Mike Masnick noticed that the declared primary role of the FBI has changed and details his findings at Techdirt:
A couple years ago, it was revealed that the FBI noted in one of its “counterterrorism training manuals” that FBI agents could “bend or suspend the law and impinge upon the freedoms of others,” which seemed kind of odd for a government agency who claimed its “primary function” was “law enforcement.” You’d think that playing by the rules would be kind of important. However, as John Hudson at Foreign Policy has noted, at some point last summer, the FBI quietly changed its fact sheet, so that it no longer says that “law enforcement” is its primary function, replacing it with “national security.”
Of course, I thought we already had a “national security” agency — known as the “National Security Agency.” Of course, while this may seem like a minor change, as the article notes, it is the reality behind the scenes. The FBI massively beefed up resources focused on “counterterrorism” and… then let all sorts of other crimes slide. Including crimes much more likely to impact Americans, like financial/white collar fraud.
Between 2001 and 2009, the FBI doubled the amount of agents dedicated to counterterrorism, according to a 2010 Inspector’s General report. That period coincided with a steady decline in the overall number of criminal cases investigated nationally and a steep decline in the number of white-collar crime investigations.
“Violent crime, property crime and white-collar crime: All those things had reductions in the number of people available to investigate them,” former FBI agent Brad Garrett told Foreign Policy. “Are there cases they missed? Probably.”
The article correctly notes that this has had a big impact:
The reductions in white-collar crime investigations became obvious. Back in 2000, the FBI sent prosecutors 10,000 cases. That fell to a paltry 3,500 cases by 2005. “Had the FBI continued investigating financial crimes at the same rate as it had before the terror attacks, about 2,000 more white-collar criminals would be behind bars,” the report concluded. As a result, the agency fielded criticism for failing to crack down on financial crimes ahead of the Great Recession and losing sight of real-estate fraud ahead of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.The article accurately notes how the FBI has basically started ignoring a tremendous amount of financial/white collar crime, but unfortunately never bothers to do the flipside: to look at whether or not the FBI has been even remotely effective in the whole “national security” aspect that is now its “primary function.” Because, from the evidence we’ve seen, it seems like a disaster…
[continues at Techdirt]
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