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Players: FBIs Donna Bucella Is Taking Names for the Terrorist Lists
By Martin Edwin Andersen, CQ Staff As a federal prosecutor in Florida, Donna Bucella had the job of putting away criminals one at a time. Now she helps federal agencies find terrorist suspects tens of thousands of them before they can wreak their particular brand of havoc here. Bucella runs the FBIs Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which opened its doors in January as a focal point of the government effort to identify and track tens of thousands of real and suspected terrorists. It is the place where more than a dozen watch lists maintained by as many federal agencies are compared and consolidated. Hers is no easy task: Bucella must persuade and cajole agencies to give up their closely held lists while trying to provide many of those agencies with a tool they can rely on in their work as sentinels against terror. Were trying to get all the information that different government agencies have been holding on to, for whatever reason . . . get all that information into one place, where different groups of people can look at it, share it and analyze it, Bucella explained in an interview at the FBIs Washington, D.C., headquarters. A lot of her job, she said, involves reaching out to unexplored or unsuspected corners of the federal bureaucracy, trying to divine who might have information that could be useful in the effort to protect the homeland. Gatherers of information have been in each of our different agencies for many, many years, Bucella noted. Her job, she says, involves finding and getting close to those people. I usually ask to meet with the head of security, the head of operations, their counsel, their privacy person whether its a privacy law or privacy point of contact and their intel shop, Bucella said. One of the things that I have found is, when I first talk to them, they realize that I dont want all their data, I dont want everything.

And she said that although agency officials tend to concentrate on the technical side of the databases their agencies maintain, there are usually one or two people who are keepers of the really useful information. In every organization, whether its on the top or in some small level, they know that Bob on the fifth floor seems to know everything about certain groups of people, she said. Bobs been working here for years. I bet Bob has a computer system. I bet Bob has a list of people every agency has that. Bucellas new job has already delivered a couple of lessons, the hard-driving former federal prosecutor says. This has become for me, someone who has been with the federal government for almost 20 years, an incredibly advanced lesson in civics, Bucella says. I knew generally that the Department of Agriculture does X,Y and Z, but I didnt know all the other collateral duties that they have. The same goes for other federal departments, she added. Getting ahead of that learning curve, she said, is essential for mining the bureaucracy for the information the intelligence and security agencies need to forestall terrorist attacks. And, she said, Everybody seems to have an intel shop including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she was surprised to find. Theres a lot [of such agencies]. I am amazed every single day, she said. After the [September 11] terrorists attack, we realize now we cant operate as separate government agencies; our response has to be governmentwide. We are the United States government, Bucella said. The Terrorist Screening Center to me is really pivotal in demonstrating that. Last month, Bucella told Congress that the Terrorist Screening Database, which she reported holds more than 100,000 names of known and suspected terrorists, went online March 13. Friends and Family On Sept. 11, 2001, Bucella, then a partner specializing in corporate law in a Miami law firm, was in her 42nd-floor officein a building, coincidentally, owned by the same people who owned the World Trade Centerwhen she heard about the attacks. Within minutes, federal prosecutors from around the country began calling her.

I had stepped down from being the U.S. attorney [for the Middle District of Florida] in May, but I had been part of the U.S. attorney family for such a long time and I had started setting up a crisis management program [in the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City terrorist bombing] and prosecutors were calling, asking me, What can we do? That prosecutors turned to Bucella in the midst of a national calamity is understandable. In 1996, Bucella won the coveted Attorney Generals Award for Exceptional Service an award almost always given to line prosecutors in part for her around-theclock help to prosecutors and victims after the Oklahoma City bombing. The day after the bombing, she was on the ground in Oklahoma City and stayed there for, I think, six weeks, remembered Carol DiBattiste, a former federal prosecutor who currently is chief of staff of the Transportation Security Administration and who has served as both Bucellas boss and as her employee at the Justice Department. She helped put the command center together, working very closely with the FBI, in the investigation which really built the ground case against [Timothy] McVeigh and then [Terry] Nichols, and then she helped pick the trial team, DiBattiste said Monday in a telephone interview. Bucella, she added, also played a role in DOJ efforts to assist the victims. There are still victims from Oklahoma City that call Donna to this day, DiBattiste added. Because Donna not only cared about the prosecution of the perpetrators, but she cared about the victims and their families. Knocking on Doors Bucella was officially serving as the Transportation Security Administrations Southeast area director of aviation operations when she got a call last year from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III asking her to run the TSC, where she has been detailed since October. Bucella has a relatively small staff. Including consultants, she said the total number of people working at the TSC is about 85, and she allows that, given all its responsibilities, Were stretched pretty thin. When people take off for a week, its a little difficult for us. But Bucella says the TSC is receiving excellent cooperation across the federal

