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Freeh on FBI's IT problems

In case you missed Meet the Press on Sunday -- if so, WHY not? -- they had former FBI director Louis Freeh. He was on because of his new book, "My FBI," but they actually talked about the bureau's long-standing IT problems. We have often heard that Freeh didn't even have a PC on his desk -- something that he specifically denied.

Here are excepts from the transcript... or you can read the whole thing yourself... and they also Podcast the show if you want to hear a pugnatious Freeh go after former President Clinton.

Here are the IT parts:

MR. RUSSERT: There has been a lot of criticism of the information systems at the FBI. The 9/11 Commission said "The FBI's information systems were woefully inadequate. The FBI lacked the ability to know what it knew. There was no effective mechanism for capturing or sharing its institutional knowledge."

U.S. News & World Report wrote this, and this is chilling: "Before the September 11th attacks FBI agents were still using old `386' and `486' computers and had no Internet access or FBI e-mail. After the attacks, FBI headquarters staff had to send photographs of the 19 hijackers to the 56 field offices by FedEx because they lacked scanners. `Top managers, including [former director] Louis Freeh, didn't use computers and weren't chagrinned about it,' says the Justice Department's inspector general, Glenn Fine."

Ron Kessler in this book "The Bureau" said that you had the computer removed from your office.

MR. FREEH: Well, that's ridiculous. First of all, he was never in my office. The computer was behind my desk. We had an abysmal information technology system and I take a lot of responsibility for that. I asked beginning in 1993 for millions and millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars, which we never got. They got $1 billion after 9/11. It's a testament to the FBI men and women who made cases with a technology that was completely inferior.

But it wasn't just the technology. Let's look at the attorney general guidelines before September 11th. And this is my point before, Tim, and I think the commission's point, that we weren't at war. We weren't taking this serious before September 11th. If on September 10, bin Laden was going to hold a rally in the Sheep Meadow of Central Park an FBI agent couldn't go and stand in the crowd and listen to him, OK? Because attorney general guidelines, which were put in place actually appropriately many years ago because the FBI did illegal things that it shouldn't have done, those guidelines would have prevented an FBI agent, Louis Freeh, from standing there and listening to a fatwa about killing Americans anywhere.

So that's where we were, and I think, you know, hindsight is great. We certainly have plenty of it and we can learn from hindsight. We certainly made a lot of mistakes and I made mistakes there that I'm responsible for. But the reality of it is we treated terrorism like a crime before September 11th. And when in Khobar we didn't prosecute that case. We didn't vigorously prosecute that case. The reason I think that's so important is this wasn't a Hezbollah group. This was the Iranian government that did this. And we reached the point, Tim, where the Iranians knew that we knew they had murdered those young men and we did nothing....

I think what I could have done better is I could have prepared the FBI better for September 11. And I would take that right back to information technology. And did I a bad job there. I didn't get the funding we needed. But it's not that I didn't know we had a problem. It's not that I didn't understand and we didn't have people there that were conscious of it. But I didn't succeed that, and I'm very, very sorry I didn't do that.

Meanwhile, the FBI agents, the men and women of the FBI, who the American people can be so proud of, made incredible counterterrorism cases during that period. Kansi was brought back to the United States. He had murdered CIA people outside of Langdon. He was arrested in Pakistan. Ramzi Yousef was arrested by FBI agents in Pakistan, brought back to the United States for the 1993 World Trade Tower and a plan to blow up 11 airliners over the United States. They made incredible cases. The embassy bombing cases. We brought people back to New York and prosecuted. The problem was bin Laden was not going to be afraid of a marshal showing up with an arrest warrant.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Oct 17, 2005 at 12:15 PM


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