Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The FBI and terrorism

Things are seldom as they "seem". One of my least favorite Senators from one of my least favorite states, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, is currently on the FBI's case as it were, because the agency failed to follow up tips about the Tsarnaev brothers -- and about Tamerlan (the older) brother's trip to Russia last year.

The Web-based news and opinion source Talking Points Memo (TPM) has an interview with a "former FBI executive", who claims that the FBI did all it could, legally, given the level of the information provided by Russian intelligence and the negative results of its preliminary investigation.

That may very well be true, but there is more to it than that. First of all, while I'm sure that Lindsey Graham has patriotic interests at heart, he is also a relentless foe of the Obama administration and all of its agency appointments. For example, he was a leading opponent of Att. Gen. Holder's botched "Fast and Furious" gun-running would-be sting, as well as a point-man on the Republican brouhaha over the Benghazi attack; he has also been a dependable critic of Obamacare, etc. However, he is in somewhat of a bind, since he obviously wants to discredit the Obama part of the FBI without discrediting the FBI itself, which has always been a Republican sacred cow. So, the latest from Graham is that, yes the FBI did all it could within the laws regulating its activities: but that just shows that the laws reining in the Bureau probably need to be changed. He said: “It’s people like this [the Tsarnaev brothers] that you don’t want to let out of your sight, and this was a mistake. I don’t know if our laws were inefficient or if the FBI failed, but we’re at war with radical Islamists and we need to up our game.” In other words, unleash the FBI (from pantywaist liberal restrictions). And, just to reinforce that he's the same old Lindsey Graham, he added: “I think anyone who is on the terrorist watch list shouldn’t lose their Second Amendment right." Yes, there are just some things that are more important than protecting Americans from terrorism, and owning an AK47-type assault weapon with a large capacity clip is surely one of them Graham and his South Carolina constituency.

Of course, it's not just Lindsey Graham: the U.S. oil industry has had a long history with countries in the Caucasus region of Asia. From the Stalinist era until the breakup of the former Soviet Union, America used this historicall anti-Soviet region in an attempt to block the USSR's access to Caspian Sea oil. Although we did nothing to help millions of Chechens who were brutally dispersed by the Soviets, we were -- at least secretly -- happy to see their terrorist acts against Moscow. In the case of the Afghanis we were more open, sending arms and money to the groups that later became AlQaeda, and the Taliban, and leaders that included Osama bin Laden. More recently, however, Chechen (and other) terrorists have threatened Caspian Sea pipelines developed by Russian and American oil companies; thus, some of our sympathies have changed.

So the attitude of the FBI and of the political leadership is surely ambivalent. Relations between the U.S. and Russia are not particularly good at this point, so a "tip" about terrorists from ex-KGB honcho Putin is taken with a liberal grain of salt; yet, practically, we can't allow Chechen hatred of Russia and its perceived "western allies" to spread Chechen terrorism to the U.S. or even more importantly, to endanger Caspian Sea pipelines partially bankrolled by U.S. oil interests.

There are a lot of political currents roiling under the surface of the "War on Terror" and the use of the CIA and the FBI as its instruments.

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