[NEWS] WASHPOST - In Federal Law Enforcement, 'All the Walls Are Down'

From: indonesia-p@indopubs.com
Date: Sun Oct 14 2001 - 17:10:04 EDT

X-URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A56015-2001Oct13.html

   In Federal Law Enforcement, 'All the Walls Are Down'
   Personnel From Assorted Agencies Work Together at FBI Headquarters
                                                             By Jim McGee
                                             Washington Post Staff Writer
                                       Sunday, October 14, 2001; Page A16
     Two meetings punctuate the day of FBI Deputy Director Thomas Pickard
    and show how federal law enforcement has been transformed since Sept.
      A tall, lanky man with an easy smile and the smooth gloss of a CEO,
    Pickard begins each day with a 7 a.m. briefing at the FBI's Strategic
          Information Operations Center, the command post for the massive
    federal investigation into the terror attacks. As the session starts,
      Pickard is joined by a senior official of the CIA who serves as his
   deputy. If CIA help is required, the intelligence officer makes a note
                                             to check the agency's files.
   Exactly nine hours later, at 4 p.m., Pickard convenes another briefing
                inside a large executive briefing room that looks like an
   amphitheater, with big video screens on the walls and plush dark green
                                                           leather seats.
      Technicians patch agents in charge of the 56 FBI field offices into
     one giant conference call, and the seats fill up with officials from
    more than a dozen federal police, intelligence and military agencies.
    Pickard opens the discussion but defers to Assistant Attorney General
          Michael Chertoff, chief of the criminal division at the Justice
     Department. The conversation bounces around the nation, with updates
                  of an investigation that has tentacles in every region.
    The two meetings illustrate what nine years of terrorist attacks have
    wrought in the United States. The 7 a.m. briefing shows that although
          the FBI and the CIA remain separate agencies that operate under
    different laws and use different methods, they now act as one, senior
                                         officials for both agencies say.
   The 4 p.m. briefing demonstrates how the Justice Department has forged
             the major federal law enforcement agencies and 94 local U.S.
       attorney's offices into a combined force centrally controlled from
    The FBI's operations center on the fifth floor of its headquarters in
      downtown Washington is the nexus of those efforts, a vast mosaic of
    federal expertise and legal authorities. The FBI operations center is
   a 21st-century communications and data-processing platform that serves
            as a microcosm of the unified police and intelligence system.
        At computer terminals throughout the 40,000-square-foot facility,
          personnel from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the
      National Security Agency work alongside agents of the FBI, the U.S.
   Customs Service, the Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
                                                            and Firearms.
    The FBI operations center is the mirror image of the counterterrorism
    center at CIA headquarters in Langley. There, too, the CIA, NSA, DIA,
   FBI, Customs and others work side-by-side. Just as Pickard's deputy is
   a CIA man, the chief of the CIA center has an FBI executive as his No.
   "All the walls are down," said FBI Assistant Director Thomas B. Locke.
                                                 A 'Seamless' Integration
    The foundation of this unified force was laid when a 2,000-pound bomb
   exploded beneath the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993. Overwhelmed,
    the FBI sought help. Within 24 hours, agents from the Secret Service,
       the CIA and other agencies joined the existing FBI-New York Police
                                              Joint Terrorism Task Force.
   That task force got results: A New York police detective searching the
    crime scene found a truck axle that led to the first arrest. A Secret
   Service agent obtained a full confession from Ramzi Yousef, the plot's
         Lessons learned from subsequent bombings forced more innovation.
      The goal, said former deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick, was a
         "seamless" integration of FBI and CIA capabilities that was also
    legal. In 1975, a Senate investigation of illegal domestic spying had
       led to changes designed to segregate the two agencies' operations.
      "What the American people want is the best possible protection that
   they can have," Gorelick said. "They also don't want anyone collecting
             information on them inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment."
      From 1995 to 2000, a series of anti-terrorism measures and spending
      bills headed the government back toward a unified system, an effort
           that was slowed by laws and institutional structures that were
                              originally designed to limit federal power.
   One by one, obstacles were overcome by presidents operating in periods
          of crisis. Now, the Bush administration is embarked on the most
     extensive rollback of constraints on federal police and intelligence
          The vehicle for this is anti-terrorism legislation advocated by
       Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, versions of which were approved
                                       last week in the House and Senate.
      The most controversial proposals are those that will make it lawful
                for the CIA and the U.S. military to tap into the awesome
         investigative might of the federal grand jury, the most powerful
     weapon in law enforcement's arsenal. If signed into law, the measure
     would allow prosecutors to readily share grand jury information with
   the CIA. That is crucial, a senior FBI official said, because it would
        allow the CIA access to some of the best information on Osama bin
                                      Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.
       The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan has used a series of grand
         jury investigations after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to
          assemble one of the largest and most carefully vetted bodies of
                                              evidence against bin Laden.
   In tearing down the wall between federal grand juries and intelligence
   agencies, the Ashcroft proposal would also be removing the supervisory
       control of a federal judge, who under the current structure is the
           only person who can allow grand jury information to be shared.
           Duke University law professor Sara Sun Beale, a former Justice
      Department official who is an authority on federal criminal law and
        the grand jury, said a key question is whether routine sharing of
   grand jury evidence with the CIA will gradually convert the grand jury
                      into an engine of political intelligence-gathering.
   "The grand jury was created to investigate criminal wrongdoing," Beale
        said. "It was given extensive authority to clear the innocent and
           discover evidence against the guilty." Historically, she said,
         judicial supervision and secrecy rules were integral parts of an
     official proceeding that can compel secret testimony and incarcerate
    uncooperative witnesses. "Now that we know the information that comes
