The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a unique role in the United States law enforcement community. The FBI is not a national police force, unlike other nations (such as France, Italy, Spain and Columbia) where patrol units and first responders are organized under the national government. The FBI is purely an investigative and intelligence agency and focuses on cross jurisdictional crimes and national security issues. Its stated mission is “To protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners” (FBI.gov). To accomplish its mission, the FBI does not have the relative manpower of the national police forces of other nations and even of some local police forces in the United States – the New York City Police Department has an authorized strength of 37,838 uniformed officers (NYC.gov) whereas the FBI only has 33,652 employees nationwide (of which only 13,412 are special agents) (FBI.gov). Due to this manpower issue, the bureau must focus its limited resources on those areas where there is the most need and where its services will provide the most utility. For this, the FBI creates a strategic plan every five years to identify and prioritize its areas of focus. The FBI’s strategy is developed based on the changing threat environment and other “drivers” such as global and domestic demographics, economics, foreign policy, technology developments, new laws and the changing role of the state (FBI). The latest strategic plan published in 2004 laid out the following 8 ranked priorities (FBI):
1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack;
2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage;
3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes;
4. Combat public corruption at all levels;
5. Protect civil rights;
6. Combat transnational and national criminal organizations and enterprises;
7. Combat major white collar crime;
8. Combat significant violent crime;
The time is near for the next strategic plan to be published, and comments made by FBI Director Robert Mueller indicate that the FBI’s priorities may be shifting yet again: ““We are developing and putting into place a different structure for the FBI that reflects the particular threat today. My own belief is that as we look to 2010, as we look further in the future…increasingly the FBI’s mission will be to address transnational threats because…we are the intersection between the threat overseas and state and local law enforcement”. Rightfully so, Director Mueller has recognized the growing threat from transnational organized crime and will hopefully he make it a top priority in coming years.
The reason that international organized crime should be a top priority for the FBI is that it...