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 Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS ICE) with a request for written comments on Recommendation 27, which concerns the DHS but is directed to the Deputy Attorney General for action. Although the report addressed issues related to the management and operations of the Department of Justice's task forces and advisory councils, a variety of issues regarding the DHS ICE were implicated by our review. Therefore, the OIG provided the DHS ICE a copy of the draft report for its review. The DHS ICE responded to the OIG in a memorandum dated May 18, 2005. The DHS ICE did not state whether it concurred with Recommendation 27, but provided extensive comments about its significant resource contributions to the task forces.
The DHS ICE stated that the draft report highlighted important coordination issues and other areas where improvements should be made. However, the DHS ICE expressed concern that the report relied on outdated or inaccurate information and requested that several areas in the report be modified to reflect the significant resources provided by the DHS ICE to support the Department's terrorism task forces and the related logistical and financial challenges.
Mission Statements. The DHS ICE requested that the OIG reword the mission statements for several DHS ICE components.
The OIG's Analysis. The OIG has revised the mission statements for the DHS ICE agencies using the requested language.
GAO Report. The DHS ICE requested that the OIG remove excerpts from a GAO report "Homeland Security: Management Challenges Remain in Transforming Immigration Programs." The DHS ICE stated that it has made significant changes since the GAO issued that report and that the GAO report did not refer to the DHS ICE's direction to the DHS ICE JTTF agents.
The OIG's Analysis. The GAO report was one source in support of the OIG's conclusion that the DHS ICE did not provide DHS ICE JTTF members with needed direction. Our conclusion was based on interviews with DHS ICE JTTF agents and supervisors and survey results from randomly selected JTTF members that included DHS ICE agents.
The GAO's findings were based on interviews with officials in CBP, CIS, and DHS ICE field offices nationwide and included interviews with managers, supervisory investigators, and investigators in the DHS ICE. The GAO report assessed the status of three areas within DHS, one being the integration of immigration and customs investigators in the DHS ICE. Some of the findings in the GAO's report included: confusion about roles and responsibilities, lack of uniform policies and procedures, and inappropriate administrative assignments. While the GAO report did not specifically address direction to DHS ICE JTTF agents, the same agents who conduct immigration or customs investigations serve on the JTTFs. Therefore, the GAO findings have affected all agents within the DHS ICE field offices, including those DHS ICE agents assigned to JTTFs.
DHS stated that it has made significant changes since the GAO report was issued in October 2004. If true, these changes should aid DHS ICE JTTF agents. However, we believe that that the report accurately describes the conditions that existed at the time of our field work.
Contradictory Guidance to DHS ICE JTTF Members. The DHS ICE requested that we delete the example of the DHS ICE agent on the St. Louis JTTF who was pulled off all intelligence cases for 3 months based on an outdated 1999 MOU prohibiting such casework. The DHS ICE stated that the incident occurred 2 years ago, was a one-time incident, and should therefore not be used as an example of contradictory guidance being sent to DHS ICE JTTF agents. The DHS ICE also stated that it has no record of a June 2003 memorandum forbidding DHS ICE agents from working on intelligence cases.
The OIG's Analysis. The report's St. Louis example was the most vivid of several examples cited to us by DHS ICE JTTF agents regarding confusion and lack of direction from DHS ICE management. The example demonstrated the effect such lack of guidance can have on a DHS ICE agent's work and the JTTF's investigations. The e-mail (not memorandum) in question, written by a DHS ICE Program Manager, referred to as the JTTF Regional Coordinator (working title), was sent to two DHS ICE officials on June 4, 2003, with a copy to the DHS ICE JTTF agents effected. The e-mail was listed as "Priority: Urgent" and states as follows:
. . . I have personally spoken to JTTF agents/supervisors at St. Louis, Kansas City and San Antonio regarding the existing MOU between the FBI and us, and bullet point number 3 contained therein relative to Intelligence cases (199) . . . . [A]ll have reviewed the MOU and indicated that they will make the appropriate adjustments in order to fully comply . . . . [A]dditionally, I have offered my assistance if any issues arise from the host agency in making these adjustments . . . . .108
While the position of DHS ICE JTTF Regional Coordinator no longer exists, a DHS ICE employee informed us that all JTTF members in the Central Region of the country (there were three regions at the time) reported to the DHS ICE JTTF Central Regional Coordinator who authored the e-mail. The DHS ICE JTTF member stated, "When the Regional Coordinator sent something, you had to comply."
