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Sunday, March 29, 2015

New Report Urging to Give FBI More Power Shows Exactly Why it’s a Bad Idea

Carey Wedler

new report on the FBI has decided not only that the bureau is doing an exemplary job, but that it needs more power. The Congressionally mandated “Protecting the Homeland in the 21st Century” report was conducted by the FBI 9/11 Review Commission, an external body appointed by Congress to analyze the FBI’s progress since 9/11.

The 128-page report is mostly complimentary, praising the agency for improvements since its initiation of reforms since 9/11 (and since a scathing report on its progress in 2004).  Among many strengths, the FBI was found to have excelled at  “building collaborative relationships with its key partners across the US Government,” including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and the NSA. It praised the bureau for its intelligence sharing capabilities and for combating threats of cyber-terrorism. The bureau also celebrated Congress and its support of the Patriot Act because “many of our counter-terrorism successes are the direct result of the provisions of the Act.”

Though the commission viewed the FBI’s “progress” favorably, it offered a variety of improvements. It believes the FBI must improve its intelligence sharing and surveillance operationseven further, including ramping up its data sharing with the private sector because that relationship is “fragmented.” This is in line with FBI Director James B. Comey’s belief that the bureau must transition from a law enforcement agency to an intelligence agency. The purpose for this, of course, is to fight terrorism and cyber-terrorism. It is a priority the report stressed various times as “urgent,” saying the FBI lags behind advancements in law enforcement capability:
This imbalance needs urgently to be addressed to meet growing and increasingly complex national security threats, from adaptive and increasingly tech-savvy terrorists, more brazen computer hackers and more technically capable, global cyber syndicates.
Other suggested improvements included “professionalizing” the agency, building lasting relationships with local police via “fusion centers” (highly controversial surveillance centers that join the efforts of federal, local, and other agencies), improving science and technology capabilities, accumulating more informants, and treating its analysts with more respect. It suggests that many of the shortcomings have been caused by budget cuts.

On Wednesday, Comey said of the findings:

I think this is a moment of pride for the F.B.I… An outside group of some of our nation’s most important leaders and thinkers has stared hard at us and said, ‘You have done a great job at transforming yourself.’ They’ve also said what I’ve said around the country: ‘It’s not good enough.’
(It should be noted that one of the “leaders” in charge of the report was Edwin Meese, former attorney general, employee of Ronald Reagan, oppressor of protests at Berkeley in the 1960s, and fervent drug warrior.)

While the FBI may be pleased with the results of the report, it is in actuality a dangerous approval of many violative policies and a rubber stamp to expand them. The report is filled with contradictions that prove the bureau needs anything but more power.

The most glaring disparity is that the report claims the FBI needs more surveillance and intelligence capabilities while praising the FBI for stopping terrorism with the capabilities it already has. It acknowledges that the FBI was given a huge range of powers with the Patriot Act but insists it still needs more (it was already increasing its abilities prior to the report). It ignores the massive web of surveillance that the FBI has secretly built to spy on Americans. Rather than suggesting the FBI improve its detective and investigative skills, the review commission claims citizens should sacrifice more of their civil liberties to make it easier on the agency.

The report lauds the bureau for preventing terrorism but fails to acknowledge the FBI is responsible for the terrorist acts it foils. It claims the FBI is making the country safer but continually fear-mongers throughout the report, insisting that the terrorist threat will only get worse. It claims the FBI needs more science and technology while failing to recognize that it already employs terrifyingfacial recognition tools and biometrics systems to keep tabs on citizens who are not so much as suspected of a crime. It says that the agency needs to treat its analysts better but makes no mention of the FBI’s stifling, aggressive attitude toward whistleblowers.

The report’s most ironic contradiction is that it praises the FBI for its respect of the Constitution and of civil liberties:

Criminal investigators openly pursue and handle evidence under strong internal and external constraints including the US Constitution and generations of law aimed at protecting civil liberties.
That the report has the audacity to claim the FBI respects civil liberties while advocating policies that directly violate them is the most glaring and offensive element of the report. It invalidates every single recommendation made in the report by revealing a flagrant misunderstanding of the constitution, civil liberties, basic freedoms, and the government’s “responsibility” to respect them.

At the broadest level, the report reveals what happens when “external” commissions populated by government apologists are tasked with reviewing the progress of government agents: they demand more power masquerading as safeguards for the people.

Carey Wedler writes for, where this article first appeared. Tune in to the Anti-Media radio show Monday through Friday @ 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific.

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