This story about the FBI

This story about the FBI agent who warned shortly before September 11 that “someday someone will die” will get huge play. Most people–even those as knowledgeable as Glenn Reynolds in this morning’s InstaPundit–will simply take this as more evidence that the FBI dropped the ball; the Democrats are pouncing on it and asking “What did President Bush know?” Few will read the fine print and understand why the FBI’s legal department turned down the agent’s request to investigate a man who became one of the September 11 hijackers. The reason is this: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) contained a provision that required sharp separation between the government’s intelligence gathering and criminal prosecution activities. Information gained in one capacity could not be used to further the other, and communication among federal agents in these two areas was curtailed. Thus, the FBI’s legal department was abiding by the restrictions imposed by Congress when it refused to allow intelligence-related information to be used to launch a criminal investigation. Fortunately, this issue was addressed in the much-reviled Patriot Act, adopted last fall. Federal prosecutors can now, under the supervision of the federal government’s special security court, use intelligence information to further criminal investigations, and vice versa. This change in the law has, of course, been bitterly attacked by liberals who see it as an infringement of civil liberties. Thus, the liberals have their cake and eat it too–they denounce the FBI for incompetence, when in fact, the FBI was scrupulously following Congress’ rules. At the same time, when the Administration tries to plug the loopholes that Congress created, they accuse John Ashcroft of being a fascist. A couple of weeks ago I wrote in this space that the Democrats would welcome a second successful terrorist attack, because they would gain politically by blaming it on the Administration. Some readers thought I was being too harsh. If anyone can point to a single thing the Democrats have done to make the country more secure since September 11, I will change my mind. So far, I see nothing but hypocrisy and politically-inspired grandstanding.

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