The Department of Justice's Terrorism Task Forces
Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2005-007
Office of the Inspector General
Although there was some concern that the task forces and councils may be duplicating efforts, we found that their functions are largely distinctive and complementary, and generally not duplicative. There is some overlap in information sharing with a few individuals who are members of and attend meetings of both an ATAC and a JTTF. However, the overlap is minimal. The following provides a brief description of the distinction between the various task forces and councils:
The NSCC, coordinated by the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, is the Department's executive level forum for the Deputy Attorney General and agency heads (FBI, DEA, USMS, OIPR, BOP, and others) to meet at least monthly and discuss issues related to counterterrorism and national security. The agency heads told us that the NSCC provides them with terrorism information that they would not receive ordinarily, and allows them to identify intelligence gathering capabilities that exist across agencies that could assist them in achieving their agencies' missions.
The JTTFs, headed by the FBI, are the operational and investigative arm of the Department's counterterrorism initiative. Consisting largely of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents in shared office space hosted by the FBI, the 103 JTTFs in FBI field offices and RAOs respond to reports of threats and conduct terrorism investigations on a daily basis in their respective jurisdictions. The JTTFs also host monthly executive meetings with local law enforcement officials and heads of partner agencies who have members on the JTTFs to share information on relevant terrorism topics.
The ATACs are based out of the U.S. Attorneys' Offices in each of the judicial districts. Their primary mission is to share information and provide or coordinate terrorism-related training for their members, which can include some JTTF members. The ATAC meetings also serve as a focal point to discuss local or regional vulnerabilities, and to identify resources and plan exercises and training to reduce those vulnerabilities. The ATAC Coordinators and Regional ATAC Coordinators work closely with the JTTFs by coordinating prosecutorial and investigative strategies across JTTFs to achieve nationwide consistency in investigating and prosecuting terrorism cases.
The NJTTF, headed by the FBI and located in Northern Virginia, provides administrative and strategic support to the 103 nationwide JTTFs. It also provides coordination on special information and intelligence gathering initiatives assigned from FBI Headquarters to the field JTTFs. The NJTTF does not conduct investigations but rather acts as a liaison and conduit of information on threats from FBI headquarters to the JTTFs and to the 40 member agencies participating on the NJTTF.
The FTTTF, headed by the FBI, also supports the JTTFs and other law enforcement agencies. Located in Northern Virginia, the FTTTF uses its data searching and data mining capabilities to respond to requests from the FBI, CIA, or other agencies to electronically locate and track known or suspected terrorists and generate leads that are then funneled through the NJTTF for JTTF follow-up. The information provided by the FTTTF enhances on-going terrorism investigations or contributes to the initiation of a new investigation. The FTTTF also is developing a risk assessment tool to proactively evaluate foreign individuals, who want to enter or remain in the United States, to determine the level of national security risk or criminal risk.
JTTF and ATAC Duplication Issues
Regarding duplication, a few of the JTTF and ATAC members we interviewed stated that information sharing by the JTTFs and ATACs was duplicative. This concern was raised primarily among those who were members of and attended meetings of both a JTTF and an ATAC. However, those who attend each other's meetings are only a small percentage of the JTTF and ATAC membership. To the majority of JTTF and ATAC members, this information is not duplicative, especially to the ATAC members. The ATACs include a much broader membership who are not law enforcement officials and are thus not a part of the JTTF information sharing network. They include first responders, (fire, emergency medical services, state, local or federal public health officials, hospital staff, pharmaceutical companies, representatives from governor's offices, district attorneys, public utility representatives (gas, water, electric, pipelines, telecommunications), railroad police, Coast Guard, park rangers, tribal law enforcement, and the more remote police and sheriff's offices that do not have the resources to commit a full-time officer to the JTTF or who do not have a JTTF in their jurisdiction. We asked ATAC and JTTF members if there was information they received that they no longer wanted to receive. The majority responded that they would rather continue to receive all information regardless of duplication, rather than receive too little information or none at all.
In January 2004, language appeared in the Omnibus Appropriations Act for 2004 recommending that the U.S. Attorneys should continue to participate in the JTTFs rather than maintain a separate set of U.S. Attorney task forces.
The OIG disagrees with this recommendation and believes that the U.S. Attorneys through the ATACs provide a distinct and vital role separate from the JTTFs. This role includes the development of an expanded information sharing network that reaches beyond law enforcement, the provision of training to this expanded network, opportunities for planning and conducting responder exercises, and coordination of investigative and prosecutive strategies for terrorism cases. All the U.S. Attorneys we interviewed believed so strongly in the mission and effectiveness of the ATACs, they stated they would still find a way to continue the functions even if they were ordered to disband the ATACs and merge with the JTTFs. The U.S. Attorneys believed that the benefits of the new partnerships forged as a result of the ATACs were invaluable to both the USAOs and to the ATAC members.
The role of the JTTFs is primarily investigation oriented. Although the FBI field offices engage in information sharing, they meet primarily with law enforcement officials, and the information sharing is more narrowly focused than the information disseminated by the ATACs. The OIG believes that to assume the expanded role of the ATACs would divert scarce resources away from what the JTTFs are set up to do, investigating terrorism threats. When we asked the FBI field office managers their views on merging the ATACs and JTTFs, the response was mixed. Some believed that they could not assume this expanded role of information sharing and training for larger groups outside of those law enforcement officials that they meet with now, either because they do not have the time, staff, or resources, or they viewed this role as outside the mission of the JTTFs. Other managers stated that they would take on this role if required but only with additional staff, funding, and resources.
The establishment of the task forces and councils has facilitated sharing of information and expanding of partnerships with federal, state, and local law enforcement and other government agencies, and private industry.
We concluded that the terrorism task forces and advisory councils have created a foundation for improving information sharing among law enforcement, the intelligence community, and private industry by broadening the pool of individuals with security clearances and providing forums for information exchange about terrorism matters.
A March 2003 report issued by the Police Executive Research Forum suggested that local police believed problems existed in information sharing between state and local law enforcement and the FBI.18 In our interviews, we found this perception has changed, especially in metropolitan areas. For example, the commissioners, chiefs of police, or their designees for the cities of Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; St. Louis, Missouri; and Washington, D.C. told us that information sharing with the FBI in their metropolitan areas has improved since September 11, 2001, and that the FBI has worked hard to develop relationships with local law enforcement. One local police official stated that information sharing is "far, far better than it used to be," that sharing of terrorism information is better coordinated, and that his department does not currently face obstacles in obtaining terrorism information needed from the FBI. Law enforcement officials in these metropolitan areas stated that they believed that the FBI provides them with the information they needed specific to the threats for their immediate areas.19
Task Forces Have Expanded the Cadre of People With Security Clearances
We found that the task forces have taken steps to ensure that a broader group of law enforcement officers have the security clearances needed to receive and share information about terrorism issues to a larger group within the law enforcement community. Much of the terrorism information is classified and can only be shared with those holding appropriate security clearances. The level of security clearances required by task force, council, and type of member are:
While not required to have a security clearance to access ATAC information, 20 percent of the ATAC survey respondents had a Secret clearance and 58 percent had clearances of Top Secret or Top Secret with Secure Compartmented Information (SCI) Access. These clearances give ATAC members access to a wider range of information if they have a "need to know." We found that some ATAC Coordinators can share classified information with those members that have appropriate clearances.
The FBI conducts background investigations to obtain Top Secret security clearances for state and local law enforcement task force members to allow them to work in FBI office space and conduct terrorism investigations. It also obtains Secret security clearances for higher ranking state and local law enforcement personnel (e.g., chiefs or sheriffs) to facilitate greater information sharing between agencies. The following table shows the number of clearances processed by the FBI between September 11, 2001, and September 2004.
Table 3: Security Clearances Processed by the FBI for
The total number of state and local law enforcement members cleared and assigned on the JTTFs changes continually as members join or are reassigned by their parent agencies. Therefore, we requested a "snapshot" of JTTF members by clearance levels and agency, shown in the following table.
Table 4: Clearance Levels of JTTF Members - State and
The FBI has shortened the length of time taken to process security clearance applications. In February 2003, the FBI's Security Division created the Initial Clearance and Access Unit - 2 (ICAU2) to process and adjudicate background investigations for non-FBI JTTF members, law enforcement executives, and elected officials who require access to classified information. The ICAU2 receives a clearance application from an FBI field office, assigns it to an adjudicator who reviews the application in accordance with the government-wide adjudicative standards and recommends whether to grant a security clearance. Provided that no derogatory information emerges during the background investigation, the ICAU2 estimated that it should take no more than or 180 to 270 days for non-FBI JTTF members to receive a Top Secret clearance and 30 to 45 days to receive a Secret clearance. If derogatory information arises in the clearance process, the ICAU2 works to resolve the matter, which can add time to the process. A GAO review found that between September 11, 2001, and March 2004, the FBI decreased the processing times for Top Secret clearances from an average of 244 to 36 days, and for Secret clearances from an average of 90 to 40 days.22 The GAO attributed the decrease in processing times to the guidance the FBI provided to its field offices and state and local law enforcement on the security clearance process and its modifications to the security clearance unit.23
Task Forces and Advisory Councils Provide Broad Audiences With
Each task force and council attracts a variety of members that have a need for terrorism-related information and shares this information with members through meetings or electronic forums. To increase ATAC membership, CTS and EOUSA advised the USAOs' ATAC Coordinators to be as inclusive as possible when determining ATAC membership and to include any relevant organization that has a need for terrorism-related threat information.24 Leaders of the NJTTF, JTTFs, FTTTF, and NSCC also share information with broad audiences by including chief executive officers from private agencies or non-law enforcement members in their information exchanges. At times, guests with expertise or interest in the information being discussed are invited by the ATACs, FTTTF, JTTFs, NJTTF, and NSCC to participate in a meeting.
Meetings: Our interviews and survey of task force and council leaders and members showed that the primary purposes of the meetings are to share information and intelligence, provide updates on cases with a terrorism nexus, discuss threat assessments, and obtain member agency updates. The majority of ATAC, FTTTF, JTTF, and NJTTF members we surveyed characterized the task force and council meetings as "useful" in preparing them to plan for and respond to terrorism. Our survey showed that of those who were able to evaluate the task force or advisory council meetings, 90 percent of ATAC respondents, 75 percent of FTTTF respondents, 86 percent of JTTF respondents, and 100 percent of NJTTF respondents rated meetings as "useful" or "very useful."
Most of the task forces and councils hold regular meetings, although the frequency varies based on the mission and functions performed. NJTTF meetings are held daily, sometimes twice a day, depending on the threat and task force activity. Meetings include discussions of current threats, updates on special projects, and the sharing of information and intelligence. The FTTTF does not have a need for daily meetings; instead, the Director convenes all members at least once a month to discuss administrative issues and current projects. Also, since December 2003, the FTTTF meets monthly with liaisons from DHS components, international intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and the El Paso Intelligence Center.25 The NSCC meets at least once a month, and sometimes twice a month, to share information across Department components. The Deputy Attorney General sets the agenda based upon input received from the NSCC members, interagency councils, the DHS, and the President's National Security Council.
At the field level, the ATACs and JTTFs do not have standard meeting schedules, but rather adjust meeting frequency and type to respond to members' needs, threats, cases, or special projects. We found most ATACs meet monthly to quarterly, and the topic and type of the meeting vary widely. Each USAO attempts to fit the ATAC meeting to the needs of its membership. ATAC members repeatedly stressed the need to have focused, useful meetings; one member stated:
I do not think pro-forma, regular meetings enhance information flow or otherwise meaningfully contribute to improving anti-terrorism abilities. Those benefits come from maintaining and developing working relationships with law enforcement through working cases, through providing meaningful training, and through jointly participating in outreach activities in the community. Agents and officers know when a meeting is called for the sake of having a meeting, and do not seem to appreciate it.
Often, ATAC meetings include an anti-terrorism training session. Approximately two-thirds of the ATACs have subcommittees that have specific focuses appropriate for that jurisdiction (e.g., Maritime Issues Subcommittee in districts with ports).
Most JTTFs meet as an entire group, or as squads, on a regular basis to discuss case updates and administrative issues and to share information and intelligence. Also, the JTTFs individually host Executive Board meetings for agency heads and other top-level managers from participating organizations, including leaders from federal, state, and local law enforcement, to share information about upcoming events and to discuss administrative matters related to the task force's operations. The JTTF Executive Board meeting we observed during one of our site visits was well attended by federal, state, and local participating organizations on the JTTF, declassified information for the jurisdiction was shared, and the U.S. Attorney made a presentation. The frequency of Executive Board meetings varies across JTTFs, but they occur at least every quarter.
The following table outlines information we collected through interviews and surveys about task force and council meetings.
Table 5: Meetings Held and the Members' Ratings
We also found that task force and council leaders and most members participate in additional anti-terrorism meetings chaired by federal, state, or local officials. They attend these meetings as a form of outreach, to share information with other audiences, and to build relationships. The information gained through these meetings is then shared with the task forces and councils. The following table shows the types of meetings attended.
Table 6: Other Meetings Attended
Electronic Systems: Task force and council members routinely use electronic data systems for quick, often real-time, exchange of information and intelligence related to terrorism issues. JTTF members stated that they use the following systems to receive and share information outside of the FBI: Law Enforcement Online (LEO), National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS), and Regional Information Sharing System (RISS). The FBI has expanded its use of LEO by requiring all JTTF members to have LEO accounts, and by establishing Special Interest Groups for the NJTTF and JTTFs that law enforcement personnel can use to exchange terrorism information. The LEO system is interconnected with RISS and NLETS. Appendix III outlines the content of these systems.
The NJTTF is developing other systems to increase its ability to share information. For example, the Guardian system was deployed in all JTTFs in August 2004. Guardian is a terrorism reporting management system used by the JTTFs to automate all terrorism complaints, document terrorist activity, and report suspicious activity and pre-operational surveillance incidents. When local and state law enforcement agencies call their local JTTF and report suspicious activity, the JTTF enters the information directly into Guardian. JTTF members from other government agencies also can access Guardian and share information with their agencies.
The ATACs have invested in communications equipment to increase information sharing between state and local law enforcement, first responders, and the USAOs. When formed, each ATAC received an allocation of $100,000 for improving the communication ability of state and local law enforcement or for training ATAC members. By December 2004, the ATACs had spent approximately $4.9 million (52 percent) of the $9.3 million they received for communication items. For example, the ATAC in West Virginia purchased computers for each sheriff and police department throughout the state. Many of these rural law enforcement agencies did not previously have computers or access to e-mail. Additionally, the Middle District of Alabama purchased computers and internet access, as well as radios that linked with an existing dispatch center, for those law enforcement agencies that did not have this equipment. The Connecticut ATAC purchased six transmitters to improve a communication system used by local agencies.
CTS has increased information sharing in the field through the development and expansion of a CTS website available to ATAC Coordinators and USAO Intelligence Research Specialists. The CTS website includes the following:
New York City's Perception on Information Sharing
During a March 2003 public hearing, Raymond Kelly, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), noted that information sharing with the FBI had improved. He stated:
I have been in law enforcement a long time, both on the federal and local level. And clearly there were some issues in the past with the flow of information. I can tell you that has changed significantly in the aftermath of September 11.There is a palpable difference in [the FBI and CIA's] approach to doing business. They want to get that information out. They are getting it out.26
One year later, during a March 2004 House Appropriations Committee hearing, Representative John Sweeney raised some concerns about information sharing between the FBI and state and local law enforcement. In this hearing, Congressman Sweeney directed the following comments to FBI Director Mueller:
...There is a general perception beginning to develop out there that we're slipping back into some old patterns. And, in particular, the sharing of information between state and local officials has been raised as a concern, and specifically raised as a concern by my friends in.New York City.Given the priority New York City is and the target that it is, that it possibly could be happening all over the country, and I think it's a worry that we all have. Specifically, the complaint is once people receive top secret clearances, cooperation with the bureau has not been what the anticipation was there.
To assess concerns that the information sharing between the FBI and the state and local law enforcement may have diminished since the months immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks, we returned to New York City in April 2004 and conducted additional interviews on this topic. Senior officials from the NYPD told us that the relationship between the FBI and NYPD was good and had improved since September 11, 2001. One official said that information sharing with the FBI had become "bigger and better." According to these officials, the NYPD has a chief, captain, lieutenants, and detectives participating in every JTTF squad who partner with the JTTF special agents. They informed us that NYPD supervises its own officers on the JTTF, but the FBI and NYPD work together on the JTTF squads and are co-located.
NYPD officials stated that to some extent, information sharing and reporting between officers and their sergeants depends on the personalities involved and their relationships. NYPD officials said that in most cases if a NYPD detective on the JTTF obtains information or intelligence, the NYPD detective tells his FBI supervisor and NYPD Sergeant and each will share the information up though their chain of command. The JTTF members also share information either directly with the NYPD intelligence unit or with staff from the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism. If the need arises, the Police Commissioner also directly contacts the FBI Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) of the New York City field office.27
NYPD officials also acknowledged that due to their expanded presence on the New York City JTTF, they now have access to CIA and NSA information that they did not have prior to September 11, 2001. Officials stated that they also are pushing for full integration of the JTTF by requesting that an NYPD official be placed as a "Deputy" to the SAC to act as the number two person or co-manager in charge of the JTTF. This, they believe, would further promote "real-time" information sharing. When asked if the NYPD supports placing FBI agents in its intelligence unit, the NYPD officials stated that they are interested in more aggressive interaction at the working level, not integration of the FBI in NYPD's intelligence office.
NYPD officials did complain that their NYPD officers on the JTTF can access only certain parts of the FBI's Automated Case Support (ACS) system.28 Specifically, NYPD believes it should have access to three automated screens in the system that included information on management of caseloads and assignments, management of leads, and confidential informants. NYPD officials stated that they are not always pleased with the information the FBI allows them to see and are not convinced they "see everything." When asked how the lack of access to this information impacts their work, the NYPD officials said they could not state for certain that the lack of information impacts them, but they believe that they have a right to know and the FBI has an obligation to inform them.
NYPD officials also expressed concern about the security levels of some FBI meetings. For example, there is a case being worked by a group of detectives from the NYPD intelligence unit who are not on the JTTF, but the detectives are not permitted to attend an FBI meeting about the case because they do not have SCI clearance. NYPD officials believed the security threshold of the meeting should be lowered (from SCI to Top Secret) to enable these detectives to participate.
