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International Law Enforcement Programs of the FBI

International Law Enforcement Programs of the FBI

The Threat of International Organized Crime and Global Terrorism and the International Law Enforcement Programs of the Federal Bureau of Investigation: Statement of Louis J. Freeh, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Before the House International Relations Committee, United States House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., October 1, 1997.


Good afternoon, Chairman Gilman and members of the committee. It is a pleasure to be joined by Dr. Giovanni de Gennaro, Deputy Director, Italian National Police.

At the outset, I would like to congratulate Giovanni de Gennaro on the recent convictions and life sentences imposed upon 24 mafia figures for the 1992 bombing that killed Judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three police officers.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you and members of this committee for the opportunity to discuss the threat from organized crime and global terrorism and the FBI's international law enforcement programs.

The FBI serves as the principal investigative agency of the federal government, and is responsible for detecting and investigating crimes against the United States and performing other duties connected with national security. Unlike other federal law enforcement agencies that have more specialized missions, the FBI's mission extends across the full spectrum of federal offenses.

In recent years that spectrum and the FBI's domestic law enforcement and national security missions have expanded. In the first half of this century, the FBI earned its reputation as the preeminent law enforcement agency because of our response to the advent of interstate crime. We now stand witness to an unprecedented growth in transnational crime. Contributing to this growth is the end of the cold war, the emergence of truly global economies and the explosion of new computer and telecommunications technologies. As Chairman Gilman so eloquently described before the European Institute last week, acts of terrorism, the theft of nuclear materials in Europe, organized crime, computer crime and drug trafficking no longer are constrained by boundaries or inhibited by global distances.

Inevitably, in the global economy I referred to, the United States also has become a major importer of crime. We are the center of the financial universe and the leader of the free world. As a consequence, everything from telemarketing fraud and other facets of financial institution fraud to the more traditional drug and organized crime comes regularly to our shores. Sadly, terrorism has come as well. The international exporters of crime and terrorism, who capitalize on the vulnerable free society include South American drug cartels, terrorists from the Middle East, and an array of organized crime groups from Europe, the former Soviet Republics and Asia. Regardless of origin, these and other international crimes daily impact directly on our citizens and our economy.

Regrettably, amazing modern technology and transportation has, with all of their enormous benefits, also given us a world where terrorists bomb targets in New York City and conspire to blow up tunnels and federal buildings. Where American soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia are killed in a terrorist bomb attack, where a criminal in St. Petersburg, Russia, can steal over ten million dollars from Citibank in New York using only his computer, where U.S. citizens are kidnapped by narco guerillas in Colombia, South America, where terrorists plot to place bombs aboard American passenger aircraft in Asia, and where the threat of proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction that remain under the control of the former states of the Soviet Union still exist. These are not the crimes of tomorrow.

Because a substantial portion of FBI cases have some foreign connection, international crime has rapidly become one of the most important challenges to face the United States and the law enforcement community. We must act to develop the strategies necessary to address these challenges now and to minimize the impact of international crime on the citizens, economy, and national security of the United States. Our success is going to be measured by how thoroughly we prepare for what is upon us and how quickly we respond to the emergence of international crime.

As an example of how small the globe has become, just last week I signed an agreement with the German Federal Criminal Police that allows them instant electronic access to the National Crime Information Center's stolen vehicle and boat database. A large number of vehicles stolen in the United States have been illegally exported and sold in Europe. This new arrangement will enable the German Federal Police to instantly check the status of a suspicious vehicle without the delay of relaying requests through the ordinary protocols. Such instantaneous exchanges of information have become increasingly critical, and we are working with our foreign law enforcement counterparts to extend such exchanges of information.

Further, we are at a unique position in modern history where we can help contribute to the development of professional law enforcement agencies in foreign countries. We can do this by promoting the rule of law in the former Soviet Union's newly independent states, and by building cop-to-cop relationships with our overseas counterparts. Without these relationships, we will not have the commonality of purpose and open communication required for effectively combating international crime. Commonality of purpose is not about a transitional liaison relationship. It is about a long-term commitment and should be read in the broadest context. It means dedication to mission and the rule of law.

