Posted by Curt on 8 March, 2023 at 12:54 pm. 6 comments already!


by Shipwrecked

On February 9th, the FBI retracted a published report by an FBI Intelligence Analyst in its Richmond Field Office dated January 23rd titled:

Interests of Radically or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical – Traditional Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities. 

There is a lot to unpack here starting with the title which suggests that government “mitigation opportunities” exist concerning one of the world’s largest religious institutions.
In a nutshell, the memo warned that what the Intel Analyst called “Radical – Traditional Catholics” (RTCs) presented a domestic threat because they espoused ideas that showed a “frequent adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology.” The memo offered no facts to support these observations, only dotted lines to those claims based on “sources” suggesting Catholics who reject the notion of Vatican II, or valued the Latin Mass, (among other generalizations,) were subject to these ideological notions.
The memo is still available online — the Internet never forgets — and it is worth reading just for its shocking constitutional ignorance. More on that below.
Much of the press coverage of the memo — not unsurprisingly thin in the mainstream media — has been to provide cover to the Biden Administration on yet another in a series of recent DOJ and FBI foibles, and has focused on the superficial question of “is the FBI anti-Catholic?” or “is this a First Amendment” problem? Since root causes seem to be all the rage today, this article focuses on how personnel inside the FBI have come to believe that it is part of the Bureau’s mission to explore the religious beliefs along the dividing line of cultural flashpoints like immigration and sexual preferences. This problem goes back more than twenty years to 9/11, and it shows how the Richmond Memo happened.
During the long autopsy after the attacks of September 11th, a phrase that caught fire in almost all quarters including the Intelligence Community (IC) was “connecting the dots,” a phrase I never recall hearing prior to that day, and for which I can find no historical reference before 9/11. The point made was that there were multiple missed opportunities by the FBI and the Intelligence Community to stop the attacks before they happened.
Without going into detail, many will probably remember things like former CIA Director George Tenant testifying before Congress that “The System was Blinking Red,” that a Presidential Daily Brief in August of 2001 was titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike the U.S.,” and the FBI’s internal “Phoenix Memo” describing several suspicious individuals taking flight lessons in the U.S. but only wanting to know how to take-off but not land. Some of them went on to become 9/11 hijackers.
If only, the theory went, someone would have connected all the dots before 9/11 instead of afterwards. If only there was a unified intelligence community that shared information seamlessly, then the terrorist attacks might have been prevented.
I don’t dispute the notion, but you could say the same thing about practically every “Black Swan” event in history. The saying “hindsight is 20-20” isn’t lacking a foundation in fact. After-action analysis easily identifies what were seemingly unrelated events in real time because the major incident that resulted is the “fact” that ties them altogether in ways that were not obvious ahead of the event. If the Trojans had connected the dots, they wouldn’t have accepted a wooden horse from the Achaeans.
The FBI and Intelligence Community convinced themselves the answer to the “connecting the dots” problem was a lack of analysis to spot them and associate them with one another in advance of the events they sought to prevent. This was a particular challenge for the Bureau whose historical mission was always traditional crime fighting which rarely involves much analysis before the crime is committed. Unlike the movie Minority Report, there is no “Pre-Crime” Division of the FBI. In almost all cases, crimes were solved through thorough investigation of the facts after they happen.
The Bureau’s structure and personnel reflected this fact for the first 95 years of its existence. There were only two categories of FBI employees — Special Agents and Clerks. Oftentimes Clerks had only high school educations. Special Agents traditionally had college degrees. The Clerks performed duties in and around the offices so the Special Agents could be out in the field conducting investigations. Clerk functions included maintaining physical case files, cataloguing evidence in storage, stenography, and running communications.
Over time, within the class of Clerks there developed a small cadre of the first “analysts” who populated field offices and FBIHQ. They were drawn from the most senior, loyal, and effective Clerks. Virtually none had any education or formal training in “analysis.” What they had was significant first-hand work experience within the FBI that made them effective as case agent “assistants.” This staffing paradigm existed right up until the morning of 9/11. The “analysts” within the FBI were mainly functionaries who were task-oriented, helping the Special Agents to manage an ever-increasing flow of information that could be generated in a 21st century high-tech environment.
In the aftermath of 9/11, new FBI Director Rober Mueller determined that the FBI needed to be transformed from a crime fighting organization to an “intelligence driven” one. To do this, a new “Intelligence Division” was created at FBIHQ, and every FBI Field Office created “Field Intelligence Groups” consisting mainly of intelligence analysts. A literal explosion of hiring of a new class of intelligence analyst took place — college educated, well-versed in 21st century information technology, and all devoted to the mission of “connecting the dots.” An internal division in the intelligence personnel became ingrained. The old class of analysts who came from the Clerks were referred to as “Legacy Analysts” — which took on a derisive connotation within the Bureau. The new hires were referred to as “professional” intelligence analysts.
Initially, Special Agents oversaw the work of the Analysts because one of the hallmarks of FBI Special Agent service was the tradition of the investigative “generalist.” There was no specialization — all Agents (and the organization,) fancied themselves as having the ability to investigate bank robberies when they were assigned to Birmingham and political corruption when they got transferred to Boston. It was training and a skill set that could be applied in any setting that made the Special Agents different from the remainder of the FBI work force. A historical fact was that the Bureau used agents who grew up in the south to infiltrate the Mafia in New York and agents from “up north” to bust up the KKK in the south.
But it soon became taboo in the FBI for Special Agents to be considered the tip of the spear in the organization, with the balance of the work force serving their needs. More palatable names were found for various new classes of FBI personnel. “Clerks” were renamed “professional support employees.” Where Special Agents who were attorneys once served in the Legal Counsel Division (LCD), in Mueller’s new structure they were largely replaced by non-Special Agent attorneys in the Office of the General Counsel, many of whom went back and forth between the FBI and Main Justice. Before long, given the change in mission, the “professional” analyst class was considered as, if not more important than the Special Agents. Where FBI Special Agents initially supervised the new analytical components after 9/11, there slowly developed a dynamic where Supervisory Analysts were given authority to oversee the case work of Special Agents in some offices.
But a major problem came with the huge increase in the intelligence analysis developed across the entirety of governmental law enforcement and intelligence communities — a competition for relevance. The FBI was not the only organization that increased its analytical capabilities after 9/11, the entire IC did. Congress created a Department of Homeland Security with its own entire divisions of analysts. Ditto at the Pentagon. As we know now, the NSA and CIA began turning some of their collection and analytical work inward and not just abroad. Not the least of this is the ability of the NSA to “vacuum up” every byte of digital data that traverses the internet and cellular networks.
At the same time entire industries of government contractors — nicknamed “body shops” inside the Beltway — exploited the thirst for “analysis” by hiring many analysts away from government jobs — leaving them lacking in personnel — and then “leasing” those new-hires back to the governmental bureaucracy at double the price under contracts to provide analytical services until Congress caught on and curtailed the practice.

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