One NYPD official summarized his concern about the need for information:
We need information because we are at the top of the target. As NYPD has increased its involvement, the greater the commitment made. Capabilities, interests, and needs have increased as our involvement has increased. We have 1,000 employees daily devoted to counterterrorism. We don't know how the lack of information has impacted us because we don't know what is out there. We have a right to know immediately about cases that tangentially are related to New York...The more we know about plots, plans, and events can influence what we do to protect our system. The more we know, the better our protective processes... We don't have unlimited resources, so the more informed we are, the better decisions we can make on deploying people. The more details we know about a plot, this can influence what we do to protect that target. Generic information only helps you make generic deployment decisions.
The FBI's Perspective
We interviewed the FBI's Acting SAC in New York City for her perspective on the state of information sharing with the NYPD. She told us that nothing had changed in the FBI's relationship with NYPD since our first visit in July 2003, and that the FBI's door is wide open. The 14 JTTF squads in New York City are matched almost one for one with FBI agents and NYPD officers; that is, for every FBI agent on the 14 squads, there is an NYPD detective. There is an NYPD sergeant assigned to every JTTF squad to supervise the detective(s). Additionally, the NYPD has officers assigned to the New York City FBI's three surveillance squads.
The Acting SAC also noted that information sharing with NYPD occurs through the following additional methods:
The Acting SAC told us that this level of information sharing means that anything an FBI agent on the JTTF has, the NYPD has. NYPD officers are co-case agents on almost every investigation the JTTF runs, and there is rarely a deployment overseas when NYPD does not accompany the FBI. She also informed us that the NYPD has made additional requests for an NYPD lieutenant for every three squads and to add a senior manager to the FBI New York City field office who would serve as a Deputy to the FBI's SAC to facilitate information exchange.
Regarding ACS system access, the Acting SAC stated that NYPD has full access to the screens in the ACS system that the FBI's other JTTF members have: counterterrorism investigations, drug cases, and organized crime cases. They do not have full access to police/public corruption cases, white collar cases, or foreign counterintelligence cases. All JTTF members, including the FBI members, are blocked from access to these screens, but there are procedures to obtain this information through the FBI for those with an established "need to know."
The Acting SAC stated that NYPD complains that information sharing is not a two-way street, but she expressed concern that the New York City FBI does not receive any of NYPD's intelligence. The FBI has made requests to NYPD's Office of Intelligence for NYPD to disseminate information to the New York City field office so the FBI can review NYPD's intelligence. Additionally, the New York City FBI has offered to place FBI agents in the NYPD intelligence unit but NYPD has declined. The Acting SAC stated that if the FBI is not able to review NYPD's intelligence, links to terrorism may go undetected. She also stated that the FBI needs the intelligence from NYPD's sources but is not receiving it. She said that the FBI "does not intentionally hold back information from the NYPD."
The Task Forces and Councils Have Improved Partnerships
Our interviews and survey results indicate that the situation has changed since September 11, 2001. Agency representatives regularly lead cases, receive taskings in their areas of expertise, and participate in the initial stages of the investigative process. The following table provides our survey results.
Within the Department, the task forces and councils also have improved partnerships between the FBI and the USAOs in the following ways:
The ATACs also have developed a closer partnership between the USAOs and CTS. The six Regional Coordinators assigned to CTS work with the ATAC Coordinators within a region to identify national trends or legal issues and develop investigative and prosecutive strategies to address those issues. Deputy Attorney General Comey told us that the U.S. Attorneys historically prided their independence, but now there is greater coordination and information sharing between the USAOs and the Criminal Division.
To further promote this information sharing, Deputy Attorney General Comey issued a memorandum in January 2005 setting forth guidance on how the USAOs and CTS should coordinate on international and domestic terrorism matters.31 This memorandum provides interim guidance on information sharing between USAOs and CTS for terrorism-related topics and notification requirements that include CTS contact information.
To further develop and coordinate investigative and prosecutive strategies in terrorism matters, CTS, with assistance from EOUSA, has provided training sessions to the ATACs and other AUSAs who prosecute these cases. Training has included such topics as Prosecuting Terrorism Hoaxes, and Fundamental Principles Governing Extraterritorial Prosecutions - Jurisdiction, Venue and Procedural Rights. Additionally, CTS has issued memoranda to the ATAC Coordinators providing guidance and advice on the applicability of charges stemming from situations such as using Ricin as a terrorist weapon, and hostage taking and bombing incidents involving schools or educational facilities.
Regional training sessions, conferences, and several live teleconferences broadcast by satellite also have been provided by EOUSA's Office of Legal Education with coordination and assistance from the FBI. Topics have included:
CTS and EOUSA also have worked jointly to plan and provide annual training conferences for the ATAC Coordinators with sessions that focused on terrorism-related legal issues and guidance for prosecutors.
The Task Forces and Councils Have Expanded Partnerships
We also found that the post-September 11, 2001, terrorism task forces and councils have expanded partnerships by including a wider range of participants. The task forces and councils now include members from law enforcement, the intelligence community, private business, and federal, state, and local governments.
The JTTFs combine FBI personnel with hundreds of investigators from various federal, state, and local agencies, who are considered important "force multipliers."32 JTTFs increased 194 percent, from 35 task forces pre-September 11, 2001, to 103 task forces in March 2005. The number of JTTF members has grown 458 percent, from 912 members pre-September 11, 2001, to 5,085 members in January 2005.
The ATACs also have increased their membership. While the number of ATACs is fixed at one per USAO district (Guam and Northern Mariana Islands operate one joint ATAC), membership on ATACs increased by 83 percent from 6,000 members in FY 2002 to approximately 11,000 members in FY 2005.
The NJTTF expanded its number of member agencies from 30 in July 2002 to 40 in January 2005, and its number of members from 55 to 62. It also increased its partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies by permanently accepting representatives from the District of Columbia's and New York City's police departments and by participating in the FBI's Police Executives Fellowship Program.33 The program enables police officers from state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide to work at the NJTTF (and other FBI divisions) on a 6-month rotational basis to gain first-hand knowledge of how the FBI operates and to access FBI information. The two fellowship program representatives assigned to the NJTTF during our fieldwork told us that the program allowed their agencies to work together and provided valuable contacts for future coordination. The fellowship program representatives also worked on specific initiatives designed to improve state and local agencies' abilities to detect and deter terrorism, such as:
In July 2004, the NJTTF moved its operations to the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), now known as the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). The NJTTF now has direct access to the centralized intelligence generated by NCTC. The NJTTF Unit Chief stated that the move to NCTC increased the NJTTF's workspace capacity from 40 to 82 members.
The FTTTF has a critical partnership with the DOD CIFA/Joint Counterintelligence Assessment Group that has assisted the FTTTF in its efforts. At the inception of FTTTF, DOD/CIFA provided financial resources, hardware, software, systems and procurement expertise, and office space to the task force. DOD/CIFA has a complementary mission to the FTTTF, as well as the technical expertise that assisted the FTTTF in development of a database warehouse and analytical tools. Additionally, the FTTTF has attempted to increase the number of its participating agencies, especially DHS components because of the importance of immigration and customs data to tracking and locating foreign terrorists. The DHS informed the FTTTF Director that they would look into adding more members, but indicated that a severe shortage of resources has limited its ability to do so as of January 2005. To attract more participants, the FTTTF Director holds monthly liaison meetings with a broad range of agencies, including DHS components, as well as international law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
The JTTFs are implementing the FBI's new counterterrorism investigative strategy that has provided them with increased capabilities to help the Department achieve its strategic goal of preventing terrorism and promoting the nation's security. The FBI also has improved its agents' access to automated investigative information.
During his February 24, 2004, congressional testimony, FBI Director Robert Mueller reported, "The Joint Terrorism Task Forces have played a central role in virtually every terrorism investigation, prevention, or interdiction within the United States over the past year."34 The FBI reports that since 2001 it has disrupted and dismantled multiple terrorist operations.
Before September 11, 2001, the FBI classified its terrorism investigations as either criminal (265 file code) or intelligence (199 file code). Sharing of intelligence between the criminal and intelligence components of the FBI was difficult even when the subject of the criminal and intelligence investigations was the same person.35 Since September 11, 2001, the FBI has changed its counterterrorism investigative strategy from emphasizing criminal prosecutions to developing intelligence. It consolidated the former 199 and 265 file codes and initiated a new intelligence investigation (315) file code. With the 315s, the FBI defines the primary purpose of its counterterrorism investigations as "developing intelligence regarding the subject or the threat." The work performed by the JTTFs focuses upon identifying terrorists, terrorists groups, and the efforts used by terrorists to support their operations such as financial, recruitment, communication, and other support networks.
JTTF task force members, participating agency executives, and FBI headquarters managers stated that developing human assets (i.e., informants and sources) is an integral part of developing intelligence. The JTTFs focus on developing human assets and the FBI tracks the number of human assets developed by field offices. Although the numbers fluctuate as assets are opened and closed, the FBI reported that from August 30, 2001, through September 30, 2003, its international terrorism human assets increased by more than 60 percent and the domestic terrorism human assets increased by more than 40 percent.36
Addressing All Leads and Threats
The Director of the FBI requires that no counterterrorism leads or threats go unaddressed.37 To meet this mandate, the JTTFs use task force members and agents assigned to other squads in the FBI's field offices to cover JTTF taskings. Some JTTFs (such as the New York City and Los Angeles JTTFs) assign specific squads to handle all incoming leads, perform preliminary checks of the information provided, and then assign the leads to the appropriate team. This helps to streamline the preliminary work performed by the JTTFs and minimizes the intervention needed from non-JTTF agents. The work performed by the members of the JTTF squad and other FBI agents temporarily assigned to support the squad is combined and reported by field offices in two categories: international terrorism and domestic terrorism.
The JTTFs use the FBI's Model Counterterrorism Investigative Strategy as a "blueprint" for conducting these intelligence driven and intelligence focused investigations. The JTTFs can use various techniques in international terrorism investigations to gather information on national security threats without opening a full or preliminary investigation.38
Investigative Data Warehouse (IDW)
Our interviews and survey results showed that the majority of non-FBI task force members with clearances did not have direct or complete access to the ACS system, even though such access was permitted by policy, which caused delays in their investigations. However, subsequent to our site visits the FBI developed an information technology system, known as IDW, to enhance investigative information available to JTTF agents. From the IDW demonstration we observed, it appears that the IDW has the capability to resolve the ACS system access problems we encountered in the FBI field offices.
The IDW is a "centralized, web-enabled repository for relevant intelligence and investigative data that allows users to query the information utilizing advanced software tools."39 The IDW is not a case management system but rather a "pointer system" that allows a user to enter different search terms and conducts a "Google" search of a variety of FBI and non-FBI databases, including: ACS Electronic Case File, ICE arrival and departure information on non-immigrants (I-94) data, Financial Crimes and Enforcement Network data from the Department of Treasury, No Fly List, FBI Terrorist Watch List, Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF), open source news (foreign and domestic), U.S. Department of State VISA fraud data, lost or stolen passport data, and other intelligence community information. Search results are displayed in a web format, and users can click directly on "links" to the highlighted documents as well as search within the results for a more focused analysis. Additionally, IDW can conduct "batch queries" where sets of data (such as names, phone numbers, or addresses) are run through all the databases in IDW.
As of April 2005, the IDW was populated with one billion records in a variety of databases, and the FBI estimates that within six months IDW will have access to one and a half billion records. There are approximately 7,000 IDW users in the FBI, including JTTF members. The FBI plans to have one-third of all the field offices trained on IDW by the end of 2005. IDW allows FBI and non-FBI JTTF members access to a variety of information that enables them to conduct terrorism investigations in a more efficient manner because IDW queries multiple databases simultaneously.
Although the task forces and councils have facilitated the Department's counterterrorism efforts, we believe there are areas in which their performance and effectiveness can be improved. We begin with issues that are Department level or commonly found across task forces and councils, followed by issues that are specific to an individual task force or council.
Although the National Security Coordination Council (NSCC) is an important and beneficial forum for Department leaders, the NSCC's role is unclear for long-term counterterrorism planning, centralizing and coordinating counterterrorism policy and operations, and monitoring policy implementation by the components.
In March 2002, the Attorney General established the NSCC and defined six functions for it to implement. We found that the NSCC does not fully perform two of these Attorney General mandated functions: 1) centralizing and coordinating policy, operations, and long-term planning of DOJ components, and 2) monitoring implementation of Department policy regarding counterterrorism issues. The NSCC also has not delegated these responsibilities to another Department entity. We also found that no guidelines have been developed defining responsibilities of NSCC member in carrying out the NSCC's functions. These functions may therefore be interpreted differently and some functions may not be carried out at all as the NSCC's leadership and members change.
We also found during interviews that the members have differing views on the functions of the NSCC which may affect its performance of some mandated functions. When asked about two of the NSCC functions related to the Department's counterterrorism policy monitoring and long-term planning, some NSCC members either could not explain how these occurred or did not see their role on the NSCC as carrying out these functions. As examples of the varied views on these functions, some of the members made the following comments when asked: "How does the NSCC monitor the implementation of the Department's counterterrorism policies? What form of policy direction has the NSCC given to shape the agency's counterterrorism operations?"
Additionally, some members provided the following responses when asked: "What long-term planning has been carried out for the task forces through the NSCC?"
Some NSCC members, however, were able to provide us with examples of past or present policy coordination. One example was that the NSCC provided guidance to the Attorney General for defining the roles of the ATACs in relation to the JTTFs. In addition Deputy Attorney General Comey stated that the NSCC is planning to play a role in the development of policy through the Justice Intelligence Coordination Council, which will determine how law enforcement agencies share intelligence information.40
On questions related to the remaining four functions, however, NSCC members were able to articulate clearly how the NSCC carried these out. These functions are:
Members described the positive role the NSCC played in carrying out these functions by:
Based on these interviews, we concluded that the NSCC has not emphasized its role in centralizing and coordinating terrorism policy and operations, conducting long-term counterterrorism planning, or monitoring the implementation of counterterrorism policy in the Department.
Although the NSCC members could not address all the NSCC's functions, we found that the NSCC does serve as an effective forum for sharing counterterrorism information among its members. Comments from the former and current Deputy Attorneys General emphasized the NSCC's coordination and information sharing functions:
Former Deputy Attorney General Thompson
NSCC was created as a formal coordination mechanism within the DOJ to reinforce that prevention and disruption of terrorism is the Department's first priority; and to ensure that information sharing and open discussions continue in a formal setting. The NSCC allows the component heads to get together and talk from a policy and procedural standpoint.
Deputy Attorney General Comey
[The NSCC's purpose is] To bring together everyone in the Department that is touching on national intelligence and justice issues. To have people in the same room on a regular basis who don't usually meet...
In addition, all NSCC members informed us that the meetings are beneficial. They said that the NSCC discusses terrorism matters and threats, and reviews the Department's annual budget for counterterrorism resource allocations. The NSCC also receives project status updates on various agency initiatives and national security issues such as a DEA briefing on terrorist operations in South America, a CIA briefing on foreign terrorist threats, or a BOP briefing on terrorism in the prisons. Additionally, the NSCC has a broader mission beyond our focus of the task forces: coordinating all Department functions relating to national security issues. Toward that end, sub-groups of the NSCC have undertaken coordination of several national security initiatives as described previously in the Background section of this report.
The NSCC has not fully performed the policy, operations, planning, and monitoring functions mandated by the Attorney General. We believe that if the NSCC performed all its functions, it could address larger or overarching issues unresolved at the task force level (which we have discussed in this report) as part of the Department's counterterrorism efforts. These issues include: information sharing with law enforcement agencies and first responders in remote and rural areas; additional funding for the ATACs; FTTTF's acquisition of databases from agencies outside the Department; DEA's participation on the JTTFs; DHS's participation on the JTTFs; and coordinating activities and information sharing between the ATACs, JTTFs, DHS, and the states' homeland security task forces.
Further, the NSCC has not developed guidelines to fully define for its members their responsibilities in implementing the functions of the NSCC. Therefore, as the NSCC's leadership and members change, the functions may be interpreted differently or not fully performed.
1. The Department should assess the counterterrorism functions outlined in the Attorney General's memorandum establishing the NSCC and determine if they are still appropriate for the NSCC. If they are, the Department should ensure that written guidance describes the responsibilities of the NSCC and that the NSCC carries out its assigned functions. If the functions are not appropriate for the NSCC, they should be assigned to another Department entity.
The FBI has not developed a national training plan for the task forces, defined minimum training standards, or conducted a training needs assessment to determine the training needs of task force members. Similarly, neither EOUSA nor CTS has developed a training plan or conducted a training needs assessment for the ATAC Coordinators or members. Notification of available training is ad hoc, and non-FBI task force members believe that FBI members get preference for training notification and attendance.
The majority of task force and council members we interviewed or surveyed had no prior experience with either domestic or international terrorism before joining the task force or advisory council. Identifying terrorists and terrorist threats, conducting a terrorism investigation, developing sources, or planning for terrorist incidents were all new subjects for a majority of those members. More than half (51 percent) of the survey respondents reported that they required training in counterterrorism. The prolific growth of the JTTFs and ATACs, combined with task force and council members' widespread lack of experience and exposure to all facets of terrorism, has increased the need for additional training with a well-defined training plan and minimum training standards.
Although training courses are available to task force and council members, neither FBI, CTS, nor EOUSA officials have developed national training plans for task force and council members.41 Without a national training plan, counterterrorism training for task force and council members is determined locally, varies widely, and results in training inequities. For example, some FBI field offices required their task force members to complete two FBI interactive multimedia instruction CD-ROMs entitled "Basic International Terrorism" and "Basic Domestic Terrorism." Other field offices stated that they send their JTTF members to a basic counterterrorism course at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Others developed their own training and brought in speakers on topics such as identifying terrorist groups and their characteristics, cultural sensitivity, terrorism financing, and terrorism investigative strategies. Yet, other field offices told us they sometimes hold their agents back from training due to the high workload of the task force and lack of resources.
