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Tuesday, 4 June, 2002, 19:02 GMT 20:02 UK
FBI revamp: Do you feel any safer?
The clear-up of Ground Zero may be finished, but the US security services are still trying to come to terms with the devastating failure of intelligence in the run-up to 11 September.
FBI director Robert Muller admitted the agency may have been able to uncover part of the terrorist plot if some of their leads had been followed.
He also announced the most comprehensive shake-up of the FBI's structure in decades, to shift the focus away from fighting everyday crime to combating terrorism.
The revamped FBI is to take on an extra 1,600 agents and develop closer ties with its overseas counterpart - the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Does this make you feel any safer? Can the FBI and the CIA deliver? Has the clear-up of the World Trade Center site closed a chapter in the tragedy of 11 September?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I do not feel any safer knowing that the FBI will have increased forces and powers of surveillance. The reason why I have been uneasy since 11 September is not because of terrorism, which has always been a threat, but because of the decrease in civil liberties. More distressing is that while we're pouring money into research for weapons and "homeland security" issues, school districts across the nation have been gutting educational funds. So not only will the American public be watched and censored, but ignorant also.
Not only do I not feel safer with the revamped FBI, I am actually more fearful that Attorney General John Ashcroft has used this episode to further erode the Constitutional rights of all Americans.
There has been talk of an FBI overhaul even before 11 September after tons of seized weapons were lost and a Russian spy went undetected within the FBI for years. I think the attacks on 11 September were just a boosting point for those that pushed for its reorganisation.
Shaun Carr, NY, USA
Thomas Jefferson said "A country that sacrifices a little liberty for a little order loses both and deserves neither." The American Government should pay more heed to those words.
In response to Gordon McVey, what good are liberties if you are not alive to enjoy them? If they had done things about the warnings, it would have meant cracking down on Muslims in the US, albeit a small minority of them, but we'd have daily articles in the paper about how the US Government discriminates and racially profiles Muslims. We have to sacrifice some liberties, otherwise we will not be alive to enjoy the remaining ones.
Not until the insane law that the CIA and FBI cannot share information is repealed will I feel safe. It's absolutely ridiculous that our two top intelligence agencies are forbidden by law to assist each other in fighting terror.
Changes definitely need to be made, which requires knowing who knew what when. They had a lot of information without infringing on the privacy of US citizens.
As an American, I feel more threatened by the truly Orwellian state the US has become over the so-called threats of terrorism. The goal of the Bush administration, like so many before it, has been to control its public. By gripping citizens with terror, they will not pay attention to the real horrors the president is enacting.
Paranoid people the world over have this insane notion that the most powerful democracy in the world protects that democracy with big, bureaucratic conspiracies and scary big brother types watching their every move. C'mon! Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the civil war which sent the liberals into a tailspin but no Orwellian state ever emerged.
I still strongly believe in "Give me liberty or give me death"! There was nothing wrong in our laws that caused the failure on 11 September. I am all for improving the FBI and CIA but not at the expense of liberty. I will fight any attempts to violate the Constitution of the United States.
I don't know if I feel safer, but I do feel better that the FBI is beefing up it's effort on combating terrorists. I don't care what some people say or feel about our freedoms being taken away... they aren't!! This is an attempt (long overdue, thanks to some of our past presidents) to preserve and protect our freedoms.
Rev. Marie Jones, USA
Most of us in Britain thought (it appears wrongly judging from the sensible comments being made) that our American friends were happily entering into a police state and hailing blindly everything coming out of the government under the guise of terrorism. How wrong we were and I feel happier now realising that many Americans feel unease about the direction the country is heading towards post-11 September. Beware the FBI and CIA. Their lack of accountability and eagerness for covert action are two of the most dangerous aspects of these organisations.
It is unbelievable that Americans swallow all the propaganda about their lives being more safer after rehashing the FBI. Bringing more people in will most likely only result to more complex authority structures and more bureaucracy. The paranoia of the US Government will end up taking away all the rights that the United States once was based on.
Julie Lancaster-Whann, US
Maybe a little too late! The US is supposed to be the most powerful nation in the world but look what happened. More should have been done soon. I just hope we've all learnt a lesson over the last year both in the US and the UK.
The land of the free doesn't seem so free anymore. What good is it fighting terrorism to protect freedoms if your freedoms are stripped away in doing so?
The FBI always did what they wanted to do and will do so in the future. Go on America: open up the files regarding JFK, Martin Luther King, Marilyn Monroe, etc. Show us all documents that warned you about what happened on 11 September.
Not in the least. It probably is just the usual meaningless, warm and fuzzy stuff governments are famous for doing when the pressure is on.
