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Homeland Security and Patriot Acts

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 51 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2003 Pages: 10,12
Joe Devanney; Diane Devanney
Date Published
August 2003
2 pages
After an overview of the provisions of the Federal Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act (HSA), this article presents findings from an interview with local criminal justice officials in Chester County, PA, to assess how these Federal acts have impacted local justice agencies.
The Patriot Act was passed in 2001 as an immediate response to the September 11 attacks. Its intent is to provide Federal law enforcement agencies with better tools to counter terrorism. Key provisions expand surveillance authority and activities, including surveillance of the Internet; tighten money laundering; and increase information-sharing among agencies. The primary intent of the HSA is to reorganize 170,000 Federal employees from 22 agencies to facilitate efficient coordination of counter-terrorism activities. It created a Directorate of Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, which is responsible for building a database of information about suspected individuals. The directorate also has authority to develop a national plan for response and defense to terrorism. Regarding State and local justice and emergency-response agencies, the HSA establishes Federal supervision for what the act calls "local first responders." This provision emphasizes coordination and guidance among Federal, State, and local officials, rather than Federal control. Albert DiGiacomo, the chief of county detectives in the Chester County District Attorney's Office (Pennsylvania), is the county's point of contact with anti-terrorism task forces that share information and schedule training sessions among Federal, State, and county authorities. He credits the U.S. Attorney General for the formulation of the anti-terrorist task forces nationwide. DiGiacomo also notes, however, that it is still unclear about how training, coordination, and funding will be provided for State and local agencies and officials; and the scope of proactive investigations by local officers has yet to be resolved, along with whether local officers have recourse to the surveillance and investigative tools used by Federal authorities.