With half of its 12,000 agents working on counterterrorism, the FBI was already short-handed when the financial crisis exploded. The bureau has had to respond by opening thousands of mortgage and securities fraud cases, and it expects to open many more in the weeks and months ahead, says National Public Radio. The sense both inside and outside the bureau is that something is going to have to give. Quite simply, there aren’t enough investigators to go around. Craig Dotlo, head of the society of former FBI agents, says the bureau is going to have to reassess priorities: he says that agents are starting to think they have to pick and choose which terrorism leads to follow.
Consider defense contracting. The FBI helps the Department of Defense investigate fraud – in particular procurement and contracting fraud. The FBI given its thin bench is pursuing fewer cases. The FBI appears to be bridging its staffing gaps by referring cases to other agencies. Drug busts have been picked up by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Wire and mail fraud is being handled by local law enforcement. U.S. attorneys and the FBI have raised the bar for going forward with financial prosecutions. FBI Director Robert Mueller told a congressional committee last week that the FBI was trying to recruit new agents.