From: Otis Willie
Subject: Police 'infuriated' over FBI program
Organization: The American War Library
NNTP-Posting-Date: Sat, 03 Aug 2002 15:26:03 EDT
Date: Sat, 03 Aug 2002 19:26:03 GMT
Police 'infuriated' over FBI program
(EXCERPT) Fri Aug 2, 9:20 AM ET
Kevin Johnson USA TODAY
WASHINGTON -- A new FBI ( news - web sites) program designed to
provide local police with intelligence reports on potential terrorism
is sputtering because many police officials believe the application
process is too long and intrusive. They also say the reports aren't
Of 1,000 police executives whom U.S. authorities identified as
candidates for clearance to the secret reports, only 600 have applied
since the program began in January, FBI officials say. About 320
police officials have been granted access so far.
The FBI created the program in response to local police officials'
complaints that U.S. authorities were not telling them enough about
For some police officials, the boiling point came last fall, when the
FBI issued a series of non-specific terrorist alerts that left cities
wondering how to respond. Police said that federal authorities'
traditional reluctance to share information was hindering their
efforts to prevent terrorism.
When the FBI announced that it would give police unprecedented access
to some classified reports, the bureau expected a flood of requests.
But Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research
Forum, a law enforcement think tank, says his police members are put
off by the program's demands. He says police officials are
''infuriated'' about having to undergo background checks of up to six
months to gain access to FBI reports.
''Most of these people have been chiefs for a long time with
established records in law enforcement,'' Wexler says. ''Having to
wait for clearance is unbelievable. The country is at war. We should
be sharing information right away.''
William Berger, president of the International Association of Chiefs
of Police, says that ''many chiefs got so fed up that they never
followed through with their applications. Some who have applied have
given up (waiting for approval) out of frustration.''
Berger, police chief in North Miami Beach, Fla., says that when he
expressed interest in a clearance, the FBI sent him a 12-page
application asking for an extensive family profile, including credit
references. ''I didn't have time for it, and I don't know many chiefs
who do, especially when the information we're getting in return is
minimal at best.''
Berger says the information offered by U.S. authorities often is not
fully developed or specific enough to indicate how police should
react. ''I know the bureau is trying to improve things, but we're no
further along then we were before.''
Assistant FBI Director Louis Quijas acknowledges that background
checks can be ''difficult, cumbersome and intimidating.'' Quijas, a
former police chief of High Point, N.C., who was hired in April to
improve the FBI's communications with local police, says the bureau is
considering whether to grant lower-level security clearances that
would not require lengthy background checks.
National security policies require extensive personal investigations
of those applying for access to classified documents, regardless of
their status in law enforcement. Lower-level clearance, Quijas says,
would give police basic information about possible threats but not
details on sources of the information.
''A lot of the information necessary to keep cities and communities
safe does not require a top-secret clearance,'' Quijas says. ''There
are other ways to get information into the hands of chiefs and
sheriffs, and we're working to do that.''
-- DEA Watch
The Voice of the Drug Enforcement Agent
American Victims of Substance Abuse Memorial