FBI Officials Say Agents Lack a Focus on Terror

FBI Officials Say Agents Lack a Focus on Terror
Posted by CN Staff on November 23, 2002 at 13:05:29 PT
By Eric Lichtblau
Source: New York Times 
Senior F.B.I. officials have grown frustrated with the bureau's performance in the war on terrorism, and they are demanding that agents nationwide become more aggressive and single-minded in hunting terrorists, internal memorandums and interviews show.Bruce J. Gebhardt, the second-ranking official at the bureau, told field office chiefs in a memorandum three weeks ago that he was "amazed and astounded" by the failure of some unidentified F.B.I. field offices to commit essential resources and tools to the fight against terrorism, said law enforcement officials who had read the starkly worded document. 
"You need to instill a sense of urgency" in field agents, Mr. Gebhardt wrote. "They need to get out on the street and develop sources."You need to demand that information is being sent" to the bureau's headquarters in Washington, he continued, adding: "You are the leaders of the F.B.I. You cannot fail at this mission. Too many people are depending on us."The frustrations suggest the bureau is still suffering from many of the problems that plagued it before last year's attacks, including a failure to share information and prioritize investigations, officials said. Senior officials blame an institutional resistance, with some of the bureau's 56 field offices finding it difficult to shift from a decades-long focus on solving traditional federal crimes like bank robberies, drug trafficking and kidnappings.Publicly, the bureau's director, Robert S. Mueller III, and other senior Bush administration officials say they are confident that the bureau is reinventing itself as the lead domestic agency for counter-terrorism, with a clear focus on preventing attacks instead of simply solving crimes that have already occurred. They point to the arrests in recent months of terrorist suspects in Detroit; Lackawanna, N.Y.; Portland, Ore.; and elsewhere as evidence of the bureau's strong efforts to disrupt terrorism in the United States. But internal F.B.I. communications and discussions among senior leadership in recent weeks tell a very different story.Mr. Mueller himself, in an internal memorandum to F.B.I. employees last week, hinted at his frustration in trying to make counterterrorism the clear top priority for the bureau. Mr. Mueller said he no longer wanted to see field offices establish their own distinct law enforcement priorities. Localized crime problems, he wrote, "will no longer be a basis for regional priority setting."While every office will have different crime problems that will require varying levels of resources, the F.B.I. has just one set of priorities," which began with protecting the nation from terrorist attack, he added.Among their complaints, senior bureau officials have said they are unhappy that some field offices are not moving aggressively enough to use secret terrorism warrants, are not developing enough intelligence sources to penetrate possible terrorist cells and are not loading all the terrorism-related information they receive into the F.B.I.'s central computer system. Sharing terrorism leads is considered especially crucial. The bureau's inability to analyze information in its own files from field offices in Phoenix, Minneapolis, Oklahoma and elsewhere was partly blamed for the intelligence community's failure to connect possible warning signs before the Sept. 11 attacks.F.B.I. officials are also frustrated that headquarters has not always been kept informed of terrorism leads and developments in the field. For example, officials said, Attorney General John Ashcroft recently asked Mr. Mueller about search warrants in a case related to a terrorist investigation in Yemen that involved the bureau, but Mr. Mueller was apparently unaware of the investigation by his own agents.Officials said that senior bureau leaders in recent weeks have directed field supervisors to demand weekly written briefings from their counterterrorism squads, ask more questions about investigations and push for greater use of warrants and surveillance against suspects. That task was made easier by a decision earlier this week by a federal appellate court validating the Justice Department's use of its expanded domestic surveillance powers.F.B.I. officials would not comment on the details of the recent memorandums from headquarters, but a bureau spokesman, Mike Kortan, said that Mr. Gebhardt's memorandum reflected his continuing dialogue with field leaders on counterterrorism issues."If any aspect of the counterterrorism program or any program requires emphasis or re-emphasis, he does not hesitate to do so," Mr. Kortan said. "Nothing is more important."Larger F.B.I. offices like those in New York and Los Angeles were known for aggressively pursuing terrorism cases long before last year's attacks, but some smaller field offices have much less familiarity or even interest in such cases.The bureau's success or failure in recasting its role in national law enforcement has wide-ranging repercussions in the debate about homeland security. Some prominent politicians, particularly senior Democrats in the Senate, have stepped up criticisms of the bureau's counterterrorism performance recently. And policy-makers in Congress and the administration have begun to discuss whether the government needs to create a completely new superagency for domestic and international intelligence, a move that could severely undercut the F.B.I.'s authority.Mr. Mueller and Mr. Ashcroft made separate trips this week to Southern cities to meet with F.B.I. agents and other federal and local