FBI Changes “Primary Mission” from “Law Enforcement” to “National Security”

I think the Bureau has made a wise change since, if their primary mission is “law enforcement,” then people might expect them to adhere to the law they enforce on others.

Foreign Policy’s blog, The Cable, reports:

The FBI’s creeping advance into the world of counterterrorism is nothing new. But quietly and without notice, the agency has finally decided to make it official in one of its organizational fact sheets. Instead of declaring “law enforcement” as its “primary function,” as it has for years, the FBI fact sheet now lists “national security” as its chief mission. The changes largely reflect the FBI reforms put in place after September 11, 2001, which some have criticized for de-prioritizing law enforcement activities. Regardless, with the 9/11 attacks more than a decade in the past, the timing of the edits is baffling some FBI-watchers.

“What happened in the last year that changed?” asked Kel McClanahan, a Washington-based national security lawyer.

McClanahan noticed the change last month while reviewing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the agency. The FBI fact sheet accompanies every FOIA response and highlights a variety of facts about the agency. After noticing the change, McClanahan reviewed his records and saw that the revised fact sheets began going out this summer. “I think they’re trying to rebrand,” he said. “So many good things happen to your agency when you tie it to national security.”

That last sentence is probably true and shows the problem might not be so much with the FBI by itself, but with the entire mood and mindset of the government, including Congress. “National Security” is the buzzword that adds more money to your budgets.

Of course, one reason to keep the old buzzword is to make people think they did not pass through an internal government regime change on 9/11/2001. That realization might make people anxious. So another way to look at this change is that the FBI realized there was no point in keeping up appearances with the population. So after a certain amount of news slips out into the media, the PR people at the FBI might have decided to stop pretending.

After all, when people are dedicated to law enforcement, one might get the idea that they value obeying the law rather than, say using official government phones for sexting and engaging in other unethical behavior. We might think they would not work with drug traffickers who murder a border patrol agent with a gun supplied through a BATF program. You might think that they would search out people who committed no crime and recruit them, posing as terrorists, to carry out terrorist attacks against Americans. People might expect the FBI to not kill an unarmed witness in their custody.

Making “national security” the primary mission really frees up the FBI.