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Old 08-15-2006, 11:18 PM
BluffTHIS! BluffTHIS! is offline
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Default Does the US Need an MI5?

In this news story by Richard Posner in the WP, the writer advocates that the US should set up a separate internal intelligence gathering agency like the British MI5 (and whose CIA counterpart is MI6), taking that repsonsbility away from the FBI. The core of his reasoning with the example of the successful UK foiling of a terror plot is given in this excerpt:

"The bureau's tendency, consistent with its culture of arrest and prosecution, is to continue an investigation into a terrorist plot just long enough to obtain enough evidence to arrest and prosecute a respectable number of plotters. The British tend to wait and watch longer so that they can learn more before moving against plotters.

The FBI's approach means that small fry are easily caught but that any big shots who might have been associated with them quickly scatter. The arrests and prosecutions warn terrorists concerning the methods and information of the FBI. Bureaucratic risk aversion also plays a part; prompt arrests ensure that members of the group won't escape the FBI's grasp and commit terrorist attacks. But without some risk-taking, the prospect of defeating terrorism is slight.

MI5, in contrast to the FBI (and to Scotland Yard's Special Branch, with which MI5 works), has no arrest powers and no responsibilities for criminal investigation, and it has none of the institutional hang-ups that go with such responsibilities. Had the British authorities proceeded in the FBI way -- rather than continuing the investigation until virtually the last minute, which enabled them to roll up (with Pakistan's help) more than 40 plotters -- most of the conspirators might still be at large, and the exact nature and danger of the plot might not have been discovered. We need our own MI5, not to supplant but to supplement the FBI."

Besides that argument, which I believe is correct, is simply that at some point any individual bureaucracy becomes so big as to lose its focus on crtical subsets of its mission. And removing the investigatory function from the law enforcement function (the FBI would still arrest suspects upon intel from such a new agency), would mean that screwups on one side wouldn't negatively affect the other funtion.

We already have a plethora of intel agencies in the US, and although I am loath to recommend any expansion of government agencies, I feel the country would benefit from a sharpened focus on this important mission.
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Old 08-15-2006, 11:54 PM
jokerthief jokerthief is offline
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Default Re: Does the US Need an MI5?

Isn't that what the NSA is? If not, what is the point of having the CIA and the NSA seperate?
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Old 08-15-2006, 11:58 PM
iron81 iron81 is offline
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Default Re: Does the US Need an MI5?

Not really, no. The CIA is responsbile for human intel and operations and the NSA is responsible for signal intelligence. Until the Bush administration started ignoring the laws on the subject, they were required by law to limit their operations to overseas. The FBI handles domestic counter-terrorist investigations.

If we were going to do this, we would have done it when Homeland Security was created. But since the FBI won that turf war, we just have to hope they'll do a good job.
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