When the FBI shifted its focus to anti-terrorism efforts, investigations targeting illegal drugs, organized crime and white-collar crime took the biggest hit, according to a Justice Department report issued yesterday.
The report by Glenn A. Fine, the department's inspector general, provides the first detailed look at where the FBI moved resources after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Fine said the review, which drew no conclusions about the wisdom of the changes, showed that the FBI's staffing shifts "generally were in line with its post-Sept. 11 priorities."
The greatest reduction occurred in the FBI's organized crime and drug program, which lost 758 agents to counterterrorism matters between 2000 and 2003. The largest cuts took place in investigations involving Mexican drug organizations, primarily in the Southwest, the report said.
An additional 321 agents were shifted from white-collar crime investigations -- especially health care fraud -- and 286 were moved from violent crime programs such as tracking down fugitives.
The report found that the FBI opened about 17,000 fewer cases in the programs most affected by the shift in priorities. Of those, the biggest change was the 11,600 fewer fugitive cases opened by the FBI.
However, even though the FBI reduced by 26 percent the number of agents working bank robberies, there were 485 more such cases opened in 2003 compared with 2000.
Other federal agencies are picking up the slack in some areas. The Drug Enforcement Administration, for example, is increasing its focus on drug investigations, while the U.S. Marshals Service has instituted a broader effort involving state and local police to catch fugitives.
The report also found that in 2003 the FBI used more agents for terrorism investigations than were allocated for that purpose by its budget. More than 3,600 agents worked terrorism matters last year, compared with 2,811 set by the budget.
The FBI had no immediate comment on the report, which was released publicly in edited form to remove classified material.