WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Janet Reno rejected proposals yesterday to merge the Drug Enforcement Administration into the FBI, choosing instead to create a new Justice Department post designed to resolve the turf battles between the two agencies as well as the Border Patrol and the Marshals Service.
She then named FBI Director Louis J. Freeh to head a new office as director for investigative agency policies -- a move that caused even some Freeh admirers to question whether he can impartially settle conflicts involving an agency he will continue to head.
Ms. Reno said she had the support of Vice President Al Gore, whose "reinventing government" task force appeared in its August report to favor a merger.
Under Ms. Reno's plan, Mr. Freeh would have the authority, subject to her review and that of Deputy Attorney General Philip B. Heymann, to settle operational disputes over such matters as drug trafficking and the apprehension of fugitives among the FBI, DEA, Marshals Service and Border Patrol -- the department's four law enforcement arms.
Since taking office in March, Ms. Reno has clearly indicated her concern that turf disputes among the federal investigative agencies have hampered the fight against crime. Yesterday she said that chief among the problems was the FBI's and DEA's failure to share all intelligence information about drugs and related matters.
Rep. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the House crime and criminal justice subcommittee, praised Ms. Reno's decision to maintain the DEA as an independent agency, but said he was "disappointed" by the selection of Mr. Freeh.
While saying he has "the highest respect" for the new FBI director, Mr. Schumer added: "I just don't see how the director of the FBI -- no matter who he or she may be -- can escape the impression of conflict that will inevitably arise in choosing between the agencies."