This week at the Citizens’ FBI Academy we began with a tour of the gun vault. We were shown a wide variety of weapons that are available to the agents depending on what the particular task or assignment is. The standard issue to a new FBI agent is the Glock 22. He will carry this for the duration of his service. Over and beyond that there are any number of different shoulder mounted guns and rifles available for use. Two incidents have affected how agents arm themselves in preparation for an assignment. The first was the shooting of the two FBI agents at Wounded Knee. There the agents were not carrying rifles that could shoot far enough to protect themselves. They were sitting ducks for people who had rifles that had longer range. The other event was the incident in Miami where the FBI became involved in a firefight with criminals who were better armed than they were. Both of these incidents created the need for a wider variety of weapons to keep up with the criminal element. They also have a piece of history in the gun vault: the Thompson sub-machine gun that John Dillinger used!
Following our tour of the vault we were given a presentation on International Terrorism. The presenter described a “sea change” that began under George Bush. The FBI Director was meeting with the President following 9/11 and briefing him on the identities of the terrorists and where they came from. The President said that that was all well and good, but what was the FBI doing to PREVENT terrorism? This led to the creation of the JTTF: Joint Terrorism Task Force. Investigators are federal, state, and local and bring a wide variety of crime fighting expertise to bear in fighting terrorism. The mission is to frustrate the activities of terrorists in their operations against the United States. To accomplish this they investigate international terrorism and homegrown terrorists as well as all of their external ties. They gather evidence for prosecution which is done through the US Attorney’s Office. In the process they gather what has proven to be life saving intelligence. When direct strikes began against Al Qaeda to cripple their operations, well trained terrorists left the training camps and dispersed themselves. They are knowledgeable, well connected and have financial resources. There is no question that any number of them are here in the West. Agents are on the lookout for people with incongruous lifestyles: no job, but unlimited funds, and a poor cover story. Agents search for where terrorists are likely to be, but also where they are likely not to be. Businesses have become more helpful through the “tripwire” program that alerts agents when there is an unusual series of purchases being made by an individual. The FBI maintains that their best tips come from everyday citizens who see things they are suspicious of or uncomfortable with.
Our final presentation for the evening was done by Kelly Kinser, the Polygraph Supervisor for the FBI. His presentation was probably one of the most riveting we’ve had so far. His explanation of how the polygraph works and how he frames his questions was fascinating. As the FBI does law enforcement and investigation on the Indian Reservations, he has had intimate experience doing investigations in the Dakotas. We were presented with the case studies of three child abusers who were polygraphed and confessed during their subsequent interview. We actually heard the taped interviews. They were at once chilling and repellant. The skill of the questioning was breathtaking. I came away believing that using the polygraph isn’t a “function,” but truly an art.