WASHINGTON – The FBI has refused to cooperate with local police in the war on terrorism, even though “the life of the nation may depend on it,” Baltimore officials said Friday.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley told a congressional committee Friday that the FBI has refused to cooperate with Baltimore Police in the investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, despite numerous offers of assistance from the city.
O’Malley, joined by city Police Commissioner Edward Norris, said the FBI’s 12,000 agents nationwide are handling more than 100,000 tips, suggesting “that they are simply focusing on what they consider to be `hottest’ leads and taking their chances with the rest.”
But Peter Gulotta, spokesmen for the FBI’s Baltimore office, said the bureau has an “excellent” relationship with the Baltimore Police Department and that it plans to solicit the police assistance — when the time is right.
Gulotta insisted that the two departments are in constant contact and that the bureau is not withholding any information.
“We recognize the need to liaison with local law enforcement,” he said. “And certainly, if we were privy that anybody in a jurisdiction was in danger, we would contact them.”
Until now, he said, the FBI has been processing highly sensitive, national leads — many of which cannot be handled by personnel without security clearance.
Norris questioned the agency’s stance, noting that local departments have the manpower to take up some of the investigative slack for the FBI.
“Today, we all need each other if we as a nation are going to successfully counter threats that can come from virtually anywhere, at any time, in any form, including forms that could destroy whole cities,” said Norris.
“We have to know more about what there is to look for in our own communities so we can better protect our own people and be more effective gatherers of intelligence for the FBI,” he said in testimony before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Reform.
Norris called for a better system for sharing locally relevant information between the FBI and the nearly 650,000 state and local police officers throughout the country, including daily briefings with police chiefs on even the most highly classified information.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, said it the lack of cooperation between federal and local police outlined by Norris was “shocking to the conscience.” Cummings said he was in the process of setting up a subcommittee hearing to discuss the disconnect between the FBI and other federal agencies and local law enforcement.