The FBI Prospers by Feeding Fears

What begins as a temporary problem becomes a never-ending emergency.

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James Comey became FBI director last year, at a time when Osama bin Laden was dead, terrorism at home was on the decline and the United States was shrinking its inflammatory presence in the Muslim world. So naturally, he says the danger is way worse than you think.

Referring to al-Qaida groups in Africa and the Middle East, he recently told The New York Times, "I didn't have anywhere near the appreciation I got after I came into this job just how virulent those affiliates had become. There are both many more than I appreciated, and they are stronger than I appreciated."

It may look like we've greatly diminished if not eliminated the danger of Islamic extremism against American targets. In fact, Comey assures us, "that threat has metastasized." Of course cancer is far more deadly once it spreads.

In this respect he resembles just about every bureaucrat in the history of government. He thinks that his agency is vitally important and growing more so every day. If there had been a Federal Bureau of Stagecoaches when passenger trains and cars came along, it would still be in business and finding ways to justify its preservation and expansion.

Terrorism has fed the FBI's growth. Between 2001 and 2013, its budget nearly doubled after adjusting for inflation. But Comey was not pleased on arriving to learn that he would be inconvenienced by last year's federal budget sequester.

"I was very surprised to learn how severe the potential cut is," he complained. He warned he might have to cut 3,000 jobs. His estimate was inflated—the agency now says it eliminated just 2,200 positions through attrition. The agency's website, however, says it has 35,344 employees—up by 30 percent since 2001.

Comey is upholding the tradition that once the government identifies an evil, the evil never goes away—it only gets bigger and tougher, requiring ever-increasing efforts to combat it. The Department of Energy was created during the "energy crisis" of the 1970s. The crisis didn't last, but the department did.

The same pattern holds here. In the decade after 9/11, the number of terrorist episodes in this country averaged 17 a year, compared to 41 a year in the 1990s. Nor is al-Qaida gaining ground. Since 9/11, reports the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, it has carried out no attacks in the U.S.

But progress is never taken as progress. It's always interpreted as the calm before the storm.

When Comey arrived, nerves were raw from the Boston Marathon bombing, which sparked fears of a wave of domestic attacks. Since then, there has not been a single death from homegrown terrorism in the U.S. In the following 12 months, the number of Muslim-Americans arrested on terrorism charges was 15, below the annual average of 20.

"Almost all of these arrests were for attempting to join a foreign terrorist organization abroad, not for planning attacks in the homeland, and were motivated by sympathies with rebels in Syria and elsewhere rather than by al-Qaida's call for Muslims to attack the West," wrote David Schanzer of Duke University and Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in The News and Observer of Raleigh.

None of this matters to Comey or his associates in the federal government, which has an unbreakable addiction to dire forecasts. When it comes to national security, they see every silver lining as attached not just to a cloud, but to a skyful of black thunderheads.

In 1993, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a nuclear-armed existential threat, the nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, James Woolsey, told the Senate Intelligence Committee, "Yes, we have slain a large dragon. But we live now in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes." The number of serious security threats, Woolsey claimed, had "grown, not shrunk."

This testimony came at a time of budget austerity. "His strong warnings about the gravity of threats appeared intended to serve notice that he would be highly wary of budget-cutting efforts that might weaken intelligence programs," reported The New York Times.

That's the logic of people in government. What begins as a legitimate concern becomes an irrational obsession. What begins as a temporary problem becomes a never-ending emergency.

We could win the war on terrorism. But end it? No danger of that.

NEXT: Brickbat: And Know They Love You

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  1. Just out of curiosity: what is the basis for the FBI being involved with al-Qaida groups in Africa? Is their remit domestic security. I could see them needing some eval but shouldn’t Africa be under CIA or military purview?

    1. When you have a 100 times more employees then you need you have to keep them busy somehow.

    2. That was the first thing that struck me as well. I thought the FBI was only supposed to terrorize protect us here at home.

        1. Not just one – another ex-cop is wanted. That second cop is Roger Rogerson, who was the most decorated officer in the NSW Police Force when he was convicted on perjury charges, and the central figure in the excellent docudrama Blue Murder, about police corruption in the 1970s and 80s. The sight of him murdering an unarmed man while wearing a daggy old cardigan is seared into my mind

      1. Sheesh. What show is that? Sticking with the artistic theme, made it to MONA today. Most interesting. I won’t say I appreciated everything but a lot of it was really intriguing. And I love the overall design of the museum itself.

        1. Glad to hear it!

          That is a clip from the film In The Loop, which was made by the same team behind Veep on HBO. The character Malcolm Tucker made his most notable appearance in the British political satire The Thick of It. All thoroughly recommended, naturally.

    3. Is their remit domestic security. I could see them needing some eval but shouldn’t Africa be under CIA or military purview?

