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Homeland Insecurity: How Washington Politicians Have Made America Less Safe

Posted: 10/15/08 06:18 PM ET

We both had great careers in the FBI. We were recipients of the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service for finally catching the Unabomber, as well as the FBI Director's Award for Excellence. After retirement, we took executive positions in counterintelligence and counterterrorism for the Department of Energy at Lawrence Livermore Lab from 2001 to 2007.

But in the years after 9/11, we watched with growing alarm as the critical role the FBI plays in enforcing the rule of law and upholding transparency in government was being steadily eroded. There was a new and tragically misguided emphasis in counterintelligence and counterterrorism on covert intelligence collection, secrecy and torture. CIA officers were being put in leadership positions within the Bureau, which was portrayed as having dropped the ball on 9/11. Balls were indeed dropped -- but the CIA had dropped its share. Why was it the FBI that was under attack by politicians?

Every U.S. president names a political loyalist as Director of the CIA. The same political loyalty test holds for every Attorney General. But an FBI Director's term is 10 years, which emphasizes the independence of the position from political control. As the federal agency primarily responsible for domestic security, the FBI is also the only federal agency that investigates political corruption.

Politicians have been trying to control the FBI ever since Watergate. When Richard Nixon said, "You can't trust the FBI," Henry Kissinger agreed, saying, "The FBI must be brought under brutal control."

We looked at the last 35 years of the FBI's 100-year history, and found a pattern of behavior by both Democrats and Republicans that has consistently undermined the ability of the FBI to protect American citizens under the law. We found to our great alarm that the FBI -- which protects civil rights at the same time it ensures national security -- is being systematically taken apart by politicians whose power and position are threatened by FBI investigations.

Why?

Politicians on both sides of the aisle, as well as at all levels of government all the way to the Oval Office itself, are literally addicted to the perks and pleasures of power. This is no mere homily or figure of speech, although there is a poignant accuracy in the old observation that it's possible to be "drunk on power."

The political culture in Washington, D.C., just like the royal courts of monarchies and the ancient Roman Senate, operates on the same principle: power enables privilege. Privilege shared creates its own excepted, favored class, exempt from the legal and social rules that govern other citizens. It feels good to be a member of this class, so good that the pleasure centers of the brain are activated, and the process of addiction begins.

Democratic Senator and former presidential candidate John Edwards put it into real focus when he made his shamefaced announcement that he had engaged in an extramarital affair. "Over the course of several campaigns I started to believe that I was special, and I became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic," he said. He might have added that despite his own strong personal values and lofty goals, he'd succumbed to the same addictive pattern that afflicts most human beings who are put in positions of power.

In Homeland Insecurity, we name Big Names as we make the case that a serious, unrecognized addiction to power in Washington politicians is behind their continually determined and polarized jockeying for control inside the Beltway. Determined to succeed in gaining, holding and expanding their own power, they've continually taken their eye off the ball in the arenas of both national security and civil liberties. Since the FBI is an unwelcome check on their addiction, they are attempting to dismantle it.

It's our hope that the arguments we make in Homeland Insecurity will expose the dangerous consequences that the unrecognized addiction to power in Washington politicians has had for the FBI, and will alert the media and the public to the real threat it poses to national security and constitutional law for all Americans in times to come.