Some ATACs meet on a regular basis (either monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly) and try to present speakers who address terrorism-related topics at each meeting, while others may not conduct meetings or training for almost a year. Some ATAC survey respondents told us they had never received training from the ATAC or needed more detailed training, and stated for example:
In the last three years, oversight for counterterrorism training in the FBI has changed three times, with no one assigned responsibility to develop a national training plan for the task forces. Immediately after September 11, 2001, the Counterintelligence Division at FBI headquarters had responsibility for counterterrorism training. In December 2002, the Training Division located at the FBI Training Academy in Quantico was given the responsibility of providing counterterrorism training to FBI employees as well as to state and local law enforcement personnel. One staff member from the Counterterrorism Division was loaned to the Training Division to assist with this large undertaking. While the FBI Counterterrorism Division worked with the FBI Academy Training Division to provide guidance and assistance on the type of training to be offered, Academy officials stated that due to their limited staff and resources (housing, space, and budget), they were not able to absorb a comprehensive counterterrorism curriculum for task force members nationwide into their existing program at the Academy.
In October 2003, following a major restructuring of the Training Division, responsibility for counterterrorism training was given to the Counterterrorism Division at FBI headquarters. The Counterterrorism Division is now responsible for developing, coordinating, and implementing all counterterrorism training for FBI personnel, both in field offices and FBI headquarters, and for JTTF members. Two SSAs initially were assigned to develop a new Counterterrorism Training Unit, and in May 2004 written approval was given to officially establish the unit. The Counterterrorism Training Unit was staffed with two SSAs, two Intelligence Analysts, and a Secretary. As of November 2004, the two SSAs had transferred to other divisions and been replaced by two new SSAs.
Developments in FBI Counterterrorism Training: In January 2004, the FBI implemented a new training curriculum designed specifically for JTTF members entitled, "Counterterrorism: A Strategic and Tactical Approach." The FBI contracted with Booz Allen Hamilton to design this 4½ day course with input from subject matter experts from the FBI's Counterterrorism and Training Divisions. The course covers approximately 20 topics, including "The Threat Based Approach to Counterterrorism," "Developing Sources," "Undercover Operations," and "Working with Your Community." The majority of those who had attended this course rated it very favorably on the course evaluation sheets, stating that it was valuable and informative; but they also commented that the course is needed by task force members shortly after they begin on the task force or within 90 days of their arrival to effectively perform their duties as soon as possible.
The "Counterterrorism: A Strategic and Tactical Approach" course covers topics previously identified as needed by task force members. However, this course is not mandatory for task force members and selection for participation is left up to the task force supervisor's discretion. The course has been provided to 258 JTTF members and analysts from January through October 2004 with the goal of continuing to offer it until the majority of JTTF members have attended. While this is a positive development, because the course is offered monthly to only a small percentage of JTTF members from a few field offices, at the current rate it will take 14 years to train all 5,085 JTTF members.
In addition to the "Counterterrorism: A Strategic and Tactical Approach" course, the FBI also has a Counterterrorism Training section on the FBI's intranet. Task force members can access counterterrorism virtual training, CD-ROMs, the FBI and CIA's course catalogues, and other online information resources on terrorism. The FBI also reported that it has other new terrorism related training initiatives under way for new and existing employees:
Although many task force members had received some counterterrorism training, we found that a significant percentage had no basic introductory training on terrorism for months, and sometimes years, since becoming members of the task force Task force members are normally experienced criminal investigators, but as stated previously, most have no experience in the counterterrorism field. Our survey results showed that 29 percent of all task force members (JTTF, NJTTF, and FTTTF) have not received any terrorism-related training since becoming members. Some respondents complained about this lack of training, stating for example:
The FBI had stated that by the end of 2003, basic counterterrorism training would be provided to every JTTF member, and it has made progress in its training efforts.43 However, we found that in January 2004, 16 percent of the JTTF survey respondents, 37 percent of the NJTTF survey respondents, and 38 percent of the FTTTF survey respondents still had not completed any terrorism training since becoming members. Of the 16 percent of JTTF members who reported no training, half had been members of the JTTF for more than a year (the time on the task force without training was a median of 390 days for JTTF survey respondents). Two task force members had been on the JTTF for over 800 days without any counterterrorism training.
Thirty-seven percent of the NJTTF survey respondents reported that they had received no training (the time on the task force without training was a median of 375 days for NJTTF survey respondents), although some NJTTF survey respondents had been on the task force as long as 600 days without training. Thirty-eight percent of the FTTTF survey respondents had received no training (the time on the task force without training was a median of 240 days for FTTTF survey respondents), some for as long as 540 to 810 days. The following figure shows the length of time task force survey respondents spent on a task force without training.
Figure 5: Length of Time on Task Force Without
We visited an FBI field office that had one of only three onsite training offices nationwide. Yet even this office had no minimum training standards or organized training plan for task force members.
EOUSA and CTS
One of the main functions of the ATACs is to provide counterterrorism training to members. However, in our survey of ATAC members, 47 percent reported that there was training they needed or should have received but did not. Yet, EOUSA and CTS have not developed a national training plan, minimum training standards, or a training needs assessment for ATAC Coordinators and members.
While CTS and EOUSA's Office of Legal Education have provided training sessions for the ATAC Coordinators, the focus has primarily been on the legal and investigative aspects of terrorism-related cases to ensure a consistent and unified prosecutorial approach to these cases. However, the ATACs need training and guidance on the administrative aspects of managing the ATAC. The ATAC Coordinators we interviewed stated that they want guidance on the type of training that should be offered to ATAC members and on how to identify trainers. The ATAC Coordinators also said that the provision of training, particularly training on terrorism prevention and planning, to law enforcement personnel and community members is a new responsibility for which they have little or no experience. Therefore, the ATAC Coordinators need guidance and assistance from CTS and EOUSA.
The FBI Training Academy staff at Quantico told us that a JTTF training needs assessment was conducted in the spring of 2002. However, despite our repeated inquiries, they did not provide information on whether the results from this assessment were analyzed or applied to develop any courses for JTTF members.44 No training needs assessment has been conducted since that time even though the number of JTTFs has increased from 56 to 103, and the number of JTTF members also has increased.
In lieu of a training needs assessment, we surveyed task force and council members to inquire how their training needs were determined at the task force and council level. Sixty percent of all task force and advisory council survey respondents indicated that their terrorism training needs were "undetermined," "self-determined," "determined without their input," or they were "uncertain" of how their terrorism training needs were determined.
Table 8: Task Force and Council Members' Perceptions of
Without a training needs assessment that is current and reflects the members' needs, task force and council managers or training staff cannot gauge an individual's or region's training needs. While a majority of task force and council members had no terrorism experience prior to joining the task force, some do have terrorism experience and their training needs would therefore be different. Additionally, the nature of the terrorist threat varies by region and some regions such as the northwestern states may require more emphasis on domestic terrorism topics, such as eco-terrorism or white supremacist groups, than the northeastern states.
More than half of the survey respondents stated that there is training they need or should receive, as evidenced by the following figure.
Many of the non-FBI task force members we interviewed and surveyed stated that they received no notification of training, and they were unaware of what training was available. The following were among the comments we received from survey respondents indicating a lack of notification of training:
The FBI informed us that to facilitate counterterrorism training it has included training information, training sources, and training courses on the Counterterrorism Division website on the FBI intranet. The FBI stated that each task force member has access to this website and is encouraged to take advantage of these training packages.
Some non-FBI task force members believe that FBI agents are offered more opportunities for counterterrorism training or believe that training is available only to FBI members. Several non-FBI task force members also informed us that they requested various training courses several times but had not been approved to go by the FBI.
An assessment of terrorism training equities between non-FBI and FBI task force members was beyond the scope of this review. However, our survey results show that only 11 percent of FBI agents reported that they had not completed any counterterrorism training since joining a task force, but 26 percent of federal non-FBI agents and 21 percent of state and local agents reported that they had not completed any training. Additionally, a significantly higher percentage of federal (non-FBI) and state and local survey respondents, 55 and 53 percent, respectively, did not review the FBI's international terrorism CD-Rom. Only 29 percent of FBI survey respondents did not review the international terrorism CD-Rom.
Survey respondents also commented on perceived inequities in training:
We also found in our review of attendance rosters from two specific training courses that targeted JTTF and NJTTF members that differences in training participation existed in a few offices.45 While the majority of the field offices sent a mix of FBI and non-FBI JTTF members to one of the courses, three field offices sent only FBI members to fill the six slots each was allotted.
The lack of training notification and the perceived training inequities can undermine the concept of full partnership on the task forces and councils and impact work productivity. Without a national training plan that includes minimum training standards and a needs assessment to identify and address training deficiencies, actual and perceived training inequities and deficiencies will continue.
2. The FBI should develop a national training plan for each task force that includes:
3. EOUSA's Office of Legal Education, along with CTS, should develop a national training plan for ATACs that includes:
4. The ATAC Coordinators should conduct training needs assessments and develop a training plan for ATAC members.
The FBI has not developed a structured, systemwide orientation program for new JTTF and NJTTF members. Additionally, the FBI has not provided written guidance that defines the roles and responsibilities of its task force members.
We found that a significant number of both FBI and non-FBI members of the JTTFs and the NJTTF did not receive an orientation to the task force on which they served and when an orientation was provided the type varied and content was inconsistent. Given the rapid pace with which the NJTTF, FTTTF, and many of the JTTFs started up after September 11, 2001, the lack of a formal orientation was understandable. However, three years later, a more formal, standardized, and functional orientation for all new task force members to enable them to perform as efficiently as possible, as quickly as possible, still does not exist for JTTFs or the NJTTF. The FTTTF informed us that it began a formal orientation for all new members in September 2004; however the OIG completed its fieldwork for this report before having the opportunity to review the impact of the orientation.
With 5,085 members, the JTTF program has the largest number of task force members. Approximately 55 percent of these task force members are from outside the FBI. They come from state, local, and other federal law enforcement agencies and therefore may be unfamiliar with FBI and JTTF policies and procedures. Orientation to JTTF and FBI procedures is needed to assist non-FBI law enforcement officers in shifting their focus from conducting criminal investigations to working intelligence cases. Because these career officers were trained previously to conduct criminal investigations culminating in an arrest as quickly as possible, they need orientation on working terrorism cases with the emphasis and end-goal of intelligence gathering, surveillance, and source development. Yet, we found through our survey that 38 percent of JTTF members received no orientation at all and the following table outlines our survey results.
Table 9: Orientation Completion by Task Force
The following table shows that overall, 59 percent of the FBI, 60 percent of federal non-FBI, and 54 percent of state and local task force members that responded to our survey received an orientation when they joined their respective task forces. However, many described the orientation as "elementary," consisting of one or more of the following activities: a brief or informal overview, a document review, an introduction to the staff and workspace, learning from other task force members, or on-the-job training.
Table 10: Orientation Completion by Law Enforcement Agency
Similarly, there was no formalized orientation for NJTTF members. Orientation to the NJTTF consisted of an introduction to the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, a one-day session in which a representative from each unit within the Counterterrorism Division gave an overview of their office functions. At the time of our field work, interviews, and survey, the content and provider of FTTTF orientation briefings varied for each member.
We found that in the absence of any FBI headquarters-developed orientation program and no policy or directive requiring any orientation, orientation occurs sporadically and inconsistently for the FTTTF, JTTFs, and NJTTF. The majority of task force managers we interviewed believed that FBI headquarters should develop a standard orientation so that it is available consistently across all task forces.
While FBI task force members stated that the lack of an orientation program did not affect their task force performance, the many non-FBI members believed otherwise. The following comments received from non-FBI JTTF members during interviews suggest that the lack of orientation had an impact on their ability to perform their duties efficiently:
From a 25-year veteran police officer:
Everyone on the task force is a seasoned investigator. You have a preliminary foundation and bring tools with you when you arrive. . You refer back to your own experience and then you ask [questions]. Federal procedures are very different - there are very specific guidelines in the federal system. I was a fish out of water. I wanted to know. what is your process? ...if there had been an orientation, the learning curve would have been much shorter. Even today, 10 months later, there's still a lot I don't know.
From an 18-year veteran police officer:
If you have a question, you go to your supervisor. If he's absent, you're sunk. We have a lot of resources but haven't got a clue how to use them. We need someone to let us know what all the resources are: we need an index or contact person from any organization, INS, CIA, Workman's Comp... There should be training on 302s [interviews]; inserts [an insert is used to document non-testimonial information for an investigative file]; papers for statistical reports; use of the ACS program; Rapidstart; the difference between a criminal vs. intelligence investigation; a mini-academy - even 5 days just to learn the paperwork. They should have terrorism training in the beginning also. When you're working intelligence cases - there's so much involved. There should be a packet for each instance, [referring to National Security Letters and FISAs] with the FBI guidelines.
From a veteran Department non-FBI agent:
A lot of training we had was on-the-job. It was frustrating in the beginning - the language was different. Orientation would be helpful - it was as if we were thrown into the aquarium. Is there a right way to do 302's? We all shared the same frustration. We pushed for a class - the SSA saw we were committing so many errors on the paperwork ... But as long as there were some seasoned FBI agents along with the new, [the FBI thought] it was ok. The SSA created a template of: 1) an FD 302; 2) an Electronic Communication (EC). But if you don't know what to put in the EC, it doesn't matter what's on the template. The language the FBI uses doesn't translate to our agency; and, 3) an Insert - [an insert is used to document non-testimonial information for an investigative file]. It was very haphazard - you were thrown into a squad, administratively it was a nightmare - everyone had questions, no one knew the right answer. the way files were set up and the numbering system. If they had provided an informal class, flyers, or samples. an overview would have been terrific.
The following are additional comments from task force survey respondents when asked about the impact of having no orientation to the task force:
The FBI still does not have written Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with all of the agencies participating on the FTTTF, JTTFs, and NJTTF. The NJTTF Unit Chief told us that post-September 11, 2001, "members were assigned to the [JTTF and NJTTF] to immediately address the crisis and the MOUs were supposed to follow." The absence of MOUs was a problem that existed on the JTTFs before September 11, 2001. We found that the FBI did not have MOUs with all of the agencies assigned to the pre-September 11, 2001, JTTFs, and those that existed have not been updated to reflect the post- September 11, 2001, JTTF mission. Since November 2003, the FTTTF has had draft MOUs pending with the DHS (only related to DHS databases) and intelligence community participants.47 As of November 2004, FTTTF has MOUs signed with CIFA, the Office of Personnel Management, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The impact of the lack of written guidance concerning the task force members' roles and responsibilities differed. The non-FBI JTTF members and most NJTTF members we interviewed said they understood their task force roles and responsibilities in the absence of the MOUs. However, most of the non-FBI FTTTF members that we interviewed and surveyed were unclear of their roles and responsibilities and believed that an MOU for information sharing between the FBI and member agencies was needed. An FTTTF survey respondent stated that one of the FTTTF's greatest challenges was "defining roles and responsibilities." Another survey respondent stated:
Supervisors need to understand their roles as well but they can't do this until organizations higher than them understand their roles. Once roles are established, respected, and performed, supervisors will be able to give guidance and support to the rest of us. I have encountered several members who are lacking an overall picture of the game plan and the players that are involved. A complex diagram has been provided but I think some details seem to still be trying to work themselves out.
The lack of role definition did not rest solely with the FBI's FTTTF, JTTF, and NJTTF leaders; we also found that task force members received limited guidance from their parent agency concerning their task force membership. Many of the task force members described the impact of this lack of guidance as being "lost by the parent agency."
The lack of a formal orientation program for the JTTF and NJTTF members affected the efficiency and productivity of the task forces. Since a majority of task force members are not from the FBI and have not worked in counterterrorism previously, they struggle to understand their role and mission and how to operate in their new environment. State, local, and other federal law enforcement members would benefit from a timely, relevant, and comprehensive orientation to the FBI's policies and procedures and task force mission, as well as defined roles and responsibilities of each task force member.
5. The FBI should develop a formal, standardized orientation program for all new task force members and provide it within 30 days of the new member's start date. Orientation should include:
6. The FBI should finalize MOUs with all agencies participating on the Department's terrorism task forces.
The JTTFs and ATACs have not fully coordinated their efforts to reach out to and share information with law enforcement agencies, first responders, and other relevant organizations in remote areas.
Although the FBI and a few ATACs have ongoing efforts to interact and share information with law enforcement agencies and first responders in remote areas within their jurisdictions, some ATACs and JTTFs have not coordinated their activities to target remote agencies that do not have representatives on the task forces and councils.48 The state and local law enforcement agencies that we interviewed with representatives on a JTTF or ATAC were satisfied with the amount and type of terrorism information shared. In contrast, those law enforcement agencies that were outside of the metropolitan areas where the JTTF or ATAC is located, and did not have task force or council members, were not as satisfied.
Because terrorism and information about terrorism threats may be located throughout the country, remote areas should not be overlooked. Most remote law enforcement agencies do not have the financial resources to commit a full-time representative to the JTTF, but still need information on terrorism matters from the federal government and terrorism-related training. These remote law enforcement officials, as well as first responders and representatives of high-priority targets, are sometimes members of the ATAC and receive terrorism and threat-related information from the ATAC. However, communication with the remote agencies does not occur in every jurisdiction. The JTTFs and ATACs do not have coordinated strategies to address the gaps in information sharing, intelligence sharing, and training.
Geography and Infrastructure Constraints Complicate Outreach Efforts of the ATACs and JTTFs and Limit Participation
Because some ATACs and JTTFs are responsible for providing coverage for the entire state or across multiple states, their outreach to remote areas is difficult. The ATACs and JTTFs operate within the traditional jurisdictional lines of the USAOs and the FBI's field offices, and the areas covered are expansive.49 For example, because of the way judicial districts are drawn, 26 of the 93 ATACs are responsible for the terrorism training, information sharing, and prosecutorial coordination for their entire state.
Some JTTFs also have problems due to the size of the area for which they are responsible. At the time of our fieldwork, six JTTFs were responsible for providing terrorism investigative coverage for more than one state. The FBI SAC we interviewed in Salt Lake City stated that communication with the state and local partners in Montana, Idaho, and the remote areas in Utah was both a geographical and technological challenge.
Table 11: JTTFs Responsible for More Than One State
In addition, some jurisdictional lines create anomalies. Two examples of jurisdictional lines not matching the region's geographic realities are described below.
