Congressional Democrats are criticizing the Bush administration for authorizing huge FBI staffing cuts that caused thousands of cases to fall through cracks nationwide, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. “Americans expect us to do both — both fighting terrorism and the domestic criminal priorities that have always been the mission of the FBI,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). “Their budgets haven’t increased to take on the new mission of terrorism while continuing to do criminal work at the same level.” Sen. Joseph Biden (D-De.), agreed, saying the FBI “cannot abandon its traditional crime-fighting obligations.”
The FBI’s ability to investigate a number of crimes, ranging from fraud to hate crimes, has been strained by a shift of agents to duties aimed at preventing another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, the Post-Intelligencer reported yesterday. Biden has introduced legislation to hire 1,000 FBI agents for criminal cases and to restore federal aid to local and state law enforcement agencies. He was unable to win passage of the bill in the previous Republican-led Congress. Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, the state’s highest-ranking Republican, is “very concerned that fewer financial crimes are being investigated by the FBI, in part because Washington ranks in the top 10 states for identity theft.” Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske suggested that the Justice Department go after white-collar criminals by training and funding local police detectives to help investigate them.