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Home News Stories 2005 March The FBI's Counterterrorism Fly Team

The FBI's Counterterrorism Fly Team

Protecting America From Terrorist Attack
The FBI's Fly Team: Have Expertise, Will Travel


Fly Team and Counterterrorism logos

Who do we call when we need an infusion of seasoned counterterrorism investigators who can respond quickly to dangerous threats and major terrorist attacks around the country and across the globe?

The FBI Fly Team.

What is it, exactly? A small, highly trained cadre of terrorism first responders—including agents and analysts—based at FBI Headquarters who have their bags perpetually packed and can get anywhere on the map in just a few hours.

What specific skills do they bring to the table? The ability to conduct sensitive, high-profile counterterrorism investigations in often difficult and dangerous environments. The agents and analysts collectively speak about a dozen languages—Arabic, Spanish, French, Swahili, Dutch, and more.

Their training is intense. Agents and analysts—selected after rigorous tests, drills, and team-building exercises (and agents need at least five years’ experience under their belts)—go through five months of in-depth training. They learn everything from advanced post-blast investigative techniques…to how to use specialized weapons and handle hazardous materials. They are taught combat medical skills, fingerprinting, hostage survival and resistance, and cultural awareness. They study all aspects of terrorism and get briefings from a range of terrorism experts. Between deployments, they fine-tune their skills.

What happens once the team is called? They quickly gather intelligence reports and information about the situation…talk to their counterparts in the impacted field office or overseas nation…assemble equipment…and pull together situation-specific specialists as needed—evidence experts, bomb technicians, HAZMAT personnel, and others. They learn as much as they can about the locale. Then, they head for a plane.

Once on the ground, the Fly Team quickly sets up a command post—our initial presence at the site. Team members assess the situation and launch the investigation, keeping in constant contact with FBI Headquarters about the unfolding operation. They share and compare information and intelligence with FBI offices around the globe through a secure computer network. They proactively identify potential terrorist targets and work to prevent future attacks. Once the investigation is solidly in motion, the team hands it over to our long-term investigators and heads home.

How often has the team been called? More than 70 times in the last two years, including assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Other recent deployments:

  • To Saudi Arabia, following the 12/06/04 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah;
  • To Istanbul, Turkey, for the 06/04 NATO summit—to help prevent attacks and provide instantaneous response in the event of an incident or threat;
  • To Indonesia, following the 08/05/03 car bombing in Jakarta;
  • To Morocco, following the 05/16/03 terrorist bombings in Casablanca.

In the days ahead, we'll tell you about other FBI teams that go on the road with expertise and equipment. Stay tuned!

Link: FBI Counterterrorism