Figure 7: Combined JTTF and ATAC locations
Some JTTFs and ATACs Have Not Reached Out to Law Enforcement Officials, First Responders, and Other Relevant Organizations in Remote Areas
Some JTTFs and ATACs we visited have not made effective use of the U.S. Attorneys' branch offices, FBI's RAOs, and communication systems to conduct outreach to those in remote areas who need terrorism information and training.51
We found that not all ATACs have included representatives from remote regions of their districts. Some state, local, or other federal law enforcement agencies or first responders in these regions were not members of and had no knowledge of the ATAC. They did not receive training, e-mails, faxes, or other forms of communication on terrorism issues from the USAO or ATAC. Similarly, we found that law enforcement agencies in the remote areas received limited or no terrorism information from the JTTFs or FBI. These remotely located agencies believed they had a need for counterterrorism training and information and stated that they could in return provide resources, information, or intelligence to the ATACs and the JTTFs.
Through our site visits and review of the ATAC activity reports from 91 USAOs, we found that the majority of the USAOs do not use their branch offices to provide terrorism coverage (i.e., counterterrorism training or information sharing) to remote areas.52 USAOs have a headquarters office and may have one or more branch offices in other cities in the judicial district. ATAC operations are run from the USAO headquarters offices and only sometimes are ATAC operations extended out to branch offices. During a site visit, we found that although a branch office of the Idaho USAO was located in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, the ATAC operations were in the district's headquarters office in Boise, Idaho, 400 miles away. The AUSA assigned to the Coeur d'Alene USAO branch office had no participation or involvement on the Idaho ATAC.
In interviews during our site visits to remote areas in Oklahoma and Puerto Rico, we found that the state and local law enforcement officials who were not members of the JTTF interacted and communicated with the FBI through its RAOs, but received limited or no terrorism-related information. Further, these remote areas received limited or no terrorism-related information from the ATACs.
Oklahoma: The mayors, fire chiefs, local National Guard officials, military officials, security forces for the local universities, and airport managers in Enid and Woodward, Oklahoma, whom we interviewed never received terrorism-related information for their region from either the ATAC or the FBI. Further, the sheriffs in the counties that included these cities did not have any contact with the ATAC and did not receive terrorism information related to their region. Both sheriffs received only terrorism-related information from the FBI that addressed nationwide threats (e.g., the Golden Gate Bridge). Both sheriffs stated that they wanted more specific information regarding potential threats, especially domestic terrorism, in remote areas of Oklahoma.
Puerto Rico: Aguadilla, Puerto Rico (approximately two hours west of San Juan), has 15 miles of unprotected shoreline that people use to enter Puerto Rico illegally. The Aguadilla law enforcement personnel we interviewed stated that for individuals entering Puerto Rico illegally, it would be easy to fly into the United States without a passport. Yet Aguadilla's police officers do not have information and have not received training on what to look for or how to identify suspicious individuals in relation to terrorism. Although the FBI RAO in Aguadilla works with the city and the police department on drug enforcement, Aguadilla's Mayor and Chief of Police told us that they never receive terrorism information from the FBI, but they need this information. They also stated that they received no information from the ATAC. When we visited San Juan in September 2003, the ATAC had no members outside of the San Juan metropolitan area and had not considered adding members from across the island. Subsequent to our visit, the ATAC Coordinator invited the Mayor of Aguadilla to the ATAC meetings and added him to an e-mail distribution list.
The FBI and Some ATACs Attempt to Reach Remote Areas
To address the remote areas, the FBI implemented different strategies, such as creating the (now defunct) Regional Terrorism Task Forces (RTTFs), expanding the number of JTTF annexes, developing local strategies to readily deploy law enforcement in response to a terrorism event, and consolidating task forces to expand its resources.
RTTFs: Before the rapid expansion in the number of JTTFs, the FBI used its RTTFs to conduct investigations, share intelligence, provide training, and promote cooperation among law enforcement agencies that did not have a JTTF.53 The FBI reported in 2002 that RTTFs existed in six regions: inland northwest, south central, southeastern, south, northeast border, and the southwest. In June 2003, the NJTTF Unit Chief told us that the RTTFs had been absorbed into the then 66 JTTFs and that the RTTFs would informally act as liaisons to the ATACs and "pick up the slack" in rural areas where a JTTF did not exist. None of the SACs or ASACs we interviewed believed that the disbanding of the RTTFs adversely affected JTTF operations. For example, the Salt Lake City FBI SAC stated that "the Inland Northwest RTTF was the springboard for the Inland Northwest JTTF" and that disbanding the RTTF helped to "better define responsibilities for addressing terrorism." An Inland Northwest JTTF member told us that the intelligence officers that formerly attended the RTTF monthly meetings were now attending the Tier 1 JTTF meetings.54
JTTF Annexes: During FY 2002, the FBI approved 10 annexes in its RAOs to augment the 56 JTTFs in its field offices. The purpose of the annexes is to expand JTTFs to areas where the need for additional terrorism coverage has been justified by the FBI field office based on the threat assessment, domestic and international terrorism caseloads, staff utilization rates, and a statement of unaddressed or under addressed work. In addition, the field office must identify the geographic area that will be covered by the expansion, obtain full-time commitments to the expansion from participating agencies, develop a management plan and budget, and receive a statement of concurrence from the ATAC Coordinator in the affected region. All requests for JTTF annexes must be submitted through the NJTTF to the FBI Counterterrorism Division for approval.
By the end of FY 2003 the FBI had activated 18 additional JTTF annexes in its RAOs, and by March 2005 it approved 19 additional annexes in the following locations:
During a January 2004 interview, John Pistole, the then FBI's Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence, told us that one of the FBI's greatest challenges is "reaching the rural areas covered by the field divisions." He stated that the FBI hopes to have one JTTF deployed in each USAO judicial district by the end of FY 2004 to help provide additional coverage. As of March 2005, the FBI had either activated or approved the activation of 103 JTTFs. Sixty-eight of the 103 JTTFs are located jointly with an ATAC (or in the same city as the headquarters office of the USAO).
Some FBI RAOs without JTTFs have taken measures to improve readiness in the event of terrorist incidents or investigations. When we visited Portland, Maine, in August 2003, we found that the FBI's RAO established a program whereby approximately 30 state and local law enforcement personnel from across the state were deputized as federal marshals and were receiving terrorism training through the FBI. In the event of a terrorism incident or event, these deputized law enforcement personnel could become an ad hoc JTTF. The Portland RAO also was working to increase the number of participants in this program to 40 to ensure representation from the U.S./Canadian border area. The Boston FBI SAC told us that the RAOs in Rhode Island and New Hampshire were following the Portland, Maine, model. In July 2004, Portland, Maine, was approved as a JTTF annex.
Combined Resources: The FBI shares resources between its RAOs to provide coverage across state lines. For example, the FBI's RAOs in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington, co-joined their JTTF operations. The Inland Northwest JTTF addresses terrorism threats for the entire state of Idaho and two-thirds of Washington State. The NJTTF Coordinator told us that as of August 2004, the Inland Northwest JTTF is the only JTTF made up of members from two RAOs and two FBI field offices.
Technology and communication systems: The FBI provides an Intelligence Bulletin every week that reaches over 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide through the NLETs system. These bulletins are stored for retrieval on the LEO-online system (see Progress Made and Appendix III for discussion of these systems). The FBI states that it is working with the DHS to establish regional networks across the country that will allow SACs to contact law enforcement officials simultaneously using cell phones, pagers, and e-mail. However, we did not examine how the regional networks would address information gaps in remote areas.
Some ATAC Coordinators we interviewed told us that they are exploring methods, such as rotating training and meetings to different locations and increasing the use of technology, to accommodate the needs of remote areas of the district.
Branch offices: In a review of ATAC activity reports provided to us by the USAOs, we found nine of the USAOs include their branch offices or remote ATAC members in advisory council activities (meetings, trainings, information sharing systems). Maine, Nebraska, Montana, and Wyoming USAOs use either video or teleconferencing for ATAC meetings to include ATAC members in remote areas. The Massachusetts ATAC meeting includes representatives from each of its five USAO branch offices, who then share the information provided at regional group meetings with law enforcement officials. The Minnesota ATAC holds meetings in its three USAO branch offices. The Nevada ATAC Coordinator personally travels the state to meet with local law enforcement officials who cannot attend the ATAC meetings. The New Mexico USAO has AUSAs in each branch office assigned to the ATAC. The South Carolina ATAC identified all localities within its jurisdiction without an ATAC representative, visited these potential members, and ensured there were ATAC representatives from each area of the state.
Technology and communication systems: We found that 81 out of 92 (88 percent) of the USAOs spent some or all of their initial ATAC allocation of $100,000 on communication and computer equipment to improve the communication with state and local law enforcement. Only eleven of the ATACs chose to spend their allocation solely on training or other expenses, rather than on communication or computer equipment. Because of the way the ATACs reported their expenses in the quarterly budget reports submitted to EOUSA, we could only determine that approximately 20 of the ATACs spent funds on communication items directly for state and local law enforcement.55 For example, the Northern District of West Virginia (USAO) purchased computers for each of the chiefs of police or sheriffs in its judicial district. These law enforcement executives were then able to access the Internet and receive e-mail alerts and threat information from the ATAC. Overall, the ATACs spent approximately 52 percent of the total $9.3 million allocated for their operations to provide communication and computer equipment.
Despite the FBI's efforts to expand the number of JTTF annexes and co-join JTTFs across state lines, some JTTFs remain responsible for addressing the terrorism matters for their entire state, as well as additional states. While some ATACs have included outreach to remote areas as part of their normal activities or strategic plan, the majority of ATACs have not included all remote and rural law enforcement, first responders, and other relevant organizations in ATAC meetings, trainings, and information sharing networks. The gaps in information sharing, intelligence sharing, and training may affect responsiveness to terrorism threats.
7. The FBI, CTS, EOUSA, and USAOs should work jointly to develop a coordinated strategy to consistently reach out to remote areas.
The FBI has not fully developed outcome-oriented performance measures that effectively determine the progress of the JTTFs, the NJTTF, and the FTTTF, or their individual members. CTS and EOUSA have not developed outcome-oriented performance measures for the ATAC program.
Overall Task Force and Council Performance Measures
Traditionally, the FBI, like any law enforcement agency, measures performance with "hard" numbers, such as cases, arrests, and prosecutions. For counterterrorism efforts, the FBI officials and JTTF members we interviewed told us that these metrics are considered less useful and sometimes not valid because a case may never result in an arrest or a prosecution but instead may produce important intelligence or information that prevents a terrorist act. The quality of information generated by a source also may be more important in assessing task forces' success rather than the number of sources. Additionally, a terrorism investigation may continue for a much longer period than a traditional criminal investigation and will not demonstrate immediate measurable results. ATAC Coordinators and members told us that the ATACs are for the most part responsible for activities such as training, information sharing, and communication that may be better measured through feedback from their participants. The managers and members of the NJTTF and FTTTF told us that their task forces are primarily support organizations that may be better measured by the customers served and their assessments of timeliness and quality of the customer support provided.
In our survey, we asked how the task forces' or advisory councils' performance should be measured and many respondents told us that assessing quality is more important than quantity. Examples of some JTTF and NJTTF responses include:
FTTTF survey respondents answered:
Steve McCraw, former FTTTF Director and Chief of the FBI Inspections Review Division, told us that the FBI recognizes the importance of establishing performance measures for the FTTTF. However, he stated that quantifying the FTTTF's accomplishments is one of the biggest challenges the FTTTF faces. He further stated, "The FBI expects performance goals. For $61 million [FY 2004 FTTTF budget], we need to know we're getting a bang for the buck." A veteran FTTTF member told us:
A Quality Assurance unit was set up [in 2003] but it didn't work well because there was never a procedure set up to tell the value of our information. We provide information but we don't know if it's been used or if it was useful. The government spent a lot of money and they need to get their money's worth - currently they are not. Operational accomplishments are difficult to enumerate.
The ATAC respondents identified the importance of cooperation and coordination in prevention of terrorism and often mentioned how important it is for the participants to believe that they benefit from ATAC activities. Many ATAC members suggested that it also is important to tailor performance measures to the needs and circumstances of the district the ATAC is serving. ATAC survey respondents' suggestions on how to measure the ATACs performance were:
Performance measures for the ATAC program have not been developed by CTS, EOUSA, or the USAOs. Some reporting requirements for USAOs and ATACs exist, but the criteria for evaluating the reported information has not been established.
The FBI told us that it has developed performance measures for the Counterterrorism Division and the individual FBI field offices. To examine this issue, we reviewed the FBI Strategic Plan, Counterterrorism Division reports that contained data on counterterrorism investigations and operations, and various Annual Field Office Reports.
In the FBI's Strategic Plan, which the FBI says is a "high-level road map for the FBI to achieve its mission," the Counterterrorism Division has created strategic objectives and accompanying performance goals. However, the goals for counterterrorism operations in the FBI do not include measurable criteria on which to base performance or accomplishments of the task forces.
Additionally, the Counterterrorism Division prepares reports for FBI officials that contain data on counterterrorism operations and investigations (such as the number of investigations in each field office, number of assets and sources, and disruptions). While this data is important to collect, the FBI told us that the numbers alone do not present an accurate picture of the activities of the task forces. Additionally, because the data is presented without any measurable criteria, it is not as useful for determining performance progress.
Each FBI field office is required to submit an Annual Field Office Report to FBI headquarters that contains data on established performance measures for each field office in all investigative programs, including counterterrorism. The performance measures are a mix of quantitative and qualitative criteria for judging the status of field office resources and activities. The questions and criteria that a field office must address vary in relevance for meeting the FBI's overall counterterrorism objectives and goals. Some questions and criteria are narrowly focused, such as whether agents have attended a specific type of training. Other questions and criteria are broader in nature and look to address substantive topics of counterterrorism such as building an intelligence base through informants and improving information sharing with FBI and non-FBI entities. However, collectively, many of the measures in the Annual Field Office Report appear oriented toward outputs for various aspects of field office activities rather than oriented toward outcomes for the counterterrorism program as a whole.56
Other than the overall Counterterrorism Division goals and objectives, the NJTTF and the FTTTF do not have measures on which to assess performance.
Individual Task Force Members and ATAC Coordinators Performance Measures
We found no established or implemented performance measures for individual task force members, and only one ATAC Coordinator we interviewed was directly given a set of performance measures. EOUSA has developed a set of suggested "performance standards" for ATAC Coordinators. EOUSA told us they developed these standards in 2003 and posted them on the Personnel Page on the USANet (the webpage for USAOs). The Administrative Officers and Human Resource Officers in each USAO are supposed to check the Personnel Page regularly and pass on useful news to the USAO leadership. EOUSA told us that the performance standards were also mentioned to the ATAC Coordinators at the annual conference in 2004, although hard copies were not distributed. However, most ATAC Coordinators interviewed and surveyed stated they have no performance measures.
Without performance measures, these task force members and ATAC Coordinators do not have standards for prioritizing and directing their work and measuring their own progress in meeting the mission of the task force or council. Additionally, their supervisors do not have an effective means to adequately evaluate individual performance or make informed personnel management decisions.
Some of the non-FBI task force members we interviewed had not received a performance evaluation since joining the task force and were uncertain as to how the FBI or their parent agency measured their task force involvement. Our survey results revealed that:
Task Forces and Councils' Strategies to Address the Lack of Performance Measurement
Although the Department recognizes the need for new terrorism-related performance measures, until performance measures are completed, the FBI, CTS, and EOUSA rely on existing evaluation systems for assessing the task forces and councils' performance as outlined below:
JTTF: The NJTTF is responsible for conducting onsite reviews of all the JTTFs. In March 2004, the NJTTF completed a review of the Kansas City JTTF and from this experience compiled a list of "JTTF best practices." The NJTTF also is developing a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the JTTFs and intends to distribute the SOP and the JTTF "best practices" to the field. Additionally, the FBI Inspections Division will include an evaluation of the JTTF in its standard review of an FBI field office. Additionally, each field office is required to submit an Annual Field Office Report that has some measurable criteria for counterterrorism operations.
NJTTF: Every quarter, NJTTF members submit a report to the NJTTF Unit Chief that lists their activities and accomplishments. An NJTTF manager compiles these submissions and prepares a report that the Unit Chief uses to review the NJTTF's performance. There are no standard criteria for these summary reports; they are just a summation of activities. The FBI Inspections Division conducts cyclic evaluations of FBI offices and programs, including the NJTTF.
FTTTF: The FBI Inspections Division conducted a review of the Counterterrorism Division, which included the FTTTF, in the fall of 2003. The FTTTF did draft a Quality Assurance Plan in February 2004 based on the task force's mission, goals, and objectives. In April 2004, the FTTTF issued a Statement of Work to develop a performance measurement system and sought to contract with an organization to enhance, implement, and formalize the Quality Assurance Plan into a performance measurement plan using these categories:
However, in November 2004, the FTTTF Director informed us that FBI headquarters denied the request to contract for development of a performance measurement system. The FTTTF will develop the measures internally.
ATAC: EOUSA measures the ATACs' performance through the cyclic USAO assessments conducted by the Evaluation and Review Staff (EARS). We reviewed the ATAC section of EARS' reports from October 2001 to September 2003 and found that EARS did not have specific measures to assess each ATAC, but rather presented broad descriptions of ATAC activities.58 We also reviewed the Instructions for Evaluator that list general factors the EARS evaluator should consider when reviewing an ATAC and the USAO's anti-terrorism efforts. The factors include the question, "How effective is the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council?" but provide no standards by which to evaluate effectiveness. The EARS relies on caseload data, workload charts, district performance reports, and USAO staff interviews, but does not include any interviews with ATAC members or data that reflects the actual work of the ATAC. The EARS reports we reviewed stated that most USAOs were successful in forming active and effective ATACs, meeting Department directives, and having appropriate memberships. The EARS reports did find a few specific issues or problems with certain ATACs, such as not reporting the time spent on anti-terrorism activities correctly on forms or not having information sharing protocols.
Each USAO also submits annual performance reports to EOUSA that contain a narrative outlining the status and accomplishments of the ATACs. However, USAOs are "self-reporting" in these performance reports, meaning that they determine the accomplishments and rate themselves on their interaction and communication with the JTTFs.
The FBI, CTS, and EOUSA have not established performance measures for task force and council programs. The FBI does not have performance measures for the NJTTF and FTTTF and their members. Although, the FBI has established field office (includes the JTTFs) performance measures, which must be addressed in the Annual Field Office Report, the measures are mostly output oriented for various aspects of field office activities rather than outcome oriented for the counterterrorism program as a whole. However, the Annual Field Office Report can provide useful information about the status of a field office. The FBI does not have performance measures for its individual task force members. Without proper performance measures and assessments, the FBI, CTS, and EOUSA cannot adequately assess the strategies, operations, and resources for the task forces and councils.
