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Too Much Terror Data?

Broad new surveillance powers granted the Justice Department come with a risk for investigators: There may be such an information overload that agents could overlook a critical fragment of information that would prevent a terrorist attack, a senior CIA lawyer said Thursday.

That concern is just the latest worry in the struggle by law enforcement agencies to deal with the vast task of fighting terrorism. Also Thursday, the New York Times reported that FBI officials have chastised local office chiefs for failing to devote enough attention or resources to counterterrorism efforts.

Provisions of the USA Patriot Act, passed by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks, permit the FBI and Justice Department to share with the CIA previously off-limits information gathered in secret grand jury proceedings and through wiretaps and other domestic eavesdropping.

This already is producing an avalanche of information that poses new challenges for analysts at the CIA and other intelligence services, said John Rizzo, senior deputy general counsel at the CIA.

"One thing I am concerned about: What do we do with all that information?" Rizzo told an American Bar Association conference on national security. "Woe be it for us if we lose one shard of information that in retrospect would have been key if, God forbid, we had another terrorist attack."

This week's ruling by a secret U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review enhances the government's domestic surveillance powers to track suspected spies and terrorists.

CIA Director George Tenet has repeatedly said that to succeed against terrorism, the agency must recruit and adequately pay more talented people, including intelligence analysts.

Another change for the CIA will come with establishment of a Homeland Security Department, which will provide its own analysis of intelligence data from multiple sources and, for the first time, connect state and local law enforcement officials with the CIA.

"CIA has never dealt with state and local officials. We will have to learn to do so," Rizzo said.

The CIA's concerns come as the FBI struggles to shift its primary mission from solving traditional crimes to detecting and stopping would-be terrorists.
In one FBI memo, FBI director Robert Mueller's top deputy, Bruce J. Gebhardt, claimed several field offices weren't devoting enough attention to terrorism cases.

"You need to instill a sense of urgency" in field agents, the Times quoted Mr. Gebhardt as writing. He said agents had to be more aggressive in pursuing leads and offices had to do a better job of transmitting information to headquarters.

As CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports, at the heart of the FBI's concern is a meeting earlier this month at the White House where National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice chaired a discussion of possibly taking domestic counter terrorism and analysis duties away from the FBI and giving them to a new agency, one like Great Britain's famed MI-5 Security service.

Critics say the worry is warranted. Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa told CBS, "I think they feel the heat and I think they need to feel the heat because there's great changes in the FBI that need to be made."

The chief complaint is that the bureau still clings to its traditional crime-solving image and has moved too slowly on its new top priority, which is the prevention of more terrorist attacks through infiltration and domestic intelligence gathering.

Mueller, in memos reported by the Times, also criticized the heads of field offices and said that local officers will no longer be allowed to set their own crime-fighting goals.

FBI officials reportedly want agents to seek more secret warrants and enter more data into centralized FBI computers, and for field office heads to get weekly briefings from their counterterrorism teams.

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