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Source: Plan to move FBI to new department rejected

Source: Plan to move FBI to new department rejected

From Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Bush administration officials considered including the embattled FBI in the proposed Department of Homeland Security but eventually decided to leave it under the Justice Department, CNN has learned.

A senior administration official said moving the FBI into the new agency was considered because of the benefits of merging the FBI's intelligence gathering functions with a new department solely focused on preventing terrorist attacks.

But the proposal never made it to President Bush's desk because his advisers determined it was not a good idea to move the FBI -- a critical arm of law enforcement -- away from the Justice Department.

A senior official confirmed White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card's comments in The New York Times that the FBI "had to serve under the chief law enforcement official of the United States, and that's the attorney general."

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In a proposal announced Thursday, Bush proposed shifting a host of federal agencies involved in homeland security -- including the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the Customs Service, the Border Patrol, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Immigration and Naturalization Service -- into a single Department of Homeland Security.

Bush's proposal requires congressional approval.

The FBI, now part of the Justice Department, and the CIA, a stand-alone agency, were not included. However, information gathered by both agencies would be sent to a new intelligence clearinghouse within the proposed department, which also would collect information from other federal agencies and state and local law enforcement.

A senior administration official said the White House also considered but eventually rejected moving the National Guard and Federal Aviation Administration into the new department from the defense and transportation departments. But the new Transportation Security Agency, now part of the FAA, would be moved to the new department.

Another idea considered and rejected was giving the new department the power to issue visas, a task now performed by the State Department.


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