Because of the terrorist threat, the FBI and CIA have become as important as the military in preserving our freedom. Yet while thanking our military is standard practice in American life, no one thinks of thanking the FBI, the CIA, or the rest of the intelligence community for keeping us safe since 9/11.
Instead, the media and many on the extreme left and extreme right demonize the men and women of those agencies for allegedly “spying on innocent Americans.”
Last year, two Washington Post reporters took two years to uncover this story: The intelligence community is big and secret and uses a lot of contractors. Presented as an exposé, the series, “Top Secret America,” found no abuse. Instead, it presented the conclusion that the intelligence community is a “hidden world” that is “growing beyond control.”
A front-page subhead read: “The government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it’s fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping citizens safe.”
In fact, the intelligence community has kept us safe since 9/11. But Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, who wrote the series, never mentioned that fact. If they had, the Washington Post series could not have run: It would have been exposed as bogus.
If there was any doubt about the effectiveness of the intelligence community, it was dispelled when its efforts took out both Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida, and Anwar al-Awlaki, the leader of al-Qaida in Yemen.
Every few months, the FBI announces new arrests of terrorists, the latest being a Massachusetts man who allegedly plotted to bomb the Pentagon and Capitol with remote-controlled planes. Often, leads from the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) contribute to the arrests.
In many cases, instead of waiting years to nail them with terrorism-related charges, the FBI will charge them with lesser crimes that put terrorists away for years or result in deportations. The arrests are the result of a new FBI mindset that emphasizes prevention over prosecution.
As noted in my book “The Secrets of the FBI,” many of the high-profile terrorism cases have been thwarted after Tactical Operations teams from the FBI entered homes and offices to plant bugging devices and snoop into computers. While these break-ins are authorized by court order, FBI agents on TacOps teams risk their lives because they could be shot as burglars.
When conducting covert entries, TacOps tranquilizes guard dogs and may stage fake traffic accidents, traffic stops, or utility breakdowns to waylay occupants and security personnel. To conceal agents as they defeat locks and alarm systems, it creates false fronts to houses and fake bushes that hide agents.
To make sure they are not caught, TacOps assigns field office agents or special surveillance teams to follow occupants of homes or offices — called keyholders — to watch them to see if they start to return. If they do, agents tailing them radio that they are heading back and estimate the time it will take them to return. Agents working the premises know their own “breakdown time,” how long it will take to gather their equipment and leave without a trace.
“If the breakdown time is 15 minutes and the target is 5 minutes away, we’ll have a plan in place to slow them down,” Louis Grever, the FBI’s executive assistant director who was on the teams for 12 years, tells me. “Since we’re in our own backyard, we can involve the police, fire department, public health and public safety officials, the sanitation department, the U.S. Postal Service.”
Perhaps there is a “sudden traffic jam,” Grever says. Or there could be an “accident in front of them, or police could pull them over. There could be a little local natural disaster — a fire hydrant is turned on and is flooding the street, and they have to go around the back way.”
The greatest payoff is when an entry by TacOps stops a terrorist plot in progress, as happened with Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, who allegedly was planning to blow up the home of former President George W. Bush in Dallas. Similarly, Najibullah Zazi was already mixing chemicals to make explosives to blow up New York City subways when TacOps agents clandestinely obtained enough evidence from his laptop to lead to his arrest.
Most people do not draw a connection between these efforts by the intelligence community and the fact that there has not been a successful attack since 9/11. Rather, FBI agents are portrayed in the media as having nothing better to do than probe the library reading habits of innocent grandmothers. If FBI agents can’t be trusted to wiretap within the law, why trust them to carry weapons or make arrests?
Despite constant vilifying by the media and congressional threats to take away the tools needed to uncover plots, FBI agents and CIA officers work silently around the clock and risk their own lives to keep us safe. Most could be making far more money in the private sector.
Out of love of country, they continue on the job, making sure we do not again witness Americans hurling themselves out of the windows of skyscrapers to escape an inferno or children holding up photos of their parents, hoping they survived a horrific attack.
On this Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks to these patriots who have successfully protected us, our families, and our friends for more than 10 years.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is a New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. His latest, "The Secrets of the FBI," has just been published. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via email. Go Here Now.
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