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Broken: The Troubled Past and Uncertain Future of the FBI – Review

by: Powers, Richard Gid

Publisher: Free Press: Simon & Schuster, Inc

Copyright: 2004

Cover: Eric Fuentecilla

Type: Hardcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 1/28/2005

Summary: Expertly defines issues in federal law enforcement.

We reviewed Richard Gid Powers’ SECRECY AND POWER: THE LIFE OF J. EDGAR HOOVER in February 2001. In some ways, BROKEN can be compared to SECRECY AND POWER. The most important comparison is the comfort level one has in reading Powers’ facts and figures. It’s obvious that he did thorough research for BROKEN. But SECRECY AND POWER was about an individual; BROKEN is about an institution. In the former, Powers was able to cut-through the poplar conceptions and mis-conceptions regarding his subject. In BROKEN, the assessment can not be so clear cut. The events leading up to 9/11 permeates this book.

In BROKEN, Powers almost starts at the beginning to examine the whole concept of federal law enforcement. It is his handling of this topic that really draws you into the book though, when he tries, he falls short of addressing the issues he raises. Throughout, he comes back to the distinction between the three cornerstones upon which the coercive power of government are built: policing, investigating, and information gathering or intelligence. Until the start of the twentieth century, the Federal government had few policing powers: U. S. Customs on the borders and the U.S. Marshals in federal territories. Investigative powers resided equally in the individual Federal departments, including the U. S. Justice Department and the Interior Department. Powers takes up the thread that launched the FBI from the 1902 Oregon and California federal lands scandal.

In October 1902, twelve people said that they had “carved out strawberry farms in Township 11-7 on the high slopes of Mount Jefferson.” Under the Forest Reservation Act of 1897 which designated some lands as federal property, the farmers filed claim for compensation in the Eugene District Land Office. It was a swindle. The compensation was by means of “lie lands” scrip, which allowed them to exchange the forest reserves lands for other public lands on an acre for acre basis. Some limber companies and politicians had found a way to make quick money. The Interior Department sent out its special agents to conduct an investigation. Eventually, President Theodore Roosevelt, Attorney General Philander C. Knox, and Interior Secretary Ethan Allan Hitchcock became concerned that Oregon’s senators and congressmen were intervening whenever the names of Interior Department officials popped up in the investigations. It was the Oregon and California federal lands scandal that convinced some of the need for a strong U. S. Department of Justice.

The Judiciary Act of 1789 created the post of attorney general. There was no U. S. Department of Justice until July 1, 1870 when Congress turned the post of attorney general into the legal arm of the government. A year later, “the chair of the House Appropriations Committee asked Attorney General Amos T. Akerman if ‘he could use special appropriations for detective purposes’”. The reason for the request were laws passed in 1870 and 1871 to combat the Ku Klux Klan. Thus began the long road of federal law enforcement expansion. It was far from easy or a slam-dunk. National politicians (congressmen and senators), befitting their roles as democratic representatives, were slow to hand over investigative powers to the national government. Subsequent administrations after Theodore Roosevelt thought there were other reasons as well. The Oregon and California federal lands scandal highlighted what could happen when political corruption went unchecked and bringing the wrong-doers to justice relied upon a flavor-of-the-moment assortment of investigative authorities.

By recounting this history, Powers identifies all the issues that would come up consistently during the twentieth century whenever federal law enforcement came up as a topic in congress. By March 16, 1909 when a “Special Agent Force” was established in Justice (the Bureau of Investigations of the Department of Justice), “the progressive spirit of idealism and reform” pushing for a federal investigative agency was reaching its zenith. Powers details the congressional fight that sought to keep federal investigative authority spread-out among the various departments (chiefly, the Secret Service) and President Roosevelt’s determine effort to achieve the opposite. Roosevelt prevailed because he was speaking with one voice, pursuing one objective. Congress on the other hand was seemingly split between those opposing a stronger federal investigative arm because they themselves did not want to be scrutinized by federal law enforcement and those who were genuinely concerned about potential civil liberties abuse. The author gives the impression, valid or not, that Roosevelt prevailed by focusing on the self-interest aspects of the opposition.

