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Monday, May 15, 2006 

Posner: US MI5

Professor Bainbridge has this proposal from 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner...
The U.K.'s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, works closely with Scotland Yard, Britain's counterpart to the FBI. But it is not part of Scotland Yard.

The British understand that a criminal-investigation culture and an intelligence culture don't mix. A crime occurs at a definite time and place, enabling a focused investigation likely to culminate in an arrest and conviction. Intelligence seeks to identify enemies and their plans before any crime occurs. It searches for terrorist sleeper cells in the U.S. with no assurance of finding any. Hunting needles in a haystack is uncongenial work for FBI special agents. And so at the same time that the attorney general was testifying before Congress that the National Security Agency's intercepting some communications of U.S. citizens is essential to national security, leaks from inside the FBI revealed that special agents are disgruntled at having to chase down the leads furnished to them by NSA. FBI special agents--the bureau's only operations officers--want to make arrests, and so they zero in on animal-rights terrorists and ecoterrorists--people known to be committing crimes and therefore relatively easy to nail. These people are criminals and should be prosecuted, but as they do not endanger national security, prosecuting them should not be an intelligence priority.
Bainbridge comments, "One advantage of such an agency would be the fresh start - it would, presumably, be unencumbered by the predelictions and biases of the FBI and CIA."

I don't know what to make of this. The FBI and CIA have systemic problems, and Posner points out some of the flaws in our current system. Something has to be done, and I don't know if anything short of firing half the people in both agencies will do it. But would this just be another inefficient federal bureaucracy? I'm skeptical of another three-character agency added to a currently endless list. I'm curious to see what else Richard "007" Posner has to say about this. I'm not exactly sure where Prof. Bainbridge got the quote, though.

EDIT: This is part of Posner's piece in the Wall Street Journal. He also has yet another book coming out. This guy just sweats books.

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