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FBI intelligence-sharing seen improved

WASHINGTON -- Local law enforcement officials say the FBI has gotten better at sharing information since the Sept. 11 attacks, although New York police complain the bureau continues to deprive them of some counterterrorism intelligence, the Justice Department inspector general said yesterday.

Even in New York, however, the flow of information between federal authorities and their local counterparts is better than it was before 2001, inspector general Glenn A. Fine said in a report that examined various terrorism task forces established or bolstered after the attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

''We found that the department's terrorism task forces and advisory councils generally function as intended, without significant duplication of effort," Fine said.

Among the intelligence failures identified after the attacks was a lack of communication within the federal government and between federal authorities and state and local police. Three of the Sept. 11 hijackers came face-to-face with police through traffic stops in the months before the attacks.

Some New York lawmakers and local officials had worried that cooperation had diminished since the months immediately following the attacks. But New York police officials told Fine's investigators that they had access to CIA and National Security Agency information that they did not have before Sept. 11. FBI officials said that FBI agents and New York Police Department detectives are matched almost one-for-one on the city's 14 joint terrorism squads.

Still, some NYPD officials said they are not always pleased with what the FBI allows them to see and are skeptical that they see everything, Fine said. They said they ''have a right to know and the FBI has an obligation to inform them," but could not say for certain how the lack of information affects their work, Fine said.

An FBI official in New York countered that, even as they complain, NYPD officials refuse to share their intelligence with the bureau, setting up the possibility that ''links to terrorism may go undetected."

The report also said that the Drug Enforcement Administration is not sufficiently involved in the task forces, despite the link between drug trafficking and terrorism.

As of January, a DEA employee was a member of only one of the 103 Joint Terrorism Task Forces that have been created around the nation, Fine said. The DEA said the workload didn't justify its initial assignment of more employees to the task forces.

Fine contrasted the agency's response with the heightened participation by the US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

''The DEA must do the same," he said.

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