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STATEMENT OF DENNIS DeCONCINI, A U.S. SENATOR FROM
THE STATE OF ARIZONA Senator DECONCINI. Mr. Chairman, I want to begin by commending you for holding this important hearing. You have already had some other hearings on the Freedom of Information Act. I really appreciate the commitment that you have demonstrated.
The issues which affect the Secret Service are of great importance to all of us.
I also want to express my personal gratitude to Senator Denton and to you, again, for your leadership and cooperation in agreeing jointly to move S. 1394, the Secret Service Reform Act of 1981, through the committee review process in such a prompt fashion, along with your oversight hearings on the Freedom of Information Act.
Your efforts in support of this legislation are deeply appreciated by this Senator.
Mr. Chairman, I will not spend much of the committee's time in going over the various provisions of S. 1394. The intent is crystal clear.
It is designed to provide the Secret Service with an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act and to provide other statutory changes to better enable the Secret Service to protect the President of the United States and other protectees under law from potentially dangerous or terrorist groups or individuals.
It also makes certain provisions to improve the criminal investigative functions at the Secret Service without usurping the authority of other law enforcement agencies.
Obviously, a focus of today's hearings will be on the impact of the Freedom of Information Act on Secret Service operations. However, I hope that we can touch briefly on other provisions contained in S. 1394.
I want to welcome Mr. Burke and thank him for pinch hitting for the Director, Stuart Knight, who I understand is on the Secret Service disabled list with a bad back and could not be with us today.
We wish him a speedy recovery.
Anyone who witnessed the tremendous courage of the agents involved in the March 30 incident at the Hilton and anyone who saw, as I did, the outstanding group of agents training hard at the Beltsville, Md., training facility knows what a fine organization you have and of which you are a part.
We are grateful for that leadership and for the restraint that has been imposed by the leadership on your agents and by the professionalism exhibited by your agency.
I think that Congress is now attempting to find a resolution that will help you do your job and make it a little easier and at the same time protect the citizens of this country.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, once again, for your step forward in this oversight of the Freedom of Information Act and certainly for considering this as a hearing for S. 1394.
Senator HATCH. Thank you, Senator. We appreciate your leadership in this area.
I personally appreciate working with you on this subcommittee. Our first witness today was, of course, going to be, as Senator DeConcini stated, Stuart Knight, Director of the U.S. Secret Service.
Unfortunately, he was recently injured and suffered a very painful and incapacitating back injury. He will, hopefully, be up and around in a few days but was unable to be with us this morning.
To present his testimony, he has sent Robert R. Burke, Assistant Director of Investigation for the Secret Service.
Please convey my wishes for a speedy recovery to Mr. Knight if you will, Mr. Burke.
Mr. Burke graduated from Loyola of Chicago and received his master's at Indiana University.
He was an officer in the U.S. Army.
While with the Secret Service, he has received the Treasury Department Meritorious Service Award and the Career Education Award.
Presently, 65 percent of the protective agents of the Secret Service are under his direction and jurisdiction.
Before you begin, Mr. Burke, I would like to advise you and all the other witnesses that your entire written statement will be included in the record of these proceedings.
To the extent that you and other witnesses can make your oral statements concise, it will allow us more time for questions. We hope that you will keep that in mind and make your statement as concise as possible.
The record will be built by not only your oral statement but your written statement as well.
It is nice to have you with us, and you may proceed in any way
STATEMENT OF ROBERT R. BURKE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR
INVESTIGATIONS, U.S. SECRET SERVICE
As you know, Mr. Chairman, the Secret Service protects the President of the United States, the Vice President, and visiting foreign heads of state and government. The Secret Service also has the responsibility of protecting major candidates for the office of the President and Vice President of the United States.
In addition, the Secret Service has major criminal responsibilities involving threats against the President and counterfeiting and forgery of U.S. Government obligations.
The Secret Service obtains information from the law enforcement community on individuals and groups who may pose a threat to the safety of the President. The Warren Commission, after the assassination of President Kennedy, recommended that the Secret Service intensify its efforts to identify persons who threaten the safety of the President. The Warren Commission also recommended that other Federal agencies furnish intelligence information to the Secret Service.
Over the years, the Secret Service has received substantial amounts of information from the law enforcement community. In recent times, however, the quantity and the quality of the information has declined. We believe this came about, in part, as a result of the Freedom of Information Act.
The Freedom of Information Act has contributed to establishing a climate which has adversely affected our ability to perform our protective and criminal investigative missions. The Secret Service is meeting with increasing difficulty in obtaining information essential to our protective and investigative efforts.
Mr. Chairman, we work very closely with State and local law enforcement on protection and criminal investigations through our network of 64 field offices and 40 resident agencies. We have learned that there is a definite reluctance on the part of State and local law enforcement to provide Federal law enforcement with essential intelligence information. This is because these State and local law enforcement people doubt the ability of Federal law enforcement officers to maintain the confidentiality of the information under the Freedom of Information Act. They are fearful of compromising informants and revealing their investigative interests prematurely.
In addition, State and local law enforcement has greatly curtailed or ceased altogether their activities in the collection of intelligence on individuals and groups.
This is due, in part, to the restrictive climate regarding intelligence activities and their own local freedom of information restrictions.
I hasten to add, however, in the category of protection, that State and local law enforcement are cooperative and willing to assist the Secret Service. However, in the area of intelligence, they cannot give us what they no longer have.
