The Department of Justice's Terrorism Task Forces

Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2005-007
June 2005
Office of the Inspector General



The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) assessed the role of the Department of Justice's (Department) terrorism task forces and councils in achieving the Department's strategic goal of preventing terrorism and promoting the nation's security.1

Scope and Methodology

The review focused on the following Department task forces and councils:2

  • The Deputy Attorney General's National Security Coordination Council (NSCC);

  • The United States Attorneys' Offices' (USAOs) 93 Anti-Terrorism Advisory Councils (ATACs) (formerly named the Anti-Terrorism Task Forces); and

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI)

    • Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs),

    • National Joint Terrorism Task Force (NJTTF), and

    • Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force (FTTTF).

We examined how the task forces and councils address the Department's strategic goal to prevent terrorism, whether their functions and operations are duplicative or overlap, the adequacy of the guidance and oversight provided to the task forces and councils, and how the performance of the task forces and councils is measured.

Our fieldwork, conducted from June 2003 through January 2005, included interviews, document reviews, field site visits, a web-based survey, and observation through attendance at two training conferences and four meetings.

Interviews: We conducted 278 interviews with senior Department and other government officials, task force managers and members, and individuals who were involved with, or affected by, the terrorism task forces' or advisory councils' operations. We interviewed 57 senior officials in the following Department components.

Table 1: Senior Department Officials Interviewed

Department ComponentOfficials Interviewed
Office of the Deputy Attorney General
  • United States Deputy Attorney General (current and former)
  • Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General
  • Senior Counsel for National Security Affairs
  • Chief of Staff (former)
Criminal Division, Counterterrorism Section
  • Section Chief
  • National ATAC Coordinator
  • Regional ATAC Coordinators (4)
Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Administrator
  • Chief of Operations
Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys
  • Counsel to the Director's Staff (former point of contact for ATACs)
  • Supervising Counsel to Director's Staff (current point of contact for ATACs)
Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Director, FBI
  • Counterterrorism Division
    • Executive Assistant Director (current and former)
    • Deputy Assistant Director, Operational Support
    • Unit Chief, National Joint Terrorism Task Force
    • Director, Foreign Terrorism Tracking Task Force
    • Training Coordinators (2)
  • Assistant Director, Inspections Division
  • Training Division -
    • Assistant Director Training Academy
    • Dean of Academic Studies Training Academy (current and former)
  • Field Offices -
    • Special Agent in Charge (7)
    • Assistant Special Agent in Charge (9)
Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • Director, Bureau of Prisons
Office of Intelligence Policy and Review
  • Chief of Counsel of Intelligence Policy
United States Attorneys' Office
  • United States Attorneys (9)
  • Deputy United States Attorney
United States Marshals Service
  • Director

In addition to the Department's senior officials identified above, we interviewed 186 ATAC, JTTF, NJTTF, and FTTTF supervisors, members, and coordinators. These 186 individuals represented federal, state, and local government; law enforcement; the intelligence community; private industry; and the military. We also interviewed 12 police executives (commissioners, chiefs, deputy chiefs, and sheriffs) who had direct contact with the task forces and councils, and 20 state and local law enforcement and first responders who were not represented on the task forces. We also interviewed the Assistant Secretary and the Chief of Operations for the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS ICE).

Document Reviews: We reviewed Presidential Directives and Executive Orders, and Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General memorandums, directives, and guidance issued concerning the task forces and councils. We also reviewed documents provided by the FBI, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA), USAOs, Counterterrorism Section (CTS) within the Criminal Division, and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General concerning the management of the task force and advisory council operations. Additionally, we reviewed Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports, congressional testimony, DHS Office of the Inspector General reports, and other related reports that impacted on, or were related to, the operation of the task forces and advisory councils.

Field Site Visits: We completed 13 site visits to USAOs and the FBI's field offices and resident agency offices (RAOs).3 We visited:

  • Sites from all four areas of the country (east, west, north, and south);

  • A range of large and small field offices and judicial districts; and

  • Sites with a JTTF and an ATAC, sites with a JTTF but no ATAC in close proximity, sites with an ATAC but no JTTF in close proximity, and sites with neither a JTTF or ATAC in close proximity.4

Survey: To obtain information from a greater number of task force and council members, we prepared a web-based survey. We pretested it with members from a selected ATAC and JTTF as well as with previously interviewed FTTTF and NJTTF members. We made changes to the survey based upon the pretest results. In January 2004, we distributed survey passwords and instructions to a total of 1,810 ATAC, JTTF, FTTTF, and NJTTF members. Two hundred of the e-mail invitations were returned as undeliverable, reducing the total sample size to 1,610.5 Respondents were given three weeks to complete the survey. We received 704 completed surveys, an overall response rate of 44 percent. Appendix IV contains a copy of the survey instrument and results.

In selecting our survey sample, we used a simple random sampling methodology for the ATACs (10 percent of the ATAC population).6 To ensure representation from Department members, we first selected all the non-FBI Department members on the JTTFs and then randomly selected the remaining members to equal a 10 percent sample. Because the FBI has a large number of employees on the JTTFs, we included them in the simple random selection. The NJTTF and FTTTF have small populations; therefore, we surveyed all participants of those task forces whom we had not interviewed.

Observations: In September 2003, we attended the JTTF National Conference, which focused on topics such as terrorism investigations, information dissemination, asset recruitment, and law enforcement coordination. In March 2004, we attended the ATAC Coordinators and Crisis Management Coordinators Conference, which covered topics such as implementation of the Attorney General National Security Guidelines, FBI databases and resources, community outreach to Muslims, and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) prosecution issues.

We also attended two JTTF meetings (one Executive Board and one full membership), one NJTTF meeting, and one ATAC meeting to observe the interactions of the participants and the types of information shared.

Report Organization and Content

This report provides a summary of our findings and recommendations concerning the Department's terrorism task forces and councils. The information is presented in three major sections: 1) background on the task forces' and councils' history, mission, functions, and structure; 2) the task forces' and councils' accomplishments; and 3) issues we concluded can be improved. The appendices provide additional information and details on information sharing systems, the OIG's survey results, and Department memorandums relating to the task forces and councils.


  1. Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2003-2008, U.S. Department of Justice, p. 2.4.

  2. During our review, several other task forces and organizations with a terrorism focus were formed, such as the Terrorist Screening Center, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, the Justice Intelligence Coordinating Council, the Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, and the Department of Homeland Security Anti-Terrorism Task Force. An analysis of the similarities and differences between these new groups and the task forces and councils discussed in this report was beyond the scope of our evaluation. Another OIG review assessed the operations of the Terrorist Screening Center.

  3. RAOs are FBI satellite offices established to provide services throughout the jurisdiction of the field office.

  4. The sites visited were: New York City, New York; San Francisco, California (including Oakland); Anchorage, Alaska; Spokane, Washington; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (FBI office only); Salt Lake City, Utah; St. Louis, Missouri; Boston, Massachusetts; Portland, Maine; Oklahoma City, Woodward (FBI office only), and Enid, Oklahoma; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

  5. The NJTTF, EOUSA, and USAOs provided the e-mail addresses that we used in our survey.
  6. Simple random sampling allows individuals to be randomly chosen from the sampling frame such that everyone has an equal chance of being selected for participation in the survey.

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