More money sought for anti-crime network

The Bush administration says it will ask for a substantial increase -- 12.7 percent -- in the budget to pay for new efforts to stop terrorist financing and other financial crimes. The money would go to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a Treasury Department bureau for monitoring and cutting off money used in criminal and terrorist activities.

One among several programs that could get more money is FinCEN Gateway, an information system set up to help federal, state and local law enforcement officials gain access to records filed under the Bank Secrecy Act. A portion of the money would help pay for a new Web-based data retrieval system and analytical tools to investigate suspected money laundering, Treasury officials said today at a briefing in the department's headquarters.

Officials said some of the additional financing would pay for a 25 percent increase in staffing at the bureau. Staff members would be hired to help financial services companies avoid being used to hide illegal proceeds. The bureau would also hire more analysts to provide data-mining analysis and other information to law enforcement and finance officials.

A group that tracks the government's spending on homeland security said a budget increase for FinCEN could be helpful.

"I'm particularly happy that they've doubled the Gateway program to help the feds work better with state and local entities," said Dan Heinemeier, president of the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association. "Anything along these lines to get local entities and the federal government talking and working together I think is very positive."

The proposed increase will be included in the president's 2005 budget request.

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