Special Advisory

Embargoed for Monday, August 28 (6:30 p.m. Sunday)

Number of FBI Intelligence Officers Surges

Warrants Rise for Electronic Surveillance and Physical
Break-ins to Combat Terrorists and Spies

FBI Drug Convictions Sharply Higher

Syracuse, N.Y.--August 28--FBI intelligence officers almost quintupled in number during the Clinton years, jumping from 224 in 1992 to 1,025 in 1999, according to federal employment data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

The actual duties of the intelligence officers are not known. But the government's handbook on occupations says that the FBI employees assigned to this category are involved in the "collection, analysis, evaluation, interpretation and dissemination of information on political, economic, social, cultural, physical, geographic, scientific or military conditions, trends and forces in foreign and domestic areas which directly or indirectly affect the national security."

[For more information about these and many other findings about recent FBI enforcement activities--go to]

FBI Director Louis Freeh and the Clinton Administration have made no secret about their belief that terrorists, spies, computer hackers and other such threats represent a growing danger to the United States. The highly classified nature of the government's efforts in this area, however, means that almost no public information is available about the resources the agency devotes to dealing with the problem.

The surge in the number of FBI intelligence officers is not the only sign of the administration's increasing concern. A second authoritative indication is the steady growth in special judicial warrants for electronic surveillance and physical break-ins obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). These warrants--specifically restricted to combating counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence activities and mostly executed by the FBI--climbed from 484 in 1992 to 886 in 1999.

According to federal prosecutors, the apparent surge in various kinds of FBI investigative activities aimed at terrorists and spies is producing very few court actions. In 1998, for example, only 45 of the FBI's 12,730 convictions involved what the department classified as internal security or terrorism matters.

Partly because the FBI is reluctant to disclose its counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism investigative techniques, the agency often resists initiating cases that necessarily would be tried in open courtrooms. Experienced law enforcement officials say that this concern is one reason why so few of the agency's investigations ever result in formal charges.

Other new findings:

  The Clinton years saw a major increase in the FBI effort against illegal drugs. From 1992 to 1998, for example, FBI drug convictions increased from 1,925 to 3,253--a 69% jump. Expressed another way, the proportion of all FBI convictions categorized as involving drugs went from 18% to 26%.

 The overall performance trends of the FBI improved in several areas during the last seven years. One example of this change involves the percent of agency matters referred to U.S. Attorneys that ultimately resulted in prosecution. In 1992, 41% of the agency's referrals were prosecuted. By 1998, this rate had increased to 49%.

  The FBI in 1999 had more special agents in relation to population than at any time in its history. This result was achieved because the total number of FBI employees increased by 15% during the Clinton Administration. In striking contrast, the total number of all federal civilian employees declined by 18% during the same period.

The FBI declined an offer to review TRAC's data findings prior to their posting.

(TRAC is a non-partisan data gathering, research and data-distribution organization associated with Syracuse University. TRAC has been supported by the University, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the New York Times Company Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and many other organizations. TRAC's embargo on the information about the FBI is intended to give news organizations adequate time to contact responsible government officials for their comments. For detailed information go to

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Washington, D.C.: Suite 200, 1718 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. 20009 Tel: (202)518-9000

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