FBI Can Transform Itself, Intelligence Head Argues

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The federal 9/11 commission is likely to urge restructuring of the U.S. intelligence community, including the FBI, in its final report. The main question, says the Christian Science Monitor, is whether the FBI can adequately transform itself into a domestic intelligence service capable of thwarting future terror attacks, or does the U.S. need a separate domestic intelligence agency, one akin to Britain’s MI5?

It can transform itself and is creating a good domestic intelligence arm, asserts Maureen Baginski, the FBI’s executive assistant director for intelligence. “If I had to give you a U.S. model [for what we’re doing], I would give you the State Department’s Intelligence Bureau,” says Baginski, who was appointed to the newly created position by FBI director Robert Mueller in April 2003. “It does in fact drive collection done by its ambassadors and others out there based on intelligence requirements.”

What she is creating is a top-down, analysis-driven organization. Many experts say that it may be impossible to change the bureau’s distinct, crime-fighting “kick down the doors” culture, and that the nation may not want to do that. “They have done a number of things to move them in the direction of an MI5,” says a person close to the changes. “They’ve created agents who are trained to have an intelligence function. They’re monitoring organizations within the U.S. that pose threats to national security … not with an eye toward prosecuting, but toward collecting and analyzing that information.”

A Congressional Research Service report and a 9/11 commission staff report note that the

FBI has doubled its number of intelligence analysts to 1,200, and plans to hire 800 more this year; has developed a clear career path for intelligence analysts and revamped its training;

it prepares a domestic threat assessment and coordinates more closely with the CIA; and its budget has risen by 50 percent since 9/11, from $3.1 billion in FY2000 to $4.6 billion in FY2004. The $5.1 billion budget plan for FY2005 includes a $75 million boost for intelligence items.

Link: http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0519/p02s02-usju.html

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