May 11th, 2007 06:24 EST
The New FBI, Informants and Surveillance
On May 7, using our investigative and intelligence capabilities—from undercover operations to informants and surveillance—we foiled an attack on a New Jersey military base by a group of homegrown extremists acting in the name of jihad.
Even as we look back on the successful prevention of a terrorist attack, we are left to ask: how do we—we in the FBI and we as a nation—prevent people like these living within our borders from becoming radicalized in the first place ... from taking their faith or political beliefs to the extremes of plotting acts of violence and destruction?
It's a difficult, complex issue—one that the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has been examining in a series of hearings in recent months. On Thursday, our top public affairs exec—John Miller—spoke to the committee about our strategies for addressing the threat of radicalization.
His testimony is posted online, and as you can read, we are doing quite a bit on this issue and have made many inroads over the past six years. Our strategy centers on creating avenues for a free, frank dialogue to achieve a true partnership with Muslim Americans.
Regular conference calls between the FBI Director and a variety of national Arab-American and Muslim organizations, which lead to action items for us or community based organizations to carry out and follow-up on during the next call;
Innovative grassroots programs by each of our 56 field offices to meet the specific needs of groups within their domains;
Local Citizen Academies that allow community leaders from all walks of life to see the FBI from the inside and engage us on a very personal level;
Our Community Relations Executive Seminar Training, or CREST, courses, which operate like Citizen Academies but on a smaller scale and with curriculums chosen by the participants to address their immediate concerns; and
A variety of programs and conferences for teens and youth in minority communities, which encourage not only good citizenship among these young people but also possible future careers with the FBI.
Measuring progress. Even with the difficulty of assessing what truly lies in the hearts and minds of many different people, we can point to some concrete achievements. A few mentioned in the testimony:
"Today, the Director of the FBI can pick up the phone and talk to leaders from the various communities in an instant; three or four years ago, that would not have been possible. … Throughout the country, Arab Americans regularly participate in Citizens Academies; three or four years ago, that did not take place. Today, FBI Headquarters measures whether outreach efforts across the 56 field divisions are being carried out effectively. Two years ago, we could not do that."
"We now have partners in the Arab-American and Muslim communities. Some have become publicly declared allies in our efforts to condemn terrorism. They have become our bridge to many who viewed the FBI with either contempt, or worse, fear. They now come through the doors of the FBI and feel free to share their views on sensitive issues."
"And while we realize—all too well—that we are going to have disagreements with these same communities, we are talking. And, given the circumstances of today's world, that is what matters most."
Yes, and even though a long road remains ahead, we must—and we will—keep doing our part to create a world where trust and meaningful dialogue replaces fear and violence. It's the ultimate prevention strategy.