Terrorism and National Security Threats
A top priority for DHS and ICE is the prevention of terrorism and national security threats to the U.S., and HSI plays a critical role in the U.S. government’s efforts in this space. HSI contributes to this mission primarily through its assignment of special agents and intelligence analysts to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and FBI field office counterintelligence elements, where HSI personnel apply the agency’s vast authorities in furtherance of the shared national security mission to safeguard the security of the U.S.
HSI special agents assigned to the national security program conduct investigations and operations that substantially advance HSI’s national security mission. HSI targets the people, money and materials that support terrorist activities in the U.S. and abroad. HSI also brings its exclusive authorities and capabilities to the government’s efforts to counter foreign intelligence and non-traditional collection threats and to identify, locate, and investigate national security threats and human rights violators who violate their immigration status or commit other crimes.
On the international stage, HSI leads the Visa Security Program (VSP) and the Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program (BITMAP). These programs prevent the travel to the U.S. of known or suspected terrorists, transnational criminals, human rights violators and other high-risk visa applicants.
Visa Security Program (VSP)
The Visa Security Program (VSP) assigns special agents to diplomatic posts worldwide to conduct law enforcement visa security activities and provide training to Department of State (DOS) Consular Affairs (CA) officers regarding threats, trends and other topics affecting visa adjudication. The VSP utilizes the automated screening capabilities of the Pre-Adjudicated Threat Recognition and Intelligence Operations Team (PATRIOT) to screen, vet, recommend visa eligibility and investigate visa applicants at posts around the world.
The VSP’s critical mission is to maximize the visa process as a counterterrorism tool to identify, exploit and disrupt transnational terrorist and criminal networks seeking to harm the United States. This is done through the following processes:
- Screen visa applications at the earliest point of the visa process.
- Vet applications with derogatory information using law enforcement, open source and classified systems.
- Coordinate with law enforcement, intelligence and host country partners to maximize investigative efforts.
- Provide a unified DHS recommendation to DOS on an applicant’s visa eligibility.
- Conduct criminal investigations to exploit and disrupt criminal and terrorist organizations, maximizing the visa process for investigative gain.
The program serves as the agency's frontline in protecting the United States against terrorist and criminal organizations. In addition to screening names against lists of known terrorist or criminal suspects, VSP relies on HSI special agents, working in collaboration with U.S. government and international partners, to identify potential unknown terrorist or criminal suspects and stop them before they can reach the United States.
Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program (BITMAP)
HSI International Operations oversees the Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program (BITMAP), a host-country-led initiative in which HSI trains and equips foreign counterparts to conduct tactically targeted collection of biometric and biographic data on suspect individuals via mobile biometric collection devices. BITMAP aims to strengthen law enforcement investigation, border security and counterterrorism efforts in the U.S. and in partner nations by providing foreign law enforcement with biometric/biographic collection capability. Through the program, HSI seeks to mitigate criminal and cross border illicit activity in the U.S. and in foreign partner nations. BITMAP’s focus is to provide specialized technical equipment and advisory support to HSI foreign law enforcement counterparts for the collection of biometric and biographic data from third-country nationals in support of criminal investigations.
Foreign law enforcement partners share their BITMAP information with HSI in a joint effort to identify transnational criminals, “Known or Suspected Terrorists” (KST), gang members and other persons of interest. Information shared through BITMAP may provide U.S. border security, consular and law enforcement agencies with the information necessary to prevent known criminal and terrorist threats from entering the United States. The strategic vision of the BITMPAP program is to develop a high-impact global network of foreign law enforcement partners whose biometric collection and investigative missions are mutually beneficial and inextricably intertwined with HSI’s goal to protect the homeland.