TUCoPS :: Cyber Law :: 3fbipri.txt

Foreign Counterintelligence

                         AN FBI PRIORITY                    

                       James E. Tomlinson
                     Special Agent in Charge 
              Foreign Counterintelligence Division
                        FBI Field Office
                     New York City, New York

     To law enforcement agencies and the American public, the
FBI is recognized traditionally for its criminal investigations
of bank robberies, kidnapings, and fugitives.  Within the last
decade, they also came to learn about the Bureau's active
participation in organized crime, white-collar crime, violent
crime, and drug investigations.  However, few Americans realize
that a major investigative responsibility of the FBI is foreign
counterintelligence (FCI).

     This article provides a brief overview of the FBI's foreign
counterintelligence mission.  It then addresses how local and
State law enforcement can assist the FBI in its FCI efforts.


     The foreign counterintelligence mission of the FBI is to
collect, analyze, and use information to identify and neutralize
the activities of foreign powers and their agents that adversely
affect national security.  The Bureau also conducts and/or
supervises espionage investigations in U.S. diplomatic
establishments abroad and investigates worldwide espionage
activity directed against the United States that involves
non-military U.S. citizens.

     Historically, the FBI has carried on major intelligence and
counterintelligence operations since World War II, when it
actively sought out Axis saboteurs operating in this country.
Even after the war, the FBI played a role in civilian
intelligence collection.  However, when the National Security
Act of 1947 established the Central Intelligence Agency, which
was given the responsibility for collecting positive
intelligence, (1) the FBI's focus was directed to

     Since FCI investigations are usually classified, little
information on the FBI's efforts is ever disseminated to the
public.  Only in major espionage cases, such as those involving
William Holden Bell, the John Walker family, and Ronald Pelton,
did the public even get a glimpse into the Bureau's
counterintelligence world.  Yet, espionage activity still exists
in this country.  Between 1976 and 1990, there were 67
successful prosecutions for espionage in the United States.

     The damage caused by these cases from a financial
perspective alone is incalculable.  For example, William Holden
Bell, a senior radar engineer at Hughes Aircraft Company in Los
Angeles, California, received $110,000 for information passed to
Marian Zacharski, a Polish businessman and covert agent for the
Polish Intelligence Service.  The information Bell provided on
the F-15 Look Down-Shoot Down Radar, TOW anti-tank missile,
Phoenix air-to-air missile, and quiet radar saved the Soviets
(2) approximately $185 million in technological research and
advanced their technology by about 5 years by permitting them to
implement proven design concepts. (3)  But, the dangers placed
on each and every U.S. citizen from a national security
standpoint cannot be measured in dollar figures alone.

     Arrests and prosecutions for espionage, however, make up
only a minute portion of the FCI work that the FBI does.  Of
greater importance is the ability to identify those involved in
espionage activities and to stop them before they pass
classified or sensitive information.  Early detection of
individuals who might be inclined to sell sensitive information
or who are targeted for coercive recruitment by foreign
intelligence agents to provide such information is the primary
goal of the FBI's foreign counterintelligence program.

     Prosecution will always be an option for deterrence
purposes, but complete success will only be achieved if
detection is accomplished before national security is damaged.
For example, in the case of the John Walker spy ring, the U.S.
Navy suffered an unprecedented loss of classified data that
provided the Soviet Union with information on Naval operations
and capabilities.  It is estimated that damage to national
security was in excess of $1 billion in research and development
alone.  However, as an expert witness and outside observer noted
during the trial, "..the information provided by Walker was
priceless and its acquisition would be beyond the wildest dreams
and hopes in the office of the KGB." (4)


     A sizable portion of the Bureau's work force is dedicated
to its FCI mission.  In fact, every FBI field office has
designated personnel whose primary investigative responsibility
is foreign counterintelligence.  An FCI staff may range in size
from one Special Agent in a small Midwest office to several
hundred in the New York City Office, where foreign
counterintelligence is considered the number one investigative

     Yet, even though the FBI dedicates a sizable portion of its
resources, both personnel and monetary, to counterintelligence,
it is still greatly outnumbered by known or suspected foreign
intelligence officers.  There are nearly 3,000 foreign
diplomatic officials in New York City alone who are affiliated
with the United Nations or with consular posts and who are from
countries with interests traditionally viewed as hostile to the
United States.

