FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, APRIL 11, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
ATTORNEY GENERAL ORDERS NEW STEPS TO SHARE INFORMATION
RELATING TO TERRORISM WITH FEDERAL AGENCIES
AS WELL AS STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General John Ashcroft today directed Justice Department components, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Department's Criminal Section, the Marshals Service (USMS), as well as the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force (FTTTF), to take additional steps to increase coordination and sharing of information relating to terrorism. Today's initiatives, developed following the terrorist attack of September 11th, are designed to further increase the effectiveness of the federal government, working together with state and local governments, to coordinate the use of information that could help prevent future acts of terrorism.
"Information is the best friend of prevention," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "The September 11 attacks demonstrate that the war on terrorism must be fought and won at all levels of government. To meet this continuing threat, law enforcement officials at all levels -- federal, state, and local -- must work together, coordinating information and leveraging resources in the joint effort to prevent and disrupt terrorist activity." The prevention of terrorist activity is the overriding priority of the Department of Justice. Last fall, the Attorney General directed Department components to review their policies and procedures to ensure information sharing, information analysis, and coordination of activities with other federal agencies and our state and local partners in the joint effort to prevent acts threatening public safety and national security. Following the recommendations and progress reported to the Attorney General by Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, the Attorney General today commended the components for their substantial progress, and directed them to take several additional steps in analyzing information, sharing intelligence, and coordinating activities in the multi-front effort to combat terrorism. These steps include the following:
- Expand Terrorist Information in Law Enforcement Databases. The Federal Government maintains a number of databases that provide real-time information to government officials in foreign diplomatic outposts, at border points of entry, and to officials engaged in interior domestic law enforcement. Expansion of information in such databases relating to known and suspected terrorists will greatly enhance the ability of federal, state, and local officials to prevent terrorists from obtaining visas to enter the United States, to deny them entry into our borders, to detect and apprehend those already in the country, and to gather intelligence on the plans and activities of terrorist conspiracies. Accordingly, the Attorney General directed all investigative components within the Department of Justice to establish procedures to provide, on a regular basis and in electronic format, the names, photographs (if available), and other identifying data of all known or suspected terrorists for inclusion in the databases maintained by the State Department, the FBI, and the U.S. Customs Service. These procedures may allow for case-by-case exceptions where disclosure would compromise national security or criminal investigations.
- Coordinate Foreign Terrorist Information. The international response to the September 11th attacks has been defined by multilateral cooperation and resolve to restore security and liberty to freedom-loving people of the world. The success of the response has depended in large part on improved sharing among governments of information relating to terrorists, their associates, and their activities. Continued vigilance requires procedures to institutionalize such information coordination. Accordingly, the Attorney General directed the FBI, through its Legal Attaches, to establish procedures to obtain on a regular basis the fingerprints, other identifying information, and available biographical data of all known or suspected foreign terrorists who have been identified and processed by foreign law enforcement agencies. The FBI shall also coordinate with the Department of Defense to obtain, to the extent permitted by law, on a regular basis the fingerprints, other identifying information, and available biographical data of known or suspected foreign terrorists who have been processed by the U.S. Military. Such information shall be placed into appropriate law enforcement databases to assist in detecting and locating foreign terrorists.
- Establish Secure System for Information Coordination with State and Local Partners. Effective information coordination requires sophisticated mechanisms for expanded database searches using methods other than a name search. Federal agencies, unlike state and local governments, have the benefit of classified systems that enable keyword searches of relevant documents, secure e-mail, and other important collaborative information sharing tools. Last fall, the Attorney General directed all U.S. Attorneys to develop protocols for coordinating information to, from, and among our state and local partners in law enforcement, and encouraged the use, where practicable, of technologies already available and currently in use by the Department to facilitate information-sharing. Today, the Attorney General directed the Deputy Attorney General to coordinate among the applicable components the development of a secure but unclassified web-based system to enable local, state, and federal users to post, retrieve, and read information, restrict access to certain products, send secure e-mail, and receive automatic e-mail notifications when new items are posted. This integrated system should also allow for future capabilities, such as imagery and photographs, instant messaging and improved access to federal databases.
- Analyze Foreign Terrorist Data. On October 30, 2001, the President directed that the Department establish the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force (FTTTF) to help keep foreign terrorists and their supporters out of the United States by providing critical and timely information to border control and interior enforcement agencies and officials. To do so requires electronic access to large sets of data, including the most sensitive material from law enforcement and intelligence sources. The Attorney General directed the FTTTF to identify the agency information systems and data sets needed to fulfill its mission, and subject to any legal restrictions on the sharing of such information, asked each agency to provide to the FTTTF unfiltered, timely and electronic access to the information systems and data sets deemed relevant by the Director of the FTTTF.
- Standardize Procedures for Sharing of Sensitive Information. Sections 203 and 905 of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001, Pub. L. 107-56, authorized and required sharing of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information in new ways, subject to limitations otherwise provided by law and exceptions delineated in regulations to be issued by the Department. Accordingly, the Attorney General directed the Assistant Attorney General for the Legal Policy, in consultation with the Justice Department's Criminal Division, the FBI, and other relevant components, to draft for consideration and promulgation, procedures, guidelines, and regulations to implement sections 203 and 905 of the USA PATRIOT Act in a manner that makes consistent and effective the standards for sharing of information, including sensitive or legally restricted information, with other Federal agencies. Those standards should be directed toward, consistent with law, the dissemination of all relevant information to Federal officials who need such information in order to prevent and disrupt terrorist activity and other activities affecting our national security. At the same time, the procedures, guidelines, and regulations should seek to ensure that shared information is not misused for unauthorized purposes, disclosed to unauthorized personnel, or otherwise handled in a manner that jeopardizes the rights of U.S. persons, and that its use does not unnecessarily affect criminal investigations and prosecutions. The standards adopted will govern the coordination of information directed by this memorandum, and well as other voluntary or mandated sharing of criminal investigative information.