Federal Bureau of Investigation's Foreign Language Translation Program Follow-Up

Audit Report 05-33
July 2005
Office of the Inspector General


The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) ability to translate foreign language materials is critical to national security. The FBI must have the capacity to prioritize, translate, and understand in a timely fashion the large amount of foreign language materials that it collects. As the FBI continues to focus on its two highest investigative priorities — counterterrorism and counterintelligence — it will continue to rely heavily on its linguistic capabilities.

In addition to supporting its counterterrorism and counterintelligence efforts, the FBI’s criminal and cyber-crimes programs, international training, international deployments, and interpreting/interviewing assignments are placing increasing demands on the FBI’s Foreign Language Program.

Because of the importance of this area, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) completed an audit in July 2004 of the FBI’s Foreign Language Translation Program. Among other issues, that audit examined:

  • the hiring process for linguists, including the FBI’s progress in hiring qualified linguists to translate critical foreign language materials;

  • whether procedures in the FBI’s language program adequately prioritize the workload;

  • whether there existed a backlog of unreviewed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) material;

  • the adequacy of the Quality Control Program; and

In July 2004, we issued a 157-page audit entitled, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Foreign Language Program — Translation of Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence Foreign Language Material,” containing the results of our review. We provided the full audit report, which was classified by the FBI at the Secret level, to the FBI, the Department of Justice (Department), Congress, and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission). In September 2004, we publicly released an unclassified Executive Summary of the report.

Because of the importance of the FBI Foreign Language Translation Program, in March and April 2005, we conducted an expedited follow-up examination of the findings in our July 2004 audit to evaluate the FBI’s progress in responding to the report’s recommendations. This report describes the results of that follow-up review.8


  1. Appendix 1 contains this audit’s objectives, scope, and methodology. Appendix 2 contains a list of acronyms used throughout the report. We have also compiled four additional appendices to this report which contain data that the FBI considers to be classified. We have provided those classified appendices to the FBI, the Department, and Congress.

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