      What do you think Bush was talking about after 9-11, when he claimed our intel organizations weren’t talking to each other? FBI and CIA were INTENTIONALLY divided into national and international so questions like “do I need a warrant” were obvious.

      Now it’s a jumbled mess.

      This is what happens when you give the state more power based upon fear rather than rational thought.

      Never let a crisis go to waste.

      1. This is what happens when you give the state more power based upon fear rather than rational thought.

  2. Terrorism has fed the FBI’s growth.

    No. The fear of terrorism has fed the FBI’s growth. The American people have experienced exactly one significant act of terror, an historical outlier. And, no offense, 3000 lives and a few buildings isn’t really that significant. It’s dwarfed by the the damage that has occurred in response.

    1. “No. The *perception of* fear of terrorism has fed the FBI’s growth. The American people have experienced exactly one significant act of terror, an historical outlier.”

      Spot on..

      I tell people all the time that those 9/11 hijackers didn’t commandeer those planes with ‘box cutters’, they hijacked them with a word… BOMB! The media at large tell us that we are scared of terrorism, and highlight one or two chicken shit nutcases that will testify to that as some sort of gospel, to drive that point home when the opinion polls slip. I have yet to find anyone who ‘fears’ terrorism, let alone worry’s about it to the apoplectic levels necessary to even begin to justify our current state of affairs (i.e. Patriot Act/NDAA/extra-judicial murders//TSA/ militarized alphabet soups/NSA snooping/Gitmo/etc.)…

    2. Heresy! Burn the blasphemer!

    3. I saw it happen live and in person, and at the time if I was in charge the whole Middle East would have been burnt to the ground, and I would have ordered drilling on all federal land with oil resources..

      As time passed though, I became glad that I wasn’t in charge.

  3. Exploitation of Fear

    Nice band name.

    1. No. That’s an album title. The band is called “Obliteration”.

      1. First single is Arm-a-get-it-on.

  4. If the FBI were only using the exaggerated threat of terrorism as an excuse to siphon more money from the federal pig trough, that would not be so bad. Instead it’s a pretense for domestic spying on political dissidents. The real goal is to keep an eye on Americans so the political class can sleep safely. This is Cointelpro Version 2.0

    Browse the reports at the site called “Fight Gang Stalking” sometime for an eye-opening look at how far the counterintelligence infection of democracy has already spread. Even libertarians – who follow such issues more closely than most – don’t realize how deep this goes.

    1. This. Worse yet, those dissidents who come too close to threatening the power structure will be taken out by the CIA’s paid assassins.

      You know it has gotten really bad when people are in the government are openly declaring that they would like to kill Edward Snowden.

    1. It’s a holiday. We’re not going to get AM or PM Links.

      And if The Independents is on, it’ll be a recorded version chock full of week-old celebrity gossip

      1. So then that won’t change?

        1. I wouldn’t know. I’m not among the half-dozen people who watch The Independents on a regular basis.

            1. No; I don’t do Twitter either. (Well, I do have a Twitter account and put out two tweets, but only to communicate something where an organization didn’t announce an email address and their comment reply on site was broken.)

              1. You tweeted to *Hit & Run*?!

  5. You know who else exploited fear…?

    1. William Castle and Vincent Price, in The Tingler?

    2. Grand Moff Tarkin?

    3. Slash Records?

    4. Booooosh!?!!

    5. Roger Corman?

    6. A practical joker who drops a rubber spider on your neck?

      …hypothetically, I mean.

    7. John Holmes?

    8. Pope Urban II?

  6. Japan girl group AKB48 attacked by male fan with saw

    When will this madness end?!

    For God’s sake the love of God, BAN YOUNG MEN!!

    1. A saw? Those weapons of war carpentry have no place on civilized streets… When will we learn?!

  7. “What begins as a legitimate concern becomes an irrational obsession. What begins as a temporary problem becomes a never-ending emergency.”

    And that’s why we have Homeland Security.

    1. The Rolling Stones have the mindset of our leaders in government down pat.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPFGWVKXxm0

    1. Maybe, but his collection makes him the cock of the walk in his apartment complex…

      1. That’s a phallus-y.

    2. …lives in an $850-a-month rent-stabilized apartment on the Upper West Side…

      That’s cute. Wonder which team he votes for, or if he even votes at all.

      1. Read the article and you’ll get a good idea. And it’s basically what you think, complete with dismissive remarks about “rednecks”and “guns”.

        1. And it’s basically what you think, complete with dismissive remarks about “rednecks”and “guns”.

          HM, he’s a former drug and alcohol addict who now spends all of his money on penis art.

          If you lived that kind of high-brow lifestyle, you’d feel superior to rednecks too.

