F.B.I. Director, Facing Criticism, Plans New Focus

F.B.I. Director, Facing Criticism, Plans New Focus
Posted by CN Staff on May 29, 2002 at 09:02:55 PT
By Neil A. Lewis & David Johnson
Source: New York Times 
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, facing intense criticism over its performance before Sept. 11, is planning a series of changes intended to alter its mission fundamentally, from solving crimes like bank robbery to countering terrorism, government officials said today.Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, is planning to outline the changes on Wednesday. They include the transfer of more than 600 agents assigned to investigating narcotics, bank robberies, kidnappings and other traditional crimes to investigating and analyzing the terrorist threat to the United States, the officials said. 
In addition, officers of the Central Intelligence Agency will be spread throughout the bureau's field offices to help with analysis of intelligence about terrorist threats.Throughout its history, the F.B.I. has redefined itself to reflect the crime-fighting issues of the day. But the changes being proposed by Mr. Mueller are intended to go deeper. Mr. Mueller has begun the transformation of a law enforcement agency into what will be at its core a domestic intelligence agency, bureau officials suggested. He is asking for a budget increase to hire 800 employees, of whom 500 would be analysts at headquarters.The changes are a shift in the direction set by J. Edgar Hoover, who emphasized pursuing traditional criminals. Over time, that included the gangsters and rumrunners of the Depression, the political militants of the 1960's and the drug lords of the 1980's and 1990's. The bureau judged its success by the numbers of prominent criminals jailed, rather than by the prevention of violent acts.Mr. Mueller's proposals, his supporters say, are also intended to shake up an insular culture that has resisted changes sought by other directors. Two years ago, Mr. Mueller's predecessor, Louis J. Freeh, declared that terrorism was the F.B.I.'s top priority, creating a separate division to combat it. But it is the counterterrorism division that is now under heavy fire for missing potential warning signals in the weeks before Sept. 11.Mr. Mueller's reorganization reflects the current view in counterterrorism circles that only an aggressive intelligence apparatus combined with a vastly expanded analytical ability can thwart terrorism.Mr. Mueller is expected to announce the creation of a new, centralized intelligence analysis unit based at the headquarters in Washington."We can no longer be all things to all people in law enforcement," said one high-ranking federal law enforcement official. "These changes are long overdue."Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican and a persistent critic of the bureau, said he was unsure if the changes Mr. Mueller was said to be planning would accomplish the goal of "changing the agency from one that goes after Bonnie and Clyde to one that directs its attention to the likes of Osama bin Laden."Mr. Grassley said it was important to change the culture of the F.B.I. and have it discard its traditional role of compiling statistics on the number of crimes solved to preventing terrorist crimes for which there is often no clear credit to be claimed. He said the shift of 620 agents represented a small shift. Instead of 18 percent of the bureau's roughly 11,500 agents devoted to counterterrorism duties, it would be 22 percent.Moreover, Mr. Grassley was one of a handful of lawmakers who said they were skeptical of the timing of Mr. Mueller's announcement.Mr. Grassley said the announcement appeared to be intended to serve as a distraction from the criticism the bureau is enduring over its failure to detect a pattern in the intelligence warnings received in different quarters of the government before Sept. 11.While Mr. Mueller will emphasize looking forward, many members of Congress are intent on looking backward at how the bureau dealt with information, particularly from field offices in Minneapolis and Phoenix that might have provided early clues to the Sept. 11 plot.The most pointed criticism of the bureau's performance is contained in a powerful and anguished letter sent to Mr. Mueller on May 21 from Coleen Rowley, a veteran agent and counsel in the Minneapolis office. Ms. Rowley said senior headquarters officials had stymied efforts by agents in her office to investigate more aggressively Zacarias Moussaoui, a 33-year-old French citizen who officials now say was meant to be the 20th hijacker. Mr. Moussaoui was arrested on immigration violations after a flight school at which he was enrolled informed the bureau that he was acting suspiciously.Ms. Rowley wrote, "I have deep concerns that a delicate and subtle shading/skewing of facts by you and others at the highest levels of F.B.I. management has occurred and is occurring." She warned Mr. Mueller that his statements that the bureau did not have any information that would have prevented the attacks "demonstrate a rush to judgment to protect the F.B.I. at all costs." "I think it's critical that we get to the specifics behind Ms. Rowley's statement that Mueller has made misrepresentations," Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said today. "That is a very serious charge, and Mr. Mueller's changes on procedures have nothing to do with that."Mr. Specter also said there should be an inquiry into why the bureau chose not to seek a warrant, as urged by the Minneapolis office, from the special secret court that considers such requests. The New York Times reported on Monday that bureau officials might have been reluctant to submit the application to search Mr. Moussaoui's computer because they had become wary after a well-regarded supervisor was disciplined because the court complained that he had submitted improper information on previous applications. Mr. Specter said the Senate Judiciary Committee should question the supervisor, Michael Resnick, and even the members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which issues national security search warrants, but only informally, to find out what happened.Under Mr. Hoover, the bureau carefully sought to connect with the public's fascination with crime-fighting by projecting an image of courage and unflappable professionalism in besting criminals.But most of those were criminals in the familiar sense, unlike Islamic terrorists capable of operating in highly disciplined cells and willing to kill civilians and die for their cause.Complete Title: F.B.I. Director, Facing Criticism, Plans New Focus on Terror FightSource: New York Times (NY)Author: Neil A. Lewis & David JohnsonPublished: May 29, 2002Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company Contact: letters Website: Related Articles:FBI Reorganization Gets Under Way War on Terrorism Takes Aim at Crime Likely To Shrink FBI Drug War Role
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Comment #3 posted by Matt B on May 29, 2002 at 11:33:17 PT
Well, i'm glad to see my Tax dollars going towards protecting the country rather than arresting plant smokers. It's unfortuneate that it took something like 9/11 for them to realize they're waisting their time(and my money).
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Comment #2 posted by The GCW on May 29, 2002 at 09:47:11 PT
?Proof, they were missassigned?To begin with?
"They include the transfer of more than 600 agents assigned to investigating narcotics, bank robberies, kidnappings and other traditional crimes to investigating and analyzing the terrorist threat to the United States, the officials said." By extension, it is proof, the federal agents busting people using cannabis (in accordance with the will of the voting citizens), could and should be directed to actually protecting meca.Plant prohibitionists are using time illwisely. The Cal. Fed. agents busting people for using plants, should loose their job, unless they use their time in Cal. to protect from the largest buildings being bombed. 
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Comment #1 posted by p4me on May 29, 2002 at 09:12:42 PT
Peter Jennings on the pill people
I want to remind everyone that Peter Jennings will be hosting an ABC special tonight at 10PM on the pill industry
   called Bitter Medicine, Pills, Profits, and the Public Health. Here is tvguide
   link:   ICBS,VAAI,POW
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