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Politics & Government

Patrick Fitzgerald Delivers Keynote at Law Enforcement Awards

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The 15th Annual L.E.A.D. Awards for outstanding performance in law enforcement were given out Friday at the Pitt Law School.  Patrick Fitzgerald, former U.S. Attorney from Chicago, delivered the keynote address on the topic of how law enforcement has evolved in response to extremist terrorism.  

Fitzgerald prosecuted those who carried out the first World Trade Center bombings in 1993, the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.  He said the U.S. system was severely challenged by those early terrorist attacks.  "We had legal restrictions that didn't allow people to share information.  The FBI could not talk to the U.S. Attorney's office without people facing serious consequences.  The FBI and CIA did not talk as much as they should, and the federal government as a whole did not talk to state and local police as much as they should."

Although communication and cooperation gradually improved through the nineties, Fitzgerald said the walls between intelligence agents and prosecutors didn’t really come down until the Patriot Act passed after 9/11.  Because of the speed by which information was gathered, analyzed and shared, David Headley was arrested in Chicago in 2009 before he could go to Denmark and carry out a spectacular terrorist attack on the newspaper that published a cartoon offensive to some Muslims.  Because he was read his Miranda rights and could have been prosecuted, Fitzgerald said Headley confessed to providing surveillance for the Mumbai, India hotel bombing that killed over 160 people and gave other valuable information that may have prevented other terrorist attacks.  This is one example, according to Fitzgerald, of why civil rights and security may be entwined--not mutually exclusive.

Awards were given to the Pittsburgh police officers who rescued a newborn abducted from Magee Women's Hospital in August, 2012; to the federal prosecutor who brought charges against the perpetrator of the anonymous bomb threats at Pitt last spring; and other cases.

Pitt law professor David A. Harris received special recognition for his work with the Western Pennsylvania Community-Police Relations Group--law enforcement and community leaders who meet regularly to improve trust and cooperation.