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Reno Ponders a Merger Of Several Justice Agencies

IT could produce the biggest acronym mishmash of all time, but administration officials are said to be considering a plan to merge three federal law enforcement agencies: the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

The realignment might be adopted as part of Vice President Al Gore Jr.'s National Performance Review, which is due to issue recommendations this fall on streamlining government. But because the ATF is part of the Treasury and the other agencies are under the Justice Department, a DEA-FBI marriage is considered more likely than a merger of all three.

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Attorney General Janet Reno indicated she is studying the possibility of merging the two Justice Department law-enforcement agencies.

"There's clearly a problem in duplication between the FBI, DEA, and Customs," she told a small group of reporters Thursday in a paneled conference room at the Justice Department. But she added that, before any action is taken, she wants to "consider all views." That, presumably, includes the views of DEA officials, who are adamantly opposed to having their agency swallowed up by their longtime rival, the FBI.

In other areas, Attorney General Reno said:

* She worked with the United States Park Police to make sure that they had access to White House records in their investigation of the apparent suicide of assistant counsel Vincent Foster.

* The Justice Department is continuing an investigation into charges contained in a note written by Mr. Foster just before his death - including the accusation that the FBI lied to Ms. Reno about the bureau's role in the Travelgate investigation.

"I know of nothing to date to indicate that the FBI has lied to me or was involved in any wrongdoing," she said.

* She opposes the efforts of Rep. Charles Schumer (D) of New York and others to include further "mandatory minimum" sentences into the crime bill pending in Congress. Deputy Attorney General Philip Heymann is currently studying whether the existing "mandatory minimums" have unduly clogged up the prison system with first-time drug offenders and nonviolent criminals.

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