- WASHINGTON (UPI) -- A high-powered
independent task force recommended to the White House on Monday that it
strip the FBI of much of its domestic intelligence investigation responsibilities
and create a new homeland intelligence agency.
- The recommendation is contained in a report, "Protecting
America's Freedom in the Information Age," produced by the Markle
Foundation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the
- As the White House and Congress struggle over whether
someone should have "connected the dots" of intelligence that
might have led to the prevention of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the task
force asserts that only a new agency, carefully designed to avoid trampling
civil rights and to provide meaningful, collated intelligence, can accomplish
- "We think the public discussions in recent weeks
have not really grasped what's going on," Zoe Baird told United Press
International in an interview.
- "In fact, the discussion should be about how we
should set up a domestic intelligence in a systematic way for the first
time in a generation."
- Baird, a former member of the president's Foreign Intelligence
Advisory Board, and former Netscape Chief Executive Officer James Barksdale
headed the panel.
- The failure to stop Sept. 11, despite serious indications
that a major event was being planned, was not the fault of the FBI agents
who never "connected the dots."
- "It was not about incompetence. It was about incapacity,"
said Philip Zelikow, executive director of the task force.
- Members of the task force were scheduled on Monday to
brief Tom Ridge, director for homeland security.
- The panel is concerned by the FBI's checkered history
in conducting domestic intelligence, as highlighted by the 1975 Church
Committee report, a Senate inquiry into abuses of power by the FBI, CIA
and other intelligence agencies.
- "We need a very careful balance between security
needs and privacy needs," Baird said. "Every time (we) set up
a domestic agency for intelligence they go overboard."
- "Protecting freedom also requires securing the values
that define America, including the civil liberties and rights to privacy
that make our country special," states the report.
- The task force asserts that the FBI has a role to play
in counterintelligence investigations and when collecting information to
use as evidence in a criminal case against suspected terrorists.
- But generating domestic intelligence for policy-makers
should be the domain of another agency, possibly the proposed Department
of Homeland Security.
- "The Department of Justice and the FBI should be
the lead agencies for law enforcement, exercising the power to investigate
crimes, charge people with crimes, perhaps take away their liberty and
prepare cases for trial and appeal," the report states.
- "The DHS should be the lead agency for shaping domestic
intelligence to inform policy-makers, especially on the analytical side,
so that there is some separation between the attitude and priorities of
intelligence analysis and the different, more concentrated focus of people
authorized to use force on the street to make arrests and pursue or detain
- There are two problems with the FBI, say Philip Zelikow,
executive director of the task force, and Baird.
- First, allowing the FBI broad power to investigate citizens
not necessarily suspected of a crime invites a conflict of interest.
- "The FBI has the power to arrest, the most potent
power," Baird told UPI. "They should not be the agency collecting
a vast array of open source information privately against people who are
not targets of law enforcement investigations. The division is critical."
- Second, the FBI is not equipped to provide an analytical
intelligence report, designed to help leaders plan their next move, understand
specific threats, find vulnerabilities or predict possible attacks.
- "The FBI has no institutional capability to analyze
domestic intelligence," Zelikow said.
- "The role of analysts is not valued at the FBI the
way it is in other intelligence agencies. There is insufficient funding
and staffing to conduct the kind of intelligence analysis that is needed
for domestic intelligence in the counter-terrorism area," states the
- Creating a central point of authority for domestic intelligence
is only half the battle. Next comes the crafting of rules on how information
can be handled and which agencies can receive what.
- The Department of Homeland Security, or whatever entity
takes on the mission, would be the gatekeeper of classified domestic intelligence
information, making sure it gets shared as widely as needed without violating
the privacy of innocent citizens.
- To do that, the task force envisions a new, distributed
and closely linked national network of all local, state and federal computer
systems, including the Federal Aviation Administration and Immigration
and Naturalization Service.
- By linking all computers, analysts in any agency would
be able to search other offices' data banks for critical information without
delay or interference -- all too often the case in the federal government.
- The concept is simple and uses existing databases --
and it might have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks, the report says.
- Each person buying a plane ticket could be checked against
a list of possible terrorists. In August 2001, Nawaq Alhamzi and Khalis
Al Midhar bought tickets to fly on American Airlines Flight 77, which later
crashed into the Pentagon. Both men used their real names.
- Their names would have shown up as suspected terrorists
on a State Department/INS watch list called TIPOFF, as they were both sought
by the FBI and CIA after they attended a terrorist meeting in Malaysia.
- Their names could have been checked for common addresses.
The search would have revealed the men shared a common address with Mohamed
Atta, who flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower of the
World Trade Center, and Marwan Al Shehhi, who flew United 175 into the
South Tower, and who in turn shared another address with Khalid Al Midhar.
- A check of frequent flyer numbers would have revealed
Majed Moqed (American 77) shared a number with Al Midhar.
- With Atta identified as a possible associate of the wanted
terrorists, searching Atta's phone number would have led analysts to five
other Sept. 11 hijackers.
- A check of an INS database of expired visas would have
led to Ahmed Alghamdi. Doing the same address and phone number searches
would have led to the other hijackers who were on Flight 93, which crashed
into the Pennsylvania countryside.
- Such data searches would carry with them an "audit
trail," allowing the government to identify who conducted them and
why, in the event of a complaint.
- Baird and Zelikow said that private databases should
also be connected to the network, allowing the government to search records
of companies such as Federal Express or of doctors' offices as they are
piecing together intelligence.
- Participation in such a program would be voluntary, at
first, Baird said -- but predicted if a terrorist attack is carried out
that might have been prevented with a simple search of private business'
records, that could change.
- The task force drew on 44 experts, including Utah Gov.
Michael O. Levitt, former Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre, now of CSIS,
and former Strategic Allied Command Europe chief Gen. Wesley Clark.
- The report is available online at markletaskforce.org.
- Copyright © 2002 United Press International