Budget constraints are forcing some local FBI agents to operate without e-mail accounts, according to the agency’s top official in New York. Mark Mershon, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s 2,000-employee city office, blamed the technology gap on Washington budget constraints.
“And as ridiculous as this might sound, we have real money issues right now, and the government is reluctant to give all agents and analysts dot-gov accounts,” he said when asked about the gap at a News editorial board meeting.
Mershon also revealed that only about 100 agents in New York have BlackBerry devices. And just a few weeks ago, the New York office was notified that funding for its BlackBerry pilot program – designed to help the FBI better communicate with city, state and federal law enforcement – was being cut.
“I, with the help of others, raised a stink,” Mershon said, adding that BlackBerry funding has been restored.
“We just don’t have the money, and that is an endless stream of complaints that come from the field.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) decried the penny-pinching.
“The FBI should have the tools it needs to fight terrorism and crime in the 21st century, most of all in New York City, and one of the most effective means of communications is e-mail and the Internet,” he said.
“FBI agents not having e-mail or Internet access is much too much a pre-9/11 mentality.”
FBI officials in Washington, however, insisted that agents are not at a disadvantage because of cost-cutting.