Nearly a year after the devastating terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, fighting terrorism, not drugs, is becoming the FBI's official top priority. Sort of.
"[9/11] has required us to look at our resources and make hard choices,'' FBI Director John Mueller said yesterday, according to the Associated Press . "That is the bottom line for us--participate [in drug enforcement] but not in the ways we have in the past.'' With regards to specific changes, he mentioned that "where there were 10 [FBI agents] on a drug task force in the past, now there will be five."
The announcement didn't make much news here in the states, where media folks were too busy mewling about the return of The Boss and, hence, putting to sleep all Americans under 30 and a large portion of those over 30. Moreover, the substantive elements of Mueller's comments--the transfer of 400 FBI agents from anti-narcotics to counter-terrorism--had already been heard in his June 21 announcement on the FBI's post 9/11 reorganization efforts.
Mueller's remarks, given at the 20th anniversary "celebration" for the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, hardly represent an abandoning of the drug war. Still, they do suggest progress.
Yet while the FBI may be grudgingly taking up the opportunity terrorism offers to exit the War on Drugs without admitting failure, the Department of Justice is hardly so disposed. Witness Attorney General John Ashcroft's solemn devotions, stated just after Mueller's remarks: "I reject the notion that a nation founded on the ideals of freedom can willfully abandon the goal of defeating drugs," Ashcroft said. "We will defeat drugs."
Such steadfast resolve will surely also govern the war on terrorism. Somehow, that's not very comforting.