FBI’s Shift To Terror Hurts Drug Enforcement

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The FBI has made strong progress in reinventing itself since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but doubts remain over its long-term ability to balance terrorism investigations with traditional crime-fighting duties, two new reports conclude, the New York Times says.

Concerns remain over FBI’s overhaul of its outdated technology systems, its ability to share intelligence with other agencies and its commitment to fully investigate crimes like drugs and white-collar crime. The reports came from the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, and the National Academy of Public Administration.

At a congressional hearing, FBI director Robert Mueller cited the redeployment of more than 500 agents to counterterrorism and an additional 167 agents to counterintelligence. The bureau has more than 11,000 agents.

Lawmakers questioned whether that had taken too great a toll in fighting traditional crimes. The accounting office found that drug enforcement by the FBI had “diminished significantly,” with a drop of about 15 percent in 2002 and 2003 in criminal referrals and prosecutions.

The FBI disputes the GAO’s charge that it was doing little, if anything, to locate at least 30 foreigners believed to be in the United States on visas revoked because of terrorism concerns, says the Chicago Tribune. Steven McCraw, the FBI’s assistant director for intelligence, told a congressional panel yesterday he did not believe in the end that there were legitimate terrorism concerns behind the visa revocations for any of the people identified by the General Accounting Office who may still be in the country.

The FBI apparently did not provide that rebuttal when officials from McCraw’s office were interviewed by GAO investigators. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), chairman of the subcommittee, said he wants an in-depth explanation of how the FBI could have ignored an investigation concluding “it might be oblivious” to potential terrorists inside the country.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/19/politics/19

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