While the example we cited involved only one agent in one office, the effect on terrorism investigations can be felt nationwide when an agency provides confusing and contradictory managerial direction to JTTF members. This direction from a DHS ICE Regional Manager - sent in writing to DHS ICE JTTF agents in three states prohibiting their participation on intelligence cases - was followed by a DHS ICE headquarters executive stating it was never the agency's intention to prohibit DHS ICE JTTF agents from participating on intelligence cases. Further, the citing of this outdated 1999 MOU between the INS and the FBI also supports the case for updating all JTTF MOUs to reflect post-September 2001 changes.
Lack of Cross-Training for DHS ICE in Immigration and Customs Matters. The DHS ICE stated that the section of the report on cross-training DHS ICE personnel in immigration and customs matters should be removed because the August 2004 data is outdated. The DHS ICE has increased its number of Special Agents and Supervisors who have been cross-trained since that time.
The OIG's Analysis. The OIG has retained this section of the report and updated the training statistics for DHS ICE agents and supervisors who were provided cross-training to reflect March 2005 statistics.
Insufficient DHS ICE Staff Detailed to the JTTFs and the FTTTF. The DHS ICE requested that this section of the report be reworded to more accurately reflect the significant support provided by the DHS ICE to the Department of Justice's task forces. The DHS ICE stated that most of the agents in any office would argue that more personnel, resources, and equipment are needed, but they are not always aware of competing resource demands. The DHS ICE also stated that there were only five open DHS ICE JTTF cases at the Omaha ICE Resident Agent-in-Charge's office, which indicates that the number of DHS ICE personnel assigned to the Omaha JTTF is more than sufficient to cover the caseload.
The DHS ICE also stated that the OIG erred in partially attributing the increase in DHS ICE JTTF agents to the addition of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) to DHS ICE because the FPS joined DHS ICE prior to November 2003.
The DHS ICE stated that the OIG report did not recognize its significant support to the FTTTF. The DHS ICE stated that the Law Enforcement Support Center's (LESC) temporary duty assignments to the FTTTF ended because the data searches required by the FTTTF can be more efficiently and effectively conducted by Law Enforcement Technicians from the LESC in Vermont, and that the FTTTF was informed it could contact the LESC directly for any queries and investigative support. The DHS ICE further stated that the FTTTF continues to have 24-hour direct access to all DHS immigration data systems through the LESC, whose information and turn-around time would be the same as if the LESC's Law Enforcement Technicians were onsite at the FTTTF. Additionally, the DHS ICE summarized the LESC's accomplishments in support of the JTTFs and the FBI, and cited the system the DHS ICE provided recently to the FTTTF that enables FTTTF members to directly access the US-VISIT and SEVIS databases.
The OIG's Analysis. We revised the report to reflect the DHS ICE's increased membership on the JTTFs, and have deleted reference to the lack of support from the LESC. Regarding the increases in the number of DHS ICE positions on the JTTFs, the OIG report stated that the increase of 110 full-time and 20 part-time DHS ICE positions to the JTTFs between November 2003 and October 2004 could be partially attributed to the Federal Air Marshals (58) and the Federal Protective Service (30) who were already JTTF members at the time these two agencies were assimilated into the DHS ICE. We obtained this information directly from DHS ICE. However, the DHS ICE stated that because the Federal Protective Service joined DHS ICE in March 2003, its personnel should be removed from this figure. The OIG has revised this section of the report to state that the increase of 130 DHS ICE positions was partially attributable to 58 Federal Air Marshals who were already JTTF members (then under TSA) at the time the agency was assimilated into the DHS ICE. Because the number of JTTFs increased from 86 to 100 JTTFs during this time frame, the FBI could not verify whether the remainder of the DHS ICE staff increases (72) resulted from the overall increase in the number of JTTFs or the 138 additional positions requested in the NJTTF's needs assessment submitted to the DHS ICE in November 2003.
