THE MAGAZINE

Federal Security Perspective: Interview with John Perren

By Matthew Harwood

So, how proactive do you have to be with the private sector then?

Very proactive: that’s what our countermeasures section does. Again, we form these strategic partnerships, and we look for vulnerabilities. In the chemical industry, there are thousands of chemical plants out there. So we provide training and awareness to industry personnel: what are the indicators, what to look for, what does current threat intelligence tell us? We listen as well. Whether it is private industry or groups interested in harnessing new technologies in research, we listen to them. This helps us construct our countermeasures and tripwires.

What concerns me a lot is the insider threat—a person who has legal access to either a nuclear, biological, or chemical facility. So what we do is work with our private sector and academic partners, and talk to them about the insider threat and what to look out for. They, in turn, tell us what their vulnerabilities are.

During your outreach, have you been able to reach most of the major players?

With the chemical facilities, we’ve hit a lot of the CEOs and security folks, but you have to remember there are thousands and thousands of them out there. We start with the CEOs and find out how they network with each other, and we use that infrastructure to train on. It’s a collaborative effort.

We have to work really closely with these guys because there are literally thousands of facilities, plants, and research centers out there. Our WMD coordinators are the ones who knock on the door, provide the training, and liaise with these facilities and industrial sectors. We keep a database on who we have trained and how we’ve trained them and when we need to go back and tighten it up. Some of the larger offices—such as Washington, D.C.; New York; and Los Angeles—have entire squads that work the WMD mission-space and put out tripwires.

How receptive is the private sector to the FBI’s tripwire initiatives?

It’s all about how we advertise it. We make them realize how important it is. When we do our outreach with the chemical folks, we not only have discussions but we take them down to our facilities and show them just what impact their precursors have when mixed: what kind of boom they make. When they see that, it’s pretty riveting. It really catches their attention. It has a big impact because this is what their products can do when used for nefarious purposes. When they tell us their concerns, it becomes a conversation, and that leads to a true partnership.
 

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