The Case for Getting Rid of the CIA and the FBI

by baldilocks

This morning, I shared this very long piece by Angelo Codevilla, who outlines what close observers have figured out for themselves.

What, then, is CIA good for?

Its founding myth combines a historical falsehood with reference to technical circumstances that have not existed for at least a generation. (…)

The truth that analysis of Intelligence must include a multiplicity of sources, and that a central repository of information is needed for that, was always the strongest argument for the existence of some sort of central facility where “all source analysis” could be done. But, since at least the 1980s, computers have made it possible and imperative for all analysts, regardless of their location, to access everything securely. Nowadays, ironically, CIA’s insistence on managing the access and distribution of information is the biggest barrier to universal, all-source Intelligence analysis.

Today, CIA is good for confidential meetings with the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC News, etc., through which it joins—if it does not lead—campaigns to shape domestic American opinion.

What is the FBI good for?

Once upon a time, FBI foreign counterintelligence officers were cops first. Like all good cops, they knew the difference between the people on whose behalf they worked, and those who threaten them. They had graduated from places like Fordham, a Catholic, blue-collar university in the Bronx. Like T.V.’s Sergeant Joe Friday, they wore white shirts and said yes, sir, yes, ma’am. Unlike CIA case officers, FBI officers mixed with the kinds of people they investigated, and often went undercover themselves. The FBI jailed Capone and dismantled the Mafia. Because it used to take counterintelligence seriously, it was able to neutralize Soviet subversion in the USA. The old joke was that, in any meeting of the U.S. Communist Party or of its front groups, a majority of attendees were FBI agents. The only U.S. Intelligence penetration of the Kremlin was the FBI’s recruitment of a U.S. labor activist whom high-level Soviets trusted.

In the late 1970s, that began to change. Director William Webster (1978-87) refused to back up the officers who had infiltrated and surveilled the New Left’s collaboration with the Soviets against America in the Vietnam War. Webster also introduced contemporary political correctness into the FBI. Asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee why his FBI had neither infiltrated nor disrupted the Jim Jones cult that resulted in the deaths of 900 Americans in Jonestown, Guyana, he answered that he would no more have interfered with that religion than with the Catholic Church. Not incidentally, the Jim Jones cult was associated with the Democratic party.

Thus FBI officers became standard bureaucrats who learned to operate on the assumption that all Americans were equally likely as not to be proper targets of investigation. They replaced the distinctions by which they had previously operated with the classic bureaucratic imperative: look out for yourselves by making sure to please the powerful.

Take a cup of coffee or tea and read the whole thing. And I should point out that I’m old enough to remember when it was considered paranoid and crazy to believe that the intelligence agencies were domestic enemies of the American people.

Their concerted efforts against Donald Trump, however, have turned out to be a vast miscalculation.

Do I think that these agencies could be scrapped? Yes, but one might liken it to surgical removal of an aggressive cancer: expensive and painful, the body will need time to recover, and the surgeons will have to monitor the patient for new growth.

It can be fixed but it will never be over.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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Shut down the FISA court

By Christopher Harper

It’s time to get rid of the secret court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, better known as FISA.

The approval of warrants to investigate the Trump campaign is the latest abuse of the court, which was created in 1978 to limit spying.

A FISA warrant is one of the most aggressive searches, authorizing the FBI “to conduct, simultaneous telephone, microphone, cell phone, email, and computer surveillance of the U.S. person target’s home, workplace, and vehicles,” as well as “physical searches of the target’s residence, office, vehicles, computer, safe deposit box, and U.S. mails,” as a FISA court decision noted. 

Even more important, the FISA court is extremely deferential, allowing about 99 percent of all warrant requests.

But there’s more. The FISA court has a long history of abuse. 

James Bovard, the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, provided some of the details:

–In 2002, the FISA court revealed that FBI agents made false or misleading claims in 75 cases.

–In 2005, FISA Chief Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly proposed requiring FBI agents to swear to the accuracy of the information they presented. That never happened because it could have “slowed such investigations drastically,” the Washington Post reported. FBI agents continued to exploit FISA secrecy to lie to the judges.

–In 2017, a FISA court decision included a 10-page litany of FBI violations, which “ranged from illegally sharing raw intelligence with unauthorized third parties to accessing intercepted attorney-client privileged communications without proper oversight.”

–Earlier this year, a secret FISA court ruling was released documenting the FBI’s illegal searches of vast numbers of Americans’ emails.

Keep in mind, the FISA court is closed to the public and the press, unlike almost every other court in the country. Therefore, there is virtually no oversight of the FISA court. 

The critics of the FISA court come from both sides of the political spectrum. Maybe there’s hope that this egregious example of injustice can be shut down.

Although many conservatives think the FISA court is useful in fighting terrorism, I think its abuses far outweigh its benefits.