FBI Citizen's Academy Week 2
These are my notes from the second week of the FBI Citizen's Academy. As always, these are my interpretations and should not be construed to represent any policies of the FBI.
A Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) spoke to us about computer intelligence—the FBI’s number 2 priority – protecting the national security of the US. The goal is to ensure that no outsiders get materials developed here.
Theirs is a regional counterintelligence effort; there are 9 such around the country. There are six regional offices participating, in Tampa; Jacksonville; Miami; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Jackson, MS; and Mobile, AL. They also liaise with business and educational partners.
What it costs to get the information determines its priority. They want people who have placement and access to the information that they need.
There are two kinds of intelligence officers from foreign countries—legal officers and illegal officers. The legal ones are clearly attached to the offices of a foreign government, working in an embassy and supporting the clandestine activities of the illegal officers, who have no ostensible connection either to the foreign government’s offices, or often to the foreign country itself. He gave an example that Cuban illegal officers created fake identities based on the dead children of Mexican migrant workers. These children were born in the US of foreign parents who often were illegals or returned to their home countries.
The Cubans would research in California and Texas to find birth and death records of these children. They would create whole identities for their illegal officers around these records, and thus the agent would have no connection to Cuba at all—records would show he was born in the US of Mexican parents.
It’s hard to find these agents, because they don’t have any ostensible connection to Cuba and don’t associate with other Cubans. They keep their “escape documents” somewhere other than their house—passports, tickets etc. intended for only a one-time use, to escape if their identity is compromised.
FISA is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the FBI to collect information these illegal agents. The FBI may enter a suspect’s residence and copy his computer disks, for example. Then they use the information on those disks to track other agents, both legal and illegal.
The Cuban government often sends high-frequency radio messages to its agents after midnight. By discovering the frequency, the FBI can listen in on these messages and decrypt them.
The Cuban Intelligence Service is one of the top 5 intelligence services in the world, and 85% of their activity is directed toward us. They collect information and then either use it themselves or broker it to other hostile countries for their own political advantage. The FBI has discovered Cuban agents at Boca Chica Naval Air Station, at Southcom, and in other sensitive positions.
“Intelligence is like cabbage at the grocery story—it’s only good for a few days.” This means that intelligence must be gathered continuously to be worthwhile. The FBI will be reluctant to take an intelligence case to trial because they would have to reveal everything they have and how they got it—and that would tip off the illegal agents to the FBI’s intelligence gathering methods.