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AGENCIES OK PROTOCOL TO PROBE BIOTERRORISM

The city's police and health departments and the FBI have agreed on rules for investigations of suspected biological warfare that will define the roles played by the agencies' and the sharing of confidential medical information.

In Sunday editions, the New York Times reported the agencies have developed what they call the "protocol." In it, law enforcement officials will have the lead in investigating terrorist crimes, but the investigations must be conducted jointly with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene since doctors would be the first to identify biological warfare.

The agreement was signed last month by Health Commissioner Thomas Freiden, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and Pasquale D'Amuro, the assistant director of the FBI's New York office.

The agreement does come with some compromises. For example, law enforcement officials investigating bioterrorism will have access to medical information that is usually confidential. At the same time, law enforcement agencies will overlook a sick person's immigration status or minor criminal activities.

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