What the FISA Review Court Ruling Means

The information being imparted, too, is "new and somewhat arcane" so you can't try to dump too much on the unsuspecting agent all at once; "otherwise, his eyes will glaze over and you're done." But the lawyers under Bowman in the National Security Law Branch, and those in its newly-created FISA Unit, are "extremely service-oriented," and will be ready to respond to any and all calls from the field.

Similarly, a senior Justice official said plans are being made to train 93 assistant U.S. attorneys, one from each office, so that every office will have at least one assistant well-versed in FISA procedures.

He said experts from the FBI, Criminal Division, and OIPR would most likely conduct training sessions, likely of five days' duration, at the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, S.C.

For some it might be a refresher course — but there's nothing wrong with that.

I Told You and I Told You

Thursday's New York Times led with a piece on how FBI leaders are becoming frustrated with the failure of the rank-and-file to step up to the counterterrorism challenge.

The cynics among us wondered if this was a response to recent criticism of the bureau's efforts against al Qaeda, coupled with suggestions that a separate domestic intelligence agency, similar to Britain's MI-5, be created.

I have obtained a copy of the memo referenced in the story that FBI Director Robert Mueller sent out last week to all FBI employees in which he reminds all hands that the top priority of the bureau is "protect the U.S. from terrorist attack." I'm told the genesis of the memo was at least in part a recent inspection of the Denver field office.

According to one agent, the inspectors discovered "a ton of unaddressed counterterrorism work" at the same time as they learned that Denver was "throwing a lot of resources" at VCMO (Violent Crimes and Major Offenders) and other, lower-priority matters.

Thus the message dated Nov. 15 to all employees reiterating the10 priorities, with counterterrorism clearly No. 1. "By identifying our priorities we obligate the FBI to do certain things. First, we commit to working higher priority matters before lower ones. My expectation is that top priority matters will always be fully staffed before lower priority matters."

The director hastened to point out that his prioritizing doesn't mean that other matters have less value or that those assigned to them make a lesser contribution. But he closed with a forceful reminder that these "priorities of the FBI are universal for the entire organization. ... While every office will have different crime problems that will require varying levels of resources, the FBI has just one set of priorities. They are the priorities for Headquarters. They are the priorities in every Field Office and each Resident Agency. They are the priorities for Legats. These priorities have now been clearly stated and those at the top will be staffed first and worked first throughout the Bureau."

Got that?

Attorney General to the Rescue

Actually the best defense of the FBI's role in remaining in charge of the counterterrorism battle here at home came not from anyone at the FBI this week, but rather from the attorney general.

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