Thrilling for a grilling
I’m very curious to see how the 9/11 Commission treats former FBI director Louis Freeh at today’s hearings. Even more than the Bushies, Freeh was Richard Clarke’s nemesis in Against All Enemies. Freeh launched a pre-emptive strike laying out his position in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. The key paragraph: Short of total war, the FBI ...
I'm very curious to see how the 9/11 Commission treats former FBI director Louis Freeh at today's hearings. Even more than the Bushies, Freeh was Richard Clarke's nemesis in Against All Enemies. Freeh launched a pre-emptive strike laying out his position in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. The key paragraph:
I’m very curious to see how the 9/11 Commission treats former FBI director Louis Freeh at today’s hearings. Even more than the Bushies, Freeh was Richard Clarke’s nemesis in Against All Enemies. Freeh launched a pre-emptive strike laying out his position in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. The key paragraph:
Short of total war, the FBI relentlessly did its job of pursuing terrorists, always with the goal of preventing their attacks. But the FBI’s pre-9/11 Counter-Terrorism (CT) resources were finite and insufficient–3.5% of the entire government’s CT budget. In 1993, we had fewer than 600 special agents and 500 support positions funded for CT. By 1999, we’d more than doubled our personnel and trebled the FBI’s CT budget to $301 million. We knew it wasn’t enough. For Fiscal Years 2000, 2001 and 2002 the FBI asked for 1,895 special agents, analysts and linguists to enhance our CT program. We got 76 people for those three critical years. FY 2000 was typical: 864 CT positions at a cost of $380.8 million requested–five people funded for $7.4 million. This isn’t a criticism of the DoJ, White House or Congress–that’s how Washington makes its budgets, balancing competing needs against limited resources. The point is: The FBI was intensely focused on its CT needs but antebellum politics was not yet there. By contrast, after Sept. 11, the FBI’s FY 2002 Emergency Supplemental CT budget was increased overnight by 823 positions for $745 million. The al Qaeda threat was the same on Sept. 10 and Sept. 12. Nothing focuses a government quicker than a war.
This is an able defense, but Clarke makes repeated assertions in his book that Freeh failed to follow through on counterterrorism, failed to update the FBI’s antiquated computer systems, and reallocated resources officially allocated to the task towards more traditional FBI crime-fighting. [Could Clarke be leaving anything out because of his desire to exact his measure of bureaucratic revenge?–ed. Certainly — And Freeh is correct to cite the marked increase of FBI legal attaches in U.S. embassies abroad, which were/are useful in combating terrorism.] Bush’s official campaign blog is touting the op-ed, but I’m not sure that’s the best thinking. The Bushies have the understandable defense of only having been on the job for eight months. Freeh has less of an excuse. The questioning of Freeh is also a test for the 9/11 Commission to see just how much partisanship will affect their judgment. It would be very fishy if the Dems are not as hard on Freeh as they were on Rice. UPDATE: Reuters has the precis of the Commission’s staff report on the FBI. A “culture resistant to change” figures prominently. ANOTHER UPDATE: Pandagon links to an old Tim Noah piece in Slate that blasts Freeh’s handling of counterintelligence. Noah links to this New Yorker profile of Freeh’s role in the Khobar Towers bombing.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and the author of The Ideas Industry. Twitter: @dandrezner
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