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FBI: trolling

2002-05-31 15:10:29+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

A lot of the current criticism of the FBI has seemed to me to stem from the ability of the human mind to retroactively match patterns into a system where there may have been none. But the critics are making reasonable cases that there was active bumbling, the Rowley memo gets pretty nasty and Meuller's contradictions are making a few people uneasy. So the response to internal incompetence and a lack of infrastructure to analyze existing data? Let the field agents go trolling. Um. Yeah. Like more data that isn't correlated or acted upon is going to help? Be afraid.

[ related topics: Politics Privacy Law Enforcement ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-05-31 16:58:38+00 by: ziffle [edit history]

You know - I expect the FBI to -- like wear a suit and tie, and be professional - I know J Edgar had a thing about wearing dresses, but at least it was tight ship.

Our office is on a major throughway and has a big "Internet' sign outside. So we are flypaper for flakes. We had a guy walk in here recently - dressed very well, about five foot 10, and kind of Arab looking. A little arrogant. He came inside and said to us: "Rent Internet Machine" - his English was that good.

Now, I need to backtrack slightly. Last year about this time we had three guys come inside. They were Arabic looking. One, the leader, was say in his 30's and his two side kicks were younger. He had a hard look to him. There was something about him that felt hard, and disconcerting. All three were in very good physical condition. He would stare directly at you, kind of glaringly.

Finally I stared back and we stood there, starring at each other -- after a while I told them I did not have any way for outsiders to use (as he put it) an "Email Machine" - I tried small talk but they were not talkative at all. I directed them to the public Library as they have computers to use for free. I finally said "Welcome to America". The hair was different, but later I recognized it was Mohhamad Atta[Wiki]. I later read he had been in the area scouting chemical plants and he bought an air plane in Nashville.

Back to my story -- so when this recent guy came in, he left abruptly when I told him I had no way for him to "Rent Internet Machine", and he abruptly left. One of my coworkers and I looked at each other, and quickly ran outside - the coworker got his tag number! I called the FBI... I explained the event to the woman.

TWO DAYS LATER they called back and came out. The agent was wearing Dockers, no tie, kinda overweight (I am too but, hey its the FBI!) and he was not what I would call a world class intellect. He decided it was a Mexican[Wiki], and I assume dropped the whole thing. Now I don't mean to disparage them but how many Arabic and elegant looking 5'10" Mexicans are there in this area that look arabic, and want to "Rent Internet Machine"?

My opinion of the FBI has dropped way down. Maybe they should start over. At any rate I am a little fearful at their incompetence, and it has been reinforced by the story you just referred to.


#Comment made: 2002-05-31 18:29:55+00 by: Shawn

As noted, the amount of data is not the problem. The problem is politics (both "office" and "government") and beurocracy (I know that's the wrong spelling, but I can't find it in the dictionary...).

I haven't been following the details of the allegations very closely, but I don't think it's quite as cut and dry as their [the FBI's] detractors seem to indicate. The last complaint I heard was about a report by an agent that a high number of middle-eastern men were observed to be enrolling in flight schools, which was ignored by the higher-ups. But does anybody doubt that if they had followed up on this, there would have been all kinds of screaming about racial profiling?

#Comment made: 2002-05-31 18:39:03+00 by: Dan Lyke

Whence my comment about retroactively matching patterns, a guy in Phoenix noted a large number of Middle Eastern flight school students; I hadn't heard Arizona come up before as a training ground.