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FBI caseload drops 45% since 2000
The Seattle Times/The Washington Post
By Dan Eggen The Washington Post
October 4, 2005

WASHINGTON — The FBI opened about half as many criminal cases last year as it did four years earlier, a stark example of the agency's rapid shift from traditional crime-fighting to terrorism prevention, according to a comprehensive study released yesterday.

The FBI opened a little more than 34,000 criminal cases in 2004, a 45 percent drop from the number it initiated in 2000, according to an audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine.

The decline included investigations related to drugs, organized crime, civil rights and corporate fraud, the audit found. It also found significant decreases in the number of FBI agents investigating organized crime, bank robberies and other traditional crimes.

The one exception was the number of gang-related cases, which increased slightly over the same period.

The FBI's retreat from such investigations has led to heavier caseloads for the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies, as well as more work for local and state police, the study found.

The study shows the extent to which the FBI and its parent agency, the Justice Department, have shifted priorities since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. A separate study released last week by researchers at Syracuse University found immigration prosecutions had more than doubled in the past four years, reflecting the Justice Department's increased emphasis on pursuing such cases as a method of fighting terrorism.

"Over the past four years, the FBI has realigned its investigative resources to balance the prevention of terrorism and foreign intelligence threats with a concentration on the most critical federal-crime problems, such as public corruption, civil rights, international organized crime and major gangs," FBI spokesman John Miller said in a statement.

Chris Swecker, head of the FBI's criminal-investigations division, said the majority of the decrease can be attributed to a decline in drug cases. The number of agents assigned to drug investigations has plummeted from more than 2,000 before the 2001 attacks to about 600 now, he said.

"We are concentrating on areas where we bring a certain expertise to the table and where we are needed the most," Swecker said.

Fine's audit found about 2,200 fewer agents dedicated to investigating traditional crimes in 2004 compared to 2000.

Overall, most local and federal law-enforcement officials surveyed by Fine's office said other agencies have been able to adapt to the FBI's new focus.

But some officials indicated they were worried about the ability of other federal agencies to keep up with growing caseloads, according to the audit. Some authorities also said they were concerned about the ability of smaller departments to handle the kind of complex investigations traditionally pursued by the FBI.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

If terrorism is so big why hasn't the FBI been opening more cases? We have to conclude the FBI broken - much like FEMA, the military, the CIA and the budget.