Monday, January 09, 2006

Spies With Nice Ties – The FBI

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Well, the fire is burning nicely, I can see. The previous discussions about the CIA and the NSA have enjoyed a fair amount of discussion, but I find myself amused by the confusion on the Left’s part. Not so much that they still continue to ignore the legality of the electronic intercepts, which they insist on miscalling “wiretaps”, but the fact that liberals continue to obsess on foreign intelligence agencies possibly trampling on their civil rights, when in actual fact the only intelligence agency known to have any history of abusing citizens’ rights, of committing violence against splinter groups, and using force to remove an asylum-seeker from his mother on U.S. soil, is also the primary intelligence agency authorized to conduct domestic surveillance on American citizens – the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI began with a series of events not unlike the present need to match agencies with the needs they faced. In 1908, the Justice Department, tired of having to request help from the Treasury Department when in need of detectives, pressed for the creation of a detective service for the DoJ. On July 26 1908, Attorney General Charles Bonaparte hired nine detectives, thirteen civil rights investigators, and twelve accountants to take on a range of cases deemed important to the Department of Justice. In World War One, the Bureau acquired responsibility for enforcing the Espionage, Selective Service, and Sabotage Acts. From there on, the FBI was the principal government arm for investigating domestic threats to National Security.

In its present identity, the FBI is the agency which most implements the provisions of the PATRIOT Act. If someone flashes a badge and asks your boss about you, it will most likely be the FBI. If someone goes through your trash or follows you on your way to work if you live in the United States, it’s the FBI looking over your shoulder. And its’ the FBI who make the most use of the FISA warrants; because the FBI is a dual-purpose agency, who is at long last allowed to tell intelligence agencies information of value to National Security, but who also has a keen interest in making arrests when a citizen goes dirty.

The FBI also has a very different idea of profile. The CIA hides as someone else, and the NSA simply won’t be seen. The G-men, on the other hand, work up a high profile, very sharp and smooth. Look on television, and you will see no less than a half-dozen major shows where an FBI agent is the hero. Even “The X-Files” foilhead agent Mulder made the Bureau look cool. This is no coincidence. Even from the start, the FBI kept strict rules about dress and appearance, and whatever else was important to J. Edgar Hoover, the man understood public image, and never ceased to boost the profile of the clean-cut government agent as hero.

The Bureau has had more documented cases of abuse than virtually all the other intelligence agencies combined. Yet the FBI also stands out as an efficient and respected group of agents. In addition to hundreds of U.S. offices, the FBI also maintains a number of offices in foreign nations, called Legates. These agents act as a sort of consultant to other nations and to U.S. agencies abroad, providing access to the FBI’s cutting-edge forensics laboratories and analysis facilities. And the FBI has always maintained strong relations with the military – it’s hardly a coincidence that the main FBI training grounds are a Quantico.

Also, it’s worth noting that many intelligence agents join the FBI when they leave the field, and the FBI works in an advisory capacity with many intelligence agencies. Now that’s dressing for success!

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