The challenge of covering all the bases

FBI's tenacious fight against terrorism and fraud

By Paul Sweeney

Despite the FBI's renewed emphasis on battling terrorism since 9/11, it still ranks fighting public corruption and white-collar crime as top priorities. And the agency says it now uses a more efficient force in a triage system to tackle fraud of all stripes. 

On Sept. 11, 2001, FBI agent Christine Monaco was working in New York City, dealing with organized crime. On that fateful morning she was on her way to a Brooklyn courthouse where she was due to give testimony to a grand jury in a mob-related case - only to be called back to Manhattan.

She has been working the anti-terrorism beat ever since.

"We still have a very robust white-collar crime and organized crime force," Monaco said in an interview. "But after what happened down the block [from the FBI's New York office in lower Manhattan], our efforts against terrorism had to be stepped up."

Although Monaco's experience on 9/11 is just the story of one agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, her personal experience has broader implications. In the nearly five years since 19 radical Islamic terrorists hijacked four airplanes and crashed three of them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, causing the deaths of some 3,000 persons, the FBI has shifted its focus. Instead of concentrating on just battling white-collar criminals, organized crime and drug-trafficking, its

No. 1 priority understandably is combating terrorism.
So much so that, according to a lengthy, 200-plus-page audit by the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG), there has been a 38 percent reduction in the overall number of white-collar crimes that the FBI has referred for prosecution between 2000 and 2004, the most recent year for which figures have been compiled, as well as a 37 percent rollback in organized crime referrals. At the same time, terrorism-related cases referred by the agency rose by a whopping 846 percent in the established areas of international and domestic terrorism while new areas of FBI probes - involving such areas as terrorist financing and terrorism-related identity theft - have gone from essentially zero to scores of cases being referred for prosecution

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