Regarding DHS ICE's statement that the small number of open DHS ICE JTTF cases in Omaha justifies the number of DHS ICE personnel assigned to the Omaha JTTF, the number of open cases is not fully reflective of the amount or type of work that DHS ICE agents perform daily on the JTTFs. Since information provided during our review indicated that many terrorism cases or queries have an immigration nexus, we found that DHS ICE agents receive numerous daily requests for information directed to DHS ICE agents, which required that they devote hours searching databases, receiving and making numerous phone calls to obtain information, or interpreting immigration/DHS ICE regulations and procedures for other task force members. Additionally, DHS ICE agents may be assigned to interview subjects before a case becomes "open," and in some situations may never become "open."
Assignment of Non-JTTF Tasks to DHS ICE JTTF Members. The DHS ICE agreed that all agencies should make reasonable efforts to ensure that their JTTF members are not assigned non-JTTF tasks, but stated that this recommendation should be addressed to all agencies participating on the JTTFs.
The OIG's Analysis. While all agencies should make reasonable efforts to ensure that they do not assign non-JTTF tasks to their JTTF members, only DHS ICE JTTF members raised that issue during our site visits, which included interviews with JTTF members from state, local, and other federal (non-FBI) agencies as well as DHS ICE JTTF members.
Recommendation 27: Resolved - Open.Recommendation 27: Resolved - Open. The Deputy Attorney General should work jointly with DHS officials to ensure:
Summary of the DHS ICE's Response. The DHS ICE stated that the report did not reflect the significant resources it already provided to the JTTFs. The DHS ICE stated that it is second only to the FBI in terms of the numbers of its participants on the Department's task forces and therefore has a significant interest in ensuring its resources are used in an efficient and effective manner that contributes to the important mission of the JTTFs. The DHS ICE has personnel assigned to other FBI terrorism task forces, such as the FTTTF, ITOS, TFOS, and NJTTF as well as personnel assigned to the CIA. The DHS ICE stated that the FBI has declined to assign any personnel to DHS ICE counterterrorism or intelligence units at DHS ICE headquarters. The DHS ICE also stated that it has increased its presence at CBP's National Targeting Center by a factor of four allowing DHS ICE to be operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to address terrorist-related lookouts and other issues. The DHS ICE reported that as a result of its partnership with the National Targeting Center, DHS ICE JTTF agents responded over 935 times to various ports of entry to interview and take appropriate action to persons arriving at ports who were matches or potential matches to those listed on the national terrorist watch list.
The DHS ICE stated that JTTFs have expanded to more than 100 locations in a short period of time and some are in remote locations where DHS ICE may not have an established office and where the workload would not support a full-time DHS ICE position.
The OIG's Analysis. The OIG has revised the DHS section of the report to include updated information about ICE's participation on the JTTFs. However, at almost every field site visited, DHS ICE employees raised ICE managerial issues that they believed affected their efficiency or effectiveness on the task force
The DHS ICE stated that the report cited only anecdotal comments from task force agents regarding the need for additional DHS ICE staff. However, FBI field supervisors and managers and officials at FBI headquarters also cited the need for additional DHS support on the task forces. This information from interviews also was supported by survey responses of randomly selected JTTF members nationwide, who indicated that more task force members with immigration and customs expertise are needed. From our analysis of the qualitative data from our interviews and survey, we concluded that the DHS ICE should increase its membership on the JTTFs with personnel cross-trained in immigration and customs matters.
Additionally, as stated in the report, at the request of DHS, the NJTTF conducted a critical needs assessment of staffing by querying the JTTF field supervisors on how many DHS ICE agents were needed on each JTTF. The results showed 159 full-time and 22 part-time DHS ICE agents on 86 JTTFs in November 2003, and that JTTF supervisors requested an additional 138 full-time DHS ICE agents - a proposed increase of approximately 45 percent. As of October 2004, the number of JTTFs had increased to 100 and DHS ICE JTTF task force members had increased by 110 full-time and 20 part-time members. When we interviewed DHS ICE officials, they informed us that they had requested an analysis of DHS ICE's participation on the terrorism task forces to determine where and how many personnel were assigned and where the DHS ICE will gain the most benefit.
Although the DHS did not state whether it concurred with the recommendation, it is considered "Resolved - Open" since the recommendation is directed to the Deputy Attorney General to work jointly with DHS officials to ensure that the intent of this recommendation is carried out. The Deputy Attorney General, in his response, stated, ". . . as DHS and we jointly undertake to implement and execute the National Response Plan and other related Homeland Security policies and programs, we will work with our colleagues at DHS to ensure effective participation of DHS components on the JTTFs."