FBI “Quiet Revolution” On Terror–Intelligence Over Court Cases


Since Sept. 11, the number of spying warrants approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has more than doubled; at the same time, the number of criminal indictments against people associated with Islamist extremist groups has dropped by more than half, according to the group Human Rights First. National Public Radio says current and former Justice Department officials say those two statistics demonstrate a shift in the way the government is addressing terrorism: The pendulum is swinging from a model that favors criminal prosecutions to one that favors more intelligence gathering.

David Laufman, a former federal prosecutor in Virginia, says the number of terrorism cases the FBI was referring to the U.S. attorney’s office had dropped significantly. He does not belie e that reflects fewer would-be terrorists operating in the country, rather “a quiet revolution at the FBI.” As the FBI has transformed itself into an intelligence agency since Sept. 11, decision makers have chosen to continue spying on terrorism suspects “at the expense of preparing cases for potential criminal prosecution down the road.” A former FBI official describes criminal prosecutions as “the last tool.” He says when prosecutors indict someone, “you start rolling a public process that after a point you can no longer really control.”

Link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91968094

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