Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

FBI Should Be Kept on a Short Leash

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

FBI Should Be Kept on a Short Leash

Article excerpt

After complaining that "for two decades, the FBI has been at an extreme disadvantage with regard to domestic groups which advocate violence," FBI Director Louis Freeh suggested a way to give the law enforcers an edge: Merely stretch the interpretation of the guidelines put in place to restrain the federal government from violating the constitutional rights of dissidents.

"If those guidelines are interpreted broadly and proactively," Freeh told the Senate, "as opposed to defensively, as has been the case for many, many years, I feel confident . . . we have sufficient authority."

Freeh was chosen for his job by Bernard Nussbaum, the former Clinton White House counsel whose recent speech to the New York Bar Association was a ringing defense of loyalty on high. His protege, an attractive straight arrow, is now as unassailable in the media as J. Edgar Hoover was in his heyday.

But I think the ever-popular Director Freeh - dutifully following the lead of President Bill Clinton in politically exploiting the public's rage at bombers - is proposing a bureaucratic subversion of our civil liberties.

This is not to inveigh against new laws to sprinkle telltale chemical "taggants" into explosives or new policies to draw on armed forces expertise in germ warfare - that's sensible. It is to warn against "pro-active" law enforcement bottomed on the panicked Department of Justice's new Gorelick Doctrine - that criminal investigations may be launched without any reasonable indication of a crime.

To the applause of voters fearful of terrorism, the proactivists declare their intent to prevent crime. This would be followed by surveillance of suspect groups by new technology; the infiltration of political movements deemed radical or violence-prone; and the stretching of the guidelines put in place 20 years ago to restrain yesterday's zealots.

Doesn't anybody here remember how the game was played?

In the '50s, the FBI's William Sullivan came up with the Counterintelligence Program - "Cointelpro" - a plan to use communist techniques against communists in the United States. In "Hoover's FBI," a Regnery book to come out next month, Hoover's top lieutenant, Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, describes the technique:

"Agents joined the Communist Party, worked their way up through the ranks, and then began to make as much trouble as possible. …

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