Below is a listing of relevant reports discussing the FBI’s efforts to resolve terrorist threats. These include reports issued by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Prior OIG Reports Involving FBI Terrorist Threat Resolution
In September 2002, the OIG issued a report entitled A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counterterrorism Program: Threat Assessment, Strategic Planning, and Resource Management, which reviewed aspects of the FBI’s management of its counterterrorism resources. This report found that the FBI had not performed a comprehensive assessment of the terrorist threat facing the United States and that the FBI had not adequately established strategic priorities or effectively allocated resources to its counterterrorism program. The report provided 14 recommendations, including the development of criteria for evaluating and prioritizing incoming threat information for analysis and the establishment of a protocol to guide the distribution of threat information. At the time of our audit, the FBI completed actions necessary to close 12 of the report’s 14 recommendations.
In June 2005, the OIG issued a report entitled A Review of the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). The TSC was created to consolidate government watch lists of suspected terrorists, and the FBI was designated as the lead agency responsible for administering the TSC. The report provided 40 recommendations to the TSC to strengthen its operations. The OIG identified weaknesses in the completeness and accuracy of data in the consolidated watch list, and recommended that the TSC develop procedures to regularly review and test the information contained in the terrorist screening database.
In addition, the OIG concluded that the management of the TSC call center and its staff needed improvement. The OIG recommended that the TSC establish protocols for the proper entry and review of data in the Encounter Management database and develop an automated method for flagging records in the database that require follow-up action. Likewise, the TSC needed to establish an automated method for entering call data and sharing this data with the FBI’s Counterterrorism Watch (CT Watch) to eliminate redundancy and reduce the time it takes for CT Watch to receive the data. Based on actions taken by the FBI, all of the reports 40 recommendations have been closed.
In March 2006, the OIG issued a report entitled The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Efforts to Protect the Nation’s Seaports. The report found that the FBI had taken steps to enhance its capability to identify, prevent, and respond to terrorist attacks in the maritime domain, including establishing the Guardian Threat Tracking System to collect information on terrorist threats and suspicious incidents at seaports and elsewhere and to manage follow-up action on these threats and incidents.
However the OIG found that Guardian could not be easily searched to identify trends in maritime-related suspicious activities or threats, and the FBI had not ensured that FBI offices complied with directives concerning the use of Guardian and the need to document the resolution of all incidents entered in Guardian. As a result, the FBI could not identify for the OIG the number of maritime-related threats for the audit period. The report expressed the concern that not all FBI field offices were fully utilizing Guardian. In the judgment of the OIG, the underutilization of Guardian prevented the FBI’s Threat Monitoring Unit from developing a complete understanding of threat trends, including threats associated with the maritime domain. At the time of our audit, the FBI had closed 16 of this report’s 18 recommendations.
In February 2007, the OIG issued a report entitled The Department of Justice’s Internal Controls Over Terrorism Reporting. The report found that the FBI, along with the Criminal Division, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, and United States Attorney’s Offices, had not accurately reported terrorism statistics. The FBI did not accurately report eight of the ten statistics reviewed for FY 2003 and 2004, including:
- the number of terrorism-related threats tracked,
- the number of terrorism threats to transportation and facilities, and
- the number of terrorism threats to people and cities.
The report found that the number of terrorism threats tracked in FYs 2003 and 2004 were inaccurate primarily because the reported statistics included threats that were counted multiple times. In addition, the number of threats tracked during this period did not include approximately 60 percent of threats tracked by FBI field offices, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Watch Unit, and the FBI’s International Terrorist Operations Sections. The report observed that use of the Guardian Threat Tracking System should significantly improve the accuracy of the number of threats reported, and recommended that the FBI establish and document internal control procedures for gathering, verifying, and reporting terrorism related statistics and maintain documentation to support the threat reporting process.
In March 2007, the OIG issued a report entitled A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of National Security Letters. Among other findings, the OIG determined that the FBI had generated over 300 national security letters from an administrative control file rather than from an investigative case file in violation of FBI policy. In these instances, FBI agents did not generate and supervisors did not approve documentation demonstrating that the factual predicate had been established as required by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Attorney General’s Guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations, and internal FBI policy. When national security letters are issued from control files rather than investigative files, internal and external reviewers cannot determine whether the requests are tied to investigations that established the required evidentiary predicate for issuing the national security letters.
The OIG reported that the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, in consultation with the FBI Office of General Counsel, had taken steps in response to the OIG’s identification of this issue to ensure that future national security letter requests are issued from investigative files rather than from control files so that these requests conform to national security letter statutes, the Attorney General’s Guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations, and internal FBI policy.
Prior GAO Reports Involving FBI Terrorist Threat Resolution
In June 2002, GAO issued a report entitled FBI Reorganization: Initial Steps Encouraging, but Broad Transformation Needed. Among the issues identified for more in-depth review and scrutiny was the implementation of the newly revised Attorney General’s Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise and Terrorism Enterprise Investigations (Guidelines).
In June 2003, the GAO issued a follow-up report entitled FBI Reorganization: Progress Made in Efforts to Transform, but Major Challenges Continue. Among other topics, the report discussed implementation of the Guidelines. The report found that FBI internal controls were in place to ensure compliance with the Guidelines, including:
- policies and procedures,
- inspections, and
- allegations of abuse.
The report found no reported allegations or investigations of noncompliance with the new Guidelines, but cautioned that the revised Guidelines were in their infancy in terms of implementation, and concluded that while it was a good sign that the GAO had not identified any reported allegations, investigations, or indications of abuse of the new investigative authorities, this was not a situation that should result in reduced vigilance on the part of the Department of Justice or Congress.