Coordination of Investigations by Department of Justice Violent Crime Task Forces

Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2007-004
May 2007
Office of the Inspector General

Appendix XII
OIG Analysis of the FBI Response

The FBI provided its written response to the OIG’s draft report on May 3, 2007. In addition, as noted above, in a memorandum dated March 23, 2007, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General concurred with the report’s four recommendations on behalf of the Department.

In its response, the FBI stated that it remains committed to improving task force coordination and asserted that the OIG’s report suggests that “FBI and DOJ component task force coordination is generally very effective” because it does not establish “more than nominal duplication of effort or risk to officer safety.” The FBI expressed concerns about the OIG’s methodology and disagreed with aspects of the OIG report’s findings related to FBI headquarters’ guidance on coordination, duplicate investigations, information sharing and deconfliction, and cooperation on investigations. Although the FBI agreed with elements of the OIG recommendations, it differed with various conclusions and statements in the report. Summaries of each of the FBI’s main points follow, accompanied by the OIG’s response.

OIG Methodology and Criteria

Use of Anecdotes

Summary of the FBI Response. The FBI stated that the OIG made extensive use of anecdotes and presented them without perspective, balance, or context. The FBI also stated that written survey instruments are often used to provide balance and context based on multiple perspectives, but that the OIG did not conduct a survey for this report.

OIG Analysis. We disagree with the FBI’s statements that the OIG report used anecdotes that lacked perspective, balance, or context. The report discussed specific law enforcement events and provided multiple perspectives from participants in those events regarding the level of cooperation among components. We discussed those events and our presentation of them with knowledgeable individuals from the various task forces, including the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. During our review, we interviewed 234 officials involved in task force operations, including:

While written surveys may be used during reviews to solicit a broader response, they do not necessarily provide a balanced, contextual description of specific events – that requires interviewing knowledgeable participants regarding the event, which was our methodology in this review. Further, the FBI response ignores the fact that, to supplement our extensive interviews, we conducted a voluntary survey with the FBI’s support using the FBI’s own Law Enforcement Online (LEO) system. To provide an opportunity for law enforcement officers and Special Agents to participate in our review, we invited the more than 35,000 law enforcement officers and Special Agents who have access to LEO to identify task force coordination issues or to provide specific examples of task force coordination. We created a task force coordination “special interest group” on LEO and posted an invitation to participate on the LEO “splash page.” However, we received very few responses to our voluntary survey and did not include the results in our report.

Moreover, to ensure that our descriptions of events in the report were accurate, we provided the FBI, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, and the other components with a working draft of the report and allowed significant time for them to review it and provide any comments or additional information. Based on the comments and information we received from the FBI and the other components, we supplemented or revised our report’s descriptions of specific task force events when appropriate. The FBI’s final comments of May 3, 2007, did not include any additional information regarding any of the specific task force events we describe.

Responses to Interviewees’ Comments

Summary of the FBI Response. The FBI stated that the OIG included statements by individuals regarding the performance or actions of other individuals or components, but rarely included a response from the referenced individual or component.

OIG Analysis. The FBI is correct that the OIG report does not include responses to every statement made by ATF, DEA, and FBI Special Agents, Deputy Marshals, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, or local task force members regarding task force coordination. We included the opinions of these task force participants regarding the general level of coordination to illustrate their attitudes and perceptions regarding the level of coordination with other components. Given the need for communication and coordination, we believe the general opinions of knowledgeable officers and agents working on these task forces are an important aspect to examine in assessing the level of cooperation among various Department task forces. In each case, we presented the statements in context, accompanied by the position, title, or duties of the person expressing the opinion.

However, in contrast to opinion statements, when individual statements related to factual matters, such as descriptions of what occurred during blue-on-blue incidents, we presented comments from other individuals involved, including the FBI, to provide a complete description of what occurred.

FBI Headquarters Program Management Input

Summary of the FBI Response. The FBI stated that the OIG reached conclusions about policy and coordination efforts “without first consulting the policymakers,” such as the Assistant Director and the Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division. The FBI stated that the OIG’s efforts would have benefited from earlier input by these officials.

