In addition to the 9/11 Commission findings discussed in the Background section of this report, the Commission made the following observations about the role of intelligence in the FBI and its intelligence capabilities:
- After the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, senior managers at the FBI and the Department of Justice leadership became increasingly concerned about the threat posed by Islamist extremists to U.S. interests. According to the 9/11 Commission, “The FBI’s approach to investigations was
case-specific, decentralized, and geared toward prosecution. Significant FBI resources were devoted to after-the-fact investigations of major terrorist attacks, resulting in several prosecutions.”
- Prior to September 11, 2001, the FBI recognized terrorism as a major threat and according to an FBI official, “Merely solving this type of crime is not enough; it is equally important that the FBI thwart terrorism before such acts can be perpetrated.”
In addition to the factors cited in the Background section of this report, the Commission also cited the following as reasons the FBI’s 1998 strategic plan was not fully implemented. The Commission also found that the factors that contributed to the failure of the strategic plan also led to the FBI not producing very many strategic analyses.
- A new division, the Investigative Services Division, which was intended to strengthen the FBI’s strategic analysis capability, did not receive sufficient resources and faced resistance from the FBI’s senior managers. The new division, with the assistance of the strategic analyst, was supposed to look across individual operations and cases to identify trends in terrorist activity and develop broad assessments of the terrorist threat to U.S. interests. This type of analysis should drive an intelligence agency’s collection efforts. According to the Commission, this approach “is the only way to evaluate what the institution does not know.”
- The Commission concluded that at the time “The FBI had little understanding of, or appreciation for, the role of strategic analysis in driving investigations.” Instead, analysts continued to be used primarily in a tactical fashion. Tactical analysts are supposed to provide direct support to investigations. However, special agents thought it was the job of all analysts to support their cases. The agents did not value strategic analysis, “finding it too academic and therefore irrelevant.” By putting the analysts in a separate division, the FBI reinforced the agents’ attitude toward strategic analysts.
- FBI analysts did not have ready access to the information they were expected to analyze. The FBI’s information systems were such an impediment that analysts depended on personal relationships with colleagues for information.
- The Commission faulted the FBI’s efforts to collect intelligence from human sources. The FBI was unable to reliably and systematically validate source reporting, and it did not have a systematic means of tracking and sharing source reporting. In addition, the 9/11 Commission found that the FBI’s counterterrorism agents were not allocated enough surveillance personnel and translators, resulting in a significant backlog of untranslated intercepts.