In chapter three, Powers presents the first major controversy of federal law enforcement which raised civil liberties infringement issues as an adjunct to federal law enforcement powers. In 1910, Representative James R. Mann of Chicago introduced the “White Slave Traffic Act”, known as the Mann act. Jack Johnson, the African-American who became world heavyweight boxing champion in 1908, was indicted in Chicago in 1910 under the Mann Act. From Powers relating of events, it is rather obvious that Johnson’s indictment of trafficking in prostitution (transporting Lucille Cameron across state lines to act as a prostitute) was heavily influenced by bigotry, politics and a lynch-mob mentality. Attorney General Wickersham questioned the U. S. Attorney in Chicago, Wilkerson, as to whether the Johnson case rose to the level of a federal case. The question came to late. The news media and the white mobs of Chicago had latched onto the case and there was no turning back. Portents of things to come.

From the very beginning of the Oregon and California land scandals, the men-and they were all men-who investigated and brought corruption charges in the case were crowned by the media as heroes. As Powers writes, “…from the start the Bureau was pushed and pulled away from these [antitrust and political corruption] sensitive and difficult investigations of high-level economic and political crimes in favor of low-level crimes against persons and property, and the Johnson case was a particularly egregious example of this.”

In pursuit of its mandate to investigate all crimes against the United States, the Bureau was in conflict with the Secret Service. The Secret Service, up until the start (and during) World War I was grabbing headlines by catching spies. To get into the spy catching game, the Bureau, under the expert guidance of Hinton D. Clabaugh, special agent in charge of the Bureau’s Chicago office, helped to establish the American Protective League in 1917 (APL). The APL achieved two gains for the Bureau. The badge-carrying members of the APL ,on the look-out for German spies and pro-German sympathizers, placed the Bureau in a solid position as national spy-catcher. The APL also solidified the relationship between the Bureau and the American business community. Powers sums these developments up when he writes, “The Bureau was only ten years old in 1918, but that was enough time for disturbing patterns of behavior to have emerged, patterns that would become only more pronounced and more disturbing in the future.”

As stated before, it is Powers’ expansive rendition of how federal law enforcement emerged from the social and political broadcloth of America at the turn of the twentieth-century that draws you into BROKEN. By the time Powers takes up the FBI of J. Edgar Hoover and the “G-Men” era of super-policemen, you know the fundamental issues because he has taken the time to cover them extensively. As he points out, whenever confronted with a challenge to its perceived jurisdiction, the FBI went into a super-policing mode. It was the determined, coordinated response of the FBI that gradually erased the image of law enforcement as an assortment of “keystone cops” of silent movie fame. (It is an image threatening to return. The latest vignette being the March 11th, twenty-six hours crime spree started by Brian Nichols when he killed Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes in Atlanta and then escaped from the courthouse). The fact that the FBI was and remains the best police agency in the world is both its greatest asset and its greatest weakness. It is when Powers attempts to resolve the incongruity of the superb policing capabilities of the FBI with the investigative skills needed for something like the terrorist plot leading up to 9/11 that he stumbles.

In short, Powers says that the FBI failed to develop the capabilities to track a terrorist plot like 9/11 because they were constrained by the will of the American people. On page 404, Powers writes: “After Hoover’s death we [the American people] forced an anti-intelligence culture on it [the FBI], and then over the years the Bureau, out of necessity, began to absorb the politically correct dogmas that were the intellectual underpinnings of the prohibitions against domestic intelligence gathering.” By “politically correct dogmas”, he means racial and cultural profiling as a basis for investigative and intelligence targeting. It is a fallacious argument and a spurious assessment that on the surface absolves managerial responsibility. For instance, in discussing the FBI’s use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 (RICO) to bring down the New York Mafia, Powers correctly states that “For the first time, the Bureau had shifted its focus from investigating individual criminals, prosecuting each as soon as it had enough to make a case, and instead had patiently assembled the evidence needed to understand and dismantle an entire criminal organization.” In other words, the FBI shifted from policing the Mafias to investigating them. Was there anything prior to RICO that prevented the FBI from targeting the Mafia as a criminal organization? Prior to 9/11 and elements of the subsequent investigative tools granted by the Patriot Act, what was there to prevent the FBI from investigating domestic or foreign terrorist organizations? To blandly answer “cultural influence” to both questions is to trivialize what the FBI stands for in our democratic society.

