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In FBI shift, cybercrime is a priority

The bureau's director details a major reorganization of the agency and says protecting the nation against cyber-based attacks and high-tech crimes is at the top of the list.

The director of the FBI announced Wednesday that a major reorganization of the agency would include a new focus on cybercrime and technology.

Protecting the United States against "cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes" is one of the FBI's top 10 priorities, Director Robert Mueller said at a news conference detailing a major reorganization of the agency.

Preventing high-tech crime "is a protection of our infrastructure," he said. Cyberterrorism and cybercrime can happen anywhere, and "you need the overarching responsibility in an agency such as the FBI."

The cybercrime focus is part of a major reorganization that will also add new agents and put more resources toward preventing terrorism.

The FBI recently announced a new "Cyber Division" to coordinate the agency's technology-related efforts. The division is being charged with supervising investigations of federal violations where the Internet, computer systems and networks "are exploited as the principal instruments or targets of criminal activity," the FBI has said.

Larry Mefford, who had served as associate special agent in charge of the San Francisco Field Office, was named assistant director of the Cyber Division.

The reorganization comes as news that a glitch in the FBI's e-mail wiretap system could have hindered investigations into terrorist threats.

Mueller also said Wednesday that upgrading technology to support the FBI was a top priority.

"Upgrading our technology means not just getting our computers on board and our hard drives, but everybody from the top to the bottom getting facile with the technology," he said. The FBI has been "years behind where it should be."