     The FBI has determined that a number of these officials are
intelligence officers or have some relationship with foreign
intelligence services.  While in this country, these
intelligence officers enjoy the freedoms of the United States.
They have generally unrestricted access to public source
information, as well as contact with U.S. industrial and
academic personnel from whom they can obtain technology and
other intelligence-related information.  In addition, experience
has shown that a threat to U.S. security also exists from
nontraditional adversaries.  For example, Jonathan Pollard, an
intelligence analyst at the Naval Investigative Service, was
arrested for spying for Israel, for which he received a life
prison sentence.

     Despite the resources devoted to FCI investigations, the
FBI alone cannot monitor all foreign intelligence service
officers adequately.  The Bureau recognizes that it needs help
to protect the security of this country.  And to this end, it
enlists the help of the U.S. law enforcement community in its
FCI mission.


     In cities where most foreign intelligence officers are
assigned, such as New York City and Washington, D.C., the FBI
has a concentration of FCI resources.  However, when foreign
intelligence officers travel outside these areas, they are often
afforded less scrutiny.  Furthermore, individuals not yet
identified as intelligence officers, such as diplomats,
students, or tourists, may also carry out intelligence
functions.  This is where local and State law enforcement can
assist the FBI.

     All law enforcement personnel should be aware of vehicles
registered to foreign embassies, consulates, and U.N. missions,
and their personnel, traveling in their jurisdictions.  These
vehicles can be identified by their distinctive license plates.
Through the Office of Foreign Missions Act, the U.S. State
Department issues special license plates for vehicles of foreign
missions and their staffs accredited in the United States.
These license plates are red, white, and blue and have a letter
code that denotes the status of the registered owner.  The
letter "D" signifies diplomat, "C" means a member of a
consulate, and "S" denotes a staff member.  A separate
two-letter abbreviation on the license plate identifies the
country of origin of the registrant.  For example, the letter
designation for the U.S.S.R. is "FC."  Therefore, a diplomatic
license plate that reads "FCD," along with three numbers, means
that the vehicle is registered to a Soviet diplomat assigned to
the Soviet mission in New York City.  A "DFC" designation
identifies a Soviet bilateral diplomat assigned to Washington,
D.C.  Local FBI offices have wallet-size cards available that
list the various diplomatic designations.

     When these individuals travel outside their diplomatic
area, their activities may be of interest to the FBI.  This is
especially the case if such a license plate is observed in a
rural area, near a U.S. military installation, in the vicinity
of a defense contractor, or for that matter, anywhere at an
unusual time.  Noting the license plate number and reporting it
immediately to the local FBI office may be of great importance.

     Of course, individuals operating these vehicles may be
legitimate diplomats fulfilling their official responsibilities
or just traveling on personal business.  And since only a small
percentage of diplomats are active in clandestine intelligence
operations, no action should be taken against these individuals.
Providing information on the license plate, the number of
occupants, and the location of the vehicle when observed to the
local FBI office is all that is necessary.

     It should be noted, however, that not all individuals
operating vehicles with these official State Department plates
automatically enjoy full diplomatic immunity.  Such immunity is
granted only to those who are accredited by the U.S. Department
of State and only to the extent appropriate to their status.
Distinctive license plates themselves confer no immunity; they
simply alert law enforcement officials that the vehicle's
operator is likely to be a person enjoying some degree of
immunity. (5)

     Law enforcement officers who have any questions regarding
the diplomatic status of any individual need only contact the
local FBI office or the U.S. Department of State.  FBI personnel
can quickly confirm through FBI Headquarters and the State
Department the individual's official standing and accompanying


     Even with the many changes occurring in Eastern Europe and
the Soviet Union, the FBI must maintain a "business as usual"
attitude with regard to counterintelligence operations.  As long
as the United States continues to be a leader in technological
research and design, countries that are less developed will
continue to seek a "quick fix" to solve their economic problems.
Therefore, despite an era of Glasnost or "openness," Americans
cannot afford to disregard the unusual activities of diplomats
and foreign visitors who pose a threat to national security.

