FBI Officials Downplay Mideast, Terror Expertise


In sworn testimony that contrasts with promises to the public, FBI managers say expertise about the Mideast or terrorism was not important in choosing the agents they promoted to top jobs, the Associated Press reports. “A bombing case is a bombing case,” said Dale Watson, the FBI’s terrorism chief for two years after Sept. 11, 2001. “A crime scene in a bank robbery case is the same as a crime scene, you know, across the board.” The FBI’s current antiterror chief, Executive Assistant Director Gary Bald, said his first terrorism training came “on the job” when he moved to headquarters two years ago. Asked about his grasp of Middle Eastern culture and history, Bald responded: “I wish that I had it. It would be nice.” “You need leadership. You don’t need subject matter expertise,” Bald testified in a pending FBI employment case. “It is certainly not what I look for in selecting an official for a position in a counterterrorism position.”

The case involves FBI agent Bassem Youssef, who has questioned under oath many of the FBI’s top leaders, including Director Robert Mueller and his predecessor, Louis Freeh, in an effort to show he has passed over for top terrorism jobs despite his expertise. Those who have held the bureau’s top terrorism fighting jobs since Sept. 11 said they had no significant terrorism or Middle East experience. Some could not explain the difference between Sunnis and Shiites, the two primary groups of Muslims. FBI Director Robert Mueller repeatedly has given told Congress that he was building a new FBI with experts able to stop terrorist attacks before they occurred, not solve them afterward.

Link: http://www.startribune.com/stories/484/5464922.html

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