8. The FBI should ensure its performance measures provide an effective means for determining the qualitative and quantitative accomplishments of the task forces and their members in fulfilling the Department's counterterrorism strategy. The measures for the task forces could include the following:
9. CTS and EOUSA should develop outcome-oriented performance measures for the ATAC program. The measures for the ATAC program could include the following:
The ATAC Coordinators are unclear about the roles of CTS, EOUSA, or the USAOs in the ATAC program. No one entity has full responsibility for ATAC program management, oversight is fragmented, and future ATAC funding requirements have not been evaluated. The Department, CTS, and EOUSA have not provided ATAC Coordinators enough guidance on their roles and responsibilities or on how to structure and manage an ATAC. Further, the USAOs' level of compliance with the Attorney General mandate to establish and operate an ATAC varies across judicial districts.
The roles of EOUSA and CTS in the ATAC program are not fully understood by the ATAC Coordinators, and it is not clear to the ATAC Coordinators which Department component has responsibility for management of the ATAC program. Because ATAC Coordinators did not know which office was responsible for the overall ATAC program, they routinely reported the same information to both EOUSA and CTS. Traditionally, EOUSA provides administrative support and CTS provides prosecutorial assistance to the USAOs. However, U.S. Attorneys have the autonomy and discretion to operate their ATACs as is appropriate for their judicial districts. EOUSA and CTS only have limited authority to direct a USAO's ATAC operations. Although the CTS Chief told us that CTS and EOUSA share joint oversight of the ATAC program, we found that neither group fully monitors and assesses the ATACs' operations. Prosecutive and investigative information is reported to CTS regularly, but information related to management or administration of the ATACs is not reported on a regular basis to CTS or EOUSA, and no standard is in place to ensure consistent reporting across ATACs. CTS, EOUSA, and the USAOs have responsibilities for partial pieces of the ATAC program, but no one organization within the Department has responsibility for fully managing the ATAC program.
The following describes how each entity views its role in the ATAC program:
CTS: The CTS Regional ATAC Coordinators are not full-time managers or supervisors of ATAC operations, but rather are advisers on terrorism cases and coordinators of a national prevention strategy. They believe that each U.S. Attorney has the responsibility for overseeing his or her ATAC, with input and advice from the Regional ATAC Coordinators. The Regional ATAC Coordinators perform their functions as a collateral duty and estimate that they spend 15 to 50 percent of their time on ATAC functions, depending on the scope of ATAC-related activities, active prosecutions, or the current threat. Regional ATAC Coordinators also are normally involved in lengthy litigation aside from their ATAC duties and devote considerable time to that function. Some Regional ATAC Coordinators told us that when they are litigating, they might not have time to address issues or inquiries from the ATACs in their regions. They said that another Regional ATAC Coordinator or the National ATAC Coordinator would handle their duties in the interim. During this review there were two incidences of turnover in the Regional ATAC Coordinator positions.
The National ATAC Coordinator is responsible for ensuring the ATAC Coordinators are adequately communicating with Regional ATAC Coordinators, communicating with USAOs to solicit input on the ATAC program, and filling in for Regional ATAC Coordinators who are busy with other duties. CTS recognized the need for and created the position of "National ATAC Coordinator" in February 2004 and filled it with an experienced AUSA/ATAC Coordinator from the field on a 1-year detail. The position will be staffed on a rotating basis, possibly with other ATAC Coordinators from the field. The current National Coordinator believes it is valuable to fill this position with field ATAC Coordinators because they can bring a better understanding of the issues in the field to headquarters.
EOUSA: The Supervising Counsel to the EOUSA Director's staff, who is the EOUSA point of contact for ATACs, told us that she provides the field ATACs with guidance on administrative issues (training, budget) and performs troubleshooting as issues arise. She also stated that her role is more process-oriented than operational. Similar to the CTS National ATAC Coordinator, the EOUSA point of contact for ATACs is serving in a rotational capacity, having been detailed from a particular USAO. EOUSA assigns additional duties to the point of contact for ATACs and she is not devoted solely to the ATAC program. EOUSA collects budget information in the ATAC Quarterly Reports (budget reports) and handles requests for reimbursements from the ATACs. The EOUSA EARS staff is responsible for periodically evaluating USAOs and includes a section on the USAOs' ATACs in its reports.
USAO: Each USAO, through the ATAC Coordinator, independently determines ATAC membership, training topics, frequency of meetings, communication or information sharing methods, and how to spend the $100,000 ATAC allocation. The USAO ATAC Coordinators perform their functions as a collateral duty. Those that we interviewed estimated that they spend 15 to 50 percent of their time on ATAC functions, depending on ATAC activities or if they are prosecuting cases.
Although ATAC Coordinators told us that they needed further ATAC funding, EOUSA has not adequately assessed this need. Based on our review of the ATACs' financial reports and the information we obtained through interviews, we found that the majority of ATACs have used their initial allocation of $100,000 each and the ATAC program has received no additional funding since FY 2002. Congress intended the funds for the purchase of communications equipment and the provision of training for state and local law enforcement agencies, including first responders.59 The U.S. Attorneys we interviewed stated they were committed to the ATAC program and were trying to continue with the same level of activity despite no identified future funding. These U.S. Attorneys believed the ATAC program has developed partnerships and information sharing that is vital to their districts. However there has not been a separate request for additional funding for allocation to the USAOs and those interviewed in CTS and EOUSA saw no future funding availability.
EOUSA did establish procedures to monitor how the ATACs spent the total $9.3 million. Each ATAC must submit to EOUSA the ATAC Quarterly Report that lists the funds authorized, obligated, and projected for three budget categories (communication items, intelligence coordination, and task force infrastructure) and contains copies of its reimbursable agreements and a narrative report of accomplishments.60 However, EOUSA does not consolidate the financial information from the ATAC Quarterly Reports to systematically analyze how the $9.3 million allocation is spent.61
Some USAOs now supplement their ATAC funding by using their general budgets or the Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee (LECC) allocations.62 EOUSA and CTS personnel stated that ATAC Coordinators could tap into the LECC allocations available to each USAO, as well as federal and state DHS money to fund ATAC training. While this may be a viable option for some ATACs, it may not provide enough funding for active ATACs. For example, one ATAC Coordinator survey respondent stated:
Given the LECC receives an annual stipend, it would follow that the ATAC should as well receive some annual funding to support bringing in speakers, providing printed material handouts to members at quarterly meetings, refreshments. With terrorism prevention the mandate, it is incumbent upon us in each ATAC to constantly foster vigilance in our membership. and we need what I see as minimal funding to best accomplish that goal.
When asked in the survey what resources the ATAC needed that it did not have, 14 of the 22 respondents identifying themselves as ATAC Coordinators stated they needed one or more of the following: annual funding/financial resources, office and meeting space, and more staff dedicated to the ATAC. Additionally, the ATAC Coordinators we interviewed stated that they need funding to continue offering training to the ATAC members. A few complained of a lack of space large enough to hold meetings and the lack of an adequate staff assigned to complete the administrative duties of the ATAC. One U.S. Attorney said, "If the ATTF [now ATAC] had more funding, they could do more training and reach the law enforcement and public service agencies out in the hinterlands." When asked what the impact of the lack of resources has had on the ATAC achieving its mission, two ATAC Coordinator survey respondents said:
In April 2005, ATAC Coordinators told us they were unable to attend terrorism-related training in different areas of their district or region due to a lack of available funds for ATAC mileage reimbursement. Similarly, the ATAC Coordinators were unable to hold regional meetings or conferences during FY 2005 due to insufficient funds.
Prevention of terrorism is the number one priority of the Department, and the ATAC program is a crucial component in this prevention initiative. Therefore, we believe EOUSA should strategically assess the need for future ATAC program funding.
The Department, CTS, and EOUSA Have Not Provided Enough Guidance on ATAC Coordinator Roles and Responsibilities or on How to Structure and Manage an ATAC. Further, the Level of Compliance With the Attorney General's Mandate to Establish and Maintain ATACs Varies Across Judicial Districts
Although the former Attorney General issued a memorandum establishing the ATAC and the former Deputy Attorney General issued initial guidance on how to set-up an ATAC, ATAC Coordinators we interviewed and surveyed told us they needed additional guidance from CTS and EOUSA.63 The ATAC Coordinators wanted guidance that clearly delineates the roles and responsibilities of the ATAC Coordinators and further guidance on ATAC operations and structure. ATAC Coordinators told us they do not have a guide to use in identifying members, training opportunities, sponsoring terrorism exercises, and developing mechanisms to aid in the dissemination of information, and therefore need additional guidance on their roles and duties. Further, this role of coordinator is a new one for most AUSAs, and many we interviewed told us they do not have much experience as managers or administrators.
Lack of Adequate Guidance on ATAC Coordinator Roles and Responsibilities and How to Structure and Manage an ATAC
Some of the ATAC Coordinators we interviewed believed that while the Department has charged them with a new mission, it has not defined their role in the prevention of terrorism and is still not providing adequate guidance on operating an ATAC.
One U.S. Attorney we interviewed stated:
It was a daunting task to change your mission in 24 hours [after 9/11], but people are committed to this [prevention of terrorism] in the USAOs. The USAO tried to build this intelligence function without the experience or tools from the Department.
Two ATAC Coordinators told us:
Because they received limited guidance from the Department when the ATACs were established, some ATAC Coordinators informally polled their counterparts in other USAOs or polled the ATAC membership to determine the best way to implement the advisory council in their districts. An ATAC Coordinator told us:
We assembled 35 or so different agencies and sat around the table and decided how to set it [the ATAC] up. If the ATTF [ATAC] had a motto it would be, "We are making it up as we go along," but it seems as if the same thing is happening in HQ/DC; they are making it up as they go along. Why are we not getting more guidance?
ATAC Coordinators told us that they could benefit from additional guidance and direction from CTS and EOUSA on how to set up and operate the ATAC. They believed that they also could benefit from learning about the activities and operations of other ATACs to determine the applicability of these practices in their judicial district, and to gauge if they are "on target" based on what others are doing. The ATAC Coordinators we interviewed told us that EOUSA and CTS have not provided adequate opportunities for ATAC Coordinators to share "best practices."
The ATAC Coordinators have met for training in their regions and at the National Advocacy Center, but the sessions have emphasized investigative and prosecutorial issues and have not focused on ATAC management issues.64 There have been limited opportunities to exchange ideas or discuss the successful initiatives of individual ATACs. The ATAC Coordinators joined the Crisis Management Coordinators (those responsible for crisis planning in USAOs) in a March 2004 conference, but the agenda only provided one breakout session for the ATAC Coordinators, despite specific requests directly from ATAC Coordinators to schedule a forum to discuss best practices.65 Each ATAC Coordinator attended a breakout session organized by region, facilitated by the CTS Regional ATAC Coordinator. We observed two of these sessions and both of the Regional ATAC Coordinators who ran the sessions were new. One Regional ATAC Coordinator used the session to familiarize herself with the ATACs and ATAC Coordinators in her region, and to better understand how they were implementing the ATAC program. In the other session another new Regional ATAC Coordinator was confronted with a host of questions from ATAC Coordinators concerning the ATAC program that he was not able to answer. The main issues for ATAC Coordinators in this breakout session were the role of the USAOs and ATACs in relation to DHS and the state homeland security task forces, and the future existence or structure of ATACs. While it is appropriate for new Regional ATAC Coordinators to use sessions to learn about ATACs in their regions, neither of the breakout sessions allowed for a detailed discussion of "ATAC best practices" or answered the questions posed by ATAC Coordinators related to ATAC operations and these sessions were the only time scheduled for such discussion.
The Regional ATAC Coordinators have tried to provide training opportunities for ATACs by holding regional conferences. The ATAC Coordinators told us that regional meetings were effective and helpful, and provided counterterrorism training and some opportunities to discuss individual ATAC projects. However, these meetings are not required and have not occurred in every region. We reviewed the agendas for these regional conferences, and each had only one session scheduled for "task force operations" or "ATAC issues." Most sessions concentrated on prosecutive or investigative topics. The CTS National ATAC Coordinator told us that some ATACs that share similar issues (such as port security) have organized meetings themselves on an ad hoc basis.
In addition to the regional conferences, CTS developed a secure website available to ATAC Coordinators and other terrorism prosecutors and support personnel.66 The website contains a specific section for ATACs that includes links to ATAC documents, memorandums, contact lists, USA Patriot Act information, training information, and "best practices." When the OIG observed this website in February 2004, CTS was conducting the pilot test with 18 ATACs. The pilot was completed in two weeks, and as of March 2005, all 93 judicial districts with ATACs had access to the website.67 Additionally, the Section Chiefs within the Criminal Division and 79 Intelligence Research Specialists have access to the website.
The "Best Practices" link on the CTS website provides overviews of the activities for six ATACs.68 However, the ATAC Coordinators were unable to use the website to post bulletin board messages or use it as a forum for sharing best practices. The CTS webmaster told us that the program used to design and operate the website contains a bulletin board feature, but it was not as useful as CTS had hoped; therefore, in November 2004, CTS created an "ATAC E-mail Group" for all ATAC Coordinators and terrorism prosecutors in the USAOs to interact and communicate on terrorism-related issues.
The USAOs' Level of Compliance With the Attorney General Mandate to Establish and Maintain an ATAC Varies Across Judicial Districts
We found that the USAOs' level of compliance with the Attorney General's mandate to establish and maintain an ATAC varied across judicial districts. Each USAO has the authority and autonomy to determine how best to operate the ATAC in its district, and we found that ATACs were not consistently operated because there are no standards or guidelines from the Department related to meeting frequency or training topics. Some varying levels of activity and compliance are to be expected, but the lack of guidance could negatively affect the further development of the terrorism prevention mission of the Department.
We visited 13 sites across the country with ATACs and contacted all 93 ATACs for rosters. We found that two of the ATACs we visited had joined with state homeland security task forces. One of these ATACs merged its activities and membership with the state homeland security task force, but the task force's operations are managed by the state. The ATAC Coordinator does not have input into the meeting agendas, membership, structure, or functions, although he attends all meetings. The USAO acts more as a "silent partner" and had contributed financial resources to task force activities. The state homeland security task force, not the USAO, disseminates information to its members. Further, the overall membership of the task force is mostly private sector individuals, local first responders, and local law enforcement officers. The only federal representation is from the FBI and USAO, which is not full representation from other federal law enforcement components as suggested by the Attorney General's memorandum establishing the ATACs.
A second ATAC we visited also merged with the state homeland security task force, but the ATAC Coordinator continued to co-manage the activities of the joint task force/advisory council and maintained the title of co-coordinator.
While it is not contrary to the Attorney General's memorandum for an ATAC to join with a state homeland security task force to eliminate duplication of services and improve coordination, we question whether the first model described above adheres to the Attorney General's plan for the ATAC program. The CTS Section Chief, when asked about a joint ATAC and state homeland security task force, stated, "it is not the best way to operate to only have the state leading and DOJ following. It is ok to partner, but the ATAC Coordinator should still be out there working." We believe the Department should determine if the first ATAC model described above fulfills the Attorney General's directive and achieves the goals of the ATAC program.
The September 2001 guidance from the Deputy Attorney General required the ATACs to maintain "updated rosters of its members." On two occasions, we requested rosters of all ATAC members listed by judicial district. We made the first request in June 2003 so that we could contact members to schedule interviews prior to our initial site visits, and the second request in November 2003 so that we could randomly select ATAC members for our survey sample. We found that neither EOUSA nor CTS maintained a national database of ATAC members. EOUSA eventually obtained the information from most of the ATACs, although ten did not respond as requested.69
Many of the rosters we received were out of date (e.g., included names of individuals who were no longer ATAC members) or identified individuals who were never ATAC members. Of the 134 survey respondents who indicated that they were never members of any task force or advisory council, 103 (77 percent) were individuals listed on ATAC rosters.
We also found that because of a lack of standards and guidance, great variation exists in the frequency of ATAC meetings in the districts we visited. Meeting frequency ranged from monthly to once a year. Although the number of ATAC meetings could be different in each judicial district, without regularly scheduled meetings members tend to lose:
Because of the lack of regular meetings and in some cases ineffective communication from the USAOs, we found that some ATAC members were unsure of the exact mission of the ATAC and did not fully understand their role or responsibility on the advisory council. If ATAC members are not able to see a benefit of the council or are not able to understand how they fit into the ATAC efforts, the advisory council may lose members and communication will be hampered further.
10. The Department should clearly delineate the roles of CTS, EOUSA, and the USAO in the ATAC program, clarifying who has primary responsibility and authority for:
11. CTS and EOUSA should jointly issue written guidance defining their roles and responsibilities in the ATAC program, as well as the roles and responsibilities of the Regional ATAC Coordinators, the National ATAC Coordinator, and the EOUSA point of contact for ATACs. This written guidance should be communicated to the ATAC Coordinators.
12. CTS or EOUSA should issue written guidance for ATAC Coordinators that includes a definition of roles, how to determine membership base, and how to structure and manage an ATAC.
13. EOUSA should strategically analyze the ATAC budget to assess the need for future funding.
14. ATAC Coordinators should regularly update and maintain accurate electronic rosters of the ATAC membership.
15. ATACs should meet at least quarterly, and ATAC Coordinators should periodically review and communicate the ATAC mission to members.
The FBI has not provided stable leadership, organizational structure, or adequate resources to the FTTTF to fully meet its mission. In addition, the FBI has assigned responsibilities to the FTTTF outside of its defined mission. As a result, the FTTTF is behind schedule in its acquisition of databases and development and implementation of its risk assessment tool. Additionally, the FTTTF has not sufficiently marketed its services, and consequently many JTTF and NJTTF members were unaware of the FTTTF and did not use the FTTTF's services to aid their investigations.
