Crime-busters turned snoopers
A team of research analysts at Syracuse University has been tracking
the FBI's activity in domestic crime investigations. The results are
For example, in 2007, the FBI made 2,300 referrals of cases to be
prosecuted to the U.S. Justice Department. In 1993, the FBI made
20,900 such referrals.
Two decades ago, FBI investigations contributed 36 percent of the
total cases prosecuted by the Justice Department. Last year, the FBI
referrals were down to 16 percent.
So, if FBI agents aren't investigating crime in the United States,
what are they doing? Ferreting out terrorists, apparently, and
invading your privacy in the process.
Internal audits indicate the FBI has continued, and even expanded, its
pursuit of information on American citizens - made possible by the
Patriot Act - although it was ordered by a federal judge last year to
cease and desist.
The judge's ruling came after testimony that the FBI had issued more
than 140,000 "national security letters" in the period from the
beginning of 2003 through 2005. In his ruling, the federal judge
called such snooping the "legislative equivalent of breaking and
So, in the opinion of at least one judge, instead of solving crime and
helping to put criminals behind bars, the FBI has instead focused its
energies on violating the privacy rights of U.S. citizens.
Those national security letters allow the FBI to comb through phone,
Internet and bank records in an effort to thwart terrorism. It seems
highly unlikely that there are many terrorists, or U.S. citizens with
connections to terrorist groups, among the hundreds of thousands of
citizens whose lives have now been pried into by the FBI.
FBI officials admitted last week that the federal judge's order to
stop snooping, or at least slow the pace, had basically been ignored.
The bureau apparently continues to eavesdrop.
The mental image is inescapable - the United States as become a nation
of frightened people, cowering in a corner, giving up all semblance of
privacy and civil freedoms in an effort to keep from being terrorized.
At least that's the image the Bush administration fosters in its
relentless, unending search for the evildoers of the world.
March 10, 2008