International Law Enforcement Programs

There are three key elements to the FBI's international law enforcement initiative. First, the FBI must have an active overseas presence that fosters the establishment of effective working relationships with foreign law enforcement agencies. There is already a well-documented history of our Legal Attaches who have drawn upon their investigative experiences and backgrounds and enlisted the cooperation of foreign law enforcement on innumerable cases enabling the arrest of many U.S. fugitives and solving serious U.S. crimes.

Second, training foreign law enforcement officers in both basic and advanced investigative techniques and principles is a powerful tool for promoting cooperation. We use the FBI's National Academy program as our model. For decades it has fostered comity with state and local law enforcement agencies.

Finally, institution building is necessary to help establish and foster the rule of law in newly democratic republics. Establishing rule of law will promote greater confidence and stability in these new governments by their citizens. This is a foreign policy and national security consideration for the United States. Stability will also provide an environment more conducive to protecting United States interests and citizens in those countries.

These initiatives draw upon my own experiences with the Italian-American Working Group (IAWG) when I served as an agent and a federal prosecutor. This group continues to show how effective the cooperative effort between United States and Italian law enforcement is. The IAWG mounted a coordinated and sustained attack against the Sicilian mafia. The success of the IAWG framework resulted from developing cop-to-cop partnerships and focusing upon a common and agreed upon strategy.

This man sitting with me represents the very epitome of what can happen when countries join together to fight international crime. Giovanni de Gennaro has in many respects been the lynch pin in our highly successful efforts. He is courageous and farsighted and he has ensured our mutual interests in destroying the mafia are carried on as vigorously abroad as they are here.

I firmly believe the FBI's initiatives in response to the problem of international crime are based upon sound and proven approaches that have been successfully used here and abroad. This approach must now be extended to other partners in the international arena.

Legal Attache Program

The first element of the FBI's international law enforcement initiative is the Legal Attache program. The FBI has long recognized the need for assigning personnel to American embassies abroad. The FBI first began assigning personnel abroad during World War II. Agents who serve as Legal Attaches are among our most experienced investigators. They possess appropriate security clearances, and, with very few exceptions, are fluent in the language of the country to which they are posted.

FBI Legal Attaches are truly our first line of defense in keeping foreign-based crime as far away from American shores as possible and combating more effectively those criminal enterprises that do reach our borders. By stationing agents abroad and establishing operational links with foreign law enforcement and security agencies, the FBI substantially expands the nation's perimeter of law enforcement protection.

At the present time, the FBI operates 32 Legal Attache offices around the world, staffed by 82 agents and 62 support employees. During 1995, these employees handled over 11,200 matters, ranging from kidnapping to drug trafficking, from terrorism to money laundering, from financial fraud to extortion. These agents and support staff serve as the conduit through which law enforcement information and cooperation flow between the United States and its foreign partners.

All FBI field offices have sought Legat assistance in covering leads, with the largest portion coming from major metropolitan offices. More than 80% of the current case load handled by Legat offices is in direct support of domestic FBI investigation not only covering leads, but organizing the arrest and extradition to the U.S. of wanted criminals.

With my colleague Giovanni de Gennaro sitting here, I would like to mention the close working relationship our Legat office in Rome has with the Italian National Police. FBI agents and the Italian National Police have worked side-by-side on investigations into the assassinations of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino by the Sicilian mafia.

The Legat office in Moscow--opened in July 1994 as part of our expansion plan--provides another excellent example. It opened with a caseload of approximately 35 cases; three years later, Moscow's caseload totals 284, covering some 150 leads from U.S. FBI investigations. We opened the Moscow office because Russian-related crimes were increasing in certain U.S. cities. We quickly learned, as a result of increased inquiries from FBI field offices and growing cooperation with Russian authorities, that the problem was more extensive than we had thought.

