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FBI Agents Don't Have Email Access 308

the_bikeman writes "According to CNN, many FBI agents do not have access to an email account, and only 100 of the 2000 New York FBI agents have a Internet-ready mobile phone. Spokeswoman Cathy Milhoan said 'e-mail addresses are still being assigned, adding that the city bureau's 2,000 employees would all have accounts by the end of the year.'"
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FBI Agents Don't Have Email Access

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  • by GingerDog ( 907579 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @09:55AM (#14963596) Homepage
    This slashdot headline makes it sound like we're back in 1995.

    Christine Monaco, a spokeswoman for the FBI in New York, said Monday that all FBI agents can communicate with each other via a secure internal e-mail system, and about 75 percent of the New York office's employees have outside e-mail accounts.

    "The outside e-mail accounts have to be separately funded," she said.

    Sounds like a nasty mixture of bureaucracy and inefficiency to me. Is there a difference between employees and agents? (do cleaners need email accounts?)

    I wonder what their 'secure internal e-mail system' is?
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:04AM (#14963653)
    how right my parents were about the FBI when I was a kid. My dad was very high up within Customs and my mom was a GSA IG agent, and all of their friends I knew growing up worked for other federal agencies ranging from the IRS to the DEA. The one thing that all of them had in common was a disdain, bordering on hatred, for the FBI's management. See, the FBI doesn't have its own charter and can expand into whatever it wants, which naturally causes turf wars with other agencies. Customs and the DEA are the two main anti-drug agencies, especially Customs which is the agency responsible for keeping them out of our country on the borders. The FBI would routinely come in and try to to take cases away to build up publicity and then royally fuck up the case, and when you're dealing with wealthy criminals, usually that leads to no conviction, even if there is no technicality, because the lawyers are that good at ripping the FBI a new asshole.

    The FBI screwed up on 9-11 because it wants to be the American KGB. It wants to be THE main federal agency and has been jockeying for a foreign intelligence **field work** role. Hello people, that naturally conflicts with the CIA's exclusive jurisdiction there. Didn't stop the FBI's management from refusing to work with the CIA since the CIA has legal jurisdiction over all foreign operations. The FBI has also had problems with management blowing off field agents. The management simply has to go. A top down attack on the FBI management, decentralizing power and putting the bulk of it back into the hands of the lower-level management and field agents is the only solution. From the stories I have heard from the people I know in law enforcement at all levels, the FBI is dominated by middle management hell. The field agents, and the press is quick to point this out with the agents who warned about terrorism but were told to go fuck off by FBI management, and the IT people alike are hamstrung by management that cares more about image than doing its job.

    Most importantly, give the agency a clear charter and jurisdiction once and for all. Take terrorism out of most of it too. Let the CIA and NSA deal with terrorists. They don't have the time, the jurisdiction or quite frankly any interest in what non-national security things the people are doing. If there is ever a crackdown on dissent, it'll be done by FBI agents with KGB-level powers, not CIA special ops who tracked down a Jose Padilla and discretely shot him dead like a dog in the streets of NYC.
  • by JargonScott ( 258797 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:07AM (#14963669)
    Please, you can't still believe that email is a productive form of communication? For every benefit that email (and the internet in general) used to bring, there is 5x the baggage of problems.

    I like to think that FBI agents are busy in some sense their entire shift. I don't want to think of them wasting time as much as any of us are right now, and I'm home sick. Please don't bust my bubble of comfortable misconception.

    I was employed to monitor the web and email traffic at a medium sized bank (~3400 employees) for 3 years, and I can tell you that people spend way too much time playing. It made me extremely jaded towards the "access to information is the key" mentality.
  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:10AM (#14963685) Homepage
    Given that gigs and gigs of GMail are available to end-users for free, and HTTPS-secured web-mail is available to end-users for free as well, how expensive can it be for the FBI to set up email addresses? Answer: email is nearly free. It's not really a cost issue, it's a management or incompetence issue.
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:12AM (#14963702)
    Which would do more to protect and help us as a country: email for all the employees or the ability to hire 2 extra people in the field? Couple that with exactly what you quoted.

    First of all, I would think that e-mail was a NECESSARY tool for anyone working today. Rapid communication is going to help protect this country by getting the information to the agents in the field. 2 extra people is not going to help if they can't even coordinate their communications properly. If you are trying to say they don't need email, just what exactly are they going to use to communicate? Carrier pigeons? Slashdot forums?
  • by ursabear ( 818651 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:24AM (#14963767) Homepage Journal
    The CIA, FBI, and any other governmental agency should have efficient, extremely-monitored, very safe email and email systems. It is very important that modern communications are fostered and maintained in governmental activities.

