Lately people have been calling on Washington to create a new domestic intelligence agency, without police powers — like Britain’s MI5 — to take over from the FBI and be the lead in gathering and analyzing intelligence as it relates to terrorism. The argument goes that the “FBI culture” is that of a criminal investigative agency driven to make arrests and bring prosecutions and that the bureau does not have the instinct to draw back and look at the wider picture as a purely intelligence-driven agency might. I disagree.
Today, FBI intelligence analysts sit side by side with LAPD and sheriff’s analysts in a Joint Regional Intelligence Center here. Our investigations are intelligence-driven. When we don’t have enough information, we can gather intelligence for weeks, months or even years. When the intelligence tells us there is a threat to public safety, we can move in and make arrests.
I’m sure life is good for Chief Bratton but I’m confident his situation is a lot different than the one faced by the vast majority of state and local law enforcement officials who can’t get DHS or the Bureau to give them clearances and don’t work in the second largest city in the US. In fact it stands in stark contrast to the position of the top state cop in the state with the third largest city in the US.
You have to expect that a career cop would have a particularly narrow view about how terrorism should be countered, but the law enforcement approach is what got us in the situation we’re currently in – and it would appear that we’re creeping backwards towards that model.
Cops and Special Agents investigate, they interview suspects, they use forensics, and in the worst-case scenarios the emphasis – short of the pro-active steps taken by a squad rolling up on UBL planting an IED outside of Dodger Stadium – is post-mortem. If you’re down with that, by all means, go stand with the Chief. Otherwise, come over here and stand with the Judge.