News reports of international terrorism, drug trafficking and transnational economic crime remind us daily of the increasingly global nature of crime. Recall the headline story of January 25, 1993. Five Americans on the way to work are shot by a terrorist outside of CIA Headquarters in McLean, Virginia--two die. On June 17, 1997, Mir Aimal Kansi was arrested for the crime and brought to the United States for trial. The capture of a criminal many believed was out of our reach was a direct result of unprecedented cooperation between the FBI, CIA, State Department and foreign law enforcement officials working together.

Earlier this year, an employee of a Jacksonville, Florida, armored car company perpetrated a robbery of almost 19 million dollars in cash. Just a few weeks ago he was arrested crossing the Mexican border into the United States. An investigation conducted by our Legat office in Mexico City identified the hiding place for the stolen money in North Carolina. As a direct result of Legat Mexico's efforts, 99.4% of the money was recovered.

These case examples represent a very early return on Congress' confidence and investment in our Legat Expansion Program. We need them in key locations around the world.

Until FY 1995, agents served in only 23 countries. This group included Mexico, Colombia, Russia, and Hong Kong. Without these Legat offices, we would not have been prepared to deal the threats of drug cartels, Russian gangs or the Yakuza.

The threat of international crime and terrorism continues to expand and grow exponentially. In my early career as an agent, organized crime was focused on the traditional La Cosa Nostra. Today, it includes groups from Asia and Eastern Europe. Early in my tenure as Director, I tasked our criminal and national security experts to develop a plan to address the emerging organized crime threats. A major facet of their recommendation was an expansion of the Legat program. We need to be on the ground where the crimes and conspiracies originate. We need to have agents in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere.

There's an old agent's expression - we are only as good as our information. We need Agent-Legats to be stationed where they can have access to information in a timely fashion, where other foreign law enforcement colleagues can provide this information in an arms-length fashion. Even if we cannot prevent a Khobar Towers bombing, we need the capability to respond without delay. If international crime victimizes our citizens in New York or Moscow, the American public must be confident in our capability to respond.

Legats are the FBI's first line of defense beyond our borders. They are part of a sensible permanent presence that is alert to the potential perils around the world on a 24 hour a day basis. Their goals are simple--to keep foreign crime as far from American shores as possible and to help solve those international crimes that have preyed upon us, as rapidly as possible.

Finally, it is important to note that FBI agents stationed overseas are not intelligence officers or shadow intelligence officers. They do not engage in espionage. The FBI's Legats are in place to facilitate the international battle against crime and terrorism.

International Training Program

The second element of the FBI's international law enforcement initiative is training. The FBI considers training of foreign law enforcement officers to be particularly critical to combating international crime. This training is especially needed by the countries of the former Soviet Union. These newly independent states realize that success in earning the confidence of their citizens in law enforcement agencies depends upon the development of professional law enforcement officers who understand and operate under the rule of law. In return for this investment in training programs, the FBI is able to work cooperatively with foreign law enforcement agencies that share a common perspective and understanding of investigative procedures. During the past three years, the FBI has provided training for 6,746 foreign law enforcement personnel from over forty countries.

Through a program of in-country training, the FBI conducts one and two-week schools in foreign nations which are designed to meet a country's particular training needs. The schools concentrate on subjects such as basic and advanced police operations, technical skills, ethics, and internal police controls. Senior FBI agents serve as instructors, bringing their knowledge and expertise to these programs. Their credibility is not only essential for effective instruction, but also very effective for building the cop-to-cop bridges that we so critically need. During fiscal year 1996, 52 in-country training courses were conducted for 2,078 students from 21 countries.