I do not feel any safer. In fact, I feel a little more paranoid as every day goes by. I believe the increasing of power to the FBI and CIA is one step closer to a dictatorship. Freedom? Maybe. But not here, not anymore.
Do I feel safer? No. Was the FBI restructuring necessary? Yes. The FBI obviously needs to be more proactive and is taking steps to achieve that. The Americans who are whining about our civil liberties being destroyed and "McCarthyism" are absurd. We're dealing with a completely different enemy and I don't recall the Communists wanting to plough aircraft into our skyscrapers. The five million illegal (non-US) citizens roaming our country need to be identified and expelled, how else would you suggest they do it? Why should the US Constitution protect illegal immigrants and terrorist here on student visas? The US government has been far too lenient for too long and now we are suffering for it.
To those saying visas and illegal immigrants should be taken out, compare the ratio of the number of illegal or legal immigrants/visa holders committing crime to that of citizens doing the same and then speak out of wisdom not out of anger and fear.
Let the FBI scan my face, I have nothing to hide.
As the saying goes, "Those who would sacrifice some of their liberty for temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." If we are willing to give up our privacy, would the government be willing to give up theirs?
Adam Lenk, Detroit, MI United States
The changes in the FBI are
typical of the right wing under Ashcroft, who wishes
to criminalise dissent. Instead
of focusing on the co-ordination
of information which the bureau already has,
they're going out to increase
surveillance of law-abiding
groups which differ from the
unelected McCarthyite administration.
Even though it seems there was inefficiency in the FBI, to say Bush knew is overreacting. However, the result for the inquiry is daily warnings and disclaimers like "it will happen again and we can't stop it" which scares people and only gets the government off the hook. Now part of the restructuring means the FBI doesn't need evidence of criminal activity to spy on people. Military tribunals. No I don't feel safer... from a reactionary government.
I feel safer knowing that the FBI has the authority so search anyone, anywhere, anytime - whenever there is even the slightest suspicion of criminal activity. We also need to raise the bar when hiring FBI agents and not rush out and fill the new spaces. These agents must be of high integrity and moral character in order to make correct judgements - and be encouraged to blow the whistle if necessary! I applaud the FBI agent who just made public her memo and frustration in trying unsuccessfully to get a search warrant for the suspected terrorist's computer!!
No, not at all. These are people of very low mental capacity.
The FBI is given more power to spy in America and abroad. Hmm, do I feel safer? No.
I would feel safer if the organisations like FBI and CIA were properly set for terrorist tracking and advance elimination of true threat. What makes me always wary about any specific powers given to any authority is the possible and even likely misuse of those powers. The authorities going for beetroots when they should be looking for potatoes. Hopefully it can be made clear and maintained clear what is real terrorism and what is a real threat for communities. First then you can feel truly safe, or safer.
Americans would have the best idea on this issue as it affects where they live, it would be like asking them to comment on MI5's conduct - didn't Britain miss at least one of al-Qaeda's agents? Wasn't that pointed out to us later?
Having said that the extended communication between the FBI and CIA is definitely overdue - as long as they're both sufficiently funded by Congress to be effective.
This is simply political manoeuvring. We are being given more feelgood propaganda by the current administration. Close ties with other agencies, as well as, the co-ordination of intelligence data and resources should have been standard practice. Furthermore, the intelligence data that indicated a terrorist attack was imminent was in place. But, the territorial mentality of the FBI was, once again, the order of the day. There is a long tradition of this. One need only look at the 60s for a good example.
The FBI has made some tragic blunders over the past few years, not because they fail to receive information but because they fail to act on it. This is not a symptom of incompetence but of a bureaucracy that desperately needs to be thinned out. I won't feel any safer until I know that FBI Agents in the field can act against terrorists immediately upon discovery, without sending countless memos up the ladder. When it comes to fighting terrorists, it's better to ask forgiveness than permission.
I agree with Rich from Texas. The problem with the FBI is not one of lack of field agents or gathered intelligence, as much as too many bureaucrats. There are too many agencies right now crying that they don't have recourses, and using 911 as an excuse to expand their budgets, and soak the American Tax payer. What other country spends as much on defence and intelligence as the United States already? Adding 1,600 field agents wont stop terror, unless their idiot managers start taking their underlings seriously. Isn't it clear now that the intelligence information for 911 was gathered; but not passed along, communicated, or acted upon? Fix the bad system don't increase the bureaucracy.