      2. They used be called rent controlled apts. I guess rent “stabilized” sounds less statist.

        1. They used be called rent controlled apts.

          Rent “stabilized” is different from rent “controlled” – there are different rules for each. “Controlled” – which mostly doesn’t exist anymore – is the little old lady paying $300 a month for the last 50 years. “Stabilized” means a set percentage increase each year.

          1. Ah, thanks.
            I know an older man paying about 2-300/month for a 4 bedroom in Harlem, so that’s what I was thinking about.

  8. Did you know that the Santa Barbara shooter was white (never mind his Chinese mother), conservative (who subscribed to a liberal YouTube channel), that he shot all 6 of his victims (including the ones he stabbed to death), and that all victims were women (including the men)?

    http://twitchy.com/2014/05/25/…..5c.twitter

    1. And both, the victims families and the killers family blame.. TEH GUNZ!!!

    2. SPLC says his subscribing to a progressive youtube channel and frequenting leftwing web sites is evidence that he was a rightwing nut because it’s commmon for those people to stalk their victims.

      1. Ahhh.. Necessity being the mother of invention, simple answers to inconvenient questions… where there’s a will, there’s a way..

    3. Am I a bad person because my first thoughts were, “the chicks he killed weren’t even that attractive”?

        1. Thank you for the daily validation.

    4. I’ve avoided reading any stories on the nut.
      As such, if I just went by what I hear people say and didn’t read this message board, I wouldn’t know that he used a knife and men were included in the kills.

    5. Did you know that the Santa Barbara shooter was white (never mind his Chinese mother)

      Well, he was white-Hispanic Chinese.

      1. I thought she was Malay.

        Or do they all look the same to you?

        1. It’s only racist if you note the difference.

          …UNLESS it’s a dog whistle, in which case it’s racist whenever we say it is.

        2. I thought it was ethnic Chinese residing in Malaysia. Which is != Malay.

  9. New York magazine celebrates the work of a “smut historian” by running photos of naked WWII soldiers

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelli…..arade.html

  10. NOBODY expects the FBI! Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the FBI…. Our *four*…no… *Amongst* our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise…. I’ll come in again

  11. NYT horrified by notion of privatized tax collection.

    Private tax-debt collection would be wrong even if it raised money. Collecting taxes is an inherent government function. Good governance requires that the power to tax be balanced by taxpayer rights ? to privacy, high standards of service and relief when needed. It’s hard enough to maintain a taxpayer-centered culture at the I.R.S. It would be infinitely harder at private collection agencies, the most complained-about industry in the financial sector.

    “High standards of service” is right up there when I think of the IRS.

    Nothing about actually fixing the tax code, or rationalizing government spending. That would be hard, and might have political costs for their favorite party.

    1. Nobody better tell the NYT that we already have private tax collection, who do they think collects payroll and sales taxes?

    2. It’s a sin! The Bible says the government gets to collect tax money!

      Pretty rich talking about privacy after Lois Lerner. How successful would a person be in suing the IRS for wrongdoing, compared to a private agency? Though I’m guessing the NYT would ask what wrongdoing could the IRS ever be guilty of.

    3. Private tax-debt collection would be wrong even if it raised money. Collecting taxes is an inherent government function.

      Wait…even if private taxpayers did their job better it would still be wrong…for some reason?

      It’s hard enough to maintain a taxpayer-centered culture at the I.R.S.

      Yes, the IRS has never done anything to harm or oppress any taxpayer. Never.

      1. “Wait…even if private taxpayers did their job better it would still be wrong…for some reason?”

        I saw that too, but couldn’t stop laughing at the next 2 sentences.

        Remember Obama saying that he would raise taxes even if resulted in less revenues, because of FAIR?

    4. “Good governance requires that the power to tax be balanced by taxpayer rights ? to privacy, high standards of service and relief when needed.”

      I literally lol’d at that. What a bubble these people live in.

  12. We are DEFINITELY going to get out of Afghanistan, says the president of peace!
    Well, except for the soldiers who aren’t leaving, but we are REALLY REALLY going to get out of Afghanistan! Really! (sorta):

    “President Obama makes surprise visit to Afghanistan”
    […]
    ” made clear that the U.S. will probably maintain a limited role in the country even after its combat mission ends this year.”
    http://www.sfgate.com/default/…..504357.php

    1. That warmongering, bible thumping chickenhawk needs to be sent back to Crawford, Texas Chicago.

    2. It’s pretty telling that one of the “leaked” notes about his upcoming speech at the USMA graduation points out that he promised to end the war here and he has two and a half years left to do it.

  13. Photo-Opportunist-in Chief

    President Barack Obama secretly slipped into Afghanistan under the cover of darkness Sunday for a weekend visit with U.S. troops serving in the closing months of America’s longest war.

    Air Force One landed at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, after an overnight flight from Washington. Obama was scheduled to spend just a few hours on the base and had no plans to travel to Kabul, the capital, to meet with Hamid Karzai, the mercurial president who has had a tumultuous relationship with the White House.

