A former FBI narcotics investigator now tracks reports of lost or stolen police uniforms and airport security passes, and the countless people observed taking photos of the oil refineries that make the Houston area potential target for a terrorist attack, reports the Los Angeles Times. The work often leaves him chasing ghosts rather than identifiable suspects. “That is a shift completely from when I was an agent working a case,” he says, adding that the FBI has no choice in its diligence. “One of these incidents could be the stages of a terrorist attack. It could be preoperational. It could be rehearsal. It could be planning.” It could be – and usually is – nothing at all.
The FBI's business model is being turned upside down, with a focus on preventing crime rather than apprehending criminals. More than 2,000 agents – or 15 percent of the workforce – have been switched from traditional crime-fighting jobs to terrorism- tracking positions in the last five years. Many experts question whether an agency so steeped in crime- fighting can switch to an intelligence operation. Some wonder whether the FBI would have had the same success as British authorities in preventing a major attack. “Approaching five years after 9/11, we still do not have a domestic intelligence service that can collect effectively against the terrorist threat to the homeland or provide authoritative analysis of that threat,” John Gannon, a former career CIA officer, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.