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I am honored to join you today to support S. 1615, the "Federal-Local Information Sharing Partnership Act of 2001."
But more importantly, I want to thank you - Chairman Leahy, Senator Hatch, Senator Schumer and Senator Clinton - for hearing the voices of America's police chiefs, including Baltimore's Commissioner Edward Norris and NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Additionally, I would like to thank you on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, for which I Co-Chair the Federal-Local Law Enforcement Task Force.
While the recently passed USA Patriot Act mandates that federal agencies share information, it failed to allow the same communication exchange with state and local police.
S. 1615 will address the gap in the USA Patriot Act by permitting, but not requiring, federal authorities to share grand jury, wiretap, foreign intelligence operations and confidential banking and educational records with state and local police.
This bill provides Congress with the mechanism to ensure that such information is shared with our country's first responders, the 645,000 local law enforcement officers.
The United States is fighting a war on two fronts - Afghanistan and right here in America's big cities. If those fronts were Japan and Germany, as they were in World War II, we would have the best technology, the best equipment, and the best intelligence being sent right to both fronts.
But, only one front in this war is overseas where we have, as we should, equipped our men and women with the best technology, equipment and intelligence.
The other theater is right here at home in America's big cities. And to date, it's where we've seen the greatest loss of life. Yet, we have insufficient equipment, too little training, and a lack of intelligence sharing with federal authorities.
With war hitting home, we must use every resource at our disposal - federal, state and local - to keep Americans safe. We owe it to the American people. Through S. 1615, you are right to call on the Federal Bureau of Investigations to better share information with the hundreds of thousands of local law enforcement officers across this nation.
Nobody wants to criticize the FBI - particularly during a war. But when Commissioner Norris, a former Deputy Commissioner with the NYPD, explained what was happening in the wake of September 11th it seemed irresponsible to remain silent. Local governments want to help - out of patriotism, but also because we want to make sure our people are safe.
First, let me say that since we first raised this issue in early October, FBI Director Mueller and Attorney General Ashcroft have taken concrete steps to enlist local law enforcement officers in the war against terrorism.
The FBI's terrorist watch list has been added to the National Crime Information Center database. And just last week, the Immigration and Naturalization Service announced it would place the names of 314,000 foreign nationals, who disappeared after being ordered deported, into the NCIC.
However, notwithstanding this progress, after three months, we are not where we should be. Although most people agree that there is no other reasonable course but to deputize local law enforcement, how that occurs is still sketchy.
Here's one reason it must happen - it's a simple matter of math. With more than a half million open tips and 7,000 FBI agents working on this case, it is physically impossible that all tips - or even most tips - are being pursued in any meaningful way. Until recently, this problem was exacerbated by the creation of an FBI tip line, bypassing local law enforcement.
The tip line has since been discontinued. But while it was in existence, thousands of calls bypassed local 911 lines, going directly to the FBI without any tracking or reference to local officials.
In Baltimore, a local utility called the tip line to report a suspicious truck parked outside of one of its facilities. The Police Department, which could have been there within minutes, never received this information. We found out about it when a utility executive told Commissioner Norris the story at a social event. We assume the FBI checked into the truck, but we're not sure.
Providing security clearance to Police Chiefs and intelligence units in big city police departments would allow local law enforcement to do its share in protecting our nation - four of the terrorists who crashed into the Pentagon lived in Laurel, between Baltimore and Washington.
Sharing information also would better enable police departments to protect cities against independent kooks, who decide to join the Jihad. In Baltimore, we arrested a young man of Iranian heritage, walking out of the Howard Street tunnel - where we had a train derailment this past summer - wearing a mask, and carrying a backpack and cameras.
Even as it becomes evermore obvious that we must cooperate, we are falling short on coordination amongst the various levels of government and between federal agencies. For instance, one of the terrorists that flew a plane full of innocent people into a building filled with innocent people was pulled over by a Maryland State Trooper before September 11th. The CIA had him on a watch list. The FBI didn't. And no information was shared with state or local law enforcement.
The State trooper who pulled this driver over would have known he was wanted if he had an outstanding speeding ticket in the State of Maryland. He would have known if his insurance was expired. But he had no way of knowing that he had just pulled over an international terrorist.
Now, the 230 names on the FBI watch list have been added to the NCIC, but there are no pictures. In all likelihood, these men are not using their real names. Pictures are critical to catching them. And unless they went to the Osama bin Laden school of perfect driving, some of them will slip up. Local law enforcement has a very good chance of catching them on traffic charges - just like Timothy McVeigh.
More recently, we have an additional coordination issue. We have read in news reports that the FBI would like local law enforcement's help in questioning about 5,000 students who are violating their visas. Yet, our Police Commissioner has heard nothing. His 3,200 police officers are not yet helping.
Through our local network, we have determined that we have at least 12 such people in our city. We know who and where they are. But the police cannot interview them, we are told, because we are waiting for the Department of Justice and the US Attorney to set up a process - for them to tell us about the guys we already know about.
In times of crisis, government doesn't have the luxury of acting like government. A few months might not be soon enough to safeguard American lives. We need to move more quickly.
I'm not saying local government has all the answers. But we do have a lot of skilled, trained people who could be helping federal law enforcement officers do their job - if only they had the information that would enable them to help.
The USA Patriot Act of 2001 provided for sharing of intelligence between federal agencies. Now it's time to ensure the same level of cooperation between local and federal law enforcement. There is no time for us to say we'll get to it.
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