diego Garcia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (see Exhibit 2-3).  The closest country—Botswana—is 150 miles away, and Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean, is over 3,000 miles away.  Flights to some of these countries are few in number and travel can be arduous because most of the region is in a third world state of development, and has


Map of South Africa showing the location of the Legal Attache Office in Pretoria.

unstable governments, inadequate communication services, erratic public transportation, unfavorable economic conditions, and an escalating rate of violent crime.  English is the predominant language in most of the countries with the exceptions of Angola, Mozambique, Comoros, Lesotho, and Madagascar, where other languages including Portuguese, Arabic, Sesotho, and French are spoken.

South Africa is a developing nation about twice the size of the state of Texas.  The country enjoys a reasonably well-established infrastructure, access to world financial markets, and abundant natural resources.  Between the 1970s and the early 1990s relations between the United States and South Africa were adversely affected by South Africa’s racial policies.  In 1994, South Africa became a democracy when Nelson Mandela was elected President of the new South Africa, bringing the era of apartheid to an end.

The Legat Pretoria office became operational in June 1997.  It is located in the capital city of Pretoria, South Africa, and, at the time of our review, was staffed by a Legat, one ALAT and one Office Assistant.  Legat Pretoria does not have any sub-offices in its territory.

According to the FY 2002 Legal Attaché Annual Accomplishment Report, the Legat has visited every country in his territory at least once with the exception of Diego Garcia and Lesotho.  The Legat told us that he would like to make more frequent liaison trips to the other countries in his region, but that other work priorities and travel budget constraints limited the number of visits made.  Further, much of the Legat’s work pertains to South Africa; thus the need for contact with most of the other countries is relatively infrequent.  The Legat stated that he is usually able to get needed information from countries in his territory either through his own contacts in police departments or by working with the Regional Security Officers at the U.S. embassies in these other countries.

Besides high rates of HIV/AIDS, a 30 percent unemployment rate, and illiteracy, crime is one of the most pressing societal problems facing South Africa today.  The incidence of rape, for example, is reportedly one of the highest in the world.  Murders, car jackings, and home invasions are common occurrences and cross all economic classes.  According to the FY 2002 Legal Attaché Annual Accomplishment Report, there has been an influx of Russian, Eurasian, Italian, and Asian criminal syndicates because of the availability of modern transportation, communication, and banking systems in South Africa.

Also, according to the 2002 Legal Attaché Annual Accomplishment Report, the cumulative effect of several bombings that occurred in the region, domestic right wing activity in South Africa, and requests for assistance related to investigations pertaining to chemical/biological materials [CLASSIFIED INFORMATION REDACTED].  The office also receives requests for assistance related to organized crime and the extradition of fugitives.

Legat Tokyo

Legat Tokyo has responsibility for liaison matters in Japan and the Republic of China (Taiwan) (see Exhibit 2-4).  Japan is slightly smaller than the state of California and has a population of about 126 million.  It is a major economic power in the region and globally.  The Japan-United States alliance is considered the cornerstone of U.S. security interests in Asia, and Japan provides bases, material, and support to about 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in the country.  Tokyo is the capital and the largest city and has a population of over 14 million.  Taiwan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with a population of about 23 million in an area about the size of West Virginia.  The U.S. government does not officially recognize the government of Taiwan.  Rather, the American Institute of Taiwan, a nonprofit corporation incorporated in the Commonwealth of Virginia, functions like a U.S. Embassy without diplomatic status and pursues U.S. interests.  Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is located about 1,300 miles from Tokyo.  The primary languages spoken in Japan and Taiwan are Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, respectively—limited English is spoken in both countries.

Legat Tokyo opened in 1954 and like Legat Ottawa is one of the oldest Legat offices.  At the time of our review, it was staffed by a Legat, an ALAT, and two Office Assistants.  The current Legat was also an ALAT in Tokyo between 1987 and 1992.  Both the Legat and the ALAT are fluent in Japanese.  At the time of our visit, a special agent was on a 30-day temporary assignment to help manage the workload while the Legat and ALAT were traveling and on leave.  This individual was also fluent in Japanese.


Map of Japan and Taiwan showing the location of the Legal Attache Office in Tokyo.

According to the Legat, about 75 percent of the office’s workload involves Japan, and most of his liaisons are with Japanese officials in Tokyo.  He periodically makes visits to Japanese law enforcement officials outside the Tokyo area.  The Law for International Assistance in Investigation (LIAI) in Japan governs and limits how requests for information from the FBI to Japanese law enforcement agencies are handled and, according to the Legat, there are many legal restrictions on the ability of the FBI to obtain information.

Compared to Japan, there are fewer restrictions on the ability of the FBI to obtain information in Taiwan.  The Legat told us that distance and travel budget constraints limit visits to Taiwan to about six times per year.  However, he maintains frequent contact with law enforcement and intelligence authorities in Taiwan through telephone and written correspondence.  In addition, some representatives of these agencies are posted to Tokyo.  Because the United States does not officially recognize Taiwan or its government, the Legat cannot meet with these officials in their offices or on the premises of the U.S. Embassy.  Thus, the Legat periodically meets with them in public places in Tokyo.

Historically, according to the Legat, organized crime was the top priority of the Tokyo Legat, but this has been overshadowed in recent years by counterterrorism and counterintelligence issues.  Nevertheless, organized crime, particularly in Japan, remains a threat to U.S. interests and the Legat has maintained a longstanding cooperative relationship with Japanese law enforcement officials who investigate organized crime matters.  The Japanese organized crime syndication known as Boryokudan, or the Yakusa, has approximately 80,000 members and consists of many groups and subgroups.  Boryokudan groups reportedly participate in criminal activity in the United States through money laundering, drug trafficking, gun smuggling, and a wide variety of financial fraud.  In Taiwan, organized crime has been growing in recent years.  The major organized crime groups in Taiwan are the Triads, consisting of about 45-50 gangs, the largest of which operate internationally, including major metropolitan areas of the United States.

While counterterrorism matters are Legat Tokyo’s top priority, its September 30, 2002, Legal Attaché Annual Accomplishment Report indicated that the threat of terrorism in Japan and Taiwan was low, in part, because of their small Muslim/Middle Eastern populations.  However, the large U.S. military and business presence in Japan coupled with the country’s support of the war on terrorism makes Japan an attractive target for terrorist acts, according to the report.  As a result, a significant amount of the Legat’s liaison efforts with Japanese law enforcement and intelligence agencies have centered on terrorism matters and PENTTBOM-related leads.  In the foreign counterintelligence area, both Japan and Taiwan are very developed countries and, as a result, they offer numerous opportunities for economic espionage.  In addition, the U.S. military presence in Japan is always a target for foreign counterintelligence operations.

  1. Background Notes are issued by the Department of State and contain information on countries with which the United States has relations.