The FBI's 2nd-Class Citizens
By Melanie W. Sisson
Saturday, December 31, 2005; Page A19

Why is the FBI having so much trouble keeping its intelligence analysts --
the kind of people who are vitally important to its post-Sept. 11 mission?

The problem was laid out at a congressional hearing a few months ago by the
Justice Department's inspector general, Glenn A. Fine. He noted that the FBI
is suffering a high rate of attrition among its most recently hired and most
highly educated analysts, and he concluded that the bureau needs to stop
assigning them duties that have nothing much to do with analysis and to
offer better retention incentives.

Fine is right on both counts, but a lot more than that is needed. The pace
and scope of attrition in the ranks of the FBI's analysts suggest root
causes that are more serious in nature and more systemic in effect than the
inspector general and the bureau realize. It wasn't the photocopying or the
lack of promotion potential that compelled me to leave my job as an FBI
analyst this year -- it was the frustration of working in a system that does
not yet recognize analysis as a full partner in the FBI's national security

In January 2003, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III established an
Intelligence Program to transform the bureau's closely held national
security function into one responsive to the needs of the intelligence,
homeland security, law enforcement and defense communities. To bring about
this transition, the Intelligence Program recognized the need for an
analytic body within the FBI capable of assessing, producing and
appropriately disseminating case information, and it quickly began hiring
analysts in unprecedented numbers. Perhaps too quickly, since it hadn't
really been determined yet just what resources and procedures were needed to
enable the bureau's analytical function and ensure the quality of its

As a result, analysts who joined the FBI with the goal of contributing to
national security discovered that there was no system in place to promote or
support the kind of work they do. Analysts found that in many cases they had
to operate with a dearth of information and intelligence resources. For
example, not all the people carrying the title "All Source Analyst" in the
division for which I worked even had desktop access to the Internet or to
intelligence community e-mail and intranet servers.

More inhibiting has been the absence of uniform and institutionalized
procedures for providing analysts with intelligence collected by the FBI
itself. There is no guidance giving field offices the information they need
to direct case reporting to the appropriate analytic groups, and no policy
mandating that they do so. In this vacuum, the analyst's access to
investigative data becomes almost entirely a function of personal
relationships cultivated with agents in the field -- a difficult task for
those whose work it is to assess threats emerging across the nation and

A system in which analysts are not guaranteed access to investigative
information, one in which they must ask to be given the intelligence they
were hired to assess, marginalizes analysts professionally and demoralizes
them personally. It is a circumstance that not only breeds frustration and
dissatisfaction but, by tacitly condoning the perception that analysis is of
secondary importance to the FBI, perpetuates the bureau's traditional "cop
culture," in which everything is focused on the agent and the case -- a
culture that Mueller has committed himself to changing.

Most important, limited access to case information prevents FBI analysts
from doing what they are hired to do: provide decision makers with quality
intelligence products that contain the best information available. Without
the satisfaction of believing our work meets that standard, it's not hard to
understand why many of us have chosen to leave.

Ultimately there will be no more meaningful measure of Mueller's success in
transforming the culture of the FBI from that of cops to that of spies than
the extent to which analysis becomes recognized as a full and integrated
partner in the bureau's national security mission. This will require an
observable increase in the director's commitment to enhancing the visibility
and authority of analysts within the FBI, to providing analysts the
resources they need, and to ensuring timely and effective transmission of
information from operational to analytical personnel. Until these
shortcomings are remedied, the quality of the FBI's work will suffer, and
too many analysts will continue to find their jobs more frustrating than

The writer was an intelligence analyst at FBI headquarters from December
2003 to May 2005.

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