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FBI as a contender for 11 September culpability


As the FBI attempts to transforms "into an agency that can prevent terrorist acts, rather than react to them as criminal acts, " a reader must be diligent in seeking a thoughtful, apolitical analysis of the issues and options for the bureau, DoJ, and Congress.

I do not pretend to understand the GAO but I am told by some I trust that it can play a bit of politics in what it chooses to investigate and can certainly be fed information backchannel upon which it can launch an investigation. The CRS, or Congressional Research Service, is a research arm of Congress that, to my notice, not been accused of same.

Although CRS reports are not readily available to the public, they can be harvested as a source of thoughtful and balanced information that has the ability to draw upon resources through the government. Heretofore they come down as PDFs but, perhaps because of its recent release (6 April), RL32336, "FBI Intelligence Reform Since September 11, 2001: Issues and Options for Congress" by Alfred Cumming and Todd Masse has has been found as an HTML page.

As you might imagine while bureau supporters and detractors alike agree that the bureau's reforms to gather intel by penetrating terrorist cells is a worthy goal, its supporters opine that the "FBI has a long and successful history of such penetrations when it comes to organized crime groups, and suggest that it is capable of replicating its success against terrorist cells" whereas its detractors "say recruiting organized crime penetrations differs dramatically from terrorist recruiting [and that strategic intelligence collection is a qualitatively different function than gathering information on criminal activity]."

I am not alone in the opinion that the bureau 'too often responds to a crime scene' instead of assuming a leading interagency posture needed to gather proactive intel. It is also no secret that I feel that we need an MI-5 equivalent. Yes, I know that is expensive and time consuming but I am price elastic in its achievement as the last figure that I saw for the cost of 11 September was 95 billion in 2001 dollars. I have had the opportunity to read transcripts from some of the cell calls from the towers. Not I, thank you very much.

I am aware of some difficulties within DHS, that resolution will exceed the near-term, and that they are not in a position to provide such an interagency-intersource analysis capacity. I also am of the opinion that there is not enough genuine asymmetrical threat analysis in all the agencies, FBI included. An example is the standard FBI security audit which is a qualitative analysis without a specific counterthreat analysis as opposed to a qualitative approach that moves forward into the shooters mission to identify them in their surveillance period.

While new bureau recruits are said to be steeped in national security and counterterrorism, foreign and domestic, it is very difficult to shift a reactive law enforcement mentality into a proactive intelligence approach to terrorism. The FBI will have to demonstrate that it can quickly gain the capacity to "collect, analyze and disseminate domestic intelligence so that it can help federal, state and local officials stop terrorists before they strike."

The CRS report goes so far as to criticize FBI leadership for their lack of experience in intelligence, thus calling into question the ability of current reforms to achieve the needed transformation. Whether by design or by serendipity, this debate regarding the future of the FBI and policy choices available to legislators, crosses the 9/11 Commission's work in attempting to determine who knew what when.

As I read items such as Briefing on Al Qaeda Included Specifics I wonder if the FBI will be set up as the group to take the fall -- or at least the lions share of culpability. I had thought that it might be Rice but given the gentle nudges in the Times and Post, the FBI grows in contention.

Briefing on Al Qaeda Included Specifics
White House Says Declassification of Pre-9/11 Document Will Be Delayed
By Walter Pincus and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 10, 2004; Page A05

RL32336 -- FBI Intelligence Reform Since September 11, 2001: Issues and Options for Congress
April 6, 2004
Alfred Cumming, Specialist in Intelligence and National Security, Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division
Todd Masse, Specialist in Domestic Intelligence and Counterterrorism, Domestic Social Policy Division

Gordon Housworth

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