FAQ :: What is the Terrorism Liaison Officers (TLO) program?

The FBI is recruiting thousands of covert informants in the United States as part of a sprawling effort to boost its intelligence capabilities. According to a recent unclassified report to Congress, the FBI the bureau to improve its counterterrorism efforts by boosting its human intelligence capabilities. [1]

Hundreds of police, firefighters, paramedics and utility workers have been trained and dispatched as “Terrorism Liaison Officers” in Colorado and other states to hunt for “suspicious activity.” Their reports are put into secret government databases.

It is a tactic intended to feed better data into terrorism early-warning systems and uncover intelligence that could help fight anti-American forces. But the vague nature of the TLOs’ mission, and their focus on reporting both legal and illegal activity, has generated objections from privacy advocates and civil libertarians.

“Suspicious activity” is broadly defined in TLO training as behavior that could lead to terrorism: taking photos of no apparent aesthetic value, making measurements or notes, espousing extremist beliefs or conversing in code, according to a draft Department of Justice/Major Cities Chiefs Association document. [2]

[1] Ross, Brian. “FBI Proposes Building Network of U.S. Informants.” ABC news. 7.25.2007. http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/07/fbi-proposes-bu. html.
[2] Finley, Bruce. “Terror watch uses local eyes 181 TRAINED IN COLO.” The Denver Post. 6.29.2008. www.denverpost.com/news/ci_9725077.