Give FBI Teeth In Fighting Terror
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New York City
restrictive requirements put
here has been
into place decades ago.
plenty of activity
In the wake of 9-11, it is
on the homefront
time to recalibrate the balance
since 9-11, a sign
to permit law enforcement not
that the threat of terrorism on
only to go get their man, but to
U.S. soil has not subsided.
prevent the act.
Recent arrests of various indi-
The Justice Department has
viduals with suspected ties to
proposed revising its guidelines
H. FOXMAN for initiating investigations.
terrorist groups, and a nonspe-
cific warning about fuel tankers
With the changes, the FBI
and Jewish targets, have rein-
would have the ability to initi-
forced the extent of an ongoing
ate investigations without hav-
threat to U.S. security.
ing to clear myriad bureaucratic, admin-
In recent weeks, the federal govern-
istrative and legal hurdles in
ment and local police have caught up
Washington. This does not mean that
with several suspected terrorist sympa-
the FBI and other federal, state and
thizers, including the alleged "dirty
local investigative agencies should have
bomber" and a Palestinian man with
carte-blanche authority. That is where
suspected connections to Al Qaida.
the role of Congress and the judiciary is
The government warned Iran about
videotaping American landmarks after
Members of Congress have an impor-
catching embassy officials making suspi-
tant role to play in finding the proper
cious tapes. New York City stepped up
boundaries — and determining the
efforts to better identify emergency
continuing need for expanded police
vehicles after reports that suspicious-
powers. Judicial review will ensure that
looking men had unsuccessfully
the revised guidelines cannot be used to
attempted to purchase an ambulance.
circumvent constitutional protections
Meanwhile, Congress has been
on privacy. If enforcement agencies or
engaged in an intense debate over the
officials overstep the line, we must hold
proposed overhaul of the nation's intelli-
them strictly accountable.
gence gathering community. While this
But we must not take the war on ter-
is an important and serious discussion
rorism too far afield. There are certain
— raising important questions about
unacceptable practices, such as ethnic
the extent of investigations versus civil
profiling, that are unlawful and inap-
liberties — we cannot lose sight of the
propriate under any circumstances. To
ensure that such practices are not adopt-
The threat of terrorism on U.S. soil is
ed by law enforcement, the federal gov-
very much alive. We must take correc-
ernment must ensure safeguards are in
tive action to reverse longstanding defi-
place to prohibit such unacceptable
ciencies within the Federal Bureau of
Investigation and other agencies to
Ongoing training will be necessary to
ensure that we are prepared for the next
ensure that those in law enforcement,
attack. Law enforcement must have the
especially beat cops in cities with large
best tools at hand to detect and defuse
immigrant and minority populations,
potential terrorist threats.
have proper training and know not to
The proposed overhaul of the FBI is
engage in stereotyping or discriminatory
one of the most significant and encour-
aging changes. It is time to give the
Knowing well the dangers of domes-
bureau real teeth in pursuing credible
tic and international extremists, the
threats to our national security, which is Anti-Defamation League repeatedly has
why the revised guidelines for investiga-
urged the federal government to adopt
tions now under consideration on
meaningful changes within the FBI.
Capitol Hill are so important.
Recently, ADL and the FBI co-spon-
We live in a time of unprecedented
sored a terrorism conference that
danger. Unlike the "red scare" of
brought more than 500 senior law
McCarthyism or the establishment of
enforcement officials to Quantico, Va.
Japanese internment camps during
Afterward, many participants thanked
World War II, today we face a very real
us for bringing together so many key
and continuing threat. It's a threat that
contacts in the law enforcement com-
our nation's security establishment has
munity. For us, the meeting under-
been ill prepared to address due to
scored the importance of having local,
state and national law enforcement
Abraham H.. Foxman is national
agencies effectively communicate and
director of the Anti-Defamation League.
share strategies in the war against terror-
ism. The proposed changes at the FBI
This article first appeared in the
are long overdue.
Washington Jewish Week newspaper.