Daniel Franklin

Daniel Franklin is a writer based in Washington, D.C.

Recent Articles

Fear Not

You know times are tough for civil libertarians when they find themselves defending the FBI's intelligence operations. Confronted last week by congressional support for a new domestic intelligence agency that would assume many of the FBI's counterterrorism responsibilities, the American Civil Liberties Union was caught mouthing arguments more often heard from Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller. "The FBI can do the job," said ACLU legislative counsel Timothy Edgar, "if its management is reformed and coordination is improved." Civil libertarians are now faced with the stark choice between the devil they know and the devil they don't. The ACLU and other civil-libertarian groups are coming down squarely on the side of their familiar nemesis, the FBI. But their reflexive opposition to a new domestic intelligence agency makes one wonder: How well does the ACLU know today's FBI? Thanks to the USA Patriot Act and an attorney general violently allergic to oversight...

Dollars Don't Do It

T he FBI has had a rough couple of months with the public, in the press, and on the Hill. Senators are even entertaining the notion of splitting the bureau in half. But if Director Robert Mueller is seriously concerned about the FBI's future, it's only because he's new to the job. Congress may be in a punishing mood, but its idea of punishment would make masochists of us all. Over the past 10 years, with very few exceptions, Congress has responded to FBI slipups by spanking the bureau with more money, more manpower, and more investigative latitude -- and by resolutely refusing to address any internal reforms the FBI might need. When the bureau's crime lab bungled its way into a one-year backlog and dozens of mishandled cases in 1996, Congress responded by building a shiny new $130 million facility. When the cost of building a nationwide automated fingerprint system ran $85 million over budget in 1995, Senator Robert Byrd was ready with a "dire emergency" supplemental appropriations...

See Change?

T here was a moment of pure pathos at the end of FBI Director Robert Mueller's recent press conference to announce the bureau's reorganization plan. Hoping to bolster the country's confidence in the bureau's new intelligence operation, Mueller announced that "the individual heading the Office of Intelligence is an experienced CIA officer … . Again, the Office of Intelligence will be handled -- will be run, I should say -- by an individual who is an experienced CIA intelligence officer." It has come to this. The nation's crown jewel of law enforcement, the lead domestic intelligence and counterterrorism agency, had to turn to its sibling rival to find a credible candidate to lead its own operation. It's as if Les Bleu needed to find their new soccer coach in England. The appointment -- and Mueller's desperate emphasis on it -- shows just how insecure the bureau is about its intelligence and counterterrorism operation. True to form, the FBI is doing what it always does when a problem...

Freeh's Reign

W ashington had rarely seen such urgency and bipartisan resolve. On a warm September day, the president and his handpicked Federal Bureau of Investigation director laid out a new vision for what Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has called the "crown jewel" of law enforcement agencies. "Today's FBI," the president said, "operates in a new and challenging world. Terrorism once seemed far from our shores, an atrocity visited on people in other lands. Now, after the attack on the World Trade Center, we know that we, too, are vulnerable." Even in the face of uncertain times and untested missions, the new director expressed stout confidence. "We must do now and here what the people of America have always done in terms of crisis--take control of our own destiny and use our enormous resources, ingenuity and will to establish the domestic tranquility and justice envisioned in the Constitution of the United States." The year was 1993. The president, of course, was Bill Clinton. And the iron-spined...