April 15, 2008, - 9:27 am

Famous But Incompetent: The Keystone Koppery of the “Lead Agency” on Terrorism Never Ends

By Debbie Schlussel
Before he died last year, my late father wanted to make sure I read an in-depth Wall Street Journal article from over a decade ago that he kept in his files of important newspaper articles. He told me he both enjoyed–and was frustrated by–reading the article, which wasn’t meant to be comedy, but sure read like one.
It was the story of how the FBI ceaselessly bungled the investigation of Wen Ho Lee, the Chinese scientist accused of stealing technology from an American nuclear lab and giving it to the Chi-Coms. Lee probably did it, and all the evidence coupled with strange and suspicious behavior (and constantly-changing stories) pointed that way. But because the FBI threw the case, through ineptitude and stupidity, Lee is today a free man, who remains on American soil and successfully sued media outlets. Whatta country.

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Or, more precisely, what an incompetent law enforcement agency. That’s why my dad wanted me to take note of the article. He felt–rightly so–that it was emblematic of everything I’ve been writing about the undeservedly hallowed, once-premier federal law enforcement agency, whose reputation now rests largely on PR and very little on positive results or achievements.
The Lee “investigation” was classic Clouseau-ean (as in Inspector Clouseau) stuff. One agent, who’d been a lightbulb salesperson just six months earlier, was suddenly atop the investigation and arrived completely unprepared for an interview with Lee. Really, I’m not making this stuff up. And similar bungling plagued the entire “investigation.”
That’s why–6.5 years since 9/11–we are worse off than we were 6.5 days after the attacks. And it’s also why I’m not a tad surprised by today’s Wall Street Journal article on how the FBI repeatedly bungled attempts to get the student records of a suspect linked to the 2005 London subway bombings. The story is the same old comedy of errors and study in bureaucratic brainlessness that took place with Lee. Different ideology–this time it’s Islam, not Communism–but same bungling, albeit with a lot of resistance by a recalcitrant college:

Missteps by Federal Bureau of Investigation officials caused delays in the investigation of a man initially linked to the 2005 London subway bombings. . . .
The FBI documents, released Monday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, describe a series of miscues by FBI officials as agents in Raleigh, N.C., tried to obtain records for a former university student who investigators initially thought had ties to the London bombers. The missteps appear to have delayed the investigation by a day or two, according to the emails.
The emails are likely to provide ammunition for critics of the Bush administration and the FBI at congressional hearings Tuesday and Wednesday on the misuse of national-security letters, which has been documented by Justice Department audits.
National-security letters are administrative subpoenas issued without judicial oversight in national-security investigations to obtain certain private records, such as credit-report information and telephone-billing records, but not student records. . . .
The FBI emails don’t identify the student whose records were being sought.
According to the FBI emails, about a week after the July 2005 London bombings, agents went to the university with a grand-jury subpoena for the student’s records. An agent had some of the university records in hand when he received a call from superiors that FBI headquarters had instead ordered a national-security letter to be issued for the information, the emails say.
The agent handed the records back and went through the internal FBI channels to get a national-security letter approved by superiors in Washington, according to the documents.

What an idiot! A bird in the hand is . . . the FBI giving the bird back and retracing his steps to make it harder. Hello . . . ? I much prefer the old FBI, where the guy in charge may have worn a dress, but he knew what he was doing and so did his agents.

After receiving the national-security letter, the university refused to hand over the records, arguing that such records aren’t allowed to be released under such letters, the documents say. The FBI emails describe how agents then went back to the grand jury to get a new subpoena issued. The university complied with the grand-jury subpoena and turned over the records, according to the documents.

What’s more, as I’ve detailed, the FBI simply hasn’t stayed on top of monitoring foreign students. “Project Strike Back,” a program begun by the FBI right after 9/11 to monitor terror suspect students was swiftly abandoned, even as President Bush repeatedly, geometrically multiplied the number of Saudi-sponsored student visas in America to the latest high number of 30,000. If even only one percent of these students are terrorists (and that’s a conservative estimate), that’s 300 Islamic terrorists in our midst, “subject” to the same FBI bungling, in which agents waste days handing back evidence and going through new and harder channels to get it.
FBI monitoring of foreign college students–and domestic ones–should have been an ongoing program, not a reactive comedy of errors, once a terrorist attack has been perpetrated. But FBI personnel have far more important things to do, now that it is the lead agency in fighting terrorism . . . like digging up a farm to look for Jimmy Hoffa’s remains.
Feel safer now under the “counterterrorism” Prez?
T minus 9 months until he’s gone. Sadly, the FBI–Forever Buttkissing Islam/Forever Blowing Investigations–remains a permanent fixture in the never-ending Keystone Koppery charged with keeping America “secure.”
The existence of this FUBAR Bureaucracy is Interminable.

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2 Responses

That’s it! The FBI is fired!
Since they refuse to do their jobs, then there’s no reason for us taxpayers to fund them. We’ll do something else like arm ourselves again and activate State Milita’s.
If all they want are soft cases, then the wusses can leave the FBI and go to the postal inspector’s office.
Let’s allow real men to handle the terrorists.

bhparkman on April 16, 2008 at 3:06 am

Congress almost dissolved the BATF for incompetence, and they could do the same for the FBI.
Never forget that the people who brought you the war on drugs and the same people who are running the war on terror. I am not reassured.

taffy on April 16, 2008 at 7:19 am

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