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U.S. Considers Creating New British-Style Agency

April 09, 2004  | 

Speculation has circulated that the FBI’s inability to predict and prevent the 9/11 terrorist attack from happening would lead to the development of a new government agency better able to share and analyze information, modeled after the United Kingdom’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5.

But opponents of the idea say that starting a new agency is very complicated, citing the development of the Department of Homeland Security as an example, and there is no guarantee its creation would solve any problems. Some say such an organization would create new problems.

“On balance it’s a bad idea,” says James Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington advocacy group for privacy and civil liberty issues. “It aggravates what was one of the major problems of pre-9/11, which was a sharing problem,” he says. “Because it creates yet another agency collecting information and then being able to decide when to share, whether to share, with whom to share.”

Dempsey adds that Britain’s MI5 itself has been criticized in the past for failing to share information with local law enforcement agencies.

Others skeptical of a new MI5-type agency’s benefits note that the FBI and the CIA each have their own culture and that overcoming the intelligence habits of these old agencies could be too difficult.

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