Interesting FBI Priorities

Recently, I waded through the fiscal year 2010 budget request/justification documents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which for the most part are about as unexciting as you might expect. A couple of things, however, stood out as kind of interesting and worthy of discussion, so I thought I’d go over them here.

Part of the budget documents include performance metrics that the Bureau have assigned to themselves; they then annually grade themselves on how well they’re doing. I’m honestly not clear why this is the case, unless – however cynical it might be – they’re there just to make the Bureau “look good” and successful come budget-request time.

There’s nothing wrong with setting targets for performance; such a practice helps ensure focus and accountability and so on. The thing is, a lot of the FBI’s performance targets are qualitative, rather than quantitative, and I wonder if this isn’t actually detrimental under some circumstances.

For instance, the Bureau has identified certain criminal enterprises as “consolidated priority organizational targets”, or CPOTs. All fine and dandy, assuming there’s some degree of accountability where adding organizations to the list is concerned. The potential problem, as I see it, is that the Bureau then requires that a percentage of investigations by certain operational divisions involve individuals connected to a CPOT.

That’s great, on the surface, because it helps ensure that priority organizational targets remain, you know, priorities.

You have to wonder, though – given the importance of these performance metrics to the Bureau – whether (or how many) field offices skimp on other investigations so they don’t mess up their percentages and get in Washington’s bad graces.

I’m not saying it’s happening, but let’s be honest, here; that kind of target metric is incredibly prone to abuse.

Food for thought?

Another interesting thing I noticed was the Bureau’s list of priorities where organized crime and transnational criminal organizations are concerned. The priorities are, in no particular order:

Italian organized crime (including La Cosa Nostra, and similar);
European and Eurasian (including the Former Soviet Union) organized crime;
Baltic (including Albanian) organized crime;
African (including Nigerian) organized crime;
Middle Eastern criminal syndicates; and
Asian organized crime.

The astute scholar of geography will notice three omissions from this list: Arctic and Antarctic criminal syndicates (which probably don’t exist), and Latin American criminal syndicates, which most certainly do. Maybe Latin America is just covered by anti-gang efforts. I don’t know, but I found it interesting.

One final thing I found interesting is that the FBI several times mentions the challenges posed by increased criminal use of encryption and steganography, and how they need a lot of money to keep up with 3G telephony, VOIP, and wi-fi, among other things. (Oh no, criminals have discovered Skype, the sky is falling, and we’re all doomed.) The “Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative” – annual budget 60-something million – includes 260 positions (160 or so of them “investigatory”). Staff includes 18 “counterintelligence agents”, 10 counterintelligence support staff, and 42 intelligence analysts. Also included, exactly two agents assigned as cryptologists, one cryptology technician, one crypto electronics engineer, and one mathematician, leaving me to surmise that either the Bureau is able to take advantage of geeks from the NSA, or that encryption and steganograpy thing isn’t the huge hot-button issue it would seem to be, after all.

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on December 14th, 2009| Comments Off on Interesting FBI Priorities

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