How FBI Is Remaking Intelligence Functions ; Bureau's New Intelligence Coordinator Says US Doesn't Need a British- Style MI5 Agency for Domestic Spying

By Faye Bowers writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, May 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

How FBI Is Remaking Intelligence Functions ; Bureau's New Intelligence Coordinator Says US Doesn't Need a British- Style MI5 Agency for Domestic Spying


Faye Bowers writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Since Sept. 11, 2001, no government agency has come under more searing criticism for not foreseeing the terrorist plots against America than the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

That scrutiny has already led to a massive reorganization effort within the FBI - an attempt to shift its focus to counterterrorism from law enforcement.

But calls for change haven't stopped. The 9/11 commission, for instance, is likely to recommend comprehensive restructuring of the US intelligence community, including the FBI, in its July final report. The main question remains this: Can the FBI adequately transform itself into a domestic intelligence service capable of thwarting future terror attacks, or does the US need a separate domestic intelligence agency, one akin to Britain's MI5?

It can transform itself and is, in fact, creating a good domestic intelligence arm, according to Maureen Baginski, the FBI's executive assistant director for intelligence, who spoke to reporters at a Monitor breakfast Tuesday.

"If I had to give you a US model [for what we're doing], I would give you the State Department's Intelligence Bureau," says Ms. Baginski, who was the first person appointed to the newly created position by FBI director Robert Mueller in April 2003. "It does in fact drive collection done by its ambassadors and others out there based on intelligence requirements."

What she is creating, she says, is a top-down, analysis-driven organization. But many experts say that it may be impossible to change the bureau's distinct, crime-fighting "kick down the doors" culture - and that the US may not want to.

Others, though, laud the efforts of director Mueller, who's had considerable success in implementing changes at headquarters and in its 56 field offices. Some even say he has not only made progress toward creating the domestic intelligence operation this country needs, but also is anticipating recommendations by the 9/11 commission and the White House that the intelligence operation be taken away from the FBI and a domestic service that would parallel Britain's MI5 be created.

"They have done a number of things to move them in the direction of an MI5," says a person close to the changes. "They've created agents who are trained to have an intelligence function. They're monitoring organizations within the US that pose threats to national security ... not with an eye toward prosecuting, but toward collecting and analyzing that information."

These, and other changes, have been noted in a recent Congressional Research Service report and a 9/11 commission staff report. They include:

* The bureau established a new position: executive assistant director for intelligence to coordinate all the bureau's intelligence activities;

* The bureau has nearly doubled its intelligence analysts - now at 1,200 - and plans to hire 800 more this year;

* It's developed a clear career path for these intelligence analysts and revamped its intelligence training;

* The bureau now prepares a domestic threat assessment and coordinates more closely with the CIA;

* Its budget has been increased by 50 percent since 9/11, from $3. …

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