Budget constraints are forcing some local Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to operate without e-mail accounts, according to the agency's top official in New York.
"As ridiculous as this might sound, we have real money issues right now, and the government is reluctant to give all agents and analysts dot-gov accounts," Mark Mershon said when asked about the gap at a New York Daily News editorial board meeting.
"We just don't have the money, and that is an endless stream of complaints that come from the field," he said.
FBI officials in Washington denied that cost-cutting was putting agents at a disadvantage.
Spokeswoman Cathy Milhoan said e-mail addresses are still being assigned, adding that the city bureau's 2,000 employees would all have accounts by the end of the year.
Mershon, the assistant director in charge of the agency's New York City office, also said that 100 city agents have been given Internet-ready phones such as BlackBerry devices.
Christine Monaco, a spokeswoman for the FBI in New York, said Monday that all FBI agents can communicate with each other via a secure internal e-mail system, and about 75 percent of the New York office's employees have outside e-mail accounts. "The outside e-mail accounts have to be separately funded," she said.
Senator Charles Schumer called for better access to technology for agents.
"The FBI should have the tools it needs to fight terrorism and crime in the 21st century, most of all in New York City, and one of the most effective means of communications is e-mail and the Internet," he said. "FBI agents not having e-mail or Internet access is much too much a pre-9/11 mentality."