MAY 04, 2009
In a move that could compromise national security, the FBI is on the verge of awarding a company owned by a foreign government a lucrative contract to develop a system that will give it access to crucial U.S. law enforcement and intelligence data.
It marks the latest in a series of gaffes at the troubled federal agency responsible for protecting the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats. A national news service reports that the FBI is in the process of awarding a defense and aerospace company partly owned by the French government a $100 million contract to help create a system to identify criminals and terrorists.
The sophisticated and technologically advanced system will supposedly match fingerprints with those on the FBI’s database. To develop it, the U.S. government must provide the overseas firm with sensitive law enforcement and intelligence files. This could pose a grave counterintelligence threat, according to a Republican lawmaker who sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
A former FBI agent who spent decades working on counterintelligence said concerns expressed by various legislators is justified, adding that the deal could allow the French government—or people who infiltrate the government—to obtain information that could be used to benefit companies in that country.
The FBI has repeatedly come under fire in the last few years for a variety of issues, including its outdated and faulty search process in criminal investigations, dismal performance ratings from the bipartisan September 11 Commission and failing to adopt adequate security measures to curtail espionage from within.
Last year a Senate Intelligence Committee revealed in a lengthy report that widespread problems and weaknesses inside the FBI would prevent the agency from intercepting a future terrorist attack. A few years ago the agency was chastised for losing sensitive computer files and weapons.
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