The war on terrorism has forced the FBI to become more involved in what used to be local police concerns. USA Today says this is particularly true in cities known as terrorist targets, including Washington, New York, and Los Angeles. USA Today concludes that the FBI is turning into a national police force as its 3,000 counterterrorism agents are under orders from Director Robert Mueller to “let no lead go unchecked.”
“We no longer treat anything as routine,” says J. Roger Morrison, chief of the FBI’s year-old National Joint Terrorism Task Force, which oversees 84 terrorism task forces across the nation. “There’s no threat, no complaint, no bit of information that’s not addressed immediately.”
After watching FBI agents at work in their antiterrorism tasks, USA Today says they are “acting more like hometown cops, which means that Americans – whether they know it or not – are coming in contact with them. Agents are blending into crowds at celebrations on the National Mall in Washington and in Times Square in New York. Some agents carry pager-size radiation detectors that are so sensitive that an alert from one of the devices led to a chemotherapy recipient’s being questioned on the National Mall this summer.”
One official says: “Everything is terrorism until we prove it’s not. Our motto is: IT – international terrorism – or DT – domestic terrorism – or men from Mars. We’re going to respond to it.” the official estimates that up to 80 percent of the calls that come in about possible terrorist activity prove unfounded.
This month, the national task force is creating a clearinghouse for police reports of suspicious people who may be conducting surveillance of government buildings in the Washington area.