Thursday, May 23, 2002

Fareed Zakaria thinks that the lack of response to the various warnings about Sept. 11th is the creation of a domestic intelligence agency. His choice: the FBI. The FBI having done so well at its current main missions that it's clearly ready for one more.

The FBI's main mission, let's recall, is to fight crime. But its first, and formative, leader, J. Edgar Hoover, hobnobbed with mafia leaders in private, while publicly denying that the mafia existed --- instead using the immense powers of his agency to accumulate dirt on high officials in all branches of government for blackmail, while at the same time illegally harrassing such threats to the republic as Martin Luther King.

Operations against organized crime, when they finally began, only deepened the scandal, as we're particularly aware of here in Boston, home of the Connolly trial, in which the agent running local thugs Whitey Bulger and Steven Flemmi as informants is accused of tipping them off to the identities of opponents, who they killed, and to their own impending indictment. The same office let an innocent man serve thirty years in prison for a murder he didn't commit in order to protect yet another informant, Joe "the Animal" Barboza --- like both Bulger and Flemmi, a multiple murderer, with cold blood and no conscience.

And the pattern continues --- in more recent history, we have the Ruby Ridge affair, and more disturbingly the subsequent treatment of the commanding officer, Larry Potts, who effectively escaped censure due to his status as a "Friend of Louie" --- FBI directory Louis Freeh (who even tried to promote him). At the same time, Freeh was heavily involved in trying to undermine President Clinton politically. And the FBI is still notoriously reluctant to share information with any other agency, whether the federal government or local law enforcement.

And at this point, it's been widely reported how the FBI botched its standing counterintelligence responsibilities when it came to al-Qaeda, due in part to turf wars with the CIA, and in part to pure neglect. (The agency's top man on al-Qaeda resigned a few months before Sept. 11th, apparently dismayed by the lack of interest in actually doing something about the problem).

Which brings me back to the FBI's response to September 11th, much of which was, as I've already written, useless and counterproductive.

Before handing the FBI new responsibilities, I'd like to see it take better charge of the old ones.

But while counterintelligence is a dirty job, someone's got to do it, and I'm not exactly a huge fan of the CIA either --- what with MK-Ultra, and its nasty habit of getting into cowboy operations and funding them with drug money.

I wish I had a better idea. A homeland security branch of the special forces, perhaps? I can't think off the top of my head of a major scandal they've been involved with, but I'm sure someone will write in to tell me what I've missed...


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