What good is the FBI?

By Joseph Farah

This column is not going to be popular.

But it must be written.

It seems to me the federal government is assuming too much responsibility these days, particularly in the area of law enforcement. It would be one thing if the feds were actually capable of providing effective law enforcement – of nabbing criminals, of sorting out good information from bad, of setting good priorities. Even then, of course, we would have the uncomfortable issue of the U.S. Constitution, which nowhere even remotely suggests the need nor legal authority for a federal police force.

Beyond that we have another problem. The FBI is just no good. It’s too big and unwieldy to be effective. It is too political. It bends to the winds of political correctness. It’s been a long time since the successes of Elliot Ness. The FBI has seen better days. Today, it’s more like the Keystone Kops than the agency that brought the country so much pride during the much-maligned days of J. Edgar Hoover.

Let me give you an example.

Last summer, Harjee Singh of Bellingham, Wash., told the FBI that John Allen Muhammad was trying to obtain a silencer for his gun and wanted to kill police officers. He also mentioned Muhammad’s desire to go on a sniping spree.

What did the FBI do? Nothing.

The FBI decided this was a local police matter. Singh wasn’t alone in trying to alert the agency of the dangers posed by Muhammad. Just a week before Muhammad and an accomplice were finally arrested in connection with the Beltway sniper terror, yet another good citizen tried to call the agency’s attention to this public menace. A former Army buddy told the FBI about Muhammad’s desire to equip his rifle with a silencer.

Still no action was taken.

And the FBI maintains today that nothing they were told about Muhammad’s actions would lead to different behavior on their part today. In other words, they don’t even admit they made a mistake. Meanwhile, the FBI and other federal agencies insist on collecting warehouses full of information on you, me and other law-abiding citizens every day. It wants to know when we register a simple firearm for personal protection. Under new legislation, it wants and has the power to enter our homes and search them without a warrant. It wants and has the power to tap our phones without our permission, enter our premises and remove our property without a court order or even our knowledge.

But the FBI is incapable of taking information provided by a witness about a potentially dangerous assassin and checking it out. It doesn’t even bother interviewing the guy. It doesn’t even turn it over to another agency. It just lets the matter drop – and at least 10 people drop forever as a result.

The FBI says today it could never have known that Muhammad would actually commit the crimes he is suspected of committing. Of course not. Not without conducting even a cursory interview. What are we paying these guys hundreds of millions of dollars a year to do? Are we paying them only to harass law-abiding citizens? Or are we paying them to protect us?

We heard the same kind of excuses after Sept. 11. There were plenty of warnings, but how could we expect the FBI to put it together? I wouldn’t have such expectations. Which is why I have to ask myself: Why do we need the FBI?

I’ve felt since the FBI oversaw the burning down of the Branch Davidian Church under Janet Reno’s watch that this is an agency that does more harm than good. I watched the FBI mangle the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing. I watched the FBI ignore evidence in the shootdown of TWA Flight 800. How much of this can we stand?

It’s a rogue agency. It’s out of control – at least out of the control of the people it is supposed to serve. It takes more lives than it saves. It costs more money than it is worth.

I know there are many dedicated, hard-working law enforcement professionals in the FBI. It is not them I blame. It is the politicians. But as long as the politicians are running the show, there’s just no reason to have an FBI – and every reason to try to shut it down.