Ex-FBI Officials Criticize Tactics On Terrorism 

Ex-FBI Officials Criticize Tactics On Terrorism 
Posted by FoM on November 27, 2001 at 21:31:50 PT
By Jim McGee, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
Until Sept. 11, the FBI employed a distinctive strategy for fighting terrorists: By using informants and wiretaps, the bureau monitored suspected cells -- sometimes for years -- before making any arrests. The theory was that only such long-term investigations reveal useful information about potential plots.Since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, that strategy has undergone a wholesale revision. Under the new approach, the FBI will focus chiefly on preventing terrorist acts by rounding up suspects early on, before they get a chance to act.
The aggressive FBI dragnet -- championed by Attorney General John D. Ashcroft -- has provoked much commentary and criticism for its impact on civil liberties. Now, in a series of on-the-record interviews, eight former high-ranking FBI officials have offered the first substantive critique of the Ashcroft program, questioning whether the new approach will have the desired effect.The executives, including a former FBI director, said the Ashcroft plan will inevitably force the bureau to close terrorism investigations prematurely, before agents can identify all members of a terrorist cell. They said the Justice Department is resurrecting tactics the government rejected in the late 1970s because they did not prevent terrorism and led to abuses of civil liberties."It is amazing to me that Ashcroft is essentially trying to dismantle the bureau," said Oliver "Buck" Revell, a former FBI executive assistant director who was the primary architect of the FBI anti-terrorism strategy during the 1980s. "They don't know their history," he said, "and they are not listening to people who do."Former FBI director William H. Webster said Ashcroft's policy of preemptive arrests and detentions "carries a lot of risk with it. You may interrupt something, but you may not be able to bring it down. You may not be able to stop what is going on."In the past, Webster said, when the FBI identified a person or group suspected of terrorism, agents neutralized the immediate threat of violence. Then they began a long-term investigation using informants, surveillance or undercover operations, "so when you roll up the cell, you know you've got the whole group."Ashcroft declined to be interviewed for this article, as did FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker defended the change in tactics as part of a wartime mobilization at the department prompted by the Sept. 11 attacks."The world is different and the priorities are different," Tucker said. "I understand this is not the traditional way the FBI handled things. But that's the priority."A senior Justice Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that none of the changes ordered by Ashcroft would have enabled the FBI to interrupt the Sept. 11 attacks. After two months of intensive investigation, the FBI has concluded that the 19 suspected hijackers acted alone in the United States as a self-contained terrorist cell whose mission was planned and funded overseas."There was not a lot of the plot we could have jumped on here," the official said.Webster and others say Ashcroft's conviction that FBI counterterrorism operations require radical surgery ignores a record that, though not widely known outside the bureau, includes 131 prevented terrorist attacks from 1981 to 2000."We used good investigative techniques and lawful techniques," said Webster, who left the FBI in 1987 to take over the helm at the CIA. "We did it without all the suggestions that we are going to jump all over the people's private lives, if that is what the current attorney general wants to do. I don't think we need to go that direction."Many of the prevented attacks were potentially catastrophic, with targets that included a 747 airliner, a gas pipeline, a crowded movie theater and a visiting world leader, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi."Interdiction [of planned terrorist attacks] became an investigative-planning tool, and we were rather successful at it," said former FBI assistant director Kenneth P. Walton, who established the first Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York City.The sharp increase in FBI intelligence wiretaps and terrorism investigations after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing led to the prevention of 15 attacks in 1997 and 10 in 1998, FBI documents show."We lived to prevent a terrorist act," Robert Blitzer, former chief of the FBI's counterterrorism section, said. "That was our whole program. We prevented many acts of terrorism."But not the ones on Sept. 11, which came at a time when the FBI was reeling from high-profile embarrassments, from misplaced FBI laptops and guns to a much-criticized investigation of Wen Ho Lee to the treason of former FBI agent Robert P. Hanssen.FBI management reforms were under consideration even before Ashcroft announced his new strategy in a series of carefully orchestrated public statements over the past two months. The key elements include: Arresting and jailing "suspected terrorists" on minor criminal or immigration charges. "It is difficult for a person in jail or under detention to murder innocent people or to aid or abet in terrorism," Ashcroft said on Nov. 13. Cutting short long-term