OIG Analysis. Again, we disagree with the FBI's response. To identify the FBI’s policy and its policy makers, during the entrance conference that we conducted at the outset of our review we asked the FBI to provide:

We reviewed the policies the FBI provided and interviewed the sole headquarters manager the FBI identified in response to our written request. That individual identified another headquarters manager involved in task force program management, whom we also interviewed. Neither manager suggested any higher-level policy makers that we should consult. To the contrary, both stated that the Special Agent in Charge of each field office is responsible for task force operations and coordination (which the FBI’s May 3, 2007, comments confirmed). We asked to interview the FBI Special Agent in Charge at each of the eight sites we visited, and we interviewed three of them. Finally, during the review we provided three formal briefings on the progress of the review to the components and gave the components the opportunity to provide information or identify other officials we should interview. The liaisons and managers the FBI sent to these briefings also did not suggest that we interview the Assistant Director and the Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division.

Only after receiving the working draft report did the FBI identify these two headquarters managers as being responsible for Safe Streets Task Force operations and complain that they had not been interviewed. We met with the Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division, who provided a minimal amount of new information. We included that information in the report along with other information from the FBI’s written response.

Definition of Terms and Interpretation of Data and Policy

Summary of the FBI Response. Regarding arrest data, the FBI stated that the OIG wrongly equated components’ cooperation on a specific arrest with coordination on the larger investigation that produced the arrest. The FBI stated that the OIG’s findings on duplicate arrests relied on “self-reporting by individuals” who may have been unaware of coordination of investigations involving those individuals that occurred at higher levels of the task forces. Regarding the OIG’s analysis of task force coordination, the FBI stated that an “absence of any rationale for the relevance of some of the criteria” the OIG used as performance elements in its review “detracts from the validity of the conclusions.”

OIG Analysis. The FBI misconstrued the OIG’s analysis of arrests reported by more than one task force. To identify instances of cooperation or duplication of effort among the task forces, we examined data from FY 2003 through FY 2005 to find instances in which more than one component task force investigated the same individual. We then used statistical analysis software to compare lists of task force arrestees provided by each component to identify instances in which more than one task force reported making the same arrest. We provided this information to the components that reported the arrests and asked them to review their case files and explain why both they and another component had reported the arrest. The components decided who would conduct the case file reviews, and each component had the opportunity to review the explanations before providing them to us. None of the component responses to these questions constituted “self-reporting by individuals” as asserted by the FBI’s response, but rather were provided by the FBI and the other components through designated liaison channels.

Regarding the FBI’s comments on “performance elements,” the rationale for our criteria is explained in detail on pages 11, 12, and 31 of the report, and those explanations were included in the draft reviewed by the FBI. The criteria were developed based on information provided by managers and task force members (including FBI Special Agents) in response to a series of questions designed to identify the most important actions they took to ensure that task force investigations were well coordinated. From their answers, we developed 28 criteria to assess the components’ efforts to coordinate their task force investigations on three levels – task force management, cooperation during investigations, and law enforcement event deconfliction. Apart from its general statement, the FBI does not challenge the relevance of any specific criterion or describe any particular flaws in the OIG’s assessment of the FBI’s performance against any of the criteria. Consequently, we made no changes in response to the FBI’s general comment.

FBI Headquarters Guidance on Task Force Coordination

Summary of the FBI Response. The FBI stated that the report incorrectly concludes that the FBI does not have a nation-wide task force coordination policy. The FBI asserted that it does have a nation-wide policy for coordination but does not instruct individual field offices in the means to most effectively accomplish such coordination. The FBI stated that elsewhere in the report the OIG recognizes the existence of this FBI policy, which requires that proposals for new FBI task forces include “a list of existing task forces in the area with whom the new FBI Safe Streets Task Force would have to coordinate.” The FBI also stated that approval of a proposal for a new task force is “contingent upon the proposal’s inclusion of a satisfactory plan to achieve such coordination.”

