Review of United States Attorneys' Offices' Use of Intelligence Research Specialists

Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2006-003
December 2005
Office of the Inspector General


Background


The Department’s Strategic Plan states that the first priority of the Department of Justice (Department) is to protect the United States against terrorism by preventing, disrupting, and defeating terrorist operations before they occur; developing and implementing the full range of resources available to investigate terrorist incidents; and vigorously prosecuting those who have committed, or intend to commit, terrorist acts in the United States.1 The Department’s Strategic Plan outlines several strategies to achieve these objectives, including establishing anti-terrorism task forces within each judicial district to coordinate anti-terrorist activities; developing an intelligence capability that fully supports the Department’s counterterrorism efforts; and building strong cases for prosecution through the use of district anti-terrorism task forces.2 The Department requested and received from the Congress money to fund one intelligence research specialist position for each United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) in fiscal year (FY) 2002 to facilitate the coordination of anti-terrorist activities with investigative agencies, develop an intelligence capability, and build stronger cases.

Coordination of Anti-Terrorist Activities

The creation of the intelligence research specialist positions was one of a number of actions taken by the Department after September 11, 2001 to improve its counterterrorism capabilities. On September 17, 2001, the Attorney General directed each USAO to establish an Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC).3 In part, intelligence research specialists were designed to facilitate the mission of the ATAC. According to the Anti-Terrorism Plan Memorandum for All U.S. Attorneys, the ATACs coordinate the implementation of an operational plan for preventing terrorism; transmit information about terrorism and terrorist activities between federal and local agencies; and coordinate the districts’ response to a terrorist incident.4 The ATACs are open to a broad range of participants and do not require security clearances. 5

In addition to ATACs, the Attorney General directed the expansion of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF), led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The JTTFs’ mission is to detect and investigate terrorists and terrorist groups and prevent them from carrying out terrorist acts directed against the United States. Membership in the JTTFs is limited to law enforcement, intelligence, and military personnel with Top Secret security clearances. To enhance the effectiveness of the USAOs’ anti-terrorism activities, the intelligence research specialists were intended to serve as a bridge between the JTTF and the ATAC. For example, intelligence research specialists were expected to check on the results of leads forwarded to the JTTFs by ATAC members and, at the same time, transmit important threat information from the JTTFs to ATAC members at the appropriate classification level.

Developing an Intelligence Capability at the USAOs and Building Stronger Cases

The intelligence research specialist positions were also created to develop an intelligence capability at the USAOs. To develop this capability, three areas need to be addressed: information sharing, information analysis, and coordination. In the memorandum, Prevention of Acts Threatening Public Safety and National Security, November 8, 2001, the Attorney General directed the heads of Department components to take prompt action in developing and improving capabilities in these three areas. In reference to information analysis, the Attorney General stated that:

Information is only as valuable as the uses to which it