From: Otis Willie
Subject: Congress Mulls FBI Reorganization
Organization: The American War Library
NNTP-Posting-Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 18:42:25 EDT
Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 22:42:25 GMT
Congress Mulls FBI Reorganization
(EXCERPT) Fri Jun 21, 1:22 PM ET, by JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Lawmakers cautioned FBI ( news - web sites) Director
Robert Mueller on Friday against waging a war on terrorism that is so
aggressive it weakens the rights of Americans.
The comments came as Mueller described to a House subcommittee the
steps the FBI is taking to reorganize itself to better fight terrorism
since the Sept. 11 attacks. The FBI's focus on counterterrorism is
drawing hundreds of field agents from drug and other criminal
investigations, and Mueller cited a system of training and inspectors
aimed at preventing abuses.
"Agents understand the consequences of going beyond the Constitution,"
Mueller told the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the
Justice Department ( news - web sites) and FBI.
Meantime, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa and a handful of other
labor leaders back the push for a new department, setting aside for
now concerns raised by public employees' unions.
After meeting with domestic security chief Tom Ridge at the White
House, the leaders said they supported the broad outlines of Bush's
plans and would monitor how the concerns of public employees are
handled. And Hoffa promised that truckers will be on the front lines
of domestic defense.
"We can be the eyes and ears out there, especially on CB (radios),"
Hoffa told reporters. "It's amazing what kind of information they can
come up with."
Hoffa said it's too early to determine with unionized workers would be
hurt by the plan. "We'll just wait and see what happens," he told
Frank Hanley of the International Union of Operating Engineers said
his union had given Bush's plan its unqualified support.
While some members of Congress generally praised Mueller and his
agency for their response to the attacks, they worried that
constitutional protections might be compromised in the drive to
prevent a new wave of terrorist acts.
"In our quest to create a better, faster, more agile FBI, we have to
be careful not to trample on the rights granted to every American
under the Constitution," said Rep. Frank Wolf ( news, bio, voting
record), R-Va., chairman of the subcommittee.
"I'm concerned that in the rush to catch the bad guys, we will hurt
the good guys," echoed Rep. Jose Serrano ( news, bio, voting record)
of New York, the panel's top Democrat.
Immediately after Sept. 11, the FBI assigned more than 6,000 agents to
counterterrorism — six times the number before the attacks. "That has
leveled off to 2,000 now," Mueller said.
Mueller sought to reassure that the FBI and CIA ( news - web sites)
will work together effectively on intelligence issues — a subject that
has previously fallen on skeptical ears in Congress.
Without unfettered access to raw intelligence data — tape recordings,
communications intercepts, surveillance photos — many lawmakers have
been saying that the new agency will not have all the data it needs to
improve analysis and prevent future terrorist attacks.
"How is this agency to know what it doesn't know?" Sen. Mark Dayton (
news, bio, voting record), D-Minn., asked at a hearing Thursday of the
Senate Governmental Affairs Committee ( news - web sites). "You're
adding another player to this equation."
President Bush ( news - web sites)'s domestic security chief, Tom
Ridge, told that panel Thursday, and a later hearing of the House
Government Reform Committee ( news - web sites), that the new
department will "connect the dots" better than the current system even
if it mainly gets scrubbed reports, assessments and analyses from the
Ridge said Bush wants the CIA to remain accountable directly to the
president and for the FBI to stay within the Justice Department
instead of moving into the new department, as some lawmakers suggest.
The new department, he said, will bring a fresh perspective and
analysis combined with an assessment of U.S. risks and the ability to
take quick action to protect against attacks.
"This would be the only venue where all the information gathered, By
all the intelligence agencies of the United States could be reviewed,"
Ridge told the Senate panel. "That integration has never occurred
anywhere in the federal government before."
Some Republican lawmakers defended the administration.
Sen. Fred Thompson ( news, bio, voting record), R-Tenn., said it was
important to have a "firewall" between the massive amounts of
intelligence data collected and the analysts at a new department to
forestall "the possibility that the new agency would be inundated with
truckloads of intelligence data."
But others were not so sure the intelligence agencies will play along.
"What makes anyone think they will communicate with a new, untested
agency?" asked Rep. John Tierney ( news, bio, voting record), D-Mass.
The eight hours of hearings were the first since Bush released
detailed plans for the new department Tuesday. It would combine 100
scattered federal entities with 170,000 employees and total annual
budgets of at least $37 billion.
It also marked Ridge's first formal public testimony on Capitol Hill.
He previously resisted such appearances on grounds that he is a
confidential adviser to the president.
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