Lawmakers from Virginia pressed a House of Representatives panel Wednesday to forgo a requirement that a potential new FBI headquarters be located close to the Capital Beltway, a provision they said gives Maryland an unfair advantage as the two states compete for the lucrative development.
Maryland officials have been working for months to lure the FBI to Prince George's County if the agency leaves its 38-year-old headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, in downtown Washington. The state is competing for the roughly $1 billion development project and the 11,000 jobs associated with it.
But at a hearing of the House subcommittee on economic development and public buildings, lawmakers from Virginia and Washington, D.C., pushed back on a provision included in a Senate resolution that would require the building to be situated within 2.5 miles of Interstate 495 -- a provision they said would give some Virginia counties a disadvantage.
"That would arbitrarily prevent sites" in Northern Virginia from competing for the project, said Rep. Frank R. Wolf, a Republican who represents the region.
The General Services Administration, which acts as the landlord for the federal government, is in the early stages of considering whether to build a new headquarters for the FBI. The GSA received 35 responses this month to a solicitation for interest in the project, but has not discussed details about them.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's current headquarters has been plagued with problems, including a crumbling facade that has threatened pedestrians with falling debris. The FBI has so outgrown its old building that about half of the agency's staff don't fit; they work in 21 satellite offices scattered around the region.
That forces the FBI to spend about $168 million annually for rent. Consolidating the buildings would save $44 million a year, said Kevin L. Perkins, the bureau's associate deputy director.
The GSA is seeking a 45- to 50-acre site that can accommodate 2.1 million square feet of office space and meet the FBI's unusual security requirements.
To move forward, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee must pass resolutions. The Senate measure, advanced by Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat, included language that gave preference to sites within two miles of a Metro station and 2.5 miles of the Capital Beltway. It passed in 2011.
Virginia lawmakers are objecting to the second requirement, arguing it could shut out sites in Loudoun and Prince William counties. A Greenbelt site supported by Prince George's County officials would meet the requirements, as would several other potential sites in Virginia.
"We hope that this committee, in drawing its criteria, will frankly be more flexible and more open than maybe the Senate was," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat.
A Cardin spokeswoman noted that the requirements in the Senate resolution match assumptions made by GSA in a 2011 feasibility study. "The location of the facility is assumed to be within 2 miles of a Metrorail station and 2.5 miles of the Capital Beltway," the document read.
But on Wednesday, the commissioner of the GSA's Public Buildings Service, Dorothy Robyn, said that language was included for the purposes of valuing property, not as a requirement. The language was also not included in the agency's recent solicitation for interest in the project.
Maryland Reps. Steny Hoyer and Donna Edwards, both Democrats, used the hearing to pitch Prince George's for the development, noting its proximity to the National Security Agency, the University of Maryland and downtown Washington.
Hoyer cited a report last fall from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development that found 43 percent of FBI headquarters employees live in Maryland, compared with 17 percent in Washington and 33 percent in Virginia. The report did not survey actual FBI employees -- a difficult task given security concerns with those workers -- but rather extrapolated the figures from other federal agencies.
"FBI personnel and their families could benefit from lower daily transportation expenses, Prince George's County's vibrant neighborhoods, and an easier commute," Hoyer said, calling Maryland the "right choice for the new FBI headquarters."
Virginia officials, meanwhile, noted they are home to the Central Intelligence Agency as well as several prominent FBI annex facilities.
Washington is also vying for the project.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Pablo Picasso was born in Spain, lived most of his life in France, and never actually visited the United States, but that didn't stop the FBI from gathering a particularly thick dossier on the famed cubist painter. The Feds kept track of the artist for 25 years, monitoring what he wrote, said and painted. Labeled as a "Security Matter -- C" (for Communist) and "Subversive," it all amounted to 187 pages, most of which we imagine was filled with very incorrect interpretations of "<a href="http://www.pablopicasso.org/guernica.jsp" target="_hplink">Guernica</a>".
Of course Andy Warhol was being watched by the FBI. His film "Lonesome Cowboys" sparked some FBI concern and agents actually went to the shooting location to scope out the hippy scene. With access to a sneak peak, the men ended up writing a rather scathing review of the film, for FBI eyes only, which somehow amounted to 75 pages. Stanley Kaufman would have been so proud. If you're really interested, you can buy the whole thing now on a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Andy-Warhol-Files-BACM-Research/dp/B001AQYM7U" target="_hplink">CD-ROM on Amazon</a>.