         out at the end of the pipeline could be shared with intelligence
                   agencies, how will the grand jury be used?" she asked.
    In a frantic and ultimately losing battle, the nation's leading civil
      liberties groups argued that Ashcroft's approach would erode Fourth
       Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and Fifth
                             Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
                                                      Oklahoma City Model
   The World Trade Center bombing started the move to consolidate federal
      law enforcement, but it took another blast to build the new system.
       After the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in
       Oklahoma City, the Justice Department developed "the Oklahoma City
    Within hours of the explosion, Attorney General Janet Reno dispatched
      senior Justice Department officials to Oklahoma City to oversee the
              investigation and ordered other attorneys to coordinate the
                               investigation from the FBI command center.
        Thrown together on the fly, the Oklahoma City model relied on the
    FBI's antiquated, 4,000-square-foot command center. In the aftermath,
           Reno and then-FBI Director Louis J. Freeh got $20 million from
           Congress for a 10-fold expansion of the FBI operations center.
    Richly stocked with computers and high-speed data transmission lines,
       the new center allows fingertip control of investigations in a way
                                                 unheard of a decade ago.
        On Sept. 11, when the second fuel-laden jet plowed into the World
        Trade Center, a crowd was watching on a giant video screen at the
      center's telecommunication center. At the time, two teams of agents
        were already at work in the center tracking bin Laden and Islamic
    Within 15 minutes of the first jet's attack, new teams of agents were
   pouring into the center's 20 rooms. Ultimately, more than 500 lawyers,
       agents, intelligence officers and support personnel worked 12-hour
                                                    shifts in the center.
     Near the middle of the facility is a state-of-the-art communications
   center, comparable to those found at the State Department and the CIA.
    It is surrounded by an expanse of office suites, conference rooms and
               large work areas with clusters of computer-equipped desks.
         The operations center gives off an ambiance that falls somewhere
   between a big-city newsroom and a large insurance office. The entrance
      has large glass doors that announce "The George H.W. Bush Strategic
    Information Operations Center." The lights are bright, and the spaces
    are airy but windowless. The floors are made of a special anti-static
       material. The floor plan allows hundreds of people to work closely
                                              together in a logical flow.
     The center's defining features are its walls, wiring and dimensions.
   With those building blocks, designers used architecture and technology
                   to erase the barriers that had traditionally inhibited
              information-sharing among police and intelligence agencies.
    The facility allows different teams of agents with different security
    clearances to work under one roof. The center's 65 miles of telephone
      and fiber-optic cable offer three types of local area networks: the
          regular FBI network that can connect to the networks of outside
         agencies; a classified network that operates at the level of Top
         Secret; and an even more highly classified Special Compartmented
                                                     Information network.
         "We can plug and play as we see fit," said Ronald Wilcox, deputy
                                       director of the operations center.
        A visiting team of money-laundering experts from U.S. Customs can
          start working immediately on computers linked to Treasury's own
      network of databases. Teams from the intelligence community can tap
                         into a secure interface with the CIA or the NSA.
       The layout of the operations center is intended to help manage the
   flow of information from FBI field offices, other agencies and foreign
       sources. Agents use a computer software program called Rapid Start
       that enables field agents as well as supervisors in the operations
      center to review and synchronize work on tens of thousands of leads
      and suspects. Every FBI report of an interview is uploaded into the
                                                system for all to review.
       A secure FBI intranet posts a constantly updated chronology of the
           case: what's happening, where it's happening and what has been
      discovered. As they sort through an endless cascade of information,
             analysts, agents and supervisors in the center can check the
     chronology on large video displays. Out in the field, each of the 56
            FBI special agents in charge can view the chronology on their
              computer. "It keeps everyone on the same page," Locke said.
           More than anything, the operations center is about control: of
     information, of operations, of a typhoon of a federal investigation.
           On the afternoon of Sept. 11, Ashcroft knew where to find that
              control. He left the Justice headquarters building, crossed
        Constitution Avenue and commandeered an office suite in the FBI's
      operations center. Thereafter, he used the center to centralize the
                                             investigation in Washington.
        Ashcroft was joined by 35 prosecutors from the Justice Department
             terrorism section as well as local prosecutors from the U.S.
   attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Assistant U.S.
       Attorney David N. Kelley, chief of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo
     White's terrorism unit, was summoned to Washington to work full time
                                                in the operations center.
     "We are not operating as a series of little offices," said Chertoff,
   the assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division. "We
      are a single, unified team. This is a case unlike any that has been
    faced in the history of the United States. It is a national case, and
               we are approaching it as a national group of prosecutors."
         A generation ago, it would have been unthinkable for the Justice
     Department to exercise such control. When Attorney General Robert F.
   Kennedy decided to mount a national assault on the Mafia, he met stiff
    resistance from the FBI and local U.S. attorneys. Out of frustration,
       he borrowed Treasury Department investigators and created regional
      strike forces staffed by criminal division lawyers from Washington.
        As recently as 10 years ago, logistics and technology still posed
      significant obstacles. So did the continuing autonomy of local U.S.
                  attorneys, who are independent presidential appointees.
                        All of this is changing, Chertoff and others say.
         They contend that the Sept. 11 investigation, with its far-flung
          venues in Europe and the Middle East, can be controlled only in
       Washington. Statistics demonstrate the dimensions of the case, the
   biggest in U.S. history: Since the attacks, the FBI and other agencies
           have detained 698 people and served more than 4,000 subpoenas.
    Chertoff and his colleagues in Washington approve every detention and
                                      "We are one organization," he said.