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An "Intelligent" FBI

New procedures for domestic intelligence gathering.

5:10 PM, Oct 10, 2008 • By GARY SCHMITT
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Moreover, 2008 is not 1968. Unlike then, there exists today a whole range of congressional and executive branch entities whose job it is to oversee the implementation of these guidelines. And, per the new guidelines, as the seriousness of an investigation rises, so too the need to sustain it with higher approvals and factual evidentiary support. The closer an individual comes to being charged with a crime and, hence, to seeing his or her life or liberty put at risk, the higher the bar is set for the investigation proceeding. In short, the idea that the Bureau could engage in a politically inspired witch hunt for any sustained period seems highly improbable.

When one compares the American domestic intelligence system with that of our two closest democratic allies in the fight against terrorism--Great Britain and France--the need to prevent attacks has driven all three in recent years to revise the how law-enforcement and intelligence communities work together. And, indeed, there are a number of aspects to the British and French approach--such as monitoring speech, electronic surveillance and preemptive detentions of suspects--that are more aggressive than anything being put forward here in the United States.

From this one shouldn't conclude that those are measures we, in turn, should adopt. But it does suggest that the new guidelines are well within the norms of other liberal democracies and consonant with the threat we all now face.

Gary Schmitt is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and co-author and editor with Reuel Marc Gerecht of the forthcoming AEI volume, Safety and Liberty: Comparing and Contrasting Democratic Approaches to Domestic Counterterrorism (2009).