Monday, September 10, 2007

The FBI in the summer of 2001

John Ashcroft's memoirs made barely a ripple when they were published last year. That is unfortunate because they provide an invaluable perspective on the crucial summer of 2001 and the events after 9/11.

The Ashcroft-FBI relationship started on a very sour note. On the very day he was sworn in as AG, Ashcroft learned from Louis Freeh that Robert Hanssen was spying for the Russians.

Then, in May, the FBI revealed that they had failed to turn over material to Timothy McVeigh's defense counsel.

Ashcroft also learned that the FBI had lost or misplaced over 300 lap top computers; some of them contained highly classified material. They had also managed to lose 200 weapons. The AG worried that the FBI had become dangerously sloppy and complacent. He had good reasons for his concern:

It seemed to me that an inordinate number of people at the FBI were biding their time, merely coming to work every day and going through the motions. Shortly after I began as attorney general, i became aware of a number of people with 'retirement clocks' on their desks, literally counting down the years, days, and hours till their retirement from the Bureau. The 'when can I leave' attitudes that accompanied those clocks could paralyze any company's success, but when they existed in the nation's top criminal investigation personnel, they could be deadly.

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