- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

The FBI, criticized by Congress for not responding to pre-September 11 terrorist warnings, will announce a major overhaul today designed to change the bureau from one of investigating crimes to an agency intent on preventing them.
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, during a briefing at FBI headquarters in Washington, will outline a massive reorganization listing 10 priorities, including a commitment to "protect the United States from terrorist attack."
The reorganization is intended to alter the FBI's structure from a "reactive to a proactive orientation" and will include changes in investigative techniques, culture, attitude, procedures, methodology, hiring and technology.
To prevent terrorist attacks, the plan calls for expanding the FBI's counterterrorism task force over the next two years, with 14 new task-force "units" that will specialize in technology, world cultures, languages and intelligence-gathering.
Included in the reorganization will be the Office of Intelligence, led by a CIA agent; establishing "flying squads" to coordinate national and international investigations; and creating a Joint Terrorism Task Force.
To address other FBI priorities including foreign intelligence operations, espionage, cyber-crime, public corruption, civil rights violations, white-collar and violent crime the FBI will reorganize assets, modernize and integrate new computer technology, and consolidate functions to increase the bureau's emphasis on crime prevention.
The proposed changes, outlined in a report known as the "FBI Strategic Focus," have been resisted by the FBI's hierarchy for decades.
But Mr. Mueller, who was sworn in as director a week before terrorists slammed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing more than 3,000 people, began the reorganization in December, calling for a massive overhaul of priorities and missions.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Mr. Mueller's reorganization will fail without a basic change in the FBI's "mind-set from arrest and prosecution to prevention."
"His commitment to real reform and a new way of doing business from the top down will determine if this effort succeeds," he said.
Mr. Mueller, sworn in as director Sept. 4, has called for an enhanced technology, expanded training for the FBI work force, improved security, and upgraded capabilities for FBI investigators, analysts, forensic examiners and other specialists.
Earlier this month, he proposed a "supersquad" that would centralize the global war against terrorists and minimize intelligence gaffes that surfaced after the September 11 attacks.
The team will oversee terrorism inquiries worldwide to ensure that information is properly evaluated to prevent the kind of intelligence flaws that allowed memos last year to FBI headquarters in Washington from the bureau's Phoenix and Minneapolis offices to go unheeded even though both noted that Middle Eastern men were seeking pilot training.
The Phoenix memo said in July that eight Arabs were enrolled in a flight school in Arizona, and the Minneapolis memo questioned in August the flight-training activities of Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been called the 20th hijacker in the September 11 plot.
Several members of Congress have challenged the FBI's handling of the memos and have asked whether the bureau did enough to investigate the information.
Last week, FBI Agent Coleen Rowley said in a letter to Mr. Mueller that senior FBI officials blocked the Moussaoui investigation because they did not understand the significance of his arrest a month before the attacks.
Miss Rowley said Minneapolis agents who arrested Moussaoui on Aug. 15 faced a "roadblock" when they sought a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to search Moussaoui's computer. She said the agents became so frustrated at the lack of response by senior officials at FBI headquarters that they bypassed the chain of command and notified the CIA directly but were reprimanded.
She said that while the agents were "closest to the action and in the best position to gauge the situation locally," they were not allowed to proceed.
Miss Rowley said the warrant was rewritten in Washington to "downplay the significance of the information in order to get out of the work of having to see the application through or possibly to avoid taking what he may have perceived as an unnecessary career risk."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide