The FBI must scramble to keep up with increasingly sophisticated terrorists and improve its ability to gather intelligence on global national-security threats, according to an outside review released Wednesday.
The report said the FBI has made significant strides since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, including in sharing information with other law enforcement agencies. But it said there’s still room for improvement, especially at a time of emerging new threats such as the Islamic State and foreign fighters in Syria.
“The threats are not just knocking on the door. They’re in the room,” said former Rep. Timothy Roemer, a member of the 9/11 Commission who helped prepare the 127-page analysis.
The report was ordered by Congress to assess the FBI’s performance on national security matters, and its authors said they hoped it would be a blueprint for improvement. It was also intended to gauge how well the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations in a 2004 report are being carried out.
It was released as FBI Director James Comey heads to Capitol Hill to defend an $8.48 billion budget request that seeks extra funding for cyber investigations, among other changes.
Though largely positive about the FBI’s progress, the report identified several weakness, including a need for better intelligence analysis and collection, and to regard its staff of intelligence analysts as part of the “professionalized workforce.” It also said frequent leadership changes slow down the pace of improvement, and that the FBI needs better coordination with the private sector and other agencies to deal with cyber threats.
Comey said he supports most of the conclusions, though he said he disagreed with the recommendation that the FBI should not have a role in a new White House initiative to counter the radicalization of Americans through community outreach.
“I think there is an important role for the FBI to play,” Comey said, although he added that role wouldn’t touch on matters of religion.
The report looked at five terror plots and attacks in the last few years, including the 2009 Fort Hood shooting and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. In some cases, it found information that may have been useful — such as a 2012 outburst at a religious center by Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev — never made it to the FBI.