Review of United States Attorneys' Offices' Use of Intelligence Research Specialists

Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2006-003
December 2005
Office of the Inspector General

Executive Digest

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reviewed the United States Attorneys’ Offices’ (USAO) use of the 93 intelligence research specialist positions authorized by Congress in fiscal year (FY) 2002. Specifically, we assessed whether the positions were used effectively to support the USAOs’ and the Department of Justice’s (Department) overall anti-terrorism efforts by collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information and intelligence.

The Department’s Strategic Plan states that a priority of the Department is to protect the United States against terrorism by preventing, disrupting, and defeating terrorist operations before they occur. According to the Strategic Plan, the Department will seek to develop and implement the full range of resources available to investigate terrorist incidents and will vigorously prosecute those who have committed, or intend to commit, terrorist acts in the United States.

After September 11, 2001, the Attorney General directed each USAO to establish an Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC) and later directed each USAO to hire an intelligence research specialist to assist the ATAC. According to the Attorney General, each ATAC will coordinate the implementation of an operational plan to guide its district in preventing terrorism; transmit information about terrorism and terrorist activities between federal and local agencies; and coordinate its district’s response to terrorism incidents. The intelligence research specialist position is designed to assist the ATAC by coordinating anti-terrorist activities, analyzing the relevance and reliability of threat information and investigative leads, and ensuring that cases with terrorism connections are identified for prosecution.


In FY 2002, the Department requested and received 93 intelligence research specialist positions. Our review found that the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) and the USAOs need to develop an intelligence capability across all districts that fully supports the broad anti-terrorism efforts of the Department. The intelligence research specialist positions were created to facilitate the development of an intelligence capability at each USAO. According to the intelligence community, an effective intelligence capability requires the implementation of three functions: collection of information, analysis of the information collected to produce intelligence, and dissemination of the intelligence so it may be acted upon. Individually, many intelligence research specialists have carried out these functions and have made valuable contributions to their USAOs’ anti-terrorism efforts. However, we concluded that EOUSA, in coordination with the USAOs, should ensure that the intelligence research specialists use a systematic approach to performing their intelligence functions so that their work can be integrated most effectively into the Department’s anti-terrorism efforts.

As we describe in this report, we found the following areas in which the use of intelligence research specialists could be improved:

  • Inconsistent information collection and access – EOUSA could further support USAOs’ intelligence capabilities by establishing standards for information collection efforts and working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to provide all intelligence research specialists with access to the FBI’s investigative databases.
  • Inconsistent format, quality, and dissemination of work products – EOUSA could increase the usefulness of intelligence research specialists’ work products by defining and standardizing the work products, promulgating standards to ensure quality analytical products, ensuring the dissemination of analytical products to the Department, surveying its end users on the utility of the work products, and ensuring that its internal inspection unit’s review reports contain sufficient information to evaluate the intelligence research specialist position in each district.
  • Outdated and disorganized policy guidance – EOUSA could better support intelligence research specialists’ access to complete and applicable policy guidance by creating a consolidated index of all policy guidance related to the intelligence research specialists and posting all the guidance on the intelligence research specialist intranet page.
  • Monitoring of intelligence research specialist vacancies – EOUSA could better support the USAOs in their efforts to reduce gaps in coverage for short- and long-term intelligence research specialist vacancies.

By addressing the shortcomings we identified, EOUSA and the USAOs will be better positioned to respond to the imminent restructuring of the Department’s intelligence entities. In response to the recommendations of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, in June 2005 the President directed the Attorney General to reorganize the Department to establish a new Assistant Attorney General for National Security and to consolidate the intelligence functions of the FBI into a new Directorate.

To respond effectively to these intelligence reforms, EOUSA and the USAOs should focus greater attention on the use and integration of the intelligence research specialists, and should seek to ensure that USAOs have the intelligence capability necessary to develop new leads and identify cases with a potential terrorism nexus.

Inconsistent Information Collection and Access

We found that the information collection efforts at the USAOs differ markedly from district to district. The intelligence research specialists collect information through a variety of methods, such as reviewing case files, meeting with ATAC members, and sharing information with their counterparts in other agencies. However, there was no uniformity in the sources used or in the types of information collected. Also, beyond basic requirements, EOUSA has not identified the standard technology-based tools needed by intelligence research specialists to collect and analyze information. For example, not all of the intelligence research specialists have access to the FBI’s investigative databases, an important source of information for their work.

Inconsistent Format, Quality, and Dissemination of Work Products

EOUSA and the USAOs have not defined the work products expected from intelligence research specialists. Among the 226 work product examples provided to us by 68 intelligence research specialists, we identified 29 different types of products with myriad names and formats. Further, the intelligence report examples provided to us sometimes lacked the basic information necessary to enable recipients to understand and use the reports. The lack of a consistent format and content for the work products makes it more difficult for users’ to readily identify and take appropriate action on the intelligence contained in these products.

