The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Wolf: FBI shift is a sea change for agency; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

It’s not an American MI-5, backers say, but it should help the country deal with terrorist threats abroad and at home more effectively.

President Bush has signed an executive order creating a National Security Service in-side the FBI, which will bring the agency’s counter-terrorism, espionage and intelligence units under one roof.

It’s a sea change for the agency, according to Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the FBI’s budget. The FBI is be-ing transformed into an anti-terrorism agency, rather than a crime-solving organization.

“This is a monumental shift, and runs counter to everything almost every FBI agent in the past was trained to do,” Wolf said.
One of the changes gives the director of national intelligence, a position created at the behest of the 9-11 Commission, authority over the assets devoted to the National Security Service.

“This is all part of a process. It’s long and it’s involved,” Wolf said. But Bush’s decision to make the changes — some 70 recommendations from the panel studying the intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq war — are a big step.

At least one watchdog group says the newly created National Security Service goes too far toward turning cops into spies.

“This proposal upsets the delicate compromise Congress adopted last year which recognized the importance of keeping the FBI under the control of a director who reports to the attorney general,” said Timothy Edgar, the American Civil Liberties Union’s policy counsel for national security.

Domestic intelligence needs to stay in the realm of law enforcement, where protections for civil liberties and rights are far more entrenched as a matter of course.

That’s a legitimate concern, and President Bush has told the agencies involved that “this has got to be done within U.S. law and with protection for American privacy and civil liberties,” National Security Adviser Frances Townsend said, speaking during a press briefing at the White House.

Bush’s order creating the service calls for the Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to create guidelines for protecting liberties for Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

Getting Negroponte involved should actually provide more leverage for the law enforcement side in changing the FBI, Wolf said.

“I agree that the attorney general has to be seriously engaged in the transformation of the FBI ,” Wolf said. “Change is never easy. We all resist it. But the changes being asked of the FBI are critical to the safety of every American.”