Yup. As safe as David Koresh and his friends and family did in Waco, Texas. The Feds are RIDDLED with corruption. And with decadents. They all think they're film stars. By the way, wasn't Robert Hansen in the FBI? So we'll add traitors shall we?
This is yet another step forward for this administration's return to McCarthyism. I suppose some might feel safe by the fact the FBI will be given unprecedented power. I for one don't feel safe at the prospect of being investigated, who knows maybe even jailed, simply for criticizing "my" government. The US Government has an agenda of only greater power and greed, not my safety.
Even as someone who has many relatives in law enforcement and who generally trusts and supports the police, this does give me some pause. On the other hand, the stakes are now very high if there is not some improvement in the FBI's intelligence gathering capabilities.
This will be an unpopular opinion, but I think that the FBI should be given carte blanche to monitor non-citizens as much as they please. In spite of the anthrax scare, and Oklahoma City, the scope of domestic terrorism is small by comparison. The sheer number of guests (invited and uninvited) that we have in this country (nine million by some estimates) will prevent a wholesale invasion of privacy for all of them.
None of this is desirable in my eyes, but when I see how even our "friends" in Europe (the UK being a notable exception... God bless you!) have reacted to our attempts to prevent this from happening again, I begin to wonder if we have much of choice.
David Dietzgen, USA
I don't know if I feel safer but the shake-up at the FBI is probably a good thing. There are a lot of very good agents and people over there who care very much about this country. So I see this as a positive step. I hope people in the world would see the shake up as a positive point on how our government makes changes with a very powerful agency.
The FBI has always been a proactive crime fighting organisation and these recent incidents will bring forth a modernisation that is desperately needed. I have faith the FBI will continue to deliver superior law enforcement and investigation to all the world!
The so called shake-up of the FBI should not make anyone feel any safer. The re-organisation and re-focus will not erase Ruby Ridge, Waco and so on... It will do nothing to stop the 'silo' mentality of the CIA and FBI. Worst of all, the re-focus is shifting resources away from the war on drugs. Ask your average citizen if they will feel any safer when junkies and pushers start peddling Afghan opium on their street corner.
The unsung tragedy of the restructuring of the FBI is the fact that the man in charge of the justice department, John Ashcroft, was appointed by Bush only after he lost his senatorial election to a dead man, Mel Carnahan. Ashcroft, who was ousted by his state constituents, does not represent the values of our nation. Thus, he should not have a decisive voice in restructuring an organization that is central to maintaining our freedoms. Our civil rights are in serious danger.
Surveillance without court order, indefinite detention without charge - if the attackers' purpose was to obliterate American freedom then they have been remarkably successful.
J Toller, USA
No matter how much precautionary measures are taken it is virtually impossible to be prepared for major terror attacks. The revamping of the FBI is sure to make it stronger, but surly it is not 100% secure.
Having an additional 1600 agents will undoubtedly help but the real question will be about efficiency. The budget has been increased massively to include better equipment, but the greatest increase in efficiency will come through co-operation between the CIA and FBI, which appears to be underway due to such a large public and governmental outcry following 11 September. Much greater gains can be made through partnering with intelligence agencies in Europe. Part of me really hopes that Europe will unite faster than they currently are. A unified Europe will be the perfect counter-balance to perceived US unilateralism and will provide much better intelligence than we gather here in the United States.
I do not believe the revamping of the FBI is a reaction to press pressure or public opinion. I believe it has been planned all along, the agenda being : more control.
Yes, I believe the FBI and CIA can deliver, at least some of what they aim for. There will always be some things that slip through the net, but that is unfortunately the nature of life. The good guys don't always win. Indeed the 'good guys' are not always that good. However, with this new focus they will probably increase their success rate in combating terrorist acts. As to whether I feel safer? Well, being British I have grown up with the ever present threat of IRA terrorism and tend not to give it much thought. Without wishing to sound callous, the USA has always been the main target for global terrorism, taking fire from the UK. As such, whether the FBI are more or less successful, it probably won't affect the safety of me and mine much one way or the other.
I'm not so sure that this shake up is really anything new. In the 1950s the FBI devoted most of its efforts to rooting out the "evil spectre" of communists in America, and to any thinking American it is not to hard to see that terrorism is the Bush administration's new communism. But in some respects I think that the change is a wonderful idea. Now that the FBI will be spending most of its time combating the phantom menace of "terrorism", I'll be able to get on with all that corporate crime me and my rich, powerful, white friends have been dreaming about.
To Kellie Marten: "Phantom menace of terrorism"?? You don't think terrorism is a threat. Then I guess 11 September was all a ruse and the towers are really still there. Get your head out of the sand and sober up.
30 May 02 | Americas
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