10 FBI Units You've Probably Never Heard Of
The FBI’s explosive post 9/11 growth – expanding by thousands of agents and technical personnel – has coincided with a flourishing of below-the-radar FBI units that effectively form the country’s “break glass” national emergency response team. You’ve heard about the FBI’s significantly expanded counter-terrorism role, but they’ve also added dozens (!) of special units dealing with unique problems, like how to secure critical assets, how to track foreign agents inside the U.S., how to clandestinely monitor sensitive technology being developed by academia, and how to defeat an adversary’s ability to track FBI agents and their investigations. Many of these units have no public footprint; you can try to Google them, but you won’t get anything back. Their names don’t show up in FBI budget documents, either – at least, not the unclassified ones.
Here are ten we find particularly interesting:
Clandestine Technical Operations Unit (Counterintelligence Division): The interagency unit operates the classified $300 million intelligence collection enterprise inside the U.S, focusing on counterintelligence and counter-espionage. Primary planner and approval authority for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court-approved monitoring and undercover joint surveillance operations.... Conducts liaison with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
Critical National Asset Unit (Counterintelligence Division):Main program to protect national security technology and intellectual property deemed to be “critical national assets” from subversion, theft and sabotage. More than 6,000 “key assets” are designed worthy of protection. FBI agents at field offices conduct counterintelligence risk assessments, and through partnerships with private companies who own the assets,develop threat detection and protection leads. Also works on government entities such as the DOD, DNI, NRO, CIA, Treasury, DOE, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Oversees the National Critical Systems & Technology Joint Task Force. Not to be confused with the FBI’s National Assets Response Unit.
Human Intelligence Management Unit (Intelligence Division): Oversees some 500 FBI national intelligence collection specialists, managing all operations involving human sources. One of the largest intelligence units. Maintains the Delta database system to identify and deconflict confidential human sources across all sector areas.
Proactive Data Exploitation Unit (Counterterrorism Division): FBI’s original data mining unit, able to analyze available datasets through bulk data and geospatial analysis in support of high-priority investigations. Forms partnerships with IC and private industry to procure and manipulate data sources.
Sensitive Operations Support Unit (Operational Technology Division): Select team that provides classified court-authorized covert operations and search activities on behalf of FBI and other federal agencies. May also work with the CIA, Pentagon intelligence organizations , and the Joint Special Operations Command on overseas missions requiring a federal law enforcement presence for interrogation or intelligence exploitation.
Special Technologies and Applications Section (National Security Branch): Digital evidence exploitation unit created after 9/11. Charged with developing and finding methods of exploiting electronic media (e.g., cell phone, laptop, IOT) in support of high priority investigations.
Strategic Exploitation Unit (Clandestine Operations Section): Project management addressing threats directed at telecommunications, industrialization l control systems, and other technology sectors. Oversees domestic and international cyber intrusions and offensive matters. Conducts insider threat and countermeasures program.-
Tactical Helicopter Unit (Critical Incident Response Group): Direct support for FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), able torespond within four hours of notification for counter-terrorism or criminal emergencies requiring national FBI assets. Located in Quantico, VA, also has a clandestine mission to evacuate the FBI Director and key staff from Washington during emergencies in the National Capital Region. Often deploys with the FBI’s Rapid Deployment Logistics Unit, which brings in command posts, fixed-wing assets, and personnel.
Tactical Operations Support Center (Technical Operations Division): Manages the FBI's Surreptitious Entry Program and is responsible for the planning, coordination and execution of field covert entry/search operations under the authority of Title Ill or Title 50 court orders, or lawful Executive Branch orders in support of investigative matters within the FBI or any other federal, state, or local law enforcement agency. The Center is located at an “offsite” covert facility in Virginia.
Team 10 (Counterterrorism Division) Unit located at the NSA at Ft. Meade, MD and in charge of exploiting intelligence relating to significant counter-terrorism operations. Involved in the STELLARWIND bulk surveillance special access program, charged with disseminating intelligence collected by the program to field offices, assigning “action leads” for names uncovered by the surveillance dragnet.