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FBI to speed presidential transition background checks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- FBI officials, faced with a shortened presidential transition period, decided they would sharply increase the number of investigators needed to complete background investigations for Cabinet officials and other high-ranking appointees. The additional staff would help complete the task in less than half the usual time.

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"We met today and decided we're going to throw whatever resources are needed to get this done," a senior law enforcement official said Monday. "We'll provide the resources to get the top people cleared in a week to 10 days."

Historically, such background checks take up to three weeks to complete for the highest-ranking officials and longer for lower-ranking appointees, FBI officials said.

The FBI will not begin conducting the background checks until a transition team provides written requests to perform the investigations. It was unclear under the current circumstances -- with Democrat Al Gore contesting Florida's certified presidential tally -- when those requests might be received, but officials with the campaign of Republican George W. Bush said they were pressing forward with their transition plans.

The General Services Administration has responsibility for many of the decisions under the Presidential Transition Act, but the Justice Department may become involved in some of the legal issues.

A Justice Department official said Monday the agency has received "a couple of inquiries from the White House and other agencies" relating to transition issues.

The official would not divulge the specific nature of the inquiries, which were sent to the Office of Legal Counsel, saying the Justice Department does not make public its internal communications with the White House or other agencies.


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Monday, November 27, 2000

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