Press Release

For Immediate Release
June 18, 2008

Washington D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691

Letter to the Editor on the National Name Check Program

The June 14 editorial "The Name Game" told readers only half the story.

The editorial implied that the FBI is, through indifference, "punishing immigrants" by taking too long to complete some background checks for the Department of Homeland Security.

For years, the FBI did this job with great efficiency. We ran a computer check to see whether a person had been the named subject of an FBI investigation. After Sept. 11, 2001, however, the then-Immigration and Naturalization Service resubmitted 2.7 million names to be rechecked on a much broader criterion: whether they had been referenced in a negative manner in an FBI file.

From a processing standpoint, this meant that the FBI was required to review many more files in response to each individual background check request. This sometimes requires tracking down paper files across the country and overseas, or interviewing agents about current and old cases.

This avalanche, and the much deeper research required, created a backlog that no agency could have dispatched quickly. Even so, FBI employees complete almost 90 percent of these checks on time and have substantially reduced the number of pending Homeland Security checks this year.

While files containing possible derogatory information are found in less than 1 percent of Homeland Security requests, it is important to recall that it only took 19 terrorists to kill 3,000 people. We take these checks very seriously.

We agree that some people were not well served by this process, and we continue to work hard to fix that. But we believe the other half of the story matters, too.

William L. Hooton
Assistant Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, D.C.

(As printed in The Washington Post on June 18, 2008)


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