     In addition, because of this new "openness," the high rate
of crime and drug problems experienced by Eastern European
countries and the Soviet Union is coming to light.  In their
efforts to address these crime problems, these countries
routinely request assistance from U.S. law enforcement.  Soviet
journalists have requested information regarding laboratory
techniques and drug prevention from both the FBI and the Drug
Enforcement Administration.  More and more, local, State, and
other Federal law enforcement agencies, regardless of size, are
also being approached to provide crime-fighting assistance to
their Eastern European and Soviet counterparts.  And, there is
every reason to believe that these requests for scientific
training and technological information from U.S. agencies will


     Countries seeking assistance from U.S. law enforcement can
benefit from the vast knowledge that has been developed over the
years.  And, because of the unselfish willingness of local,
State, and Federal agencies to provide such assistance, the
world should see significant improvements in the law enforcement
systems operating in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.  This,
in turn, will hopefully result in a more positive image for law
enforcement worldwide.

     As is often the case, but particularly within the law
enforcement community, strong bonds develop between professional
personnel.  However, U.S. law enforcement officers must remain
alert to the distinct possibility of exploitation by Eastern
European countries and the Soviet Union.  Many foreign law
enforcement agencies have strong ties to their intelligence
services.  And, these intelligence services, in turn, are very
interested in access to U.S. law enforcement computer systems,
equipment, training methods, and operational techniques for
intelligence purposes.

     Accordingly, the FBI has expanded its FCI awareness
education program for defense contractors to include U.S. law
enforcement agencies that are involved in exchange programs with
other countries.  Law enforcement agencies are strongly urged to
contact their local FBI offices if they plan to participate in
an exchange program with a foreign police service.  Trained
personnel will provide appropriate specialized briefings that
can help to ensure foreign intelligence services do not gain
information that may be harmful to the interests of national


     The FBI's foreign counterintelligence mission is not as
publicized as its other law enforcement functions.  However,
individuals committing espionage or aiding agents of foreign
intelligence services are often greater threats to the American
public than major criminal offenders.  The collective damages
caused by the John Walker spy ring, Ronald Pelton, William Bell,
and others, the espionage cases that have occurred since 1985,
are beyond financial comprehension.

     The FBI alone cannot hope to identify all intelligence
activity conducted in the United States and actively monitor all
intelligence officers operating in this country.  The
cooperation and assistance of the U.S. law enforcement community
is essential.  By working together, local, State, and Federal
law enforcement personnel can curtail the inimical activities of
foreign intelligence agents in the United States, and thereby,
safeguard the security of this Nation.


     (1)  Positive intelligence refers to information gathered
from both domestic and foreign sources that may be of use to
U.S. Government agencies in fulfilling their responsibilities.

     (2)  At the time, the Polish Intelligence Service was a
surrogate of the KGB, and information acquired by its agents was
funneled directly to Moscow.

     (3)  "Soviet Acquisition of Militarily Significant Western
Technology:  An Update," (unclassified), Central Intelligence
Agency, September 1985, p. 20.

     (4)  Whitworth Trial Transcripts, Federal District Court,
San Francisco, California, 1986.

     (5)  The Office of Foreign Missions has prepared a booklet
entitled "Guidance for Law Enforcement Officers:  Personal
Rights and Immunities of Foreign Diplomats and Consular
Personnel," U.S. Department of State publication No. 9533,
revised February 1988, which provides guidance on this and other
related issues.

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