The FBI Has Not Provided Stable Leadership, Organizational Structure, or Adequate Resources to the FTTTF to Fully Meet Its Mission and the FBI Assigned Responsibilities to the FTTTF Outside of Its Defined Mission
The FTTTF's leadership, organizational structure, and physical location changed multiple times as the Department and the FBI struggled to determine the FTTTF's most appropriate organizational alignment. The FTTTF is not fully staffed with the necessary FBI personnel, or outside agency personnel. Further, the FTTTF was assigned responsibility for "standing up" the Presidentially mandated Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), a separate organization from the FTTTF, and the flight training candidate check system. The lack of stability and resources, combined with responsibility for other missions, has affected the FTTTF's operational effectiveness.
Structure and Leadership Changed Frequently
Unlike the other task forces and councils, the FTTTF was created as an independent Department component with its own budget, personnel, and information technology authority. Since its inception, the FTTTF's organizational chain of command changed four times, its immediate director changed four times, and its internal structure changed eight times. The FTTTF members believe that the current FTTTF Director now may provide the stability and skills to adequately define and direct the task force operations. However, the impact of the initial structural and management instability continues to affect the FTTTF's effectiveness.
The following timeline outlines the numerous changes in the FTTTF's chain of command:
In 2002, former Deputy Attorney General Thompson required the Department's Justice Management Division (JMD) to conduct a management review of the FTTTF's mission and functions, organizational placement and structure, staffing, information resources, and administrative management. JMD's November 2002 draft report addressed the need for stability in FTTTF leadership. Specifically, the report stated:
The most critical leadership positions within the FTTTF are the Director, Deputy Director, and the CIO. [and] stable, sustained leadership is imperative for ensuring FTTTF's effectiveness over the long term.71
Even after the issuance of the JMD report, the FTTTF's Director changed two additional times, and the Deputy Director's position was vacated and not filled until 2005. Some FTTTF members we interviewed stated that with each change in director and management oversight, the priorities changed, the supervision became more fragmented, and the mission more unclear.
An FBI FTTTF member further stated that while the FTTTF's management oversight changed four times since 2001, another major obstacle was FTTTF's eight internal reorganizations. Another internal reorganization occurred in October 2004 when the FTTTF transferred responsibility for operating its Flight Training Security Unit to the DHS.72
Lack of Adequate Resources
Lack of Permanent Office Space: Because the FTTTF was in office space borrowed first from the INS, and then the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), it has moved its physical location five times since it was created in November 2001.73 The FTTTF Director told us that because CIFA controlled the space the task force used prior to November 2003, the FTTTF could not restrict the number of times it was moved. While the FTTTF has viewed its partnership with CIFA as critical, FTTTF staff stated that the moves negatively impacted the FTTTF's operations, consumed a substantial amount of time, and became the primary focus of staff meetings rather than operational issues. The FTTTF Director stated that hundreds of man-hours were diverted from sustaining critical operational tasks (such as data acquisition, desktop support, server operations, telecommunications, technology deployment, and data support to analysts) to make each new facility ready, move computers and other equipment, and set up after the move. Counterterrorism Division management acknowledged that the frequent moves of the FTTTF were disruptive and caused inefficiencies in information technology enhancements that the FTTTF requires for its analytical products.
The following table shows the chronology of moves that occurred since the FTTTF's inception:
Table 12: Chronology of FTTTF's Office Moves
Inadequate Staffing: The lack of adequate FBI personnel assigned full time to the FTTTF, combined with decreased outside agency participation, has hindered the FTTTF operations. In FY 2004, the FTTTF had a funded staffing level of 26 FBI personnel, and as of November 2004 had 23 FBI staff on board.
In April 2003, the then FTTTF Director recommended in an FBI electronic communication that the FTTTF's organizational structure be revised to improve its "efficiency and effectiveness." Because the FBI is the only permanent member assigned to the FTTTF, the FTTTF Director proposed that the FBI's funded staffing level include 5 special agents and 36 support positions (e.g., budget analysts, operations specialists, management analysts, administrative staff). The recommendations took into consideration the on-board non-FBI detailees and contract employees. The electronic communication further stated that excluding the FBI's positions:
The FBI did not adopt these staffing recommendations. The current FTTTF Director told us that the FTTTF is still understaffed. The FTTTF members told us that the task force needs analysts and administrative support staff.
With the exception of its FBI staff, the FTTTF has functioned primarily with staff detailed from only a few of the agencies required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 2. When the FTTTF was established in October 2001, the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 2 directed the task force, "... to be staffed by expert personnel from the Department of State, the INS [now ICE], the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, the Customs Service [now CBP], the Intelligence Community, military support components, and other federal agencies as appropriate to accomplish the Task Force's mission." In November 2002, the FTTTF reported that its membership included detailees from the following agencies:
The following table lists agencies that as of November 2004 had staff detailed to the FTTTF, agencies missing on the FTTTF according to the requirements of Homeland Security Presidential Directive-2, and agencies the FTTTF would like to contribute full-time staff.
Table 13: Agencies Detailed to the FTTTF, Agencies Missing
A veteran FTTTF member told us that the FTTTF has the finances and equipment to perform its mission, but not the staff. He stated, "We don't have enough government employees, there is a need for more analysts. No one has any customs expertise and the one person from ICE has minimal immigration background." The FTTTF's General Counsel added that the participating agencies also are being tapped to provide representatives to other task forces or agencies (such as the NCTC, TSA, and others).
Several FTTTF survey respondents and interviewees reported that the inadequate numbers of personnel hurt FTTTF's operations by:
One critical impact of insufficient staffing, at the time of our December 2003 interviews, was a three-month backlog in updating the TIPOFF portion of the Consolidated Tracking List. The FTTTF uses the Consolidated Tracking List to identify undetected terrorists that are already in the United States and to notify public sources of the need to alert the FTTTF when changes occur with specific persons (e.g., address changes, acquisition of public documents).76 The FTTTF used detailed staff to address the backlog. When asked about the status of the backlog, the FTTTF Director informed us that as of August 2004, it had been reduced to four weeks. However, FTTTF does not consider the four weeks a "backlog," but rather a built-in time period to ensure the data is standardized, cleansed, and prepared for matching against the FTTTF datamart and a selected set of external commercial databases.
Assignment of Additional Responsibilities
Activation of the TSC Diverted FTTTF's Resources: FTTTF members told us that the biggest disruption to the FTTTF's mission was the activation of the TSC. In September 2003, the FBI delegated the responsibility for "standing up" the TSC by December 1, 2003, to the FTTTF. The TSC was mandated by the President as part of the national counterterrorism strategy. The FTTTF was specifically tasked with developing the information technology structure to integrate multiple agencies' terrorist watchlists and to provide direct support for TSC's operations.77 The FTTTF successfully carried out the start-up mission in 75 days. Successful completion of this mission, however, contributed to further disruption of FTTTF operations that were already impacted by the multiple leaders, multiple moves, and inadequate staffing. The FTTTF managers told us that the diversion of its technology resources delayed the development of critical profiles and other information technology enhancements required to conduct analyses and prepare analytical products.
At the time of our December 2003 interviews, FTTTF information technology staff continued to provide support for TSC's operations, but as of August 2004, the FTTTF Director informed us that no staff was being shared between the TSC and FTTTF. In addition, the FTTTF spent 13 percent ($7.8 million) of its $61.6 million budget activating the TSC, but was eventually reimbursed.
Flight Training Security Unit: The former Attorney General delegated the responsibility to screen foreign nationals seeking Federal Aviation Administration certification to pilot certain types of aircraft to the FTTTF. The FTTTF created the Flight Training Security Unit to perform this function. While some FTTTF members believed that this unit did not fit in with the FTTTF's mission, others viewed the success of the unit as one of the FTTTF's major accomplishments. In December 2003, Congress passed a bill transferring responsibility for flight training candidate checks to DHS.78 FTTTF worked with the DHS to support this transition, which finally occurred in October 2004. As a result of this transfer, the FTTTF had to plan another internal reorganization and shift staff to other units.
Threat Processing and Assessment Unit: In February 2005, the FBI Director established a permanent unit called the Threat Processing and Assessment Unit (TPAU) within the FTTTF to perform evaluations of large sets of data for identification of potential terrorists among foreign visitors. These types of evaluations were first conducted for the FBI's 2004 Threat Task Force, which the FBI considered to be successful.79 Because the function was supported by and consistent with the functions of FTTTF, the decision was made to permanently house this new unit there.
Funded staffing levels have not yet been allocated for the TPAU. In the interim, the TPAU is staffed predominantly with contractors and an insufficient number of personnel detailed from the FTTTF and other FBI divisions. According to the FTTTF Director, the TPAU requires many more permanent full-time staff to sufficiently maintain day-to-day operations. We believe that assignment of the TPAU duties to the FTTTF without sufficient staff may contribute to further delays in accomplishing other FTTTF mission critical functions.
Acquisition of Databases
As a result of instability in leadership and organizational structure, inadequate resources, and additional responsibilities, the FTTTF's acquisition of government databases is behind schedule, which affects the effectiveness and efficiency of the analyses the FTTTF performs. To fulfill its mission, the FTTTF requires electronic access to large sets of data, including databases from many federal agencies, open source and private industry data, and access to sensitive materials from law enforcement and intelligence sources. The FTTTF's initial goal was to obtain a state-of-the-art information technology infrastructure with a suite of sophisticated analytical tools to mine these databases for suspicious patterns and conduct unique risk assessments to identify high-risk individuals. The FTTTF also intended to use the unified watch list to conduct periodic "batch" searches of a series of government and public databases. However, as described below, the FTTTF still has not fully acquired the number and type of databases it needs.
Previous Database Requirements: In April 2002, the former Attorney General issued a memorandum directing the FTTTF to identify the agency databases needed to fulfill its mission.80 In June 2002, the FTTTF submitted a memorandum to the former Attorney General identifying approximately 85 databases. We found that as of July 2004, 50 of these requested databases had not been acquired, and some that had been acquired were not kept up to date. FTTTF survey respondents reported that missing or incomplete data caused the analytical process to be slow and incomplete.
When we initially interviewed the FTTTF's Director in June 2003, he had been in the position for only one month and was unaware of the existence of the June 2002 list of 85 required databases developed by the previous FTTTF Director. During subsequent interviews in May and August 2004, the Director said he believed that the original list was primarily "brainstorming" and a "wish list," which was in constant evolution, and some of the databases placed on it were a result of one-time requests in response to a particular threat or project.
Current Database Requirements: In August 2004, the FTTTF Director provided us with a new list of 30 FTTTF database requirements, 17 of which belong to the DHS. He informed us that the FTTTF Requirements Team had taken the lead in defining current data requirements and had recently added two new staff, including a data librarian, to focus on obtaining the latest data and to ensure existing data is refreshed. Additionally, he stated, as the risk assessment tool is implemented, it will help the FTTTF to evaluate which databases it needs.
In August 2004, the Homeland Security Council advised the DHS to provide certain databases to the FTTTF.81 The FTTTF Director stated that although his staff had made repeated requests, both informal and formal, for many of the remaining databases, numerous factors affect the acquisition process. For example, he said the acquisition of each database must be negotiated with the parent agency and documented in an MOU, each database is unique, and each requires staff to "cleanse" and evaluate the data and ensure that it is in a form recognized by the FTTTF's analytical tools. Additionally, the FTTTF Director stated that:
There is limited time and personnel available to negotiate agreements and resolve technical issues related to transferring data. There is an impact to FTTTF (FBI) as well as the other organizations. For example, the mandate to provide full access for the FBI to US-VISIT and SEVIS data was made during July  by the Homeland Security Council. The first transfer of "pilot" data occurred on 1/18/05 with a plan of 30 days to resolve technical issues.Regular transfer of data [is set to begin] in April  ... Transferring data is much easier said than done.
When we asked the FTTTF Director for a timetable for acquiring the remaining databases, he responded:
FTTTF is currently performing its mission as defined in Homeland Security Presidential Directive 2, with tangible results. A multitude of government and commercial datasets and analytical tools are currently used by FTTTF to generate leads on potential terrorist threats. The primary data query tool in use can simultaneously search many disparate data sets. Acquiring additional data sets, specifically the ones mentioned above, will significantly enhance analysts' ability to perform link analysis and identify non-obvious relationships that would not otherwise be available.
Some of the data sets mentioned above can be accessed from a stand-alone terminal. FTTTF's production system eliminates the stove-pipes created by these stand-alone systems. Ingesting the data in its entirety (into the FTTTF data mart) or accessed through automated channels would add real value to the analyst. Such capabilities are pursued within existing capabilities, priorities, and funding constraints.
The FTTTF Director could not estimate what could have been accomplished since June 2002 with access to the databases. He stated that he believes, however, that the additional data combined with the available analytical tools will have a positive impact on the FTTTF's ability to locate, identify, and track terrorists. The FTTTF Director stated that as of November 2004, the FTTTF has acquired 9 of the 30 databases.
We also found that the FTTTF had difficulty obtaining requested datasets from some units within the FBI. For example, since July 2004, the TSC stopped providing the FTTTF with the Terrorist Watch List. Efforts by the FTTTF to resume receiving this list have been unsuccessful.
Risk Assessment Tool
Since FY 2002, the FTTTF has been developing complex risk assessment profiles that will assist in identifying a terrorist by prioritizing an individual's risk through the assignment of threat scores. However, this project is at least seven months behind schedule. In FTTTF's October 29, 2003, briefing for the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims, the FTTTF Director testified that the risk assessment prototype would be completed by October 31, 2003, with a projected start date of April 1, 2004. The FTTTF contracted with two outside vendors to create a series of algorithms to perform automated risk assessments or analyses of an individual or group. There were also delays in securing properly cleared contractor staff to support the classified portion of the risk assessment tool.
In May 2004, the FTTTF Director told us that the FTTTF would receive its risk assessment tool and begin testing it in August 2004. The Director said the project's delay was caused by the FTTTF's responsibility for activating the TSC, which diverted both contractor and FTTTF staff from the risk assessment tool, and the complexity of the tool was greater than initially anticipated. In August 2004, the Director informed us that the results of the testing were positive, and the first operational version of the prototype software would begin validation testing by September 2004. In November 2004, the Director further informed us that the FTTTF has worked with the contractors to finalize the tool's integration and complete the test plan.
Our interviews with task force members showed that most JTTF and NJTTF members had no knowledge of the FTTTF's role, mission, or functions. JTTF supervisors stated often that they either had no contact with the FTTTF or had heard of the FTTTF, but were unfamiliar with what functions it performed. Many FTTTF members and supervisors who we interviewed or surveyed stated that the FTTTF needs to market its services. Additionally, an intelligence agency representative said that it is important for the FTTTF to educate others on how it fits into the intelligence community and the fight against terrorism. This would help the FTTTF better integrate into the intelligence community and ensure an open exchange of information.
Some FTTTF members acknowledged the marketing problem. They stated that requests they receive are sometimes inappropriately directed and assigned to the FTTTF because of the lack of knowledge that the JTTFs, NJTTF, DHS, and other government agencies have about the FTTTF's services. The FTTTF Director told us in May 2004 that he became aware of the level of unfamiliarity with the FTTTF during his recent visits to two JTTFs in Baltimore and Houston. He stated, "It was pretty enlightening as to how much they don't know what we do." The Director stated that educating "customers" on what the FTTTF does and how to use its services is one of the challenges he faces. To address this issue, he said he is visiting FBI field offices and attending JTTF conferences to give presentations on FTTTF mission and functions. The FTTTF previously sent e-mails and electronic communications to the field, but he believes the task force members are so overwhelmed with information that the message just did not "sink in." The Director also briefs the SACs when they rotate into the Counterterrorism Division at FBI headquarters, and he has briefed a group of FBI ASACs. However, the lack of resources and assignment of projects outside of the FTTTF's mission has affected the Director's ability to fully market the FTTTF's services.
While FTTTF members stated that they are eager to have their task force's mission and services understood, they expressed serious concern that marketing the FTTTF will result in additional work that it will not be able to perform without sufficient staff and analytical capability.
The FTTTF performs a unique and innovative service that can add great value to various agency inquiries in support of the Department's mission to prevent terrorism. However, the lack of stable leadership and resources has resulted in delays in the acquisition of databases and development and implementation of a risk assessment tool, which prevents the FTTTF from providing the full complement of services to FBI terrorism task forces and outside law enforcement agencies with a terrorism-related mission. The FTTTF has not adequately marketed its services and, as a result, JTTFs and the larger law enforcement and intelligence community are not taking full advantage of the FTTTF's analytical capabilities.
16. The FTTTF should develop a plan to acquire and regularly update the required databases from other agencies.
17. The FBI should identify and address the obstacles the FTTTF encounters in securing and regularly updating required databases from other agencies.
18. The FBI should identify and address the FTTTF's unmet resource requirements for staff (FBI and other government agencies), space, and equipment.
19. The FBI should ensure long-term, stable leadership, organizational structure, and housing for the FTTTF.
20. The FTTTF should develop and implement a plan to improve awareness and understanding of its services.
Although the FBI has reallocated considerable resources to the counterterrorism program, the JTTFs still experience certain staffing shortages and turnover in leadership. Some JTTFs experience space and information technology connectivity problems.
Our review found that the JTTFs had inadequate administrative and analytical support, were exceeding their authorized staffing levels, and had high turnover in leadership. Since September 11, 2001, the FBI has expanded the number of JTTFs across the country (to a total of 103), and the FBI Director mandated that every terrorism lead be addressed. Even though the FBI reallocated special agent and support staff resources to the counterterrorism program, the number of support staff has not increased proportionately to the workload expansion.
Lack of Analytical and Administrative Support
Many JTTF members we interviewed and surveyed stated that they had inadequate administrative and analytical support.82 For example, at the time of our 2003 interviews of JTTF managers and members, administrative staffing deficiencies on the New York City JTTF caused a 6-month backlog in the uploading of lead status information (i.e., leads assigned, covered, or closed) in the ACS system. Thus, when a task force agent anywhere in the country retrieves ACS data on a New York City case or subject of investigation, the case record could contain outdated or inadequate information. This could compromise investigative processes nationwide if task force members are unable to access all current and known information on a subject or case. When we interviewed New York City JTTF managers in April 2004, the acting FBI SAC stated that these staffing deficiencies and a backlog still existed.
We also found through our survey and interviews that in the absence of adequate numbers of support staff, JTTF members spend significant amounts of time completing administrative tasks. The JTTF members commented:
JTTF members also told us that the JTTFs need additional analysts:
The FBI's Rotation of Field Office JTTF Leadership
Although the FBI often rotates managers in the field to provide opportunities to gain varied experience, we found this frequent rotation negatively affected the structure and stability of the JTTF, and terrorism investigations, as well as an important pilot information sharing project.