government, including despite rumors to the contrary the Defense Intelligence Agency. I have never seen the level of cooperation that were seeing now, Bucella said. Nobody gives us pushback, they really dont. Its me trying to figure out, hey, which door do I knock on? Me trying to figure out, what kind of information would you have, non-law enforcement agency? She said some federal agencies not involved in law enforcement wonder if they have information that might be terrorism-related, particularly if they are not involved in policing or intelligence. My comment to them is, you tell me what you give in your organization as a benefit, right or privilege to a U.S. person or a non-U.S. person, that if you gave that right or privilege to a terrorist, you would be mortified, she added. Thats the standard, thats the standard of what is the screening process. Bucella added that, unlike in the past when agencies seemed to duck responsibilities not specifically assigned to them, Everybody is trying to figure out exactly what it is that they need to do to be part of the solution. Its not that were not responsible for that. That is not the typical response anymore. Now it is, would it be outside of our jurisdiction if we did that? To sort out their various roles and responsibilities, federal agencies often resort to memorandums of understanding, and Bucella said that there will be memorandums of understanding at the TSC. I dont have a staff of lawyers yet. But there will be memorandums of understanding, a lot of them, she said. Normal government process and procedures, she adds, will follow. Let me tell you, we dont have time to sit there, necessarily, and worry about the paperwork [when what] weve been engaged in in the last several months is just getting the names over and trying to populate our database, she said. Bucella said her offices efforts at controlling the quality of the watch lists have netted at least six or seven names of people whose names should not be on a terrorist watch list. Asked about calls to create an ombudsmans office to serve as a watchdog on privacy

issues and other issues such as mis-identification of people as terrorists, Bucella said she wont use the word ombudsman because it gives the connotation of out to the public. However, she added, as soon as I get a lawyer from some agency she plans on creating an office of quality assurance that would serve the same purpose as an ombudsman. The Back Story Bucella was born June 14, 1956 Flag Day; it makes sense, huh? she notes with a laugh in Bayside, N.Y., the granddaughter of immigrants from the eastern coast of Italy. Bucellas father was an accountant, her mother, a homemaker. Both parents are still alive and live in the Middle District of Florida the district where I was the U.S. attorney, she says. Bucella graduated with a bachelors degree with distinction, she notes from the University of Virginia. She earned a law degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 1983. After graduation, Bucella worked at a private law firm before deciding, in 1984, to join the U.S. Army Judge Advocate Generals Corps. There were very few women in a class of 100 there were 10 of us, she remembered. Her first job in the JAG Corps was at Fort Belvoir, Va., where she worked as a defense counsel assigned to the trial defense service. Along the way, she became the first defense counsel awarded the Armys Meritorious Service Medal by the forts Engineer Command. In 1987, Bucella joined the U.S. attorneys office in Miami, where she served as the deputy chief of the major crimes section and deputy chief of special prosecutions. There, she took on the complex prosecution of a multimillion-dollar telemarketing fraud case, and a major police corruption case, U.S. v. Gonzalez, in which a number of Metro-Dade police officers were convicted. It was wild, Dodge City . . . the cocaine wars were out of control there, Bucella said. It was low-hanging fruit and a lot of fun for a prosecutor. It was fun being in court

with 20 different defendants and 20 different lawyers. In 1993, Bucella became director of the Office of Legal Education of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys [EOUSA], the liaison between the Department of Justice and the countrys 94 U.S. attorneys offices, which conduct 95 percent of federal criminal prosecutions and 70 percent of federal civil litigation handled by the DOJ. As head of legal education, Bucella won high praise for the way she administered the 180 programs that each year train about 11,000 federal attorneys and support staff, and particularly for her efforts to bring additional distance learning classes to the departments far-flung jurisdictions. Bucella became EOUSAs principal deputy director in May 1994, then served briefly as interim U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, before reassuming her duties in Washington. In 1997, Attorney General Janet Reno selected Bucella to head the EOUSA. Bucella, who lives in Northern Virginia, says she runs three to five miles several times a week and is an avid golfer. I love golfing, she said. I try hard. I picked it up right before I became a U.S. attorney and I was going down to the Middle District of Florida. I realized that there was me, and law enforcement, and me, she said. I had to have some medium, other than my office, to develop relationships. Golf is the way. Mick Andersen can be reached via eandersen@cq.com
Source: CQ Homeland Security 2004 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All Rights Reserved