FBI Field Offices Don’t See the Point in Racial Profiling

As I noted earlier, I’m reading the 9/11 Follow-Up Report just completed for FBI. And while there are some interesting insights in it, in general I think the analysis of the report itself is pretty horrible (which is funny because the report says FBI needs more analysts). I’ll have more specific details on that later, but I wanted to point to what the report says about FBI not adopting “Central Strategic Coordinating Components” or CSCCs, which are basically analysts in each Field Office that are supposed to do “domain awareness” for the Field Office. That means they’re supposed to get to know the neighborhood to anticipate any problems that might come up. (As far as I know, no one has ever thought of doing a domain awareness for Wall Street, in spite of all the new threats that pop up there over and over.)

As the report makes clear, every Field Office is supposed to have someone doing this. But, as documents obtained by ACLU under FOIA have shown, it often amounts to racial profiling, whether that be Muslims or Latinos or something else. And, at least given the NYPD example, where their domain awareness program never found any plot (and didn’t find two plots covered by this FBI report, notably the Najibullah Zazi attack), there’s no evidence I know of that they actually help to prevent crimes.

Yet rather than analyzing whether this concept serves any purpose whatsoever, it instead says, “it’s corporate policy, no one is doing it well, so it needs to improve.” (Note, most of the named people interviewed for the report are not FBI agents, and many come from CIA or another intelligence agency; John Brennan, who almost certainly had a role in setting up NYPD on the Hudson, for example, was interviewed.)

What I find particularly remarkable is what the report found in the field.

According to one anecdote, 20% of analysts (not even Field Agents!) understand the point of this. And even in offices where they do understand, the Field Agents won’t do their part by going and filling in the blanks analysts identify.

Call me crazy. But maybe the people responding to actual crimes believe they learn enough in that process — and are plenty busy enough trying to catch criminals — that they don’t see the point of racially profiling people like NYPD does? Maybe they believe the ongoing threats are where the past ones of have been, and there’s no need to spend their time investigating where there aren’t crimes in case there ever are in the future?

I don’t know. But I think the Field Agents might be onto something.

Update, 3/27: Adding, there seems to be a logic problem with this too. Another big push for the FBI — a more understandable one, but not without risks of its own — is that FBI partner much more closely with local cops. If the local cops are doing their job well, wouldn’t they provide the “domain awareness” FBI needs? This is actually a point a senior FBI manager noted in discussing its relationship with ODNI (see page 92). Admittedly, a lot of cops are occupiers rather than local stewards of safety, but that’s a separate problem.

Update, 3/27: The report returns to domain awareness again, pointing to that as the one thing that can differentiate between a domestic security agency and an intelligence agency.

As the FBI began its transformation into a national security organization, at the heart of that transformation was the concept of domain awareness. Domain awareness reflected the realization that the FBI could not be reactive and wait for cases to develop, it had to proactively seek to understand its environment. From the Review Commission’s perspective, that means that domain analysis, which attempts to capture what is known and identify gaps for further collection, is at the heart of the FBI’s transformation into a domestic intelligence agency, and it needs to be a process informed by everything the USIC has to offer. This includes all information from local sources—law enforcement, colleges and universities, and prisons—to which other parts of the USIC do not have access. Robust domain analysis will allow the FBI to harness its considerable skill at collection and source development in support of identifying new threats in addition to collecting against known threats. A failure to achieve that goal will leave the US with a domestic security service rather than a domestic intelligence agency, and with a vulnerability to homegrown threats that fall outside the purview of our foreign intelligence establishment.316

(U) CSCCs are responsible for the FBI’s domain awareness and analysis. Each field office is required to establish a CSCC. The groups are comprised of small groups of intelligence analysts who are tasked to produce foundational documents such as Domain Intelligence Notes (DINs) and Threat Mitigation Strategies (TMSs). They also expose information gaps and guide special agents’ planned or incidental collection efforts. Effective CSCCs are critical to ensuring that field office efforts are threat-based and intelligence-driven.

