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