William E. Odom's June 29 op-ed, "Why the FBI Can't Be Reformed," described an agency that I didn't recognize. The FBI people I know and with whom I worked, first as an agent and later as governor of Oklahoma, bear no resemblance to the bumbling incompetents Mr. Odom depicted in his screed.
When I was governor of Oklahoma, I saw how the bureau handled the Oklahoma City bombing, which remains the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history. The agency's highly skilled professionals tiptoed between rescue and recovery operations while meticulously putting together a successful capital case against bomber Timothy J. McVeigh.
Mr. Odom appeared to argue that law enforcement and the rule of law have no place in gathering intelligence or in the domestic war on terrorism. But our government is rightly limited in what it can do here at home. The Bill of Rights may not exist "over there," in Mr. Odom's world of secret agents and spy satellites, but it exists here. Prying, probing and snooping by government agents cannot occur here absent warrants, affidavits and indictments -- small matters decried by some but revered by a free people in a free society.
Mr. Odom suggests that there should be one standard for investigating alleged terrorists and another standard for investigating ordinary criminals in the United States. In our system, both are the same. When the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was blown up, 168 people were killed. Mr. McVeigh's motive was terror. Did that mean that the criminal code did not apply to him because his motive -- like that of Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker Mohamed Atta -- was hatred of the U.S. government? Mr. McVeigh's act was criminal, and prosecution followed. His motive was irrelevant.
In the past, the FBI was hamstrung by the wall that separated intelligence from criminal investigations. The USA Patriot Act removed that wall. The bureau's formerly exclusive role as an investigative agency focused on bringing criminals to justice also has changed with the Patriot Act. The FBI now also seeks to prevent terrorist events here at home.
The myths that Mr. Odom decried are just that -- myths. Let the FBI do its job. Protect the country, but don't endanger the American people and the Constitution.