Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Americans Misunderstand Roles in Combating Terrorism, Law Professor Tells Judges
By J'AMY PACHECO, Staff Writer
Most Americans misunderstand the “separate and distinct” roles and responsibilities of the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies as they relate to the war against terrorism, Law Professor Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker said Saturday.
Parker, dean of McGeorge School of Law and former general counsel for both the CIA and the National Security Agency, made her remarks in a keynote address delivered during the annual membership luncheon of the California Judges Association. The event was held during the group’s 73rd annual meeting, held last weekend in Newport Beach.
The differences between law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Parker said, are “more profound” than most Americans realize. The two types of agencies differ not only in mission, but in culture, rules, and in the uses to which information might be put.
The differences, she observed, first became apparent “in a world with increasingly porous borders” in which issues like drugs, espionage, terrorism and international criminal activity arose.
Parker said she realized the extent of that misunderstanding during a conversation with a respected jurist concerning a transactional banking criminal conspiracy case that involved a local bank. The judge questioned why the NSA failed to share its knowledge in the matter with the FBI.
Even the judge, she recalled, “didn’t seem to understand” that U.S. intelligence agencies are not authorized to operate within the United States.
The restrictions on intelligence agencies, she said, are part of the fallout from Watergate and other events in which intelligence information was misused. Americans, she suggested, failed to “appreciate the impact of reforms.” One result is that intelligence agencies are limited to overseas operations, while law enforcement is responsible for domestic protection. Terrorist acts, she pointed out, traditionally occurred overseas.
Law enforcement is designed around “response mechanisms,” and is not well positioned to protect the nation from terrorist acts at home, she stated.
As the Bush administration attempts to structure a Homeland Security program, Parker said the public may not have “taken seriously” the notion that as long as law enforcement continues to be restrained, it may not effectively be able to perform preemptive and preventative activities to combat terrorism at home.
Parker said she supports the idea of restructuring governmental agencies to place a greater priority on using information to combat terrorism—but emphasized those changes will likely not be sufficient.
The majority of identified security targets, she pointed out, are in the hands of the private sector. Critical services, such as the nation’s power grid, transportation systems and telecommunications, are “interdependent and interlocked.” If successfully targeted by terrorists, these systems—which Americans “desperately care about”— could create a “cascading effect” of failure.
While these areas have not traditionally fallen under federal responsibility, Parker suggested the possibility of federal influence “has got to be rethought.”
That, she said, raises “a number of questions” about the border between the public and private sectors, the sharing of information between the government and the private sector, and the sharing of information between private entities as they relate to anti-trust matters.
“There will be any number of legislative issues we’ll have to sort through,” she said.
Terrorism, she said, has created a conundrum with regard to how to respond to threats that don’t fit within the current American legal structure. Detainees in Guantanamo, she pointed out, present the American government with “unusual legal problems.”
Parker praised the judges present for the role they play in the legal system, and said there is “no more precious institution” protecting the American way of life than the court system.
“You all perform a very, very important mission,” she said, adding that it is the nation’s courts that will find balance between security and liberty as the country goes “forward in this uncharted time.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company