Jewish World Review May 31, 2002 / 20 Sivan, 5762

Stanley Crouch

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A Better FBI? I'll Believe It When I See It | For years, cops across this nation have made fun of the FBI, laughing at agents for their pompous Keystone Kop mistakes or trying to get some fun out of the various ways they have messed up investigations that were going quite well.

That does not mean that every FBI agent has been a bumbler too full of self-regard to learn from those who know the streets and the people better. It does mean that local cops, from town to town, do not have much faith in the FBI as an important resource in the ongoing war to give criminals as little air as possible.

That is why the new pronouncements from Washington about the FBI's assigning more than 600 agents to focus on terrorism, aided by CIA coaches in every major city, should not be greeted with, say, the kind of excitement a city feels when its baseball or football or basketball team acquires a formidable veteran expected to take the city closer to a championship ring.

This sense of low - or no - expectations is justified not only by what my police friends tell me about the FBI, but by the recent information about how poorly the agency responded to the information that might well have put behind bars those who were in training to bring off the murder raid of Sept. 11.

That more than 3,000 people had to lose their lives for us to understand how ineptly intelligence has been gathered up to this point will never be less than tragic.

Yet the art of recovery is essential to a society's surviving. And if those who have the job of protecting Americans from violence truly get to work at improving information sharing, connecting the dots and so on, those who were instantly turned into a combination of flesh, blood, granulated concrete, glass, steel and dust when those towers went down will not have died only to provide us with the indelible memory of mass murder.

A new FBI that is as good at counterterrorism as it was at catching bank robbers back in the 1930s is what we have to hope for. And it is what those in positions of authority have to demand, especially the President, the governors and the mayors. They cannot accept less. They have to make those in the FBI, CIA and local police departments understand that all ego, dawdling, laziness, racism and sexism must be removed in favor of making the best use of what is always our greatest natural resource: people.

We are in a new period in which crisis management must be of the highest quality and our leaders have to be as serious about what they are after as are those owners of athletic teams who have on their minds nothing other than winning the championship.

Setting aside the hysterical self-righteousness that attends any mention of the imperial wars this nation fought against the Indians, our leadership on every level of this war on terror should remember that George Crook - the U.S. general who defeated Geronimo - didn't start having true victories until he began recruiting Indian scouts, interpreters and advisers.

If all these things are done as well as wewould hope them to be done, we might someday look upon the decision to shift more than 20% of the FBI's agents into the fight against terrorism as a major day in the history of this nation.

If not, I don't have the latitude in a family newspaper like this to use the kind of language we will hear.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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