The Department of Justice's Terrorism Task Forces
Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2005-007
Office of the Inspector General
The OIG sent copies of the draft report to the DEA with a request for written comments on Recommendations 25 and 26. The DEA responded to the OIG in a memorandum dated May 12, 2005. The DEA concurred with both recommendations and agreed to evaluate requests from the FBI for full-time participation on the JTTFs and to issue guidance to DEA agents who serve as members on or points-of-contact to the NJTTF and JTTFs. The DEA presented general comments about its support to the Department's terrorism task forces and then addressed the recommendations. Our analysis of the DEA's response follows.
Summary of the DEA's Comments. The DEA stated that it works with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies domestically and internationally to identify and anticipate threats posed by the links between drugs and terrorism. The DEA also stated that, when requested by the Attorney General, it participates in the Department's efforts to prevent terrorist attacks and cited the example of DEA's participation during the 2004 election.
Specifically concerning the JTTFs, the DEA stated that it assigned full-time members to selected JTTFs after September 11, 2001. However, over time the workload did not support the DEA's full-time membership on the JTTFs. The DEA believed that it could meet the JTTFs' requirements by assigning DEA agents as liaisons to the JTTFs, while allowing the same agents to conduct DEA's drug-related investigations. The DEA stated that its agents, intelligence analysts, and other personnel are available to the JTTFs when needed.
The DEA further stated that it has consistently offered or responded to the FBI's requests for assistance, and believed that the DEA's temporary assignment of personnel to meet specific situations has been adequate. As evidence of its support, the DEA cited the absence of any examples in the OIG's report of unresponsiveness by the DEA to the JTTFs. The DEA also stated that its Special Coordination Unit meets the needs of the counterterrorism investigative community by disseminating terrorism-related information to appropriate organizations outside of the DEA.
The DEA stated that it recognizes its investigative expertise benefits counterterrorism efforts, but that the DEA's available resources must be balanced against the JTTFs' requirements. Therefore, the DEA responded that it will continue to work with the FBI to determine optimal placement of available full-time DEA personnel on JTTFs. However, at JTTF locations where drugs and terrorism are not linked or the DEA does not have sufficient resources to devote full-time personnel, the use of DEA liaisons to the JTTFs will continue.
The OIG's Analysis. The OIG believes that the DEA's "liaison" approach does not adequately fulfill its long-term obligation to support the Department's counterterrorism efforts through active membership on JTTFs. Notwithstanding the DEA's stated responsiveness to specific requests for assistance from the FBI or the Attorney General, the absence of the DEA's proactive daily presence on JTTFs is contrary to the Department's vision for the task forces. The Department, in its Strategic Plan, views the JTTFs as forums that integrate law enforcement expertise from Department components and those of other federal, state, and local agencies. The JTTFs are critical elements of the Department's strategy to prevent terrorism and investigate individuals who have committed, or intend to commit, terrorist acts in the United States.107 For prevention, the strategy is to "Multiply preventive efforts through increased representation in Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs)." For investigation, the strategy is to "Utilize regional expertise in terrorism investigations with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force." Both strategies stress that "JTTF members are force multipliers in the war against terrorism" and "JTTFs bring the resources of multiple counterterrorism partners under one roof to investigate potential terrorist activities."
The DEA has withdrawn from membership on all but one JTTF. In contrast, the USMS and ATF have significantly increased their membership during the same period in keeping with the Department's anti-terrorism strategies. Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security has devoted full-time personnel to serve on JTTFs and other terrorism task forces. Like the DEA, all these organizations have limited resources, yet they have devoted full-time resources to the Department's terrorism task forces. The OIG believes that the DEA must do the same.
Recommendation 25: Resolved - Open. The DEA should increase its full-time membership on the JTTFs and work with the FBI to assess the optimum locations for new DEA members.
Summary of the DEA's Response. The DEA concurred with the recommendation and stated that "Should the FBI determine that it would be appropriate for DEA Special Agents or other personnel be assigned full time to work at JTTFs, the FBI should notify the DEA of that request, including the location and number of personnel requested." The DEA agreed to "carefully evaluate any specific FBI requests for additional personnel in conjunction with the affected field offices as to the DEA resources available and the feasibility of full time assignment at the designated locations."
The OIG's Analysis. The DEA's planned action to work with the FBI in determining placement of full-time DEA members on JTTFs is partially responsive to the recommendation. In its 2003-2008 Strategic Plan, the Department already has determined that DEA membership on JTTFs is required. Furthermore, as indicated in our report, the FBI has expressed a strong desire for the DEA to provide full-time members on the JTTFs. The FBI stated that DEA's membership would enhance intelligence sources and information sharing and ensure that the JTTFs consistently receive timely information on drug cases with links to terrorism. Liaisons from the DEA, the FBI told us, are not the same as task force members who work side-by-side with other JTTF members on cases, providing immediate access to members' expertise and parent agencies' databases. The OIG recommends that the DEA coordinate with the FBI to develop a joint plan to increase DEA full-time membership on terrorism task forces. We ask the DEA to provide us that joint plan by August 30, 2005.
Recommendation 26: Resolved - Open. The DEA should issue written guidance that defines the roles and responsibilities of its JTTF and NJTTF members and points of contact.
Summary of the DEA's Response. The DEA concurred with the recommendation and stated that the "DEA will prepare and transmit a teletype that defines the established role and responsibilities of DEA Special Agents assigned as full-time members or points-of-contact to the JTTFs and the NJTTF. Guidance will also be included in the teletype that indicates DEA Special Agents assigned to JTTF's [sic] as full-time members or points-of-contact are responsible for having up to date contact information for other members of their respective task forces."
The OIG's Analysis. The DEA's planned action to transmit a teletype defining the role and responsibilities of DEA task force members and points of contact is responsive to the recommendation. We believe that prior to issuance, the DEA should coordinate its teletype with the FBI to ensure that it adequately reflects the roles and responsibilities of full-time JTTF members. Please provide us a copy of the teletype by August 30, 2005.