The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is battling a real “good news — bad news” situation within their ranks.

Bad news first: The FBI’s highest-ranking Arab-American agent told a congressional panel this week that he is not being allowed to work on important counterterrorism assignments, despite a shortage of agents who speak Arabic.

The good news — for the FBI, not the nation — is that senior Bush Administration officials apparently ignored warnings from the FBI over interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new US government report.

Bassem Youssef, chief of the communications analysis unit of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, said the bureau’s International Terrorism Operations Sections (ITOS) — which include those that track Al-Qaeda terrorists — are “inexcusably understaffed.”

Egyptian-born Youssef, who has been an agent with the FBI since 1988, said only 62 percent of posts were filled in the counterterrorism unit. In other words, more than one out of every three positions in an elite FBI division that tracks Al-Qaeda terrorists is vacant.

This was confirmed this week by another source, when an internal FBI document was leaked to the press. The FBI’s counterterrorism section is too badly organized and too understaffed to be able to protect the United States effectively against attack, Youssef told lawmakers.

This chronic staff shortage forced the FBI to recruit staff with no relevant experience, specifically with Middle Eastern counterterrorism, possibly lacking pertinent language skills and cultural understanding. (MORE)


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