[ISN] Internet untouchable for FBI agents in city

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Tue Mar 21 04:11:43 EST 2006


March 20, 2006 

It seems as if every Manhattan prep schooler has one, but many of New
York's FBI agents are fighting crime and terrorists without an
Internet-ready phone or even an e-mail account, the Daily News has

Mark Mershon, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's
2,000-employee city office, blamed the technology gap on Washington
budget constraints.

He said there's a cost attached to assigning an agent or analyst an
e-mail address with the official domain name - ic.fbi.gov.

"And as ridiculous as this might sound, we have real money issues
right now, and the government is reluctant to give all agents and
analysts dot-gov accounts," he said when asked about the gap at a News
editorial board meeting.

"We just don't have the money, and that is an endless stream of
complaints that come from the field."

Mershon also revealed that only about 100 agents in New York have
BlackBerry devices, which allow users to send and receive e-mail and
access the Internet from their phone.

And just a few weeks ago, the New York office was notified that
funding for its BlackBerry pilot program - designed to help the FBI
better communicate with city, state and federal law enforcement - was
being cut.

"I, with the help of others, raised a stink," Mershon said, adding
that BlackBerry funding has been restored.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) decried the penny-pinching.

"The FBI should have the tools it needs to fight terrorism and crime
in the 21st century, most of all in New York City, and one of the most
effective means of communications is e-mail and the Internet," he

"FBI agents not having e-mail or Internet access is much too much a
pre-9/11 mentality."

FBI officials in Washington, however, insisted that agents are not at
a disadvantage because of cost-cutting.

Spokeswoman Cathy Milhoan said about half the FBI employees don't have
official accounts because e-mail addresses are still being assigned.

By the end of the year, the entire bureau should have dot-gov
mailboxes, she said.

As for the BlackBerry devices, she conceded funding for the pilot
program was put in jeopardy because a lawsuit over the technology had
threatened to make the machines obsolete.

Now that the issue has been resolved, the FBI intends to keep the 100
wireless gizmos in the budget - though there are no plans to issue
them to more agents.

Those who don't have them can use their regular cell phones, pagers
and secure radios to communicate internally and with other agencies.

"BlackBerrys do cost money," she said. "It's the newest high-tech
gadget, but it's not the only way to communicate."

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