criminal terrorism investigations when agents detect the possibility of new violence. "Even though this may hinder a criminal investigation, prevention of terrorist attacks, even at the expense of a prosecution, must be our priority," Ashcroft said on Oct. 29. Deploying hundreds of state and local police officers to conduct voluntary interviews of 5,000 Middle Eastern men who are legal residents in the United States, based on their age and the country issuing their passport. Shifting control of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country from the FBI to presidentially appointed local U.S. attorneys.Although none of the former officials interviewed for this article questioned the value of fine-tuning FBI operations in light of Sept. 11, they contended that Ashcroft's new policies will weaken the FBI's primary strategy for penetrating terrorist cells."It's the Perry Mason School of Law Enforcement, where you get them in there and they confess," Walton said of the plan to interview 5,000 Middle Eastern men. "Well, it just doesn't work that way. It is ridiculous. You say, 'Tell me everything you know,' and they give you the recipe to Mom's chicken soup."While Revell and others said the 5,000 interviews may have a short-term deterrent effect, they said the tactic is problematic. "One, it is not effective," Revell said. "And two, it really guts the values of our society, which you cannot allow the terrorists to do."Through years of trial and error, the FBI has found that intelligence-gathering rarely deterred terrorist acts unless it was combined with long-term criminal investigations that employed informants, undercover agents and electronic surveillance.In virtually every case in which the FBI prevented a terrorist attack, these sources said, success depended on long-term investigations, whose hallmarks were patience and letting terrorist plots go forward."You obviously want to play things out so you can fully identify the breadth and scope of the conspiracy," said James Kallstrom, former chief of the FBI office in New York, who oversaw two large investigations of the al Qaeda terrorist network. "Obviously, the most efficient and effective way to do that is to bring it down to the last stage."Former FBI assistant director John Otto described a case in which a long-running FBI investigation in Chicago of a Serbian nationalist terrorist cell prevented the death of nearly 300 Serbian American children attending a Christmas party at a church. An informant tipped off an agent to the plot."Long-term successful investigations are our forte," Otto said. "I don't think there is ever a need to get away from them. Look at the track record over time."Although there are inherent risks, the ex-officials said there is no known case in which an FBI decision to let a bombing plot unfold resulted in injury or death.Former FBI deputy director Floyd I. Clarke said he sympathized with Ashcroft's desire to take aggressive preventive measures, but said most preventions arise from methodical investigations. He cited one case in which FBI agents found out where a terrorist cell stored its explosives."We did not want to just go and arrest them and grab the explosives," he said, "because we knew they were connected with other groups."Instead, FBI agents entered the building surreptitiously, rendered the explosives inert and sat back and waited. "Eventually, we ended up taking down a whole cell of people," Clarke said. "You try to make sure you have got as complete a picture as you can."After the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993, the FBI quickly arrested several Middle Eastern men with ties to the radical Islamic religious leader Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, who was based in New Jersey. The bureau came under pressure to arrest or detain Abdul Rahman and others around him on immigration charges. But the FBI resisted."We wanted to take the whole cell down and get him off the street for the rest of his life," said Blitzer, the former counterterrorism chief, "not just allow him to be deported some place where he could continue on as the kind of terrorist leader he had been."The FBI inserted a confidential informant into Abdul Rahman's inner circle and began intensive electronic surveillance. Within two months, the informant reported a second plot.In June 1993, agents raided a warehouse in Queens, N.Y., where they surprised five Islamic fundamentalists. The men were bent over large mixing barrels and stirring a porridge of bomb-making chemicals, which they planned to use to blow up the Holland and Lincoln tunnels and other New York landmarks."We had to let the information develop," said former FBI assistant director William Gavin, who oversaw the investigation. "Taking them off the street at an early stage of the investigation, I don't believe would have afforded us the opportunity to discover and resolve the intent to blow up the tunnels."Note: Detention of Suspects Not Effective, They Say. Source: Washington Post (DC)Author: Jim McGee, Washington Post Staff WriterPublished: Wednesday, November 28, 2001; Page A01 Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: http://www.washingtonpost.comRelated Articles:FBI Rushes To Remake Its Mission Dropping Other Crime Fighting
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #6 posted by idbsne1 on November 29, 2001 at 12:21:39 PT
they gotta stop this conflict of interest crap...