Practical Case Training (PCT) is also an important part of the FBI's international training program. Practical Case Training is an on-the-job training program that enables foreign police entities and FBI agents to work together on actual investigations of mutual interest. This initiative has resulted in a number of successful investigations. Under this program, Russian Federation Ministry of the Interior (MVD) officers traveled to the FBI's New York field office to participate in an unprecedented cooperative investigation targeting Russian organized crime figure Yvacheslov Kirillovich Ivankov. Ivankov led an international criminal organization with operations in the U.S., Europe and Canada. Russian MVD officers worked side-by-side with FBI agents on this investigation and were able to recognize and decipher codes used by the Ivankov organized crime group. This immeasurably aided the investigation and directly led to the conviction of Ivankov and five of his associates.

International Law Enforcement Academy

The third element of the FBI's international law enforcement initiative is the International Law Enforcement Academy or ILEA in Budapest, Hungary. The Academy serves as a law enforcement training center for officers from many Eastern European and Eurasian nations and Russia. Instructors at the Academy represent a true cross-section of federal law enforcement agencies, including subject experts from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, United States Customs Service, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. We have also used law enforcement instructors from other countries and the European Law Enforcement College.

All participants agree that ILEA is a tremendous success. The Academy is currently in its twelfth session. To date, there have been 497 students trained in the eight-week program at ILEA. A total of 20 countries have participated in this training.

Training at the Academy is designed to meet the needs of participating countries. For example, the FBI and the Department of Defense recently provided counter proliferation training to law enforcement officers from the nations of Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan. This training is of international importance in preventing hostile nations from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities. More importantly, we are building cop-to-cop relationships not only between law enforcement from the United States and participating countries, but also between officers from participating countries themselves.

The Academy has also fostered cooperation between nations. Hungarians and Romanians have executed various memorandums of understanding (MOUs) because of their introduction to various officials while attending ILEA. These law enforcement MOUs were the foundation for national treaties between the countries regarding human rights and minority issues.

Ukraine and Hungary have established a close working relationship on their border as a result of their students attending the Academy. Together, they have apprehended organized crime members that have ties to U.S. cells.

Baltic countries have sought FBI assistance on organized crime matters that directly affect U.S. national security. It was former ILEA graduates who spearheaded the contacts with U.S. law enforcement. Polish students used techniques learned at the Academy to detect and subsequently dismantle a clandestine drug laboratory. Some of these drugs were destined for the U.S. These are just a few examples of the success stories coming out of the Academy.


We are confronted on a daily basis with the reality that the safety and security of American citizens is increasingly threatened here and abroad by criminals who know no boundaries. The front page story in Monday's Washington Post, describing a criminal alliance between Latin American drug traffickers and Russian organized crime groups, illustrates this growing threat. The only way to reduce that threat is to create and develop substantive international links--personal networks of law enforcement professionals dedicated to bringing these criminals to justice. I feel strongly that the FBI is addressing the threat of international organized crime and terrorism through the international law enforcement initiatives that I have just described. However, we must continually reexamine and assess international crime problems. Currently this assessment calls for an expansion of the Legat program. The above cited examples clearly illustrate that the expansion our Legat program experienced in FY 96 and FY 97 has been invaluable to the FBI. We now have solid relationships with police and security agencies in countries which are crucial to addressing crime in the U.S.

The overseas program of the FBI is the most effective tool available in protecting our nation from the threat of international organized crime and global terrorism. Increasingly, crime in the United States is influenced from outside our borders. It is essential that we have experienced FBI personnel posted in foreign countries to enable us to get the information we need to accomplish our domestic mission.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my prepared remarks. Before I begin to respond to your questions, I would like to take this opportunity to commend you personally, and all the members of the committee. On the House side, under your chairmanship, this committee, as well as the Appropriations Committee, under Chairman Rogers, have taken leadership roles in meeting the challenges of international crime matters and terrorism. By recognizing the early signs of the emerging trends of crime being exported to the United States, you demanded more than vigilance from the FBI. It was with this committee's support that ILEA came into being and the process of identifying the world's trouble spots for the establishment of additional Legat offices was moved from a planning board to reality. Let me end by expressing to you, Mr. Chairman, and the committee the sincerest gratitude of the FBI and law enforcement agencies throughout the world.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).