The JTTFs existed before September 11, 2001, but doubled in number in the three years since then. Along with this increase in task forces and members comes a need for stability and structure, especially in task force management. The JTTF and terrorism investigations are often new experiences for both FBI and non-FBI task force members, and members benefit from stable, consistent, experienced management of the task force. A former JTTF supervisor with many years of experience in the counterintelligence and counterterrorism programs in the FBI told us:
The FBI must recognize the difference between the "criminal" side and the "intelligence" side. The counterterrorism and counterintelligence [program] requires more stability and continuity. It is vital to have continuity [in leadership] because of the nature of counterterrorism work.
Some of the JTTF members we interviewed commented that the lack of continuity in leadership created inconsistencies in the JTTF's management, work prioritization, and operations. For example, members stated:
We found that instability in the FBI field office leadership affected some terrorism investigations. For example, in an 18-month period, the FBI's St. Louis Field Office had three different SACs, two different counterterrorism ASACs, and six different JTTF SSAs. Prior to the JTTF supervisor currently assigned, the members told us they had no direction, continuity of leadership, or squad meetings. The squad meetings are important methods of communication and coordination for JTTF members, and without this forum, we were told it was difficult to update case information, or receive direction and assignments. One St. Louis JTTF member described the lack of supervision as the biggest obstacle and stated:
The turnover has impacted us negatively. That's my single biggest complaint. There's a lack of supervision. We just continue doing what we do - through initiative of the task force members. .if there was a structure or a game plan - we'd know what to expect. With the new supervisor we've had a few meetings. We have 29 people - we need to have meetings to go around the table to see what everyone's working on - they may be connected. But we don't have them [meetings] regularly or nearly enough. It's like a bunch of wasps flying around - but no one's telling us what to do.
The instability in leadership in the St. Louis FBI Field Office also affected the external law enforcement community by significantly delaying the development and pilot testing of the Gateway Information Sharing Initiative (ISI). Originally conceived by local and state law enforcement agencies in and around St. Louis, Missouri, in 1999, the ISI was intended to be a multi-agency regional information sharing network to merge investigative data from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies into a single, searchable database.83 The database, housed in the FBI's St. Louis Field Office, marked the first time the FBI entered records into a database containing investigative data from state and local law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement officials who contribute to the database would be able to search it by names, addresses, phrases, vehicle makes, weapons data, scars, tattoos, and other factors to retrieve information from other cases that might be relevant to a case they are investigating. Investigators could then export the retrieved data to analytical software that could identify and graphically depict relationships among people, weapons, phone numbers and other components of the crime. The ISI system would allow for link analysis and geo-spatial mapping of the data by members of JTTFs in other cities who planned to launch similar pilot projects: Norfolk, Virginia; San Diego, California; Seattle/Portland, Washington; and Baltimore, Maryland.
During October 2002, the Attorney General issued a news release that stated ISI was to be fully operational within 60 days.84 He stated:
Information that was previously fragmented and would take analysts months to collate will be connected within seconds. This revolutionary system will enable investigators to identify intelligence gaps and to see tangible links between seemingly unrelated investigations.
If successful, the project would serve as a model for a nationwide information-sharing initiative. However, according to federal officials we interviewed in St. Louis in November 2003, ISI was stalled due to the frequent turnover in the St. Louis FBI leadership leading to developmental delays. A supervisor in the St. Louis FBI Field Office informed us that although ISI was to be operational by December 2002, it was still in the planning stages at the time of our November 2003 interviews. Other federal law enforcement officials we interviewed in St. Louis stated to us that this delay caused frustration and anger within the local law enforcement community who were counting on the FBI to take the lead in this project.
According to a recent information update from the St. Louis FBI field office in January 2005, contracting issues resulted in the dismissal of the original and succeeding vendors. After several months of inactivity, another vendor was awarded a contract by FBI headquarters to complete the project. The name of the project also was changed from the Gateway Information Sharing Initiative, to the Multi-Agency Information Sharing Initiative (MISI), to the Regional Data Exchange (RDEx). The beginning stages of RDEx will include regional databases from such areas as St. Louis, Seattle, San Diego, and Norfolk. According to the FBI, once these areas become operational within their own regional databases, RDEx will move to an inter-regional approach. This approach will link the operating regional databases, so that queries can be made in a wider scope.
The JTTF staff we interviewed indicated that the St. Louis field office's management team in place at the time of our August 2003 visit had made noticeable changes and there was improvement in the JTTF's management and guidance that also improved task force operations. For example, one JTTF member told us that the new JTTF supervisor had initiated regular task force meetings where everyone discussed their cases. During one of these meetings he learned that he and another JTTF member were conducting surveillance on houses very near each other, and their suspects had a relationship. He turned over ten months worth of surveillance and intelligence information to the other JTTF member, and they expected an indictment within a month. The JTTF member we interviewed estimated that without the shared information, it would have taken another year to get an indictment:
He [the other JTTF member] was in week two of the investigation; we put him in week 50. We had a lot of people working on the same case and didn't know it.
Even though there were evident improvements, each of the managers had been in place for less than one year (e.g., SAC - ten months, ASAC - one month, SSA - one month as JTTF supervisor). Therefore, we could not measure the long-term impact of their changes. As of October 2004, the ASAC had been transferred back to FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. and in January 2005 the SAC also was transferred to FBI headquarters. The St. Louis field office had yet another new SAC and ASAC.
In addition to the transfers of supervisors, some of the JTTF members we interviewed and surveyed commented that frequent transfers of the FBI JTTF agents, sooner than the standard rotation, also can have an impact on the investigations. For example a non-FBI JTTF member commented, "I had a case to work on with an FBI agent and have gone through 5 agents on the same case."
JTTF Staffing Levels
The FBI's investigative strategy that requires the JTTFs to cover every terrorism lead results in a demanding workload that is surpassing the resources available to the task forces. At all the sites we visited, we found that the JTTFs were exceeding their authorized staffing levels for FBI agents by 75 to 125 percent by borrowing from other FBI programs (such as drugs or white-collar crime).85
Since September 11, 2001, the FBI has permanently reassigned some of its field agent resources from traditional criminal programs (such as violent crime, white collar crime, and drugs) to meet the workload demands of the counterterrorism and counterintelligence programs. Additionally, the FBI realigned its priorities, and to "protect the U.S. from terrorist attack" became the number one priority. In September 2004 the OIG completed a follow-up audit of the FBI's casework and human resource allocation. The OIG report stated that the FBI "generally shifted its allocation [of field agents] to reflect its new priorities."86 Additionally, the OIG reported that the FBI allocated a larger number of agent resources to counterterrorism matters in FY 2003 than in FY 2000 and reduced the number of positions allocated to traditional crime programs during the same time period. However, the FBI used 845 more agents than it had allocated for terrorism matters, while it used 879 fewer agents than planned in traditional criminal programs in FY 2003.
The FBI monitors the staffing utilization rates of its agents through its Time Utilization and Recordkeeping (TURK) system.87 Before March 2004, the FBI did not include the non-FBI task force members in the TURK system, which underrepresented the number of man hours devoted to JTTF work. A senior FBI official told us that the non-FBI agents were now included in the TURK system to enable the FBI to assess the overall staffing levels and needs of its task forces.
The JTTF members we interviewed and surveyed described the impact of insufficient staffing as follows:
Space Is Inadequate for Some JTTFs
Although the majority of JTTF members surveyed and interviewed were satisfied with their task force office space, we found through our site visits that various JTTF members were working in cramped conditions that hampered communication, slowed work processes, and limited the JTTF's ability to add members. In addition, JTTF leadership and members told us they needed more space to accommodate additional members or to improve the existing members' working conditions.
Several of the JTTF members we interviewed believed that their working conditions were undesirable. The following table shows how survey respondents rated office space.
Table 14: JTTF Members' Ratings of
JTTF members commented that:
At the time of our visits the San Francisco, St. Louis, and Salt Lake City JTTFs could not accept additional members due to the lack of available office space. The ASAC for the FBI's St. Louis Field Office told us that additional member agencies approached the FBI about joining the JTTF, but he had not accepted their offers because he required additional space. Similar concerns were raised by the San Francisco and Salt Lake City JTTF leaders. In San Francisco, the SSA told us that he wanted to accept the National Security Agency's offer to join the JTTF but did not have space to accommodate any additional members.
The FBI has explored alternatives to improving space and working conditions for JTTF members through acquiring additional office space in offsite locations. The FBI told us that "every basic [reasonable] request requirement has been fulfilled." However, we found that the acquisition of some offsite locations has been delayed and poorly coordinated.
For example, when we visited the Inland Northwest JTTF (in Spokane, Washington, and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho) we found that for 15 months the JTTF was paying a lease for space that it did not occupy. The Inland Northwest JTTF leadership told us that the space was not habitable because the required security upgrades were not complete. Two FBI Special Agents from the JTTF were assigned to plan for the space, acquire the space, and handle all the contracting issues. The staff assigned to prepare for the move had requested, but not received, adequate direction from the FBI on how to move a JTTF to an offsite location. They received conflicting information from FBI Headquarters staff on the procedures used to move an operation offsite. One of the JTTF survey respondents shared the same concerns raised by the Inland Northwest JTTF leaders:
[The] efficiency of the operations and cohesiveness of the JTTF is hampered by the lack of sufficient office space. The designation of and security upgrades on an offsite have been pending for an unreasonable amount of time. This is a budgetary, FBI Space Management, and GSA bureaucratic shortcoming.
The move was further complicated because two separate FBI field offices (Seattle, Washington, and Salt Lake City, Utah) had oversight for the Spokane and Coeur d'Alene RAOs, but neither was identified as "the" office responsible for the move. In September 2003, the Inland Northwest JTTF finally moved to its space.
A senior FBI official shared the following perspective on why problems exist concerning the JTTFs' moves.
Even though the FBI's Counterterrorism Division has made counterterrorism the number one priority, the FBI's administrative support divisions have not changed their procedures to support the operational needs of the Counterterrorism Division.
As another example, in July 2003, the New York City FBI field office received $20 million from Congress to move its JTTF to an offsite location. However, the FBI SAC told us that the move of the New York City JTTF had been delayed because of the manner in which it was funded. He stated that the New York City JTTF received the $20 million over multiple fiscal years and received only enough funding each fiscal year to acquire the space floor by floor. As of February 2005 the New York City JTTF had moved into one floor in their new space and expected to complete the move to two additional floors in late summer 2005.
Information Technology Systems Connectivity Does Not Meet the Needs of Some JTTFs
While the FBI has issued 1,300 new desktops to the JTTFs, we found that there are information technology connectivity problems in some field offices. FBI Counterterrorism Division officials told us all information technology equipment requests received from JTTFs have been approved, but many JTTFs still work in older offices that do not have the adequate connectivity technology to support task force members' needs. Some of the offices are too ill-equipped to allow JTTF members direct access to their parent agencies' databases and systems, which limits the data searches that the JTTFs can complete on site. Task force members are forced to return to their parent agencies to perform data runs which is inefficient and time consuming and a survey respondent commented that, "Communications connectivity is a major obstacle in communicating info[rmation]."
JTTF members we interviewed were frustrated with the FBI's computer systems and connectivity. They described these systems as "outdated" and "unreliable," which negatively affected the operations. Survey respondents stated that:
JTTF members cannot access the Internet from their desktops. Instead, JTTF members can only access the Internet on the one or two dedicated terminals available to each squad. Similarly, the NJTTF members did not have access to the Internet from their desktops for three years. However, in September 2004, the NJTTF moved from FBI Headquarters to Northern Virginia co-located with TTIC (now known as NCTC), and all members gained access to the Internet at their desks. The JTTF and NJTTF members we interviewed believed that the access problem was disruptive to the work process and affected their productivity.
The FBI needs to ensure that sufficient staffing, space, and information technology connectivity is available to fully support the task forces' efforts. The FBI also needs to recognize that the frequent rotation of JTTF leadership has a negative impact on the task force structure and work. After the initial expansion of JTTFs in a crisis environment, the FBI now needs to plan for appropriate office space and equipment for new and existing JTTFs.
21. The FBI should determine and allocate sufficient staff to effectively support the terrorism task forces.
22. The FBI should seek more stability in JTTF leadership.
23. The FBI should develop a plan and issue written guidance for the JTTFs on how to activate new JTTFs and move existing JTTFs to offsite locations.
24. The FBI should ensure sufficient information technology connectivity needed to effectively support the terrorism task forces.
Some factors external to the terrorism task forces and advisory councils affect their overall operations. We found that the DEA has limited membership on some task forces. We also found that the DHS does not provide sufficient numbers of members to the Department's task forces, and for those members it does provide, DHS guidance and direction is inconsistent. In addition, some ATAC members viewed the functions of the state homeland security task forces as duplicative of those performed by the ATACs.
Although Congress, the DEA, and the Department leadership recognize the critical link between drug trafficking and terrorism, the DEA has minimal membership on the JTTFs and did not assign a permanent representative to the NJTTF until April 2004.
Despite the DEA's recognition of links between drug trafficking and terrorism (often called narco-terrorism), we found that as of January 2005 the DEA has only assigned one full-time member to the JTTFs.88 The DEA also did not assign a permanent representative to the NJTTF until April 2004, approximately two years after the NJTTF's inception. In comparison with other Department law enforcement components, the DEA has the lowest level of membership on the JTTFs.89 According to the NJTTF and JTTF members we interviewed, the DEA was "noticeably absent" from the Department's terrorism task forces.
Since September 11, 2001, law enforcement, and particularly the DEA, has been concerned about the link between terrorism and drug trafficking. In May 2003, the DEA's former Assistant Administrator for Intelligence told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary that:
Prior to September 11, 2001, the law enforcement community typically addressed drug trafficking and terrorist activities as separate issues. these two criminal activities are visibly intertwined. investigating the link between drugs and terrorism has taken on renewed importance.90
During a speech in March 2004, the DEA Administrator reinforced these statements when she stated that:
DEA investigations have identified links between groups and individuals under investigation for drug violations and terrorist organizations.As of February 2004, DEA had 51 open Priority Target Organization [PTO] cases with links to terrorist organizations.DEA's intelligence program is working very closely with law enforcement and the intelligence community to identify and anticipate emerging threats posed by the links between drugs and terrorism.91
In addition, DEA officials told us that the DEA is skilled in recruiting and developing intelligence sources (human assets) and that the DEA has a network of national and international sources. JTTF survey respondents, as well as JTTF leadership and members interviewed, identified asset development as essential to JTTF terrorism investigations. DEA officials also stated that they excel in surveillance and analyst programs, and that its intelligence program is second to none. Yet, the JTTFs' access to and use of DEA informants and other expertise are limited because the DEA does not assign enough full-time members to the JTTFs.
Further, the DEA ASAC who supervised the only full-time DEA agent on a JTTF told us that he believes that JTTFs are more effective at investigations because they can use the expertise of the FBI, DEA and other law enforcement agencies. For example, using the drug expertise of DEA agents as members of the task force, a suspected terrorist's or supporter's links to drugs or drug trafficking could be more readily identified and the suspect charged and convicted of drug crimes, which may be less difficult to prosecute than a terrorism charge. He further stated that the DEA benefits from its presence on the JTTF through an enhanced exchange of information and a better relationship with the FBI.
When we asked officials at FBI headquarters about the need for DEA's presence on the JTTFs, they stated that they would welcome DEA on the task forces and agreed that the JTTFs could benefit from enhanced access to intelligence sources and information sharing through DEA membership. They said that increased DEA membership on JTTFs would ensure that the JTTFs consistently receive timely information on narco-terrorism cases.
However, despite these benefits, DEA membership on the JTTFs is minimal, and actually has declined over time. We reviewed JTTF member rosters and found that in June 2003 the DEA had 14 members on 11 JTTFs, and in May 2004 had decreased its participation to 12 members on 10 JTTFs. As of January 2005, its participation was reduced to one full-time JTTF member from the DEA's Field Office in San Francisco, and 105 JTTF "points of contact."
In response, DEA officials from the Special Operations and Intelligence Divisions stated that the DEA is fully responsive to the FBI's requests for assistance. They stated that in addition to DEA "points of contact," each time the threat level increases, DEA temporarily assigns full-time members to the JTTFs where needed. One DEA SAC in the field informed us that after September 11, 2001, he offered full-time DEA members to his local JTTF but his offer was never acted upon.
The DEA managers we interviewed at headquarters and in the field offices also told us that decisions to assign DEA agents to a JTTF are determined locally by the DEA SAC. The DEA has a designated headquarters group, the Special Coordination Unit, to ensure counterterrorism-related information is shared with appropriate organizations outside of DEA.92
When asked in August 2004 about the DEA's JTTF membership, the DEA Administrator told us that the JTTFs are sometimes in locations that the DEA is not, drugs and terrorism are not interconnected in every area where the DEA and a JTTF exist together, and the DEA's resources are stretched. She further stated that the DEA's membership on the JTTFs is "isolated and specific" to the threat for a particular area and that the DEA identified "points of contact" in its field offices to serve as liaisons to the JTTFs where the DEA was not represented.
We compared the lists of the DEA's domestic field offices with the FBI's JTTF locations and found that the DEA has offices in 83 of the existing 103 JTTF locations. The DEA is not represented on the JTTFs in high threat areas such as New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, or along the southwest border where the propensity for narco-terrorism may be higher.
We also found that the DEA did not define the role of its JTTF points of contact. We interviewed DEA points of contact during three of our site visits who told us that they had not received any policies or guidance from the DEA headquarters on their liaison role. One of the three could not identify who he was supposed to contact on the JTTF. In addition, in September 2004, the DEA's NJTTF representative stated that he did not receive guidance from the DEA on his role. He also stated he would like to know more about the JTTFs.
DEA informed us that they had sent several cables to the field describing protocols for information sharing. In 2002, two DEA cables instructed field offices to identify investigations with a potential nexus to terrorism and to send that information to DEA headquarters for review. In 2004, two cables instructed field offices to share terrorism related information with DEA headquarters and simultaneously with the FBI and JTTFs. However, the cables do not provide instructions to the JTTF points of contact and DEA did not provide other documents that address the scope of responsibilities of the points of contact.
