We all recognize how important the military is to preserving our freedom. But now that we are under attack by terrorists, few understand how important the FBI and CIA are to protecting us in this new war.
Under Director Robert Mueller’s leadership, the FBI has become more prevention-oriented. No longer is the most important goal securing an indictment. Of course, the FBI always wanted to prevent plots. But by adopting what it calls an intelligence mindset, the FBI emphasizes the need to elicit leads to future plots.
Going back to the tips pursued to close in on John Dillinger at the Biograph Theater in Chicago, the bureau has used intelligence. The FBI used intelligence to wipe out the Ku Klux Klan and decimate the Mafia.
But when the FBI arrested Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing, rather than pursuing leads to uncover more cells and plots, the FBI thought that was the end of the matter. Using the word intelligence conveys a new paradigm that emphasizes the importance of holding off on an arrest.
“Pre-9/11, the first consideration was, I got an indictment in my pocket,” Arthur M. Cummings, who headed national security investigations at the FBI, has told me. “We ran on the assumption that if you had an indictment, you used the indictment. Slap it down on the table, pick the guy up, you throw him on an airplane. You bring him home, you put him in jail and you go, ‘Okay, I’ve done a great job today.’”
Now when an agent wants to make an arrest, Cummings tells the agent, “Your objective is not to make the arrest. Your objective is to make that suspect our collection platform. That guy now is going to tell us just how big and broad the threat might be. He now becomes a means to collection, instead of the target of collection. I want you to understand his entire universe.”
Rather than not talking to each other, 200 analysts from the CIA and FBI sit side by side analyzing threats 24 hours a day at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va. A secure video conference takes place three times a day with all members of the intelligence community and the White House to analyze threats and parcel out leads.
Under CIA Director Leon Panetta’s leadership, the agency has successfully developed assets who have tipped off the FBI and foreign intelligence agencies to plots throughout the world. When attacks are prevented in countries like Germany, Great Britain, Spain, and France, the CIA is often behind the successes. Because of the CIA’s tips, foreign intelligence agencies have rolled up thousands of terrorists.
Every few months, the FBI announces new arrests of terrorists. 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 unfortunate result of these successes is complacency. We have some Republican lawmakers complaining about body scanners and searches to uncover the kind of bomb secreted by Umar Abdul Mutallab in his underwear. I guarantee that if those Republicans’ loved ones were to lose their lives in an attack on an airplane, they would be the first ones demanding to know why the bomb was not detected.
As Whoopi Goldberg told Mike Huckabee on Fox News, “People keep seeming to get on planes with bombs . . . we are in treacherous times and, no, it’s not comfortable, and it’s not the way I would like to live, but if it’s going to keep me from getting blown out of the sky, you can check anything you want, and if you feel something you like and squeeze it, what am I going to do?”
Despite this short-sightedness and constant demonizing by the media, 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, protecting us, our families, and our friends.
We rightly recognize the sacrifices of our military on Veterans Day. But as we feast on turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for the men and women of the FBI and CIA who have prevented another horrific attack in the more than 10 years since 9/11.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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