OIG Analysis. The FBI policy referenced in the FBI comments was issued in 1993 and is not a nation-wide coordination and deconfliction policy because it does not address coordination of existing task forces, FBI coordination with new task forces created by the other Department components, or FBI participation in or coordination of investigations with violent crime task forces led by other Department components. Our report describes the FBI’s 1993 policy, which contains the requirements for establishing and operating multi-jurisdictional FBI Safe Streets Task Forces made up of federal, state, and local agencies. The FBI policy requires that proposals for new FBI Safe Streets Task Forces list other law enforcement agencies in the area with which the new FBI Safe Streets Task Force would have to coordinate. However, the policy does not address the coordination or deconfliction of Safe Streets Task Force investigations with the investigations conducted by other federal violent crime task forces.

Moreover, FBI headquarters managers told us, and we observed in the field, that the FBI policies described in the FBI’s response are directed at managing FBI task forces, not at ensuring coordination with other Department task forces. As the FBI states, its policy does not “instruct individual field offices in the means to most effectively accomplish coordination.” Rather, the FBI’s policy leaves to the discretion of the local Special Agents in Charge whether and how to coordinate task force investigations. As our report demonstrates, in the absence of a uniform FBI policy some Special Agents in Charge have established local coordination and deconfliction policies while others have not. Consequently, the FBI claim that it has a nation-wide policy regarding coordination of task force investigations is not supported either by the letter of its policy or by the activities of its field offices.

Regarding the FBI’s statement that approval of a proposal for a new FBI task force is “contingent upon the proposal’s inclusion of a satisfactory plan to achieve such coordination,” no such requirement was included in any documents provided during our review, nor was any such requirement identified to us during interviews.

Duplicate Investigations

Summary of the FBI Response. The FBI stated that the OIG conclusion that duplicate arrest statistics indicate duplicate investigations is incorrect because it is more likely that the OIG identified duplicate reporting from multiple or disparate investigations. Specifically, the FBI stated that 81 of the 1,288 arrests identified by the OIG were improperly counted as duplicates by the OIG because one of the components became involved “after the arrest.” The FBI also stated that “the OIG establishes that 99.2 percent of the nearly 100,000 component arrests proceeded without duplication of any kind” because the arrests labeled as duplicate by the OIG make up only 0.78 percent of all arrests by the components.

OIG Analysis. The FBI’s statement that the 1,288 overlapping arrests we identified were “duplicate reporting” is incorrect. Appendix II of this report explains in detail the steps we took to eliminate duplicate reporting. We also explained to FBI headquarters staff in meetings discussing the report why we believe there is no duplicate reporting among the 1,288 arrests.

Regarding the 81 arrests that the FBI questions, we believe these were correctly characterized as “duplicate investigations.” We characterized these arrests as duplication because the explanations provided by the components showed that, even after the arrest, one or both of the components remained unaware that warrants had been issued or investigations were being conducted by another component. In contrast, we characterized other duplicate arrests as “joint investigations” because both components reported working together after the suspect’s arrest (98 arrests) or using information-sharing systems to identify fugitives and close additional warrants after a task force arrested a suspect for a federal crime (92 arrests).

The FBI’s statement that “99.2 percent of the nearly 100,000 component arrests proceeded without duplication of any kind” is not correct. It is based on the faulty assumption that, because none of the other 95,940 arrests were reported by more than one task force, none of the individuals arrested were being investigated by more than one task force. In fact, instances in which task forces had been investigating the same individual were reported to us during our review by Deputy Marshals and Special Agents.

Information Sharing and Deconfliction

Summary of the FBI Response. The FBI agreed with the need for effective deconfliction to ensure officer safety and the effective use of resources, but stated that it disagreed that “effective deconfliction can only be achieved if law enforcement agencies deconflict every law enforcement action” (emphasis in original). In addition, the FBI disagreed with the OIG’s conclusion that the FBI’s existing deconfliction efforts are inadequate. The FBI also expressed concern that the OIG’s recommendation that the Department “require each component to use national and local information-sharing and deconfliction systems to coordinate investigations and protect officer safety” could “cause confusion” given that some systems are not acceptable to all participating agencies. Finally, the FBI stated that because no injuries to “law enforcement officers or members of the public” resulted from the blue-on-blue incidents the OIG identified, our findings do not support deconfliction of every planned law enforcement event.