    Also, FYI:

    Obama has staked much of his foreign policy philosophy on ending the two wars he inherited from his predecessor, George W. Bush.

    It’s good to have a state propaganda outlet.

    1. You know who else slipped into places under cover of darkness…

      1. Whoever keeps stealing a sock out of my dryer.

      2. Uther Pendragon?

      3. Cockroaches?

      4. Mysterion?

    2. Next time Team Obama needs to schedule his photo op on a day when there’s not a college kid with murderous blue balls.

    3. “Obama has staked much of his foreign policy philosophy on ending the two wars he inherited from his predecessor, George W. Bush.”

      See one post up; he’s not doing that. He’s “reducing” the commitment, not ending it.

  14. Market failure!

    “Yes, the top professional athletes are grossly overpaid.”
    http://blog.sfgate.com/sportse…..23648101=0

    (politics of envy division)

    1. Until the average American can slam dunk a basketball, throw a 95 MPH fastball, or do this, athletes are not grossly overpaid.

      1. Somewhat overpaid since they need the cost of the taxpayer paid for stadiums deducted from their salary

    2. In college when an Econ, yes Econ, professor was ranting about athlete salaries, I said that if 50,000 people were willing to pay to watch you teach, then you could make a million a year too.

      1. I said that if 50,000 people were willing to pay to watch you teach, then you could make a million a year too.

        This is where academia, as usual, is shooting itself in the foot. With this massively online open course bullshit setting the precedent for professors to not collect royalties on their uploaded video lectures.

    3. Let’s get this out of the way first. Yes, the top professional athletes left wing Hollywood actors are grossly overpaid. But how much do they actually make?

      1. …”left wing Hollywood actors are grossly overpaid.”

        And *they*, not the athletes, claim to prefer a more ‘equal’ distribution of stuff.

  15. “Yes, we have slain a large dragon” do we really think we won the cold war? considering that the socialist influence is much stronger in our country than it was prior to the cold war, I would have to agrue that we lost that war

  16. Stopped clocks and all that:

    “rating system like the one being considered at the White House would elevate financial concerns above academic ones and would punish schools with liberal arts programs and large numbers of students who major in programs like theater arts, social work or education, disciplines that do not typically lead to lucrative jobs.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05…..ml?hp&_r=0

    Imagine considering ROI! The horror!

    1. rating system like the one being considered at the White House would elevate financial concerns above academic ones and would punish schools with liberal arts programs and large numbers of students who major in programs like theater arts, social work or education, disciplines that do not typically lead to lucrative jobs.

      Well, if those don’t generally lead to lucrative jobs, then colleges should make those majors cost less by hiring fewer administrators and blowing less money on unnecessary perks for students.

      I know, it’s crazy to argue that an organization should provide value to its customers. I can see why the New York Times is shocked given that they haven’t provided value to anybody in at least 10 years.

      1. Or maybe we shouldn’t use Federal Pell grants and the like to force universities into becoming giant versions of vocational-training community colleges.

        Jus’ sayin’.

      2. Oddly enough no one really bitched when engineering/science majors had to pay more for their credits than the “well rounded” liberal arts students. I can’t wait to hear the caterwauling over this.

  17. In this respect he resembles just about every bureaucrat in the history of government.

    It’s the same way in the private sector. Bosses everywhere have to justify their budget/presence/importance by inventing crises. Ofcourse, progs believe public servants have only altruistic motives, while their private sector counterparts are after the evil profits.

  18. Nothing causes fear in an American like the freedoms and rights of his fellow Americans. Consider that we constantly hear how “readily available” guns are and what chaos that’s causing. Until 1968 we could still mail order firearms and have them delivered directly to our doors, we could walk into a hardware store and purchase a firearm without so much as an ID, there were no background checks, no waiting periods, no restrictions on assault looking firearms, no ID requirements and no federal legislation permanently stripping American citizens of their second amendment rights due to conviction on a state felony. Yet somehow today we hear how firearms are more easily available, which is of course an emergency requiring restrictions on availability. Our government eats our fear for breakfast and poops unconstitutional legislation, which a majority of Americans are thankful for.

  19. See one post up; he’s not doing that. He’s “reducing” the commitment, not ending it.

    The rubes who lap up the PBS state propaganda can’t be bothered to make that distinction.

    BOOOOOSH made him fight those wars. BOOOOOSH made him drone those weddings. He has a PEACE PRIZE! If only BOOOOSH would let him heal the world’s wounds and pacify Asia and the Middle East, we could get down to the serious business of making this a Paradise on Earth.

  20. This was not the derpiest thing I found yesterday:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnktauTeIeg

    1. The folksy grandpa voice made me want to throw up.

  21. its awesome,,, Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $100 a day. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out http://www.Fox81.com

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