WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department is putting together a nationwide system to allow federal, state, and local law enforcement officials to share information more efficiently about terrorism and other crimes.
"This plan represents law enforcement's commitment to take it upon itself to ensure that the dots are connected, be it in crime or terrorism," Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said yesterday.
The National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan will include information from groups representing 1.2 million law enforcement officials at all levels of government. Under the plan, the Justice Department and FBI will share information more routinely with state and local officials. In addition, it will open pathways for state and local police to provide intelligence about terrorism and major crime suspects to the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies.
"We recognize there is no one agency that can be successful on its own," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said. "In order to address these threats, we must change."
The failure to share information about terror threats among federal, state, and local agencies has been cited repeatedly as a prime reason the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were not detected or disrupted. In the years since the attacks, the FBI has put the gathering, analysis, and sharing of intelligence among its top priorities.
The bureau has put in place a new policy to ensure that more of its information can be disseminated broadly to law enforcement officials by reducing the amount classified as top secret or secret. The policy also seeks to overcome turf squabbles and jurisdictional problems that long have blocked information sharing, especially between the FBI and other agencies. "We're knocking down these barriers each and every day," said Melvin Carraway, chairman of a panel that developed the plan.
The new intelligence plan also urges all law enforcement agencies to adopt safeguards for privacy rights and civil liberties, which critics of post-Sept. 11 police tactics say are being threatened in the name of countering terror.
"With this initiative, we will save American lives and we will protect American liberties," Ashcroft said.