Law enforcement depends to a great degree on confidential informants, and the Secret Service is no exception. Informants are increasingly reluctant to come forward because they are fearful their identities will be revealed.
Convicted felons and persons we believe are involved with criminal activities make Freedom of Information Act requests to several different law enforcement agencies. Through a careful sifting of the responses, they may discern the very information sources that the law enforcement agencies wish to protect.
A reviewer in the exhaustive line-by-line examination of material available for release under the act can make a mistake which can result in revelations damaging to the integrity of our procedures and to sources of information.
We believe that ordinary citizens are increasingly reluctant to come forward with information, because they fear their confidentiality will be compromised.
The Secret Service travels overseas with our protectees. An essential part of our overseas protection activities is the liaison between the Secret Service and foreign law enforcement agencies. These law enforcement officers, on an operational level in other countries, express great reluctance in supplying us with protective and criminal intelligence information because they doubt the ability of U.S. agencies to maintain the confidentiality of information.
Director Knight of the Secret Service is a former vice president of Interpol and a member of the executive committee. He has been
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told by senior foreign law enforcement officials that they doubt the U.S. agencies' ability to maintain confidentiality.
In the protective area, it is important to note that the Secret Service is a recipient of information, as differentiated from the U.S. intelligence agencies which gather information. Intelligence information on individuals and groups is absolutely necessary for us to perform our protective role. The decrease in the quality and quantity of this information has forced us into a more reactive posture than we would like.
Without adequate information on individuals and groups, we are less able to predict where to apply our limited resources. We, therefore, have to use more agents, more State and local police officers, and more equipment-without the focus on what may be the real danger areas.
Mr. Chairman, earlier today I was asked if I would comment on S. 1394 and its effect on the Secret Service from the Freedom of Information Act standpoint and its effect on protection generally.
Shall I do that now?
FOIA EXEMPTION FOR THE SECRET SERVICE
Mr. BURKE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
In S. 1394, Senator DeConcini has introduced legislation which, in addition to enhancing our protective and criminal responsibilities, provides exemptions for the Secret Service under the Freedom of Information Act.
This legislation is more in concert with the exemption given the Secret Service by the Congress under the Privacy Act and the special access given us under the Financial Right to Privacy Act.
The bill enables the Secret Service to, first, assure the law enforcement community, both in the United States and abroad, that the information which they supply to the Secret Service for protective purposes will remain confidential.
This is important—both from the practical standpoint of enabling the Secret Service to better fulfill its functions by not disclosing potentially significant security information and in the abstract, by conveying the message that the Secret Service has the ability to control the dissemination of its records containing sensitive information.
ASSISTANCE TO PROTECTION
Second, Senator DeConcini's bill would enable us to respond directly to some of our more pressing protective security problems. Specifically, it would enable us to investigate and recommend prosecution of any individual threatening our protectees, as well as anyone who intentionally intrudes into a protective security area established to assure the safety of these protectees.
At the present time, we must frequently defer to State laws in these cases. As a result, we find prosecution impossible in certain situations.
Legislation would also permit the Secret Service to better utilize its protective resources by limiting our protective responsibilities for former First Ladies and other protectees for whom full-time Secret Service protection is no longer necessary. This can be done, in our judgment, without jeopardizing the safety of any of these individuals for whom protection could then be authorized in response to a particular need.
Third, and finally, it would enhance our protective functions by providing a more fertile base of investigative responsibilities for the Secret Service.
SECRET SERVICE INVESTIGATIVE RESPONSIBILITIES
By maintaining an investigative foundation, such as anticipated by this bill, on a national basis, the Secret Service will be able to provide challenging careers to highly qualified individuals, keep them in the employ of the Secret Service, and thereby support the nationwide effort of the Secret Service to meet its primary responsibility in providing protection to the President and others.
Senator Hatch. Thank you for your testimony.
I remember when Stuart Knight testified back in 1978. I was the Senator taking the testimony at that time.
He indicated that he had recommended that the President not go to at least two cities in this country. Has that condition changed or is it the same?
Mr. BURKE. The situation is very similar, Mr. Chairman, in that with the change in the intelligence climate, the Secret Service does not know as much about local conditions as it used to. This is due, in part, to the Freedom of Information Act and its chilling effect on State and local agencies.
Our dilemma is that when we have a security incident, it is much more difficult for us to resolve the incident. It is more difficult for us to evaluate the threat.
In some circumstances, since we have been unable to evaluate the threat, we have in the past recommended to the President that he not travel to a particular city.
Senator HATCH. Would you still stand with the statement he made then that there are at least two cities, or are there more than two now?
Mr. BURKE. It would be difficult for me to characterize that for you, Mr. Chairman.
The situation is ever-changing. It can change for example, with a significant foreign incident. Senator HATCH. Is it changing for the better or for the worse? Mr. BURKE. I think it is changing for the worse, sir.
Senator HATCH. You indicate that there may be more than two cities within this country that the President probably should not visit.
Mr. BURKE. That is entirely possible, sir, connected with some particular incident that we may not be able to resolve.
Senator HATCH. Let me ask you this.
He indicated, as you have indicated in your short remarks here today, that the informant testimony has basically just dried up throughout the country. Therefore, you have nowhere near the ability you used to have before the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act to be able to go into an area and really check