WASHINGTON — The FBI and Justice Department are significantly expanding their role in global counterterrorism operations, part of a U.S. policy shift that will replace a CIA-dominated system of clandestine detentions and interrogations with one built around transparent investigations and prosecutions.
Under the "global justice" initiative, which has been quietly in the works for several months, FBI agents will have a central role in overseas counterterrorism cases. They will question suspects and gather evidence to ensure that criminal prosecutions are an option, officials familiar with the effort said.
Although the initiative is a work in progress, some senior counterterrorism officials and administration policymakers envision it as key to the national security strategy President Barack Obama laid out last week — one that presumes most accused terrorists have the right to contest the charges against them in a "legitimate" setting.
The approach reverses a mainstay of the Bush administration's war on terrorism, in which global counterterrorism was treated primarily as an intelligence and military problem, not a law enforcement one.
The "global justice" initiative starts out with the premise that virtually all suspects will end up in a U.S. or foreign court of law. That will be the case no matter where a suspected terrorist is captured, officials said.