Sorry guys... didn't have time to read the whole thing, but I really gotta point this out...all over the place I'm seeing crap like this especially when it's a governing body. "After two months of intensive investigation, the FBI has concluded that the 19 suspected hijackers acted alone in the United States as a self-contained terrorist cell whose mission was planned and funded overseas."Don't you find it funny when the FBI does a review of "themselves". Of course they're gonna say it was someone else's fault. Plane crashes, bombings, LAPD shootings....there needs to be an unbiased group reviewing these a private group or a group made of qualified citizens. Otherwise, we'll never get the TRUTH....idbsne1
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by Rainbow on November 28, 2001 at 19:48:13 PT
Mullah Asscroft
I was wondering why the people of Missouri rejected this bum. We are getting the picture now. the problem is a lot of Americans ie sheeple eat this behavior up. So long as they have their freedom to oppress others.But I think most will understand what the Missourians understood and the Mullah might even have to leave the caabinet. Many more guffaws and he will have too.But then the emporer does not worry about clothes when he doesn't wear any.Cheers
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by Sam Adams on November 28, 2001 at 08:14:08 PT
EJ you rule
I have to say "Mullah Ashcroft" is so appropriate and funny that I can't help laughing every time I see it.And it's important that we don't lose our sense of humor, it's going to be the only coping mechanism for 3 more years of this psycho. I have a feeling he's only getting warmed up.I seriously believe that there's a central flaw to the way kids are educated and morally indoctrinated in the USA. We're taught about war and evil, etc, etc, but it's always from a nationalistic perspective - look at all the horrible things those other countries did. Or the evil is kept at arms' length by time....look at how badly we screwed the Indians, or slaves, but it's OK, that was a long time ago and we're not the same anymore.The reality is that human civilization is a constant battle between good and evil. The same evil that drives the Taliban is right here in the US and we must constantly be on guard to the threat from within as well as abroad.I totally agree that the election of Bush and his extremist appointees will do more for progressive causes in the long term than Gore being elected would have ever done. Bush's lurch to the right will backfire when fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republicans blanch at Mullah Ashcroft & company and vote their Republican Congressmen right out of office - look at what happened in the Senate, Bush's right-wing bullshit cost him the Senate majority, averting untold damage to the environment and other progressive causes over the next 3 years. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Lehder on November 28, 2001 at 02:53:31 PT
another comment on fascism
from mediawhoresonline:
another interesting comment from mediawhores:
   non-ho Jon Elliston 
   11/26/2001 Testimonial"The Poster Police: A Durham student activist gets a visit from the Secret Service" A 19-year-old college student got a visit from the Secret Service and Durham, NC PD because
somebody did not like a political poster on the wall of her apartment. "On Friday, Oct. 26, two Secret Service agents, along with Durham police investigator Rex Godley,
came to Brown's apartment. Special Agent Paul Lalley, who did most of the talking, spoke first.
"Ma'am, we've gotten a report that you have anti-American material, or something like that, in your
apartment," he said, according to Brown. Then the female agent asked if they could come inside."" As political posters go, this one is mild. And since when is criticizing one individual considered
"anti-American"? Excuse me, but the fraud is NOT America. America is much, much more than one
individual. Especially one individual who seeks to exploit America for himself, his family, and his
family's greedy business associates. "Brown got it at an "anti-inauguration" protest in Washington, D.C. Distributed to hundreds of activists,
it depicts George W. Bush holding a length of rope against a backdrop of lynching victims, and reads:
"We hang on your every word. George Bush: Wanted, 152 Dead"--a reference to the number of
people executed by the state of Texas while Bush was governor. Brown believes that the message
caused the Durham policeman who paid the second visit to her apartment to recommend a third." This is the way a dictatorship operates: "Lalley referred questions about the visit to Special Agent Craig Ulmer, who heads the Secret Service
office in Raleigh. ""We went in the first place because we received a tip about a threat against the president," Ulmer
says. He refuses to identify the source of the tip, except to say that it was a "concerned citizen" and
not a law enforcement officer. It's Secret Service policy to keep such sources confidential." Would someone please explain to me how a poster like this can be contrued as a "threat"? Oh, that's
right. Dictators and their enablers always consider the truth to be a threat. Also any criticism (no
matter how polite or how mild) as well as just questioning the tyrant or his policies. When pressed for the identify of the informer, Ulmer replied: ""We can't discuss who gives us information like that, because we want people to bring us information,"
Ulmer says. "If we burn our bridges, so to speak, we're not going to get help from the public." " What you're protecting is a liar who bears false witness. Bottom feeders like these always come to the
surface in dictatorships. They love dictatorships because they get to target anyone or anything they
don't like for whatever reason with lies and smears. It's also a power thing as well as a revenge thing.
These bottom feeders are insignificant nothings in good times. But in dictatorships, all of a sudden they
have the power to hurt and control others with their lies. What's more, they're patted on the head and
praised, sometimes even paid for being lying sleezeballs. "Ulmer rejects the notion that Brown was targeted because of her politics, and he insists that the
Secret Service would have checked this tip out even if it had come in before the events of Sept. 11.