The DEA does not have enough full-time members on the JTTFs. During our site visits, the few points of contact DEA assigned to the JTTFs and the NJTTF member told us they had limited guidance about their roles. The JTTFs would benefit from more and better informed DEA members, who could share their expertise on developing human assets, surveillance and analytical skills, and provide DEA information and resources that could help the JTTFs. We believe the DEA should reconsider its limited membership on JTTFs.
25. 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.
26. The DEA should issue written guidance that defines the roles and responsibilities of its JTTF and NJTTF members and points of contact.
Many of the DHS ICE task force members told us that ICE has not provided them needed direction, has not cross-trained supervisors or agents in their new areas of responsibility, and has not provided a sufficient number of ICE representatives to perform task force work. As a result, the FBI does not have adequate access to immigration and customs expertise and information systems to assist its investigative efforts. We also were told that the ICE did not always understand the roles of its task force members, leading to assignment of non-JTTF tasks to its members on the JTTFs.
Both of DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) divisions are considered critical members of the Department terrorism task forces because almost all terrorism cases have an immigration or customs nexus.93 Moreover, the DHS and the FBI agree that the task forces do not operate as effectively without ICE and CBP agents and analysts who have the expertise in immigration and customs.
The DHS reports that it is the largest contributor of personnel to the JTTFs nationwide and ICE is the largest contributor of personnel (311) among DHS components. ICE also has personnel assigned to other task forces in the Department including the FTTTF, ITOS, TFOS, and the NJTTF. However, despite these numbers, according to both FBI and DHS ICE task force members, the DHS ICE has not provided sufficient support to the task forces.
DHS ICE Has Not Provided Its JTTF Members Needed Direction
Throughout the country, many of the ICE task force members we interviewed described disorganization and lack of guidance from ICE headquarters that has affected task force efficiency. They told us they receive little direction from the ICE, the direction they receive is contradictory, and the supervisors in the ICE field offices are ill-equipped to provide guidance to task force members.
For example, an ICE agent (formerly an INS agent) told us:
An October 2004 GAO report on immigration programs in DHS supports these concerns. The report noted that ICE officials told GAO that ICE had been "slow to establish uniform operational policies and procedures, causing confusion and some delay in the creation of a new, unified ICE culture."94 Additionally, the report states:
Officials [in CBP, CIS, and ICE offices] noted that in some cases, unresolved disagreements and confusion regarding the roles and responsibilities of the DHS immigration bureaus related to investigative techniques and other operational issues has the potential for serious consequences.
The GAO report further stated:
One SAC official said that a lack of unified operational procedures had in some cases resulted in confusion or the establishment of local policies. Other SAC officials told us this can be problematic if investigators working together are relying upon different policies and procedures to carry out their investigative work.
An example of the contradictory guidance the DHS ICE provided to its task force members occurred in June 2003. An ICE Program Manager, (referred to as a JTTF Regional Coordinator at that time) from DHS headquarters used an outdated 1999 MOU between the former INS and the JTTF to prohibit ICE agents on the St. Louis, Kansas City, and San Antonio JTTFs from working on intelligence cases. This ICE Program Manager sent an e-mail on June 4, 2003 to St. Louis, Kansas City, and San Antonio ICE field offices referring to the outdated 1999 MOU that stated that FBI supervisors will not assign INS agents to conduct routine intelligence cases. Although the three ICE agents on the task forces and their supervisors agreed to comply with the restriction in the outdated memorandum, only the ICE agent on the St. Louis JTTF complied.95
Since many JTTF members work primarily on intelligence cases, the St. Louis ICE JTTF agent told us that he closed out the majority of his cases and the JTTF supervisor had to reassign them to other JTTF members, including agents from other DHS components such as the U.S. Secret Service and Federal Protective Service who were not affected by this memorandum. He stated the quality of his assignments suffered because he could no longer be assigned as a lead investigator on JTTF cases.
According to a St. Louis ICE JTTF agent, three months later, in September 2003 this restriction was lifted, when Michael Garcia, Assistant Secretary, ICE, addressed a conference of ICE JTTF agents in Baltimore, Maryland, and stated to the participants he was unaware of this e-mail (from the ICE Program Manager) and that it was never his intention to remove ICE JTTF agents from intelligence cases.
Several ICE agents on other JTTFs also told us that they were aware of friction between the DHS and the FBI regarding intelligence cases, but they continued to work these cases. Another ICE agent (formerly a Customs agent) on a JTTF told us that his supervisor informed him that Customs JTTF representatives would not be "handling any terrorism cases," but this was never enforced.
ICE JTTF Agents Expressed Concern About the Lack of Cross-Training in Immigration and Customs Matters
We were told by ICE agents who were members of JTTFs and ATACs that many former INS agents on the JTTFs are now supervised by former Customs staff who have not been cross-trained in immigration matters and are therefore unprepared to provide adequate guidance and supervision to their JTTF members. The majority of JTTF members we surveyed and interviewed described the FBI supervision on the task force as positive. However, task force members also need guidance and supervision from their parent agency on their own agency-related matters.
For example, a JTTF agent (formerly a Customs agent) told us that he needed training in immigration policies and procedures because other JTTF members frequently approached him regarding these issues. He said that he had only cursory knowledge of immigration issues. His agency supervisor had training only in immigration issues and did not have the expertise to guide him on customs issues.
An ICE Resident Agent-in-Charge (formerly a Customs agent), who is an ATAC member, expressed frustration about the lack of direction and training from DHS ICE. He stated that even though he is in charge of an office that combined INS and Customs staff and functions, he received no training in immigration issues and therefore is unaware of what legal or other authority he has related to immigration arrests. He also was unaware that an ICE agent (formerly an INS agent) under his supervision was assigned to the local JTTF because, at the time of our interview, former INS and Customs offices were located separately.
This lack of cross-training also led to confusion regarding the assignment of ICE agents to JTTFs. After INS and Customs agencies merged to form ICE, some former Customs supervisors questioned why there was a need to assign an ICE agent (with customs expertise) to a JTTF when an ICE agent (with immigration expertise) was already assigned. JTTFs need ICE agents with expertise in both customs and immigration operations and databases. However, all ICE agents have not been cross-trained in both functions.
The October 2004 GAO report cited steps taken by DHS toward integrating former INS and Customs investigative workforces. According to the report, ICE headquarters issued a cross-training curriculum to all SAC offices in January 2004 with a deadline for all investigators to complete cross-training by September 20, 2004, although there was no deadline for group supervisors or senior managers.96 According to the GAO report, in late August 2004, 2,175 out of approximately 5,400 former INS and Customs investigators had taken and passed at least one of nine exams, including 1,210 former INS and Customs investigators who had fully completed cross-training. ICE reports that as of March 15, 2005, 4,900 ICE special agents have completed cross-training, which it states represents all non-supervisory special agents in the field and a majority of supervisory and headquarters special agents.
Insufficient ICE Staff Detailed to the JTTFs and FTTTF
JTTF: Most JTTF members and supervisors stated that additional ICE agents, particularly former INS agents, are needed on the JTTFs, since virtually all international terrorism cases have some link to immigration. ICE task force members, including former Customs agents, emphasized to us the need for additional ICE agents with immigration experience on the JTTFs. They stated:
Similarly, other ICE task force members we interviewed and surveyed indicated a need for additional ICE members with customs expertise. For example, one ICE task force member (formerly Customs) stated:
I get called by customs people constantly. I play a support role to a large number of people. The calls are all day from border stations in four states. I'm currently working on 15 (FBI) taskings but others come in on a daily basis. Eight to ten of them involve me having to visit and interview. I coordinate whatever they need from a customs standpoint, TECS [Treasury Enforcement Communication System] database checks, travel itineraries, etc. FBI asks me to look up customs information that's not terrorism related. I could really use another customs person here but it's unlikely because they (DHS) look at it as we already have four people here, but three are [former] INS.
The NJTTF Director informed us that at the request of DHS, he conducted a critical needs assessment by querying the JTTF field supervisors on how many ICE agents were needed on each of the task forces. The results of this assessment showed that there were 159 full-time and 22 part-time ICE agents on 86 JTTFs in November 2003. However, the field JTTFs requested an additional 138 full-time ICE agents from the DHS. In March 2005, NJTTF officials informed us that as of October 26, 2004, ICE had 311 members assigned to the JTTFs. This represents 269 full-time members and 42 part-time positions, an increase of 110 full-time and 20 part-time personnel. Part of this increase is attributed to the 58 Federal Air Marshals who were already JTTF members (then under TSA) but were subsequently assimilated into the DHS ICE. Because the number of JTTFs increased from 86 to 100 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 NJTTF's needs assessment that was submitted to the DHS ICE in November 2003, requesting 138 additional positions for the JTTFs.
FTTTF: According to the FTTTF Director and the majority of FTTTF members interviewed and surveyed, the lack of DHS ICE analysts and agents assigned to the FTTTF is detrimental to the operation's efficiency. The FTTTF receives results of data inquiries from immigration and customs databases and must rely on ICE task force members to analyze the information. According to the FTTTF Director and members we interviewed, the one ICE agent and one ICE analyst assigned to the FTTTF are overburdened with analysis requests, and the task force needs additional analytical support from ICE and an analyst familiar with customs data.97 A former ICE employee told us that the one ICE analyst assigned had been employed by the INS only briefly before being detailed to the FTTTF and the analyst's knowledge of immigration databases and procedures was limited.
One FTTTF task force member stated that the lack of analysts makes it difficult to conduct expeditious analyses on time-sensitive information. Because only one ICE person has access to all ICE immigration data systems, that person is inundated with work, and it often takes up to a week for task force members to get answers, which in turn delays analytical products. Another member stated that the FTTTF is dependent on ICE for much of the information used in its analyses. He previously used the ICE representative in his unit to run checks on immigration databases to assist in his analyses. However, there was no longer ICE staff in his unit, which made it cumbersome to request these checks. He stated that it often takes weeks to receive an answer, and it would be more efficient if the FTTTF members had direct access to the DHS data systems.
We also were informed that although initially supportive, the immigration and inspections function of CBP ceased providing support to the FTTTF after January 2003. This is important because CBP staff members are the most knowledgeable on databases with airport entry data. A former senior ICE representative on the FTTTF stated he personally contacted a high-ranking manager at DHS and asked for additional personnel, but he did not receive a response.
As stated earlier in this report, a senior-level official from the INS served as the FTTTF's Deputy Director from its inception in October 2001 until November 2002. The FTTTF Director stated that he made several requests to the DHS to fill this position, and DHS verbally agreed to do so. JMD's November 2002 management review of the FTTTF had recommended that the "FTTTF Deputy Director be a senior level INS official who commits to a two-year tenure and who has access to the [then] INS Commissioner and field units when circumstances/information dictate action by INS."98 The report cited the importance of maintaining strong INS leadership and significant staff presence to ensure the FTTTF's access to immigration information needed to identify known or potential terrorists, engage appropriate INS enforcement officials when appropriate, and communicate through INS channels information aimed at denying entry as articulated in the mission. The report further noted that if the INS was to be integrated into the DHS, the FBI should work with the DHS to continue having the FTTTF Deputy Director's position filled by the DHS.
This recommendation for a DHS FTTTF Deputy Director still appears valid. However, as of August 2004 the DHS ICE had declined to fill the position, and DOD/CIFA agreed to fill the position of Deputy Director.
Several ICE JTTF members, particularly those who formerly were INS agents, told us that their ICE supervisors did not understand their roles on the task force and their reporting responsibilities within the FBI's chain of command. They said this led to the ICE referring taskings with a terrorism nexus directly to their members on the JTTF rather than referring directly to the FBI ASAC for the JTTF. The ICE agents believed all ICE referrals should go directly to the FBI to allow the JTTFs to properly vet cases, make determinations as to whether a terrorism nexus exists, and assign cases to the appropriate JTTF squads. These agents, however, did not want to complain to their ICE supervisors because they enjoyed their work on the JTTF and were concerned that if they did not perform these additional assignments, it might jeopardize their continued placement on the JTTF. For example, an ICE JTTF told us:
INS cases assigned are an obstacle to performing work on the JTTF. You should have one road on terrorism related issues. If INS comes across intelligence that's terrorism related, it should be given to the FBI. Sometimes, we get stuff from the NSU [National Security Unit at the DHS] that the FBI is clearly not aware of. NSU got information on a business from NY. so they task us [JTTF representatives from ICE]. NSU should have dealt solely with the FBI and taken INS out of the loop. A supervisor here [FBI] should look at a case and rule out terrorism and assign the case accordingly - but not to a JTTF/INS member assigned by NSU. There was a period of overtasking from INS that had nothing to do with our [work].
ICE task force members also commented in our interviews and survey that ICE overtasks its JTTF agents with ICE cases that do not have a terrorism nexus. For example, two ICE JTTF survey respondents stated:
The October 2004 GAO report on management challenges also addressed the topic of DHS agents assigned collateral duties, and reported that both DHS inspectors and investigators "have been assigned administrative functions full-time or as a collateral duty," and "they are not spending all of their time on duties needed to accomplish the program's mission."
Response to ICE Issues
Both the NJTTF Director and former Deputy Director (an ICE employee) stated that they would like to see some type of national plan or policy issued by the DHS regarding ICE representation on the JTTFs. Both also agreed that updated policies and MOUs defining the ICE roles on the JTTFs as well as providing a strategy on agent assignments to the JTTFs would be useful.
The NJTTF Unit Chief told us during our May 2004 interview that he is aware of some problems in the field with the DHS ICE and the JTTFs (such as confusion resulting from a former Customs or INS supervisor who does not understand the role of the ICE JTTF member, the number of agents assigned to the JTTFs, and the non-JTTF taskings assigned). He stated that he is monitoring these matters.
In March 2004, the Assistant Secretary and the Chief of Operations for ICE at the DHS told us that they believe that DHS headquarters had increased guidance and communication to the field since ICE was created. The DHS coordinates its counterterrorism initiatives with the Department through 1) MOUs and written procedures that define the relationships between the two organizations at the field level; 2) ICE participation on the JTTFs, NJTTF, FTTTF, and Terrorist Financing Operations Section, 3) ICE's and the FBI's agreement to assign senior-level managers at each other's agencies; and 4) briefings on cases they work jointly.99 They said that the role of ICE on the task forces is to bring its expertise and knowledge about tools in law enforcement that the JTTFs can use. Additionally, we were told that law enforcement powers and authority available to ICE officers relating to enforcement, detention, or arrest of individuals for violation of immigration or customs laws were not available to FBI or JTTF agents previously. The JTTFs, through their ICE members, can now use these laws to detain or deport a terrorist or terrorist supporter. The ICE officials informed us that it is cross-training ICE members on the JTTFs in both customs and immigration issues to increase their knowledge base.
The Assistant Secretary said he believes that the task forces are effective tools and the task force model works well. He also informed us that he requested an analysis of ICE's participation on the terrorism task forces to determine where and how many personnel are currently assigned, and where ICE will gain the most benefit.100
Both the FBI and DHS recognize that the terrorism task forces cannot operate effectively without ICE agents and analysts who have knowledge of immigration and customs operations. However, task force members and managers repeatedly expressed the need for additional trained staff to provide expert representation from ICE. An adequate number of sufficiently trained representatives from ICE will contribute to more complete and timely counterterrorism investigations. Additionally, ICE task force members complained about a lack of cross-trained supervisors and insufficient guidance from their parent agencies concerning their task force duties. ICE task force members told us that ICE supervisors overtask their JTTF agents with ICE cases that do not have a terrorism nexus. These task force members also told us that ICE has at times referred taskings with a terrorism nexus directly to its JTTF members rather than through the FBI for assignment. This detracts from the FBI's ability to properly manage and coordinate the work of the JTTFs.
27. The Deputy Attorney General should work jointly with DHS officials to ensure:
Functions Performed by the States' Homeland Security Task Forces are Viewed as Duplicative to Those Performed by the ATACs.
State homeland security task forces hold meetings, share threat related information and conduct anti-terrorism training, which could be duplicative of the ATACs efforts. ATAC Coordinators, as well as ATAC members, told us that they viewed the activities of the state homeland security task forces and the ATAC as duplicative. Several ATAC members stated that they receive the same information from both the state homeland security task forces and the ATACs, but would rather receive more information than no information. While they do not view this information sharing duplication as a problem, those who were members of both a state homeland security task force and an ATAC expressed concern with the time expended attending dual meetings and trainings. In addition, many ATAC Coordinators told the OIG that the states' offices of homeland security did not regularly coordinate or communicate with the USAOs.
Immediately after September 11, 2001, many states established an Office of Homeland Security to mirror the federal Office of Homeland Security (now DHS). In July 2002, the President called on each Governor to establish a state homeland security task force to serve as a "primary coordinating body with the federal government..." and "...provide a collaborative, cost-effective structure for effectively communicating to all organizations and citizens."101 In response, each state created a homeland security task force made up of federal, state, and local law enforcement; first responders; private industry security officials; and other government representatives. The mission of these state task forces is to prepare for a coordinated response to a terrorist event or incident and to aid in the prevention of terrorism.
Often, the ATAC and the state homeland security task force consist of the same membership and address similar issues. In some states, there may be more than one judicial district, and therefore more than one ATAC. State homeland security task forces are headquartered in the state capital, while ATACs are headquartered in judicial districts, which may or may not be in the state capital. If the state homeland security task force and ATAC are in different cities, the opportunity for duplication or gaps in information sharing and training activities is increased and coordination between the two entities becomes vital.
We found that some states were working jointly with USAOs to coordinate activities and reduce duplication in information sharing and training. For example, the ATAC and state homeland security task force in Alaska have joined together to form one task force. The coordinators from each are now co-coordinators of the joint task force and together host meetings and training. According to U.S. Attorney Timothy M. Burgess (Alaska), the purpose of the task force is to "protect the state's citizens, resources and infrastructure," and the merger will "facilitate communication, avoid duplication of effort and ensure adequate and timely responses to prevent any future terrorist incidents in the state."102 We found in other sites that the ATAC and the state homeland security task force have no interaction or only communicated occasionally.
While some ATACs have established successful partnerships or communication links with the state homeland security task forces, others have no information sharing or established relationships. This results in duplication of, or gaps in, information sharing and training activities that target the same audience.
28. The ATAC Coordinators should work jointly with the state offices of homeland security and the state homeland security task forces to coordinate activities and to minimize duplication and gaps in terrorism-related information sharing and training.