Federal supercop


Attorney General Janet Reno has found a sensible, and probably workable, solution to the turf wars between the police agencies in her department, particularly the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency. Rather than combine them into a mega-agency, as proposed in Vice President Al Gore's reorganization plan, she is imposing a single overseer on the frequently warring agencies. More often than not, adding another level of bureaucratic review stifles efficiency. In this case it should not.

In creating the post of director for investigative agency policies and naming the new FBI director to fill it, Ms. Reno has copied the system for coordinating the frequently feuding intelligence-gathering agencies. The director of central intelligence, who is also the director of the CIA, coordinates the activities of nine disparate agencies and is the president's principal intelligence adviser. That hasn't ended bureaucratic bickering, but at least the intelligence agencies talk to each other, something they were loath to do during and after World War II.

Similarly, a major problem in narcotics enforcement has been the jurisdictional squabbling and hesitancy to share intelligence information between the FBI and DEA. That led Mr. Gore's task force to propose a merger of the FBI, DEA and the Treasury

Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. There were vague estimates of saving money by eliminating duplication, but little solid argument to back the proposal.

In fact, the merger idea would not have saved money, at least not for a very long time. Ms. Reno has chosen the wise course in seeking to induce cooperation where it makes sense. She has added the U.S. Marshals Service, which hunts for fugitives among other things, and the Border Patrol, the police arm of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Where these agencies can work or train or purchase together, they will be directed to do so. Where their specialized skills work best on their own, they will be permitted to go ahead.

Ms. Reno's choice of FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, a former judge, prosecutor and FBI agent, to fill the policy role recognized the bureaucratic realities. An outsider attempting to impose his will on the FBI would have wasted time fighting diversionary actions. Moreover, Mr. Freeh came to Washington with a reputation as a thorough professional who has no use for petty infighting. If anyone can do both jobs, perhaps he can.

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