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Facts and Figures 2003


As the lead counterintelligence agency within the United States Intelligence Community, the FBI has the principal authority to conduct and coordinate counterintelligence investigations and operations within the United States. The FBI is the only federal agency with a mandate to investigate foreign counterintelligence cases within US borders. Specially trained FBI counterintelligence experts monitor and neutralize foreign intelligence operations against the United States and investigate violations of federal laws against espionage, misuse of classified data, and other criminal matters relating to national security issues. The counterintelligence program is also involved in international terrorism threats, weapons of mass destruction threats, and attacks on the nation's critical infrastructures (i.e., communications, banking systems, and transportation systems). Supported by other US agencies as needed, the FBI also conducts espionage investigations anywhere in the world when the subject of the investigation is a US citizen. The FBI's counterintelligence program strives to be predictive and proactive and to maintain a protective umbrella around the nation's critical technology, infrastructure, and information.

The theft of intellectual property and technology by foreign parties or governments directly threatens the development and manufacturing of US products, resulting in a weakened economic capability and diminished political stature for this country. In response, the FBI has dramatically increased the number of investigations aimed at stopping economic espionage.

Counterintelligence Case: CUBAN SPY RING

On September 12, 1998, a major FBI foreign counterintelligence investigation culminated in the arrests of ten members of a Cuban spy ring operating in south Florida. The spy ring was targeting the region's major US military installations, including the US Southern Command and the local Cuban émigré community. Three of those arrested were Cuban intelligence officers who had infiltrated the United States and assumed the identities of deceased American children.

Five spy ring members pled guilty and received sentences ranging from 42 months to seven years imprisonment. The remaining five, including the Cuban intelligence officers, were convicted of all charges, including Conspiracy to Commit Espionage, and received sentences ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment. One of the Cuban intelligence officers was also convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Murder for his role in the February 1996, destruction by the Cuban Air Force of two unarmed civilian planes of the Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue organization. He received two life sentences. In August 2001, the FBI arrested two additional members of the spy ring. Both entered into plea agreements and on January 4, 2002, received sentences of seven years and 42 months. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service provided significant support throughout the FBI's investigation of the network's activities against the US military.

Counterintelligence Case: TAIWAN'S FOUR PILLARS

FBI counterintelligence programs include efforts to stem the flow of US corporate secrets to foreign countries under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. Taiwan companies and individuals have been convicted of efforts to steal US companies' proprietary or trade secret information since 1997. Dr. Ten Hong Lee of Taiwan's Four Pillars Company allegedly received over $150,000 from Four Pillars for his involvement in the transfer of Avery Dennison's proprietary manufacturing information and research data over the previous decade. In October 1997, Dr. Lee pled guilty to wire fraud charges in connection with his illegal conveyance of trade secrets from the Avery Dennison company to Four Pillars employees. In January 2000, the US District Court fined Four Pillars $5 million.

Counterintelligence Case: ROBERT P. HANSSEN
Robert Hanssen was a FBI counterintelligence officer who volunteered to spy for the Soviet Union in 1985. He gave classified FBI and US Intelligence Community information to the Soviets through letters and "dead drops" in the United States. The Soviets, who never knew his identity, gave him several payments of tens of thousands of dollars.

Picture of Foxstone Park sign
Foxstone Park, near Vienna, Virginia, was one of Hanssen's favorite "dead drop" sites.

Identifying and building a case against Hanssen was challenging because the FBI had to investigate a current employee who was trained and experienced in counterintelligence techniques. In late 2000, the FBI Laboratory was given a suspect bag containing several packages of documents, a tape recording, some computer diskettes, and an envelope wrapped in plastic. The thumbprint on the plastic wrapping matched Hanssen's known thumbprint. The tape recording was enhanced by experts at the Laboratory's Forensic Audio, Video and Image Analysis Unit and, after a foreign-speaking voice was edited out, Hanssen's voice was tentatively identified. Next, the Laboratory's Questioned Documents Unit examined the documents, did a handwriting comparison and found clues that the writing was Hanssen's.

Covert surveillance that included photography, court-authorized searches, forensic computer analysis, and other sensitive techniques revealed that Hanssen had routinely accessed FBI records and secretly provided those records and other classified information to Soviet and Russian intelligence officers.
On February 18, 2001, the FBI was able to catch Hanssen in the act of filling a dead drop with classified materials for the Russians. He was arrested on the spot. On July 6, 2001, Hanssen pleaded guilty to 15 espionage-related charges.

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