(U) But during its field office visits, the Review Commission observed an uneven application of the CSCC concept and that many field offices struggled with effectively operating its CSCC. In the majority of the field offices the Review Commission visited, the CSCCs were not performing their intended functions. 215 Many of the intelligence analysts who were initially assigned to the CSCC had been moved to operational squads to provide tactical support to case agents, leaving the CSCC understaffed and unable to fulfill its primary mission.216 In some field offices, CSCC analysts were so involved in tactical support that their DINs and TMSs languished until the SAC accounted for them in the office’s mid and year-end reviews.217

(U) A centerpiece of the FBI’s intelligence framework is domain analysis, which entails the ability to understand what is happening in a given area of operations using all available sources of data. Accordingly, domain management is the FBI’s systematic process to develop strategic awareness in order to: identify and prioritize threats, vulnerabilities, and intelligence gaps; contribute to the efficient allocation of resources and operational decisions; discover new opportunities for collection; and set tripwires to provide advance warning.218 The Review Commission strongly believes that the field offices must prioritize collection opportunities to identify, develop, and pursue new intelligence leads in concert with their ongoing investigations.

(U) In many field offices we visited there was only one intelligence analyst left on the CSCC to conduct domain analysis for the field office and even then they spent much of their time mapping existing incidents and/or efforts. There was no observable forward looking aspect to the work. From the Review Commission’s observations, even when the DINs and TMSs are produced they are not generally valued at the field office-level as parts of a comprehensive intelligence collection plan (e.g., the plan that establishes the field’s baseline knowledge, identifies intelligence gaps, and informs the field’s strategy to mitigate new threats).219 In one field office we were told that an analyst had produced a comprehensive collection plan but it was ignored by the special agents who would have to implement it.220 We attribute this to a special agent-driven culture that still does not necessarily understand the value of filling intelligence collection requirements and, therefore, renders this overall mission a lower priority than it should be. It can also be attributed to the lack of sufficient leadership to hold field office personnel accountable for intelligence as well as criminal responsibilities.


215 (U) Some offices demonstrated a much higher comprehension of the CSCC concept and value and consequently provided higher levels of resources to facilitate mission success. The Review Commission would like to commend, however, the one field office that acknowledged that it was struggling with creating an effective CSCC and planned to visit another field office that is believed to be doing a better job so as to learn how others are operating a CSCC and perhaps identify best practices to bring back and implement. Memorandum for the Record, July 28, 2014.

216 (U) One intelligence analyst speculated the CSCC concept was widely misunderstood across the FBI because the benefit to special agents is unclear. The intelligence analyst also estimated that approximately 20 percent of analysts understood the meaning and purpose of the CSCC. Memorandum for the Record, September 17, 2014.

217 (U) Memorandum for the Record, August 14, 2014.

218 (U) Federal Bureau of Intelligence, Directorate of Intelligence, Intelligence Program Corporate Policy Directive and Policy Implementation Guide, May 2, 2013: 62.

219 (U) Memorandum for the Record, September 19, 2014.

220 (U) Memorandum for the Record, July 29, 2014.

6 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    “.. and are plenty busy enough trying to catch criminals”
    Actually in New York City the cops were putting a big damper on actual serious crime response, reporting and investigation, and instead concentrating on minor infractions — jaywalking and seatbelts. Somebody in your house got shot? Come down to the station house with another witness and fill out some forms sometime this afternoon or forget it. –It has to do with announcing decreases in crimes, plus the joy of harassing citizens.
    The FBI as we know has a whole different M.O., going for convictions whether guilty or innocent.

  2. Anon says:

    That means they’re supposed to get to know the neighborhood to anticipate any problems that might come up. (As far as I know, no one has ever thought of doing a domain awareness for Wall Street, in spite of all the new threats that pop up there over and over.)

    Actually this is often the justification provided when the president nominates someone from Wall Street such as Eric Holder to oversee it. Indeed the routine excuse that apologists such as the WSJ offer for the revolving door is that the regulators need to “understand” the industry. Other people call this “Regulatory Capture.”
    Of course the FBI has yet to hit on the idea of appointing muslim analysts for muslim populations.