"We were doing our job in this particular case," he says, "and I don't think we could have done it any
better." For 8 long years, various loonies - including NC's own Senator Jesse Helms - made out and out threats
against Bill Clinton. Was the Secret Service knocking on their doors? Ulmer adds: ""The Secret Service takes all threats against the president seriously, and we go out to check on every
one. A citizen thought that there was a threat, and we went and talked to Ms. Brown and we found
that there was not a threat." The poster, he says, was "misconstrued" by the tipster. "So it's not a big
issue. The issue is that someone misinterpreted some writing." " But it is a big issue. You not only allowed yourself and the Secret Service to be used by a bottom
feeder, you were willing to let yourself and the Secret Service be used by a bottom feeder. I see
nothing to indicate that in the future you won't be just as willing to continue to allow yourself and the
Secret Service to be used by various bottom feeders. You also allowed the Secret Service - which up until now had earned the respect and trust of the
American people because it was above politics and professional - to be reduced to the status of Secret
Police that can be siced on anyone who dares to criticize one individual, no matter how mild the
criticism. Also notice how abusers, exploiters, and their enablers are always claiming that their misdeeds are
something that is "no issue", "no big deal", something that people should "just get over", something
people should "just forget", etc. ""But when "some writing" on a poster is investigated by federal authorities, constitutional issues come
into play. Some legal analysts are warning that the new national security vigilance, and new laws
passed to counter terrorism, might impinge on free speech in big and small ways. ""A poster of Bush, even if he's in a noose, is protected speech during wartime or peacetime," notes
Alex Charns, a Durham attorney who specializes in civil rights. Such speech is all the more protected,
he points out, when it's displayed within a person's home. ""If a trained police officer doesn't know the difference between political speech and a threat to the
president, then we're all in trouble," Charns says. "If the Secret Service has nothing better to do than
check on political posters, that's a bad sign." " Brown has the right idea about her ordeal and is to be applauded for her wisdom. "Brown was temporarily rattled by the visit from the Secret Service, she says, but the poster's still up,
and she's still committed to her activism. "I'm definitely going to be vocal," she says. "If things get
really hairy and they decide to come after activists, then I'd have to just grit my teeth and go through
it."" Giving in to fascists does NOT stop them from harassing you in the future. They will continue to harass
you because it's fun for them. It's also easy. Fascists - like school yard bullies - will go for the easiest
targets and the compromisers before going for those who stand up to them. Also, giving into fasicsts does NOT stop the fear. You're still afraid because you know from
experience how arbritrary they are. At some level you know you're dealing with persons who just plain
get off on having power over others and making others afraid, and will seize on any excuse to do so. It
really doesn't matter what you say or don't say, do or don't do when dealing with an abuser/ exploiter/
fascist. If you don't provide an excuse, they'll make up one. Or allow some bottom feeder to provide a
false one. So you might as well be afraid while resisting and working to defeat the fascists so you can
be unafraid again than be afraid while just taking their abuse. mad_as_h
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Lehder on November 28, 2001 at 02:52:08 PT
comments on fascism
Ashcroft has, he says, 603 unnamed 'suspects' in secret jails for indefinite terms and is talking about torturing's an interesting web site with lots of interesting comments:
Like,What it takes to prosper in a fascist environment. Be a sociopath. That's right. The way to proper in a fascist environment is to be a sociopath without conscience,
without any real concern for anyone else, and without any real self-respect. Fascists are narcissists, and narcissists are petty gods. Very petty gods, and very jealous gods. "Thy
shalt have no other god before the narcissist and his agenda," and this includes spouse, children,
parents, friends, God, conscience, and even reality. If a fascist or one of their enablers even suspect
you have a loyalty that comes before the great one or the great one's agenda, you are a target. An
enemy to be "re-educated" and punished for your "blasphemy". Narcissists/ abusers/ fascists and their enablers also tend to test people a lot to make sure their first
and foremost loyalty is to the narcissists and their agenda. And heaven help anyone who fails just one
of the tests. The media ho's know what it takes to prosper in a fascist environment. Print nothing, say nothing
except the official party line. Remember what happened to Charles Kuralt for daring to present a fair
and balanced report of Cuba under Castro instead of what the fascists wanted him to say. Also,
shamelessly kiss fascist butt and strive always to outdo your fellow ho's in your lavish praise.
Remember, praise of the narcissist must come before self-respect. And before grounding in reality.
Also, before truth. Do not speak up when you witness others abused by the fascist machine. Remember, loyalty to the
narcissist and his agenda must come before family, before friends, before conscience, before anything
if one is to prosper in a fascist environment. Be a sociopath without conscience, without any real concern for others, and without a shred of
self-respect or basic honesty or grounding in reality, and you too can prosper in a fascist environment. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by E_Johnson on November 28, 2001 at 00:14:08 PT
Mullah Ashcroft will be a liability in 2004
The Democrats had a chance to play more-moral-than-thou running against Bush the first time, but in 2004, Bush will be running as the man who appoined John Ashcroft. No Democrats will EVER be able to compete with the extremist moralism of the Ashcroft administration, so the Democrats' only competitive position will be to criticize everything he's done as being examples of dangerous moral extremism.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment