FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                         CIV
FRIDAY, JANUARY 10, 1997                           (202) 616-2765
                                               TDD (202) 514-1888


     WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Justice has asked a
federal court to strike down as unconstitutional a Virginia law
that requires investigators for the FBI who conduct background
checks on current and prospective federal employees to obtain a
state registration and license to work as private investigators. 
The Department said the requirement would impede investigations
conducted for the FBI.

     The Department, in a suit filed Thursday on behalf of the
FBI in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, said the
state requirement would delay considerably the completion of
federal background investigations and adversely affect the United
States' national security interests. 
     In describing the Virginia statute as an obstacle in
administering federal law, the suit asks the court to find that
it is preempted by federal law under the Supremacy Clause of the

     "The United States is bringing this action as a last resort
and regrets that we were not able to work out an agreement with
the involved state officials," said Assistant Attorney General
Frank Hunger, in charge of the Civil Division.  "The Department
of Justice attempted to reach an accommodation with the State of
Virginia but unfortunately we could not work out a settlement
that would have been satisfactory for both parties.  We informed
Virginia that absent such an agreement we would have to file this

     "The Department and the FBI are challenging the Virginia
statute's applicability to federal agents because it would
substantially increase the economic burden on these agents and
interfere with an important government program for performing
background checks of high level government officials," said
     According to the suit, the FBI, through its BICS office,
holds contracts with about 150 former federal investigators who
live and work in Virginia.  In addition, approximately 35 former
federal investigators work in Virginia but live in Washington,
D.C., or Maryland.  Each, by order of the Attorney General, is a
special investigator of the FBI.

     The suit also notes that, in addition to being a former
federal investigator, each special investigator must satisfy a
number of qualifications imposed by the FBI.Under the Virginia
law, a person working as a private investigator must register
with the state by paying a $76 fee; meet certain training
requirements; submit fingerprints for a criminal background
check; and pay an annual renewal fee of $35. 
     In addition, the regulations require private security
businesses to secure a $25,000 surety bond; pay a $600 fee;
appoint a compliance officer; and pay an annual $250 license
renewal fee.

     The government said that many of its investigators, all of
whom are former federal investigators hired under the FBI's
Background Investigation Contract Service (BICS) Program, would
resign from the program because of the burden and expense of
meeting Virginia's compliance requirements, while others would
not apply.  Such a loss, the suit says, would result in
considerable delays in completing background investigations for
the FBI, the White House, the Department of Justice, the
Department of Energy, congressional committees and other federal

     The suit asks the court to declare Virginia's statute null
and void to the extent it applies to special investigators in the
FBI's BICS program and to permanently enjoin the state from
enforcing the statute against the investigators.