  3. bloopie2 says:

    Everyone already knows that the Fusion Centers are useless; this is just another incarnation of that idea. You think the FBI field agents, who are well trained and very good at their crime-fighting jobs, and who know that NYPD was useless, want to step into that crap? They’re not that stupid.

  4. P J Evans says:

    Wasn’t if FBI field agents who first noticed the 9/11 hijackers, and couldn’t get attention from their higher-ups?

  5. wallace says:

    This report simply highlights the proliferation of programs and organizations to further the WOT while identifying they are fucking useless and a waste of taxpayers hard earned money, notwithstanding the expansion of the intelligence collectivists appetite for your privacy, rights, and property.
    However, in order to REALLY understand the depth of the IC and LE cesspool, one can do no better than to read the report generated by the hearings of the Sub-Committee on Constitutional Rights held in 1975. Given you have the time to read it, I guarantee, it will astound you. Even then, the dangers of the growing “surveillance state” were being discovered daily, to which certain Congressional powers were trying to identify and reign in, over and over and over. What is becoming increasingly clear, is the battle line between “intelligence” and “privacy” has now shifted dangerously to the point of tyranny. PERIOD.

    Here is the preface:


    In early 1975, soon after I became Chairman of the Senate’s Ju-
    diciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, I asked the Subcom-
    mittee staff to initiate a long-term, comprehensive investigation of the
    technological aspects of surveillance.

    I was concerned about this issue for a number of reasons. First as a
    Representative and then as a Senator from California, a State known
    for the number and quality of its high technology centers, I had been
    exposed for over ten years to the substantial social benefits that derive
    from our national commitment to innovative technology.

    However, as Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Science
    and Technology and as a member of the Joint Atomic Energy Commit-
    tee, I was alscTaware that high technology, if sequestered beyond the
    reach of evaluation and criticism, tends to develop its own impera-
    tives, some of them potentially damaging to the larger social good,
    and that “science policy” had gradually disintegrated, becoming an
    empty slogan, a rhetorical device evoking positive responses but con-
    tributing little to the shape of difficult decisions that will profoundly
    affect the lives of future generations.

    My growing sense of unease focused sharply when, as the successor
    to Chairman Sam Ervin. I assumed major responsibilities for pro-
    tecting the privacy of individual American citizens. Like many con-
    scientious readers of newspapers and magazines, I had become alarmed
    about the undeniable and frightening proliferation of technological
    means to invade a person’s privacy, but now I had the duty to act

    In commissioning a study of surveillance technology, I reasoned as
    follows : If knowledge is power, then certainly the secret and unlimited
    acquisition of the most detailed knowledge about the most intimate as-
    pects of a person’s thoughts and actions conveys extraordinary power
    over that person’s life and reputation to the snooper who possesses the
    highly personal information. And by vastl}- expanding the range and
    power of the snooper’s eyes, ears and brains, the new technology facili-
    tates and magnifies the acquisition and use of such information.
    Moreover, as long as surveillance technology remains unregulated and
    continues to grow at an accelerating rate, the free and enriching exer-
    cise of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
    will inevitably be chilled to the point of immobility by the general
    awareness that Big Brother commands the tools of omniscience.

    The Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights has held the first three
    days of projected series of hearings on the topic of surveillance tech-
    nology. In one sense the report that follows is a status report : it shows
    what we have learned about the subject to date, drawing upon our own
    hearings and investigations and upon work conducted in other forums.
    But in another sense this report goes beyond other efforts in the same
    genre because it represents a first attempt to organize an immense
    amount of data in a comprehensive and usable format and to provide
    a Framework for future analyses and, ultimately, for the creation of
    institutional mechanisms that will diminish the threats posed by sur-
    veillance technology. “unquote

    JOHN V. TUNNEY, California, Chairman 1975” unquote


    My apology to emptywheel for using this comment space for posting this. However, I feel the more informed people are to the historical record of the roots of the surveillance state, the better they understand how deep the cesspool has become.

Comments are closed.