THE POST-COLD WAR WORLD
The dismantling of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 electrified the world
and dramatically rang up the Iron Curtain on the final act in the Cold War:
the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, which occurred on December 25,
While world leaders scrambled to reposition their foreign policies and
redefine national security parameters, the FBI responded as an agency in
January 1992 by reassigning 300 Special Agents from foreign
counterintelligence duties to violent crime investigations across the
country. It was an unprecedented opportunity to intensify efforts in
burgeoning domestic crime problems--and at the same time to rethink and
retool FBI national security programs in counterintelligence and
In response to a 40-percent increase in crimes of violence over the previous
10 years, Director Sessions had designated the investigation of violent
crime as the FBI's sixth national priority program in 1989. By November 1991
the FBI had created "Operation Safe Streets" in Washington, D.C.--a concept
of federal, state, and local police task forces targeting fugitives and
gangs. It was now ready to expand this operational assistance to police
At the same time, the FBI Laboratory helped change the face of violent
criminal identification. Its breakthrough use of DNA technology enabled
genetic crime-scene evidence to positively identify--or rule out--suspects
by comparing their particular DNA patterns. This unique identifier enabled
the creation of a national DNA Index similar to the fingerprint index, which
had been implemented in 1924.
The FBI also strengthened its response to white-collar crimes. Popularized
as "crime in the suites," these nonviolent crimes had steadily increased as
automation in and deregulation of industries had created new environments
for fraud. Resources were, accordingly, redirected to combat the new wave of
large-scale insider bank fraud and financial crimes; to address criminal
sanctions in new federal environmental legislation; and to establish
long-term investigations of complex health care frauds.
At the same time, the FBI reassessed its strategies in defending the
national security, now no longer defined as the containment of communism and
the prevention of nuclear war.
By creating the National Security Threat List, which was approved by the
Attorney General in 1991, it changed its approach from defending against
hostile intelligence agencies to protecting U.S. information and
technologies. It thus identified all countries--not just hostile
intelligence services--that pose a continuing and serious intelligence
threat to the United States. It also defined expanded threat issues,
including the proliferation of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons;
the loss of critical technologies; and the improper collection of trade
secrets and proprietary information. As President Clinton was to note in
1994, with the dramatic expansion of the global economy "national security
now means economic security."
Two events occurred in late 1992 and early 1993 that were to have a major
impact on FBI policies and operations. In August 1992, the FBI responded to
the shooting death of Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan, who was killed at
Ruby Ridge, Montana, while participating in a surveillance of federal
fugitive Randall Weaver. In the course of the standoff, Weaver's wife was
accidentally shot and killed by an FBI sniper.
Eight months later, at a remote compound outside Waco, Texas, FBI Agents
sought to end a 51-day standoff with members of a heavily armed religious
sect who had killed four officers of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms. Instead, as Agents watched in horror, the compound burned to the
ground from fires lit by members of the sect. Eighty persons, including
children, died in the blaze.
These two events set the stage for public and congressional inquiries into
the FBI's ability to respond to crisis situations.
On July 19, 1993, following allegations of ethics violations committed by
Director Sessions, President Clinton removed him from office and appointed
Deputy Director Floyd I. Clarke as Acting FBI Director. The President noted
that Director Sessions' most significant achievement was broadening the FBI
to include more women and minorities.
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