Other than this one instance of straying from common sense and logic by blaming everyone for the shortcomings of the FBI, Powers brings to his examination a perception of the issues based on extensive research. It is highly recommended reading.




Double Jeopardy – Book Review


by:Bob Hill

Publisher Avon Books

Copyright: 1995

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, January 27, 2005

Summary: A study of the justice system and why not legal system is perfect.

Despite the horrible crime described and the impact of the crime on the family of the victim, what you take away from DOUBLE JEOPARDY is a sense that law is more about form than substance; more about formalities than truth or justice. Yet, in the back of your mind, you suspect and you hope that an objective examination of the facts would always show otherwise, that the legal system, more often than not, stumbles over the threshold of justice. You suspect and hope that form and formalities are that rare exhibition of our legal system when it is confronted with a high profile crime. In those news media saturated cases, the law may seem to act only for itself rather than for society and the victim. The murder of Brenda Sue Schaefer in September 1988 and subsequent murder trial of Melvin Ignatow would be one of these rarities.

Author Bob Hill does an excellent job of reporting events leading up to the murder and the effect the murder has on Schaefer’s family, the entangled efforts of law enforcement to solve the crime, and the eventual prosecution. The fact that Melvin Ignatow “got away with murder”–he was never convicted of the crime–cannot be attributed toany one act on the part of the police or local prosecutors. This is said in spite of the fact that the police seemed rushed to put the cuffs on Ignatow before they found Schaefer’s body and before they had concrete evidence linking him to the murder. The prosecutors who decided to take the case to trial did so based on the “common sense” elements of the circumstantial evidence. Of course, when dealing with such a deranged act as murder of another human being, “common sense” should be the last foundation upon which to base a course of action.
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Messages From the Masters – Book Comment

MessagesFromTheMastersby: Brian L. Weiss, M.D.

Publisher: Warner Books, Inc.

Copyright: 2000, ISBN: [0446676926]

Type: Softcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, January 22, 2005


Summary: For the Believers in reincarnation.


Dr. Brian Weiss is a physician and professor of psychiatry. A review of his first book, MANY LIVES, MANY MASTERS, mentioned his use of hypnosis as a means of recovering past lives. This work, MESSAGES FROM THE MASTERS, is not so much a continuation of his investigation into reincarnation, but a summation of what he believes it all means.


For those who do not believe in reincarnation, this book contains nothing to persuade otherwise. There is however an appendix Weiss titles, Shared Spiritual Values which argues convincingly of the commonality of spiritual beliefs among the organized religions of the world. If you do a search of the Internet for reincarnation, you come up with some rather curious stuff. The most interesting found was Rabbi Yonassan Gershom discussing the concept of reincarnation and the Holocaust. Raises a few questions


The problem with MESSAGES FROM THE MASTERS is the same problem encountered in Weiss’s first book. Reincarnation is a given. It is so self-evident to those who believe to question whether it is real or not is fundamentally a question of faith. But memories of a past life recovered while in an altered state of consciousness is something else apart. As a scientist, a psychiatrists, Weiss halted his search for a curative methodology for his patients when he discovered the technique of bringing out past life memories. There is little doubt that the technique works as advertised. Why it works, Weiss seems to argue, is because it allows individuals to see the root of problems in their current life as unresolved issues in their former lives. If you think about this a moment you realize that it really does not answer the question Why does it work? What past life does explain is a process by which conscious thought can be effectively manipulated: Which of course raises another question, a more important question having to do with consciousness itself.


MESSAGES FROM THE MASTERS is a good read for those who believe in reincarnation. It does not offer anything new or, dare we say it, thought provoking.


Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of World Order – Book Review

ClashOfCivilizationsAndReMakingOfWorldOrderby: Huntington, Samuel P.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc

Copyright: 1996, ISBN: [1451628978]

Cover: Terry Rohrbach/ Base Art

Type: Softcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, January 16, 2005

Summary: Read for Fact And Figures. 

THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS AND THE REMAKING OF WORLD ORDER (CCRWO) is one of those delightful books crammed full and saturated with historical references tied together with an agenda born out of fear. A very good book however.
For those of us who majored in history, CCRWO titillates deteriorating synapses, stimulates the desire to re-engage the philosophical debate of individual action versus collective thought, and provides a target for practicing death-ray thought projections at mediocrity. And it’s only a book.
One more line of hyperbole: CCRWO is to historians what the “DA VINCI CODE is to Christians.
Enough already.
Huntington goes to great lengths to establish the foundation for his assessment that there are eight or nine civilizations in the world today and that future geopolitical conflict will result from the clash of these civilizations. To engage the argument that the world has moved beyond nation-state conflicts to civilization conflicts, one must first accept Huntington’s premise that the world is neatly divided into civilizations and that these civilizations have unique interests requiring them to stride toward ascendancy over all other civilizations. Think about that a moment. Then throw into the mix the glue that binds the premise together: culture and religion.

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Inside – Review

by: Smith, Ivian C.

Publisher: Nelson Current

Copyright: 2004

Cover: Andrew Newman Design (Corbis)

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 1/12/2005

Summary: Excellent perspective on federal law enforcement from a former Special Agent In Charge in the Little Rock, Arkansas FBI office.

One from the suits.

If you have read some of the books reviewed in this journal concerning the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies, you have encountered “the suits” complaint. Loosely, “the suits” are the management bureaucracy responsible for decision-making-or lack of decision making-in federal law enforcement agencies. The complaint is often that “the suits” do not know law enforcement “on the streets”, are more a hindrance than help to the men and women on the street, and that they are generally incompetent, self-promoting opportunists. I. C. Smith, as a former Special Agent In Charge in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), does nothing to dispel the complaints, but, as a suit, he has a few complaints of his own-about “the suits”.

An aside here: in reading books on the subject of law enforcement and intelligence gathering, it is impossible to lay aside even for a moment the fact that some 3,000 people died on American soil on September 11, 2001 in a horrific act of terrorism. The consequence of that memory is that it is impossible to read an autobiography of someone involved in law enforcement or intelligence and not ask, what did you do leading up to 9-11? Invariably, there is no suspense in getting an answer. The answer is always immediate and crystal clear: a finger fact, a finger opinion, a finger conjecture raised and pointed at someone else. This is not a condemnation of those who point fingers, but merely recognition that doing so serves no erstwhile purpose other than to salvage an ego. A variation of the finger-pointing tactic is the sage advice tactic-same result, same effect.

INSIDE is really a good read. You must get pass the federal career travelog in order to get to the significant material, but the journey is worth it. To be fair of course, that travelog is background to establish credentials as well as inform. Then there is the Clinton-bashing. Was William Jefferson Clinton, forty-second President of the United State, really “one who compromised for personal political gain”? At the risk of going off on an entirely different subject, we can toss in a few names like Richard Milhouse Nixon, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, and then ask, What’s your point? As America matures as a nation-state, its citizenry seems more inclined to elect nation-Priests rather than citizen-leaders as President. But we digress.

Ivian C. Smith joined the FBI in May 1973 and would retire in July 1998. He grew up in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, and spent “four years, one month, and twenty-seven days” in the U.S. Navy. He joined the Monroe Police Department and went to college at night. Upon graduation from Northeast Louisiana State College (University of Louisiana at Monroe) he applied for and was accepted into the FBI. He states that the FBI he joined in 1973 had a “blue-collar work ethic”.

In October 1995, Smith was transferred to Little Rock, Arkansas as Special Agent in Charge (SAC) where he guided the state FBI into corruption investigations. It is from this vantage

point that the last two-thirds of book are written. He goes into detail regarding the working relationship between the FBI and the U. S. Attorney’s Office. In pursuing corruption investigations in Arkansas, I.C. Smith ran up against, for lack of a more appropriate phrase, the American political-legal system.

