The FBI has a hard time keeping up with evolving terrorist threats because of the agency’s slow pace in improving its intelligence-collection abilities, according to a new Sept. 11 Review Commission report.
Although the agency has made improvements to its counterterrorism mission since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the report identified several weaknesses, including a need for better intelligence analysis and collection, and not regarding its staff of intelligence analysts as part of the “professionalized workforce.”
It also said frequent leadership changes slow down the pace of improvement, and that the FBI needs better coordination with the private sector and other agencies to deal with cyber threats.
These challenges need “urgently to be addressed to meet growing and increasingly complex national security threats, including from adaptive and increasingly tech-savvy terrorists, more brazen computer hackers, and more technically capable, global cyber syndicates,” the report states.
The FBI must build up its cyber capabilities to counter “increasingly complex threats” which have “demanded unprecedented intelligence support and analytic capability in the midst of a global information revolution,” according to the report.
FBI Director Jim Comey said he agreed with most of the conclusions, though he did take issue with the recommendation the FBI should not have a role in a new White House initiative to counter the radicalization of Americans through community outreach.
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Mr. Comey said that the FBI “will not and cannot engage” in the counternarrative against terrorist groups, like the Islamic State.
“That would be a very confusing place for the FBI to be and we’re not going to be there,” Mr. Comey said Wednesday at a press conference detailing the commission’s report.
The report was ordered by Congress to assess the FBI’s performance on national security matters, and its authors said they hoped it would be a blueprint for improvement. It was also intended to gauge how well the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations in a 2004 report are being carried out.
Mr. Comey described the commission’s 127-page report — which has an additional 14 classified pages — as a “tremendously valuable” tool. The report shines a light on where the FBI needs to make improvements and if the agency’s ability to collect intelligence and find “stuff out” needs to be improved upon, then the bureau will achieve that goal, Mr. Comey said.
“What we have tried to get better at since 9/11 is thinking systematically about what stuff we know, what stuff we need to know, who needs to know the stuff we know, and how does the stuff we know connect to the other stuff we know,” he said. “‘Stuff’ is not a fancy term, but it captures the essence of what we’ve always been — and what we’ve worked hard to get better at — and so we will continue at it.”