Scientology Crime Syndicate

Over-challenged Super-Cops

The attack by the cyber-terrorists shows: the FBI is not up to the task.

Zurich, Switzerland
February 23, 2000

by Erik Nolmans

FBI chief Louis Freeh has a flair for dramatic appearances. One week after hackers crippled internet pages in Yahoo, eBay and Amazon.com, he stepped up before the U.S. Senate with a grim demeanor and demanded that the perpetrators be punished as harshly as the organized criminals of the drug cartels or the Mafia. He was also able to report on his first great achievements: they were on the track of the cyber-terrorists; investigations had already begun in 17 cases. Freeh particularly stressed the deployment of his still new special department against computer crime.

What the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) failed to mention was the fact that the first clues were not the result of any detective work on the part of the computer geniuses at the FBI. All the FBI had to do was answer the telephone - the tips came from informants.

Just like back in the days of Al Capone and the gangsters, when FBI agents slipped the shoeshine boy around the corner a couple of bucks for a tip from the underworld, the U.S. super-police of today still rely on the same, old-time investigative equipment: a vast network of paid and unpaid informants

This time the tips came from people who operated among the hackers of the underground. "The FBI is not exactly overburdened with internet gurus," commented U.S. news magazine, "Newsweek." Fighting crime per denouncers rather than per [internet] decoders appears to be the byword of the day. In that manner, investigation turns into a matter of luck: either the FBI has a tip which leads to solving the case or the investigation comes to a standstill.

One situation that is typical for the state of the FBI: in the last five years, mission areas for the elite cops have been constantly expanding. Besides traditional areas like fighting organized crime, terrorist attacks and drug traffickers, there is everything from computer fraud and local police assignments up to clarification of war crimes, like in Kosovo. 4,400 new agents have been hired by the FBI in the last few years - an increase in personnel of more than one third, making it the most widespread reorganization in the history of the almost 100-year-old agency. Not to mention the budget was doubled from 1.5 to 3 billion dollars.

The FBI's competency, however, has not kept up with its growth. Because of the rapid expansion, there are many young, inexperienced agents today. More than 40 percent of all FBI agents have less than five years experience on the job. "A dramatic reduction in experience level," the "USA Today" newspaper recently warned. It often occurs that experience in pounding the beat is the deciding factor in handling the case. "It used to be we would always count on a few veterans to show the new arrivals the tricks of the trade. Today we are losing them," complained James DeSarno from the Los Angeles office, which is the second largest office in the country after Washington.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, failures and scandals have abounded in the once illustrious agency. The FBI has been having less success with spectacular investigations than it has with painful revelations in the headlines. That ranges from dubious methods, such as the signing of false arrest warrants with which the cops wanted to accelerate their investigations in Connecticut, to errors of stupidity, such as prematurely releasing the name of a perpetrator in a bomb attack during the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. The security guard, Richard Jewell, upon whom the FBI used tricks to coerce him into signing a confession and whom it presented as perpetrator, was innocent. Warnings based on test evidence from their colleagues in a special laboratory in Washington that they had "the wrong boy" were ignored.

The FBI's slip-ups have occasionally been fatal. The country was shocked last year when it was revealed that the FBI, contrary to it claims, had employed incendiary tear gas on April 19, 1993 while it stormed a sect center in Waco, Texas. The sect buildings burned to the ground - the tear gas had possibly caused or accelerated the inferno. 80 people, 12 children among them, died in the flames. Secretary of Justice Janet Reno and FBI chief Freeh mutually blamed each other for the cover-up. Since then the two agencies have become bitter enemies. At the high point of the mayhem, Reno had her own police, the United States Marshals, carry out a raid on the FBI headquarters to confiscate material. Freeh steamed with rage.

Freeh also brushed President Bill Clinton the wrong way. The fight with Reno and the agency's growth of power is said to have made Clinton distrustful. Then, when Freeh did nothing in the Lewinsky scandal to keep the FBI men who were assigned to Presidential security in the White House from testifying for special investigator Ken Starr, Clinton hit the roof. He unofficially declared Freeh to be a persona non grata.

Clinton has not publicly taken steps against Freeh. That would be too difficult: the FBI director is selected for ten years. That protects him from political purges. For that reason, there is now a cold war being waged between the White House and the FBI headquarters: "No FBI director has been this isolated from state government since the 1960s," "Newsweek" judged.

A large part of that is due to Freeh, who arrived in his office in 1993 as a bearer of hope. After lusterless William S. Sessions, Freeh, the former street agent, successful Mafia hunter and seasoned investigator - his colleagues called him "Mad Dog" - was apparently the right man to lead the agency.

But Freeh, who had announced that he would clean arrogance out of the FBI, did not keep his word. He sided with close friends, like his former number two man, Larry Potts, despite offenses - Potts helped in covering up facts about a shooting - long enough so that the old accusations came back that cronyism ruled in the FBI. Neither has Freeh been able to tear down the traditional rivalries between the FBI and the CIA.

Freeh, report insiders, has had enough of the constant criticism by the press. Nevertheless he does not intend to step down. At least not as long as Bill Clinton is in office. His resignation would give the President a chance at recommending a new FBI director to the Senate. In that way Clinton could leave his stamp upon the agency for ten years - a fear that bothers the FBI chief more than the image of the most important police force of the land.


Uncontrollable Power

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, better known by the name of FBI, was founded in 1908 by the then U.S. Secretary of Justice Charles Bonaparte, a relative of Napoleon.

The Americans, though, associate the FBI less with the name of Bonaparte than with that of J. Edgar Hoover, the all-powerful FBI chief, who was director of the FBI for a full 48 years - from 1924 to his death in 1972. The agency was re-organized in 1935 under Hoover and put on a professional operating basis. The uncouth Hoover, however, also made the FBI into a super-police force which often operated on the fringes of legality and which turned into an uncontrollable power of the state.


Officially founded for the protection of state and society, the FBI is said not only to have combatted Al Capone's keepers of order, the Mafia and Arab and domestic terrorists. The FBI has also located threats in the political arena: first the communists, then the Nazis, and finally black civil rights leaders and leftist revolutionaries.


Association of encroachments upon authority and racism has been inseparable from the FBI for many years. Even though Hoover's successors have brought democracy into the agency, the now 11,400 agent colossus is still far beyond the bounds of an elite force, which is how the federal agency likes to think of itself.


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