EOUSA could improve work product consistency by establishing quality standards for intelligence research specialists’ work products. EOUSA stated that each USAO district is responsible for developing quality standards for work products, but our review found that most have not done so. Almost two-thirds of the intelligence research specialists told us that their USAOs have not established standards. Even had each USAO individually established standards, there would still be no mechanism to ensure the consistency of work products from USAO to USAO. Furthermore, there is no review process for key products (such as original analyses that address terrorist threats, discuss the Department’s anti-terrorism efforts, and are widely disseminated). A review process would make it easier to identify emerging regional trends, reduce duplication of effort, identify other potential users of the work products, and make connections among disparate events that could identify potential security threats.

EOUSA also has not enforced its own requirement that all analytical work products be provided to the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR). On May 7, 2003, EOUSA directed that the intelligence research specialist work products be provided to OIPR to ensure that relevant intelligence from USAO districts is identified, shared, and acted upon appropriately within the Department. OIPR’s Chief of Staff stated that OIPR has not seen this directive or received any intelligence research specialist work products.

Also, EOUSA could better monitor the utility of intelligence research specialists’ work products by surveying internal and external end users. EOUSA agreed that a survey of end users would be useful. Further, although EOUSA’s internal inspection unit, the Evaluation and Review Staff (EARS), has evaluated the intelligence research specialists function as part of its triennial office reviews since June 2004, the reports on those reviews did not contain sufficient information to evaluate the intelligence research specialist position in each district.

Outdated and Disorganized Policy Guidance

EOUSA needs to improve intelligence research specialists’ access to complete and applicable policy guidance. There is no consolidated index of all policy guidance applicable to the intelligence research specialists, nor is all guidance posted on the intelligence research specialist intranet page. Our review of the guidance available on the intelligence research specialist intranet page found that it had not been updated and was poorly organized. Information on the intranet was duplicative, lacked descriptive titles to identify the content, and could not be sorted by title, subject matter, or recipient. As a result, it is difficult for intelligence research specialists and others to find complete and applicable guidance.

Monitoring of Intelligence Research Specialist Vacancies

Finally, EOUSA could better support the USAOs in their efforts to address gaps in coverage caused by short- and long-term vacancies in USAO intelligence research specialist positions. As of June 15, 2005, 20 percent of the positions were vacant because the incumbent was on military leave, a special detail, or the position had not been filled. In some districts, limited coverage was provided by other USAO personnel or intelligence research specialists from adjoining districts. However, this ad hoc approach is not adequate to ensure that intelligence analysis is performed consistently, and that important information from intelligence research specialists is shared throughout all USAO districts.


Three years after the Department received intelligence research specialist positions for each USAO, EOUSA has not yet ensured that the intelligence research specialists employ a systematic approach to their information collection efforts, that intelligence work products are consistent, and that critical information and intelligence produced by intelligence research specialists are shared among USAO districts and throughout the Department as appropriate. While each U.S. Attorney exercises considerable discretion in the use of his or her resources to further the district’s priorities and meet local needs, we believe that EOUSA and the USAOs could improve the support that the intelligence research specialists provide to the broader anti-terrorism activities of the Department.

The OIG is making eight recommendations to help EOUSA and the USAOs improve the use of the intelligence research specialists in supporting the Department’s anti-terrorism efforts. We recommend that the EOUSA:

  1. Improve the consistency of the implementation of the intelligence research specialist function by:
    1. Identifying the types of information, by source, to be collected by intelligence research specialists;
    2. Working with the FBI to provide all intelligence research specialists with access to the FBI’s investigative databases
    3. Identifying standard tools for all intelligence research specialists;
    4. Surveying intelligence research specialists to determine which of the standard tools they lack and supplying missing tools to those who need them;
    5. Defining work products that intelligence research specialists produce; and
    6. Establishing standards to ensure the consistency and quality of intelligence research specialist work products.

  2. Provide intelligence research specialists with current and complete guidance by:
    1. Developing and posting on the EOUSA’s intranet site an intelligence research specialist manual that includes all pertinent guidance issued by the Attorney General, EOUSA, and USAOs on the roles and duties of the intelligence research specialist, including templates, examples of work products, and quality standards.
    2. Updating the EOUSA intranet page to provide complete, current, and organized guidance.

  3. Identify ways to ensure that intelligence research specialists’ original analytical work products are reviewed in order to meet quality standards.
  4. Ensure that the work of the intelligence research specialists is disseminated to the Department as appropriate.
  5. Survey consumers of intelligence research specialist products regarding work product applicability, quality, and areas for improvement.
  6. Ensure that the Evaluation and Review Staff (EARS) reports include an evaluation of the intelligence research specialist position.
  7. Provide appropriate coordination to ensure the continuity of intelligence research specialist functions in all USAOs with short- and long-term vacancies.
  8. Reassess the role and duties of the intelligence research specialists in light of the Department re-organization of its intelligence entities.

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