NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Growing Number of Employers Want Access to FBI Criminal Files

February 6, 2002

Some industries already have permission to review Federal Bureau of Investigation files kept on terrorists and other criminals. But companies in a growing list of industries are also demanding to see the files, too. Giving an industry access to the FBI lists typically requires an act of Congress or a new federal regulation.

  • Banks, airlines and nuclear power plants are already allowed access to such data.
  • But groups from trucking associations to sports-event organizers and security firms want access to databases kept on foreign fugitives; gang and terrorist members; unidentified, wanted and missing people; persons subject to protection orders; and deported felons.
  • The National Football League had the Super Bowl designated a "national security special event" for the first time so it could run names of concession workers and stadium employees through the lists for last Sunday's game.
  • But allowing companies to tap into FBI intelligence banks can be a can of worms both for the government and civil liberties advocates - and unions argue employers could use the system to find old information that could be used as a pretext for dismissal.

The FBI says it has been devoting more and more resources to what it calls "civilian" background checks on behalf of employers -- for which a fee is charged.

Of the average 42,500 sets of fingerprints the FBI runs through its identification system, roughly 22,000 searches are at the request of private employers or government licensing agencies.

Source: Ann Davis, "Companies Want the FBI to Screen Employees for Suspected Terrorists," Wall Street Journal, February 6, 2002.


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