Ashcroft announced the reorganization effort during a press conference in which both he and FBI Director Robert Mueller publicly criticized the bureau’s lapses in handling information relating to hijackers prior to September 11.
The broad reorganization will include a new office of intelligence and strengthened oversight of counterterrorism investigations. Mueller said the reorganization will also improve the bureau’s ties with the CIA and overhaul the FBI’s outdated computer systems.
“It became clearer than ever that we had to fundamentally change the way we do business. It requires a redesigned and refocused FBI,” Muller said.
“Because our focus is on preventing terrorist attacks, more so than in the past we must be open to new ideas, to criticism from within and from without, and to admitting and learning from our mistakes,” Mueller continued.
Mueller said the move will make protecting the American people from another terrorist attack the FBI’s top priority. Number two, he said, will be protecting the United States against espionage.
Under the reorganization, a total of 3,718 FBI agents and federal, state and local law enforcement officials will be assigned to focus on counterterrorism, up from 2,178.
The FBI has already announced plans to aggressively recruit 900 additional agents specializing in intelligence-gathering by September.
Mueller said other priorities for the reorganized FBI will include preventing high technology crimes, combating public corruption, protecting civil rights, fighting criminal organizations, combating major white collar offenses and violent crimes.