Milton Rogovin, the photographer famous for documenting the lives of the impoverished and working class of America, experienced the other side of the lens when he was under FBI surveillance. From the 1940s to the 1970s, the government collected over 600 pages of information on the artist, who they suspected of possessing a "strong adherence to Marxist-Leninist principles," according to a leaked <a href="http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=52891" target="_hplink">FBI memo</a>. The son of Russian-born parents was even hauled into the House of Representatives to testify before the Committee on Un-American Activities (yeah, that really happened).
This mobile-making artist was known to pal around with avant-garde greats like Joan Miro and Marcel Duchamp, and his bright and playful sculptures attracted many a fan in the 1930s. Including the G-men apparently. The artist supposedly had a file sitting right next Georgia O'Keefe, suspected of being none other than a left-leaning Communist. He had a tumultuous relationship with the government throughout his life, as he was rejected from the marines but then posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor. However, his family rejected the honor as a statement in support of Vietnam War draft resisters.
Some people thought it was post-1960s paranoia, but John Lennon's fears that the government was watching him turned out to be true. As his partner, collaborator, and bedfellow, Yoko was also under the keen eye of the US of A. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=2396859#.T9Xj_OJYvIY" target="_hplink">Ono told ABC News</a>: "I think that the world really loved the Beatles for being charming and sweet. But some people did resent the fact that they were no more the sweet, nice, charming boys." Learn more by watching <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0478049/" target="_hplink">"The U.S. Vs. John Lennon"</a> or read Jon Wiener's book, <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130401193" target="_hplink">"Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files."</a>
Arnold Mesches knew he was being followed by the FBI. For 27 years they monitored his political leanings and social acitivies, questioned his friends and family, and even attempted to recruit one of his lovers as an informant. Altogether they compiled a whopping 760-page dossier on the Bronx-born visual artist. So what did Mesches do? He waited until the Freedom of Information Act opened up the files to the public and he turned them into art. Consisting of several collages and large-scale paintings, "<a href="http://momaps1.org/exhibitions/view/47" target="_hplink">The FBI Files</a>" celebrates what Mesches considers the aesthetic beauty of the boldly typed compilation.
In 1946, Georgia O'Keeffe took part in a show called "Advancing American Art," put on by the State Department's newly formed Office of International Information and Cultural Affairs. Seventy-nine paintings by American artists were bought by the government to assert some degree of global US soft power through cultural endeavors. But after a number of complaints from statesmen and senators, President Truman spoke up to denounce the paintings and the tax dollars money spent on them. So the the show was recalled and the paintings were consigned and sold for $5,544 in total. O'Keeffe's painting was sold for $50. (Ed note: What a steal!) Needless to say, O'Keeffe and her modern art friends earned themselves a file after that.
No, the FBI did not think that Thomas Kinkade was a Communist; they thought he was fraudulently inducing investors to open galleries. <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2006/aug/29/business/fi-kinkade29" target="_hplink">At least six former Kinkade Signature Gallery owners were involved in the case</a>, and all a part of the bucolic painter's cushy little file.
Was Jackson Pollock a tool in America's run to win the Cold war? <a href="http://gizmodo.com/5686753/how-the-cia-spent-secret-millions-turning-modern-art-into-a-cold-war-arsenal" target="_hplink">Allegedly</a>, Pollock's abstract expressionist work was used by the FBI's counterpart the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s to compete with the growing popularity of Socialist Realism in the east. It was basically an attempt to win the hearts of Communists everywhere by showing them that American art was free of capitalist influence and right-wing constraints. If only all global conflicts were resolved through heated debates over whose art was better.
Hasan Elahi is an artist and Rutgers professor whose life took a turn when he was stopped at the Detroit Airport on his way back from the Netherlands. After a series of interrogations and lie detector tests, Elahi was freed, but <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/hasan_elahi.html" target="_hplink">local FBI agents reportedly informed him that he should let them know when he'd be flying again</a>. So he got a little proactive. He began photographing nearly every moment of his day and posting them to his website, <a href="http://trackingtransience.net/" target="_hplink">Tracking Transience</a>, creating a virtual alibi for himself as well as a pretty bold sousveillance art project. Check him out on the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&ved=0CGcQtwIwBA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.colbertnation.com%2Fthe-colbert-report-videos%2F167606%2Fmay-07-2008%2Fhasan-elahi&ei=6gLRT_z2NrSK6QGy8_nlDw&usg=AFQjCNGiBGBvwbNOuqFAHnsM3CUZ3QMhVA" target="_hplink">Colbert Report</a>! Professor, we like your style.