officials involved in counterterrorism. Mr. Ashcroft "wanted to remind law-enforcement people how critical a role they play and how their mission has changed," according to Mark Corallo, a Justice Department spokesman who accompanied Mr. Ashcroft on trips to Tampa, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.The Justice Department says that the F.B.I. has already taken significant steps to shift to its new role of hunting terrorists, re-assigning 400 agents to counterterrorism from investigations of drugs, white-collar crime and other areas. According to a previously undisclosed Justice Department report to members of Congress last month, the bureau's commitment to nonterrorism cases that were once staples of the bureau dropped significantly in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks. The number of agents working narcotics cases dropped 45 percent, bank fraud cases dropped 31 percent and bank robbery investigations dropped 25 percent, according to the Justice Department figures, even though the number of reported crimes in some cases went up."Old habits die hard at the F.B.I.," Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, a ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said today. "The days of Bonnie and Clyde are over. It's time to match actions with words and really make prevention the top priority at the F.B.I." Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he also believed the F.B.I. was continuing to divert resources away from terrorism investigations in favor of cases "that can be easily handled by state and local authorities." A Congressional investigator, referring to a "longstanding historical problem" at the bureau, said that the special agents-in-charge who run the F.B.I.'s field offices "are like princes with their own little fiefdoms, and the director is like the king who doesn't necessarily have the power to rein them in."Some F.B.I. agents said it was unfair of senior officials at headquarters to question the commitment or attitude of investigators in the field and to paint agents nationwide with a broad brush. Some agents suggested that the invective simply reflected an effort by the officials to protect themselves from a rise in criticism concerning their own performances."Everyone has been pushing hard at counterterrorism for 14 months. That's a no-brainer. This is our No. 1 priority," said Nancy Savage, an Oregon-based agent who is head of the F.B.I. Agents Association. "And now that we're getting the legal and analytical tools to be effective, I think you're going to see a lot more people who want to be in the game."Complete Title: F.B.I. Officials Say Some Agents Lack a Focus on TerrorSource: New York Times (NY)Author:  Eric LichtblauPublished: November 21, 2002Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company Contact: letters Website: Related Articles:FBI Shifts From Drug War to Terror on Drugs No Longer Feds' Highest Priority
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Comment #3 posted by mayan on November 23, 2002 at 21:36:50 PT
FBI = Terrorism
The Federal Bureau of Intimidation is Terror!America Betrayed: Bush Administration,FBI Complicity In 911's all relative - THE AMERICAN POLICE STATE IS NOW COMPLETE: to Track American Consumer Purchases:,3566,70992,00.htmlPentagon data mining: Just say 'no''s 1984: Was Orwell Right? Recruitment: An Invasion Of Privacy - Pentagon Abuses '01 Education Act To Demand Names From Schools Got rich off 9/11 Tragedy: People's Investigation of 9/11:
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Comment #2 posted by john wayne on November 23, 2002 at 20:44:27 PT
fbi anti-terrorism efforts *are* focused
...on the medical marijuana patients in California.
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Comment #1 posted by DdC on November 23, 2002 at 13:46:39 PT
DdC says FBI Officials Lack a Focus Period!
Janet Edgar Hoovers COINTELPRO should be required reading in every grade school. Especially the private religious schools. DdCA Short History of FBI COINTELPRO information on COINTELPRO in the Bari case is available at the Monitor Judi Bari index. M's Secret Police: FBI COINTELPRO in the 1990s - Spying and Lying: The FBI's Dirty Secrets of Repression COINTELPRO COINTELPRO - FBI counterintelligence programs to repress political dissent in the United States. Short History of FBI COINTELPRO Tool - Manufacturing Consent since 2002 
http://cointelprotool.blogspot.comLip Magazine - Invade Iraq: Bush's Real Reasons - Puts forward reasons that the Bush Administration is determined to attack Iraq militarily. Filter - Bari vs. FBI - Explores some of the shadowy law enforcement actions surrounding the bombing of Bari's car and her subsequent standing as the prime suspect in the crime. 1960s and COINTELPRO: In Defense of Paranoia - The 1960s and COINTELPRO: In Defense of Paranoia by Daniel Brandt From NameBase NewsLine, No. 10, July-September... - The FBI's New Style Is '80s Retro Chic - John Rieger interviews author Ross Gelbspan about the FBI's investigation in the 1980s with Americans branded as "terrorists." From June 2002. Voice - John Ashcroft On Trial - Nat Hentoff reports on the challenge by civil libertarians to the Attorney General's nuvo 'COINTELPRO' programs. Voice, The - Unleashing the FBI - James Ridgeway criticizes the FBI's reorganization under John Ashcroft and compares it to the COINTELPRO era. The Sabotage Of Legitimate Dissent Bari Home Page
http://www.judibari.orgCan Cannabis the Antibiotic Treat/Prevent Anthrax? Ultra Resources on Drug Experiments Performed by the U. S. Government Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment & Linx
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