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The Agents aren't Special and the Shooters ain't Sharp

Earth to FBI: You're Smug, Ignorant, and Incompetent

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, June 20, 2001.

The United States Congress today entertains efforts to improve the image of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the public. Specifically, to the voting public. This is the sort of endeavor that brings up my lunch, because there is no longer even any pretense of improving the Bureau, either in intent or result, but in its image.

For all the condemnation of the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover for his alleged cross-dressing, sodomite relationships that may have allowed him to be blackmailed by the Mafia for decades, and for his obsessions with absurd national security concerns like the American Communist Party of Gus Hall and the Black Panthers of Huey Newton, and for his bureau's incompetence as a counter intelligence arm during the Second World War, and most importantly for his own alleged blackmailing of high government officials, his successors and former victims are more than willing to take up his ethical standards as long as they are in control. The FBI is now too big, too bureaucratic, too self absorbed, and too self-congratulatory. The Congress need not worry about the FBI's image, it needs to worry about the FBI.

The FBI is now taking credit for the arrest of the Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh, but the facts are that they did not really play a role in either. This compares well with Hoover once claiming credit for breaking up a Nazi spy ring, when the truth was the German leader surrendered upon arriving on our shores and was the only one of his team executed, probably to keep the story safe. The FBI bungled Waco, Ruby Ridge, and its own security if recent revelations of Soviet and Russian spies are true. The FBI keeps expanding, now into CIA territory overseas, where it was once forbidden. It does so under the umbrella of assisting international police work, but there is need for suspicion. The United States cannot support one, uncontested police force, a Federal force with the only viable crime lab and agents elevated to 'special' status that deflects all attempts to share power.

Financial savings and no duplication of effort are not the only concerns in a democracy. The military and police need to have competition and others sniffing around them, hence our overlapping and odd division of military power in the United States. The Navy, after all, is its own complete military. The FBI has been trying for decades to eliminate all competition, including the CIA, the Secret Service, and the ATF. The ATF is, indeed, something of a joke both in job description and in result, and the Secret Service also has a weird job description: protect the President and prosecute counterfeiting. The CIA may be too bizarre for words. Nonetheless, one agency doing all of this is not only a bureaucratic nightmare, it is a dangerous one. In fact, the FBI is too big now and needs to be cut back and refocused. It needs a reality check.

First, the crime lab needs to become a separate entity, budgeted separately, and run separately, available to all law enforcement agencies. If a woman is accused of killing her husband's lover, and the evidence is that her hair and attendant DNA is found in the victim's apartment on the body, what is the possible defense? Well, it should be that the prosecution has to prove they did, indeed, find the stuff where they said they did. How can we ever be sure when the lab and police are the same? The defense is totally at the mercy of the prosecution's word. We cannot be sure, especially since careers are made by conviction rates, not necessarily correct ones. If the police and lab people are tightly bound together, whose toast do they butter and when?

The image of the FBI has indeed taken a beating, but long overdue. The elevation of the term profiler, which has been the basis of a zillion movies and television shows and novels, the worship of DNA testing, the attempt to sex up the Special Agent with Clarice Starling and Dana Sculley, these are already knowing attempts to humanize, excuse, and elevate the FBI. But as we've seen with Richard Jewell, the Unabomber, and Randy Weaver's wife, it was all image and bombast. The agents aren't special, the shooters aren't sharp, profilers reveal more about their own obsessions, and they simply lie about the role they played with Ted Kaczynski, who was turned in by his brother after the FBI's vaunted talents let him go. If the Congress has a shred of courage and smarts, they'll damage the image of the FBI, not repair it, not bolster it. The truth's not out there, after all, its right in front of them, and it ain't pretty.