Starting with the investigation of a local sheriff who engaged in shakedown and extortions of various sorts to the CAMPCON campaign finance investigation in December 1996 and hoovering closely around the Whitewater investigation which looked into a Clinton real estate deal which occurred some twenty years before, I.C. Smith was involved at some level. He expertly discusses the three-corner junction at which law enforcement, legal prosecution and politics meet. His examination is convoluted but precise. After testifying before a Senate committee looking at campaign finance corruption, Smith concludes that “. . .as long as there are those who believe they have the right to govern, and that to govern they must win at any cost even if it means lying and cheating, the assault [on the political process of this country] will continue.”

There is something missing form Smith’s assessment of “the assault” on the American political process, though the foundation for his assessment is absolutely correct-the atmosphere from the top that says anything goes in advancement of the “greater cause”. From the top down, he cites instances in which individuals were willing to compromise ethics in order to keep their jobs. An Assistant U. S. Attorney does not pursue a prosecution because higher ups do not want it; an investigative task force committee-walks its way through the investigation because higher ups do not want the investigation. In these and other instances, Smith cites what he did to at least raise the issue of ethics. His efforts, for the most part, were met with silence by those above him, the exception being the memorandum he wrote eventually resulting in his call to testify before the Senate committee looking at campaign finance corruption.

Accountability and consequences. In the American political-legal system, it is the politician-the higher ups-who are accountable for both the political and legal machinery that governs the day to day lives of the American people. Ultimately it is the American people themselves who are both responsible and accountable. From this perspective, I.C. Smith’s assessment of “the assault” on the American political process is only partially correct. The men and women who run for political office should have ethical standards which embrace and uphold legality. Some do, some don’t. Odds are greater than you will have more of the latter than the former because some who are active in the political arena feel that they are “on a mission of higher purposes”. Checks and balances. What Smith leaves out of his assessment is the complacency of the American people toward the origins of the billions of dollars poured into the political arena to get politicians elected. He also leaves out a question or two on the ethics of the political appointees and entrenched bureaucrats embedded in the government legal machinery who simply “go-along” to “get-along”.

One of the ethical fights Smith hints at in the book is a skirmish he had with FBI headquarters over its mandate to devote resources to counter-terrorism. At the time, Smith’s FBI office was knee-deep in Arkansas political corruption cases among others. He states that the communications from the Terrorism Section at FBI HQS “demanded that I divert resources . . .into nonexistent domestic terrorism investigations just to justify paying for domestic terrorism resources that had been budgeted without field office input.” It was at this point that he started thinking about retirement. It was not the only reason.

There was an ongoing FBI Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), investigation underway involving Smith. He was accused of opening an insurance fraud investigation in retaliation against a suspect who had accused one of his FBI agents of compromising an ATF operation. SAC Smith relates this story over several chapters. The particulars you may read for yourself, but you will note that it seems a common thread in books written by former federal law enforcement officers that, somewhere in their careers, they cross paths with OPR. Makes you wonder whether anyone will ever write a book about the books-there may be something to the thread.

With over twenty years experience in federal law enforcement, Smith has formed some pretty straightforward opinions which, surprisingly, are not that much different from others who have written about the bureaucratization of federal enforcement agencies.

There is a hint-just a hint-that Smith adheres to a belief that there were some “good ole days” when integrity, ethics and ability counted more than having friends in high places when it came to law enforcement and career advancement. The history of federal law enforcement indicates something different. However, starting with the U. S. Marshals Service in 1789, to the Pinkerton Detective Agency and White House Police in 1860 which morphed into the U. S. Secret Service in 1922, the United States has been extraordinarily fortunate in fielding law enforcement officers acutely aware of their place in a democratic society. But the bureaucratization of federal enforcement agencies has created an insular world in which these same men and women are required to serve two masters-the democratic society of which they are a part and the bureaucratic empire in which they must work to get a paycheck. The middle-management level of these agencies is filled with men and women whose primary function is to serve the empire, not the people. Smith phrases it a bit differently, stating, “There has developed in senior leadership the ability to surround themselves with self-serving sycophants who tell them what they want to hear and duck the responsibility of providing true and accurate advice. Decision-making was largely driven on the basis of career considerations, not advancing an investigation, not on what is in the best interest of the FBI.”

The “suits” of the street agents are, apparently, in the words of I. C. Smith, “empty suits” to some of the “suits” themselves. And it goes on.

Read INSIDE. Not earthshaking, but informative and very well structured.



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