Return to the Table of Contents

Review of the Critical Incident Response Plans of the United States Attorneys’ Offices

Report Number I-2004-001
December 2003



December 1988 DOJ Crisis Management Plan. Attorney General issued the DOJ Crisis Management Plan.
October 1989 National Preparedness Programs. Attorney General established the DOJ National Security Emergency Preparedness Program and the National Security Regional Emergency Preparedness Program.
August 1992 Ruby Ridge. On a remote ridge in northern Idaho, a week-long stand-off between Randy Weaver and federal agents ended in a shootout during which an FBI sniper shot and killed Weaver's wife and infant son. Subsequent government reports criticized the critical incident response capabilities of the USAO in handling the incident.
August 1992 Hurricane Andrew. On August 24, 1992, Dade County, Florida, experienced the third most powerful storm to hit the United States and the most costly natural disaster ever recorded. Property damage exceeded $20 billion and left nearly 200,000 Floridians homeless. The disaster resulted in a severe and extended disruption of normal activities, including government services, in an area of approximately 100 square miles.
February 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. On February 26, 1993, an explosive device detonated on the second level of the World Trade Center parking basement. The blast produced a crater approximately 150 feet in diameter and five floors deep, killed six people, and injured more than one thousand. Four individuals were convicted of the bombing on March 4, 1994.
February -
April 1993
Branch Davidian Standoff. A 51-day standoff at the Branch Davidians' Mt. Carmel compound near Waco, Texas, ended on April 19, 1993, when fire consumed the compound, killing the Branch Davidian leader, David Koresh, and most of his followers. Subsequent government reports recommended evaluating the adequacy of communications among the different elements in a crisis, particularly between the negotiating and tactical elements.
April 1994 Critical Incident Response Group. FBI established the Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) to more effectively deal with hostage-taking and barricade situations.
April 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. On April 19, 1995 a bomb exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, destroying about one-third of the structure. The explosion killed 168 people. In June 1997, a jury convicted Timothy J. McVeigh on all counts connected with the bombing and sentenced him to death. McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001.
June 1995 Presidential Decision Directive 39. Established critical incident response capabilities as a government-wide priority.
January 1996 ACIRG. Attorney General established Attorney Critical Incident Response Group to provide expert assistance to the Attorney General and USAOs in the event of a crisis.
March -
June 1996
Freemen Standoff. The FBI attempted to arrest more than a dozen individuals wanted on charges that included circulating $15 billion in bogus checks and threatening to kill a federal judge. The attempt resulted in an 81 day long armed standoff. On June 13, 16 members of the group surrendered, ending the longest federal siege in modern U.S. history. The incident culminated in the conviction of 21 defendants in 3 separate trials spanning 15 weeks.
May 1996 Critical Incident Response Plan. Attorney General established a Critical Incident Response Plan that required United States Attorneys to develop Critical Incident Response Plans to help ensure "quick and appropriate" response.
June 1997 First CMC Conference. Distribution of first edition of the Crisis Management Coordinator Manual developed by the Criminal Division.
May 1998 Presidential Decision Directive 62. "Protection Against Unconventional Threats to the Homeland and Americans Overseas." Established the National Special Security Event (NSSE), which is an event of such national significance that it warrants the availability of the full protective and consequence management capabilities of the federal government. The three lead agencies for NSSEs are FBI, FEMA, and U.S. Secret Service.
July 1999 USAO Critical Incident Response Plans. Memorandum from Assistant Director, EOUSA, to all USAOs asking for submission of their critical incident response plans.
October 1999 Second CMC Conference.
September 2001 September 11, 2001.Terrorists hijacked four airplanes, three of which flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. More than 3,000 people were killed in the attacks.
September 2001 Anti-Terrorism Plan. Attorney General issued the Department's Anti-Terrorism Plan ordering every United States Attorney to implement the plan. The plan focused on prevention "by arresting and detaining violators…who participate in, or lend support to, terrorist activities [and] use every available law enforcement tool to incapacitate these individuals and their organizations."
September 2001 Anti-Terrorism Task Forces. Attorney General established Anti-Terrorism Task Forces (ATTFs) in each USAO that will 1) serve as a conduit of information about suspected terrorists, 2) implement an operational plan for the prevention of terrorism, and 3) serve as a standing organizational structure for a coordinated response to a terrorist incident.
October 2001 Guidance for ATTFs. Deputy Attorney General issued a seven-page memorandum on "Guidance for Anti-Terrorism Task Forces."
October 2001 USAO Review of Plans. Memorandum from Director, EOUSA, requesting that each USAO review its Critical Incident Response Plan to ensure that it is "current, complete, and known by persons…responsible for crisis response."
October 2001 USA PATRIOT Act. Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) passed by Congress to "to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes."
October 2001 Anthrax Attacks. Anthrax-contaminated letters mailed to Washington, DC, and locations in New York and Florida.
October 2001 CONPLAN issued. United States Government Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan (CONPLAN) developed through the offices of six primary departments and agencies with responsibilities as identified in Presidential Decision Directive 39 (PDD 39). It was designed to provide overall guidance to federal, state, and local agencies concerning how the federal government would respond to a potential or actual terrorist threat that occurs in the United States, particularly one involving weapons of mass destruction.
November 2001 -
January 2003
ATTF Training. Two national 3-day training sessions and six regional 2-day training sessions held for Anti-Terrorism Coordinators.
November 2001 DOJ Strategic Plan. FY 2001-2006 Strategic Plan issued. USAO Critical Incident Response Plans are discussed as part of Goal One: Protect America Against the Threat of Terrorism.
November 2001 Blueprint for Change. Attorney General announced the "Blueprint for Change, A Plan to Reshape the Department and Its Components to Focus on Anti-Terrorism."
July 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security. President issued National Strategy for Homeland Security, which identified three strategic objectives: 1) prevent domestic terrorist attacks, 2) reduce vulnerability to terrorism, and 3) minimize damage and recover from attacks that occur.
November 2002 Reorganization of the Criminal Division. Attorney General divided the Terrorism and Violent Crime Section into the Counterterrorism Section and the Domestic Security Section.51
February 2003 Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5. President outlined a policy to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.
February 2003 DOJ Performance Report. Release of Department of Justice, FY 2002 Performance Report/FY 2003 Revised Final Performance Plan/FY 2004 Performance Plan, in which Attorney General states: "To effectively address international and domestic terrorism, DOJ must concentrate on both prevention and response."
March 2003 Department of Homeland Security established.


  1. The Counterterrorism Section is responsible for the design, implementation, and support of law enforcement efforts, legislative initiatives, policies, and strategies relating to international and domestic terrorism. The Domestic Security Section is responsible for prosecutions of border-related crimes such as alien smuggling and international arms trafficking.