    I know from personal experience that government-funded/government-used technical systems are generally either:
    1)Ultra-over-engineered to be sure that the system/thing is ultra-safe or ultra-reliable or ultra-accountable
    2)Woefully inadequate because the person(s) in the bureaucracy don't have the tech expertise to foster the effort correctly - and yet place massive, uninformed, and inappropriate amounts of pressure on the worker bees to get the job done as per the way the non-tech person thinks it needs to go.
    3)Many projects die on the vine because mis-direction (and management that honestly doesn't have the knowledge they need to lead the effort) makes the project wander in the desert for huge periods of time.
    4)I could go on...

    But in all fairness, governmental technical efforts have many different and sometimes unique pressures on them. The government literally has to have permission from someone to do anything with public systems. The public (rightfully) wants as much transparency and accountability as possible in governmental efforts - which means everything is debated, re-documented, justified, cleared, reviewed, managed, re-managed, scrutinized, over-then-under-funded, micro-managed, and finally finger-pointed-to-somebody-else'd when the project doesn't go right.

    Our government cannot (or doesn't know how to) operate as smaller, more agile private businesses work. The pressure and accountability of every move has created a monster of over-administered and over-micro-managed web of forms, functions, procedures, and other things...

    What's the solution? Frankly, I don't know. I want my government to be accountable, and I want the government to be "of the people, by the people", but I also want it to be intelligent, well-led, and a great deal less dysfunctional. If only governmental technical tasks could be more agile...
  • Re:How convenient! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:26AM (#14963783) Homepage
    Wouldn't that show them just how easy it is to find some of this stuff on the net? Sometimes I think that law enforcement is kind of ignorant to just how easily some things are available on the internet.
  • by svallarian ( 43156 ) <svallarian&hotmail,com> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @10:49AM (#14963940)
    Parent is 100% true!

    If people had any idea how much burearucratic bullshit that goes on in the FBI, you would have a totally different opinion of them. I find it amazing they are able to do any work at all with all of the political infighting and constant management changes that goes on within the FBI.

    If you want to know what really goes on with the FBI, take your local agent out for a drink sometime!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @11:03AM (#14964033)
    I was suprised how far down the comments I had to read before ANYONE even came close to questioning the need for TWO FREAKIN THOUSAND FBI agents in just one state.

    Do you really think there is work for 2000 FBI agents in New York? Why do you think ordinary crimes like bank robbery and carjacking get elevated on dubious constitutionality to federal crimes?

    Damn straight the FBI wants to be the KGB. Time to cut them down to size and move everything that doesn't absolutely HAVE to be a federal investigation down to the staties.
  • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deviantphil ( 543645 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @11:05AM (#14964041)
    They don't have access to email, but the FBI has access to my email []. How convenient, indeed!
  • by aolsheepdog ( 239764 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @11:54AM (#14964350) Homepage
    You should learn about federal law enforcement before you comment.

    I am a federal agent and although previously with the FBI, I switched to a better agency. We didn't even have interoffice email when I left in 1998.

    I have worked joint cases with many other federal agencies. The FBI is the only agency that doesn't have internet based email. Agencies that deal in classified information typically have two standalone systems. One that is for sensitive data with internet access and one for strictly classified information. The classified system (SIPRNET) is also used when unclassified information is deemed too sensitive for the Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) system.

    With either of these systems I can contact other agents and exchange case notes. Many FBI agents I have worked cases with have had to resort to using yahoo and hotmail accounts. It's a joke. Only in the last couple of years have some offices (not individual agents) gotten accounts (think I think some HQ people have accounts too.

    The FBI is really behind the curve in trying to protect their information. At a minimum their agents should be connected to the SIPRNET which handles up to Secret information. At least then they could interact with other organizations besides their own.
  • On the other hand... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Roadkills-R-Us ( 122219 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:01PM (#14964888) Homepage
    Who the heck cares if they don't have internet ready phones? That's like whing that they don't all have Ipod Nanos!
  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @02:38PM (#14965770) Journal
    And yet I wish had a nickel for every time I've sent someone a 100+ page document via email, only to have them *FAX* me back changes.
    Actually, I think this is an area where Outlook Express (and probably other email clients) suck. Here is what happens:

    Person receives email with attachment

    Person opens attachment, makes changes and saves attachment

    Person forwards email back to original sender.

    Did the original sender get the modified document? No. Yet, most people don't understand why this does not work (actually, it works with Eudora if you configure it to put attachments in a separate directory).

    That's why you get the faxed modifications. Also many people don't know about the option to record and display changes.

  • by Tore S B ( 711705 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @04:23PM (#14966767) Homepage
    "What do you mean what do I mean? What is your email address?"

    "I don't know what that is"


    Ever struck you that he could have been replying that he didn't know what the email address itself is? A far more likely response...

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears