Would we do better at fighting terrorism ..

If you want a top terrorism-control job within the FBI< it's more important to fit into the Bureau's culture than it is to know anything about terrorism.

if the FBI’s top counterterrorism people knew the difference between Sunni and Shi’a? Or, at least, if they, or their bosses, cared whether they knew? Contempt for “subject matter knowledge” has costs.

For some purposes, the arrogant, insular culture J. Edgar Hoover built for the Bureau is a feature. For this purpose, it’s a bug, and probably not a fixable bug. Giving the Director of National Intelligence more authority, as Bush just did, might help. But I doubt it will help much. The Bureau has a long history of successfully resisting oversight by its nominal parent agency, the Department of Justice. (When I worked at DoJ, and as far as I know to this day, the Bureau routinely issued press releases starting with the phrase: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in cooperation with the United States Department of Justice …” as if the FBI was independent of the DoJ.)

Of course, putting someone with a history as a cover-up artist in charge of a chunk of the FBI raises its own set of problems, but that’s a different story.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com