Excellent article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today about the dwindling efficacy of the FBI. The Bush Administration restructured the FBI after 9/11 to focus on national security, but did not eliminate any of the FBI’s traditional responsibilities. And to handle all the extra work, the FBI was given no additional money. (“Do more with less,” it was told.) The result? You guessed it. Lower prosecution rates. Says one retired FBI official, “we realized we were going to have to pull out of some areas — bank fraud, investment fraud, ID theft — cases that protect the financial infrastructure of the country.”
The White House and the Justice Department have failed to replace at least 2,400 agents transferred to counterterrorism squads… Two successive attorneys general have rejected the FBI’s pleas for reinforcements behind closed doors.
As the quote from the retired official would indicate, it appears the lack of manpower has mainly hit the FBI’s ability to prosecute white collar crime. The P-I‘s findings:
Overall, the number of criminal cases investigated by the FBI nationally has steadily declined. In 2005, the bureau brought slightly more than 20,000 cases to federal prosecutors, compared with about 31,000 in 2000 — a 34 percent drop.
White-collar crime investigations by the bureau have plummeted in recent years. In 2005, the FBI sent prosecutors 3,500 cases — a fraction of the more than 10,000 cases assigned to agents in 2000.
The paper looks at specific cases of Native Americans and elderly residents in the Seattle area who were fleeced by sophisticated financial scams — the sort of thing that has been traditionally part of the FBI’s jurisdiction. In the cases examined by the P-I, none of the victims got the help they requested from Bush’s FBI.
It’s a long, long article. If you’re interested, you can read the whole thing here. Also, I can tell you what the FBI was busy doing from 9/11 until the invasion of Iraq: partnering with the Department of Justice to scare the bejeezus out of Americans with show trial terror prosecutions and conveniently timed terror alerts, all of which are documented in the “DoJ/FBI” section of the Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline.