Murphy's Law: March 2, 2004

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One of the unexpected fringe benefits of the war on terror is an increased number of criminals being stopped by more frequent checks at border crossings. Unfortunately, this effort has yet to snag a single terrorism suspect.

At sea, the navy and coast guard are catching more drug smugglers, as well as some  terrorism suspects as well. But the terrorism suspects caught by the increased security are dwarfed by the hundreds of additional non-terrorism criminals getting nabbed. This has brought out one problem at sea. While the coast guard can arrest suspected criminals at sea, the navy, by law, cannot. The navy can only pick up people for terrorism related activities. If they find a boat full of drugs, they can seize the drugs, but have to let the crew go.

There's also a downside to all this increased military involvement in criminal investigations. If military intelligence agencies get their hands on criminal investigation data, they tend to classify it. This makes it more difficult for civilian police organizations to work with the stuff. The usual result is a lot of lost time and effort as the cops try to get the intel guys to loosen up so the investigations can proceed. The civilian detectives have also learned another Pentagon truism, If you want to keep a secret, dont tell the intel folks. The intelligence agencies will trade information with other agencies in the Pentagon to get stuff they need, and Washington, in general, is very "leaky." Big city police departments tend to be better at keeping secrets. But now the feds want the police departments to cooperate and share lots of sensitive data. The cops are learning that this is often more headache than benefit.

 


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