USA: New FBI system brings terror operations out of the dark

New effort, a reversal of U.S. policy, to focus on prosecutions

Published on the Chicago Tribune, By Josh Meyer, May 24, 2009.

WASHINGTON — The FBI and Justice Department are gearing up to significantly expand their role in global counterterrorism operations as part of a sharp U.S. policy turnabout, in which a system based primarily on clandestine detentions and interrogations will be replaced by one emphasizing transparent investigations and prosecutions of terrorism suspects.

The effort, which has not been disclosed publicly, includes an initiative dubbed “Global Justice.” FBI agents would participate more centrally in overseas counterterrorism cases, questioning suspects and gathering evidence to ensure that criminal prosecutions are an option wherever possible, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials … 

… “Regardless of where any bad guy is caught, we want the bureau to be in a position to put charges on them,” said one senior U.S. counterterrorism official with knowledge of the initiative.

The official said the FBI already does that to some degree, but that the Bush administration’s emphasis on CIA and military operations often marginalized the bureau — especially when it came to interrogations. Like others interviewed for this article, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity because no one has been authorized to discuss the initiative publicly.

Upon taking office in January, Barack Obama shut down the CIA’s secret “black site” prisons and forbade the use of the coercive, or “enhanced,” interrogation techniques.

That opened the door for a more robust role for the FBI, which for the past year has ramped up deployment overseas to work alongside the CIA, the military and foreign governments. Many national security officials said it is a strong and formal vindication of the FBI, which had long played a lead role in international terrorism investigations.

Veteran FBI agents used their expertise in non-coercive interrogations to thwart attacks, win convictions of Al Qaeda operatives and gain knowledge of how the terror network operates. But soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, FBI agents withdrew from interrogating important Al Qaeda suspects after the bureau opposed the brutal tactics being used by the CIA and military.

Bush administration officials defend the tactics and reject claims that the FBI’s methods would have worked better. “With many thousands of lives potentially in the balance, we did not think it made good sense to let the terrorists answer questions in their own good time,” former Vice President Dick Cheney said in a speech Thursday. (full text).


Global Justice Initiative, May 28, 2009;

Terrorism is a crime, June 5, 2009;

The Problem of Global Justice, 35 pdf-pages, 2005.

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