OIG Analysis. Our report does not recommend that the Department require the components to deconflict all events. While our analysis demonstrated that event deconfliction is most effective when task forces use a common deconfliction system for every event, we also recognize that adequate systems to conduct such deconfliction are not available to every task force. Consequently, we recommended that the Department “ require each component to use national and local information-sharing and deconfliction systems to coordinate investigations and protect officer safety.” We also disagree that such deconfliction would cause confusion, or that because injuries from blue- on-blue incidents have not yet occurred that the current level of deconfliction is adequate. The Department should not wait until injury or death occurs to improve its deconfliction activities.

The Deputy Attorney General concurred, and in a memorandum dated March 23, 2007, implemented the OIG recommendation by directing the FBI and the other components to:

[U]tilize, where available and effective, information sharing and deconfliction measures to coordinate investigations in geographical areas where more than one DOJ-led violent crime task force operates. Each component should also adopt, to the extent it does not already have one, a policy consistent with this directive that requires all of its violent crime task forces to utilize information sharing and deconfliction measures.

To ensure compliance with his directive, the Deputy Attorney General is requiring each of the components to:

[C]ertify, no later than June 1, 2007, that it has policies and procedures in effect at the national and local level that mandate coordination with other violent crime task forces, including where effective and available, participation in information sharing and deconfliction measures.

We have accepted the Deputy Attorney General’s actions as addressing our recommendation. We will continue to monitor the Department’s effort to ensure that the components comply with this directive.

Cooperation on Investigations

Summary of the FBI Response. The FBI disagreed with what it deemed an OIG notion that activities between task forces beyond deconfliction “is an appropriate goal or represents an efficient use of task force resources.” The FBI stated that Department components exercise sound judgment and cooperate when necessary, but are properly conducting investigations within their respective missions the majority of the time. When two task forces find that they are investigating the same individual, according to the FBI, one “steps aside.”

The FBI also objected to two specific examples in the OIG report that dealt with the issue of joint investigations. The first was that of an FBI Safe Streets Task Force supervisor in Gary, Indiana, who told us his task force works firearms cases on its own, rather than turning firearms-related intelligence over to ATF. In its response, the FBI stated that while it investigates firearms violations that may be part of gang and violent crimes investigations, it does not independently investigate felon-in-possession or illegal firearms cases. The FBI stated that it had contacted the supervisor in question and determined that the OIG interview question the supervisor responded to fell in the category of an “umbrella drug investigation,” not an investigation specific to firearms violations. The second example involved simultaneous FBI and DEA investigations of a gang in Atlanta. The FBI stated that the example represented effective resolution and good law enforcement partnership rather than poor coordination.

OIG Analysis. The FBI’s implication that activity between task forces beyond deconfliction is not an appropriate goal and is an inefficient use of resources is both short-sighted and inconsistent with Department policy, as reflected in the Deputy Attorney General’s June 17, 2005, anti-gang activity policy. We believe that the appropriate approach to cooperative efforts between task forces depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. We believe that decisions on the appropriate form of coordination should be made jointly by all the task forces involved and in consultation with the U.S. Attorney. Our report seeks to help improve coordination by recommending the use of processes and systems to facilitate those coordination decisions.

To respond to the FBI's comments about firearms investigations in Gary, Indiana, we added the following statement to the draft report: “The FBI Safe Streets Task Force Supervisor and task force members said that they do not work with the ATF task force. They said they investigate firearms crimes discovered during ongoing FBI Safe Streets Task Force investigations on their own, rather than turn intelligence over to ATF” (emphasis added).

With regard to the Atlanta example, the situation described to the OIG by the FBI Special Agents showed a failure to deconflict law enforcement events. Accepting the FBI’s premise that the existence of two separate investigations was appropriate owing to the differing underlying criminal activities being investigated, this incident still demonstrates the need to deconflict such surveillance activities as well as to better coordinate overlapping investigations between task forces.

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