Intelligence: November 15, 2002

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Despite the success of the FBI in exposing some al Qaeda cells in the United States, there is criticism from Congress and the CIA over the FBI's inability to turn itself into an intelligence agency. The FBI is basically a national police investigative organization. Historically, the FBI gets a case and then investigates like any police force would, with the objective being to build a case so the suspects can be tried and convicted in court. An intelligence agency is a rather different beast. Most of the time, an intelligence agency collects information and analyses it. The CIA doesn't arrest anyone, but does pass on important data for other agencies of the government to act on (mainly the Department of Defense or State Department.) The FBI is now in charge of domestic intelligence gathering, and members of Congress who have been able to grill FBI officials in public, and classified, sessions are not encouraged by what they hear. Many senior members of Congress have heard testimony from CIA officials, so they know what an intelligence agency is and how it operates. It's been noted that the CIA often detects terrorist operations offshore that the FBI has a hard time picking up on when it appears that some of the terrorists have headed for America. The FBI, so far, is acting mainly like the traditional FBI. Part of the problem is outside the FBIs control, for the United States has long forbidden domestic intelligence gathering unless it is in support of a specific criminal investigation. The FBI appears to be treating the war on terror like it was some foreign criminal organization operating within the United States. This approach has not inspired much confidence in Congress, and there's a move towards creating a domestic intelligence organization within the new Department of Homeland Security. The FBI will fight this, as they see it as stepping on their turf. The bureaucratic battle will be interesting, although fatal to any American killed by terrorists who went undetected in the process.

 


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