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Q&A with Paul Shukovsky

SHOWCASE | April 11, 2007

Barry Sussman, editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project, interviewed Paul Shukovsky, one of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporters who wrote of the massive restructuring of the FBI after 9/11, resulting in a dramatic plunge in traditional FBI investigations.

Q. What made you look into this?

Shukovsky: As a federal courts and federal investigative agencies beat reporter, I make it a habit of loitering in U.S. Magistrate Court where alleged federal felons are taken for first appearance. You can't walk into the FBI as though it were a local cop shop and share a cup of coffee with an agent. So mag court is a key place to make sources of agents.

Over the last few years, I've noticed a marked diminution in certain kinds of cases coming through mag court and it made me curious. Several agents told me they were no longer picking up violent crimes, drugs and white-collar cases. That led to a Freedom of Information Act request to the Executive Office of the U.S. Attorneys for their referral database. The information from the database confirmed our suspicions and we launched the investigation.

Q. What reactions have you had so far?

Probably the most gratifying reaction was an anonymous call from an FBI agent located somewhere in the Southeast. He said a portion of the story had been posted on the FBI intranet and that agents all over the country are talking about it. "The story is right on the mark,' he said. Then he proceeded to launch into a very compelling tip. There have also been a couple of people who believe that our piece misses the mark because – in their view – it diverts attention from the real story: the Bush Administration's single-minded efforts to fight a war on terror to the exclusion of all other priorities.

Q. If you had to pull out one or two major findings, what would they be?

The Bush Administration – both at the White House level and Attorneys General Ashcroft and Gonzales – has made the affirmative decision to sacrifice enforcement of civil rights and laws protecting our nation's financial infrastructure from crime and internal corruption to fund the domestic front in its war on terror.

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