Washington-based national security lawyer Kel McClanahan noticed the shift while reviewing a Freedom of Information Act request from the agency.
The change is reflective of the emphasis that the FBI put on counterterrorism following the events of September 11, 2001. Given that the attacks happened more than 10 years ago, McClanahan found it puzzling that the FBI decided to officially change its stated focus at this time.
"What happened in the last year that changed?" McClanahan said. "I think they're trying to rebrand. So many good things happen to your agency when you tie it to national security."
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the agency’s website has emphasized the shift in focus for quite some time. “We rank our top 10 priorities and CT [counterterrorism] is first, counterintel is second, cyber is third," he said. "So it is certainly accurate to say our primary function is national security."
Although he wouldn’t discuss the timing of the change, Bresson indicated that it was just a sign of the times. "When our mission changed after 9/11, our fact sheet changed to reflect that," he said.
But some speculate there could be another reason.
"If you tie yourself to national security, you get funding and you get exemptions on disclosure cases," McClanahan said. "You get all the wonderful arguments about how if you don't get your way, buildings will blow up and the country will be less safe."