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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Public Enemies

John Dillinger We forget that before J. Edgar Hoover got old and strange he was a good guy. Back in the 1930's there was a crime wave led by notorious criminals like John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde that swept this country. An ambitious federal bureaucrat named J. Edgar Hoover organized and transformed a small obscure agency named the Federal Bureau of Investigation to reestablish the rule of law.

Bryan Burrough wrote an interesting book, Public Enemies, describing how an earnest, ambitious clerk named John Edgar Hoover "reinvented" the FBI. Perhaps Hoover's reinvention of the FBI to combat crime in the 1930's has some lessons for today's war on terror.

Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 [Amazon.com]
In Depression era, gangsters' spree prompted rise of 'G-men' [Washington Times]

Update: US News wrote a short bio on the lady trying to fix the FBI. Her name is Maureen Baginski or "Mo". She is a 25-year veteran of the National Security Agency. Baginski has meticulously been creating the blueprint for a new FBI intelligence arm since May 2003. That's when Mueller named her to the new office of FBI "intelligence czar".

A Russian linguist, Soviet expert, and career intelligence analyst, Baginski has earned kudos for trying to avoid the quick fix. Instead, she's trying to create a fundamental paradigm shift in how the FBI harvests its domestic intelligence and how the bureau recruits, trains, and retains its intelligence analysts--long viewed as such second-class citizens that they're often relegated to answering phones and even clearing trash bins. The 9/11 commission found that nearly two thirds of FBI analysts are unqualified for their jobs, and the good ones are raided by other agencies.

Baginski also wants to train new agent recruits to gather and use intelligence right from the beginning of their careers. And she wants intelligence gathered from all sorts of FBI cases to be funneled into the effort to prevent terrorist attacks. "She's embedding intelligence into the DNA of the FBI," says recently retired bureau executive Steven McCraw...
Links to Baginski's recent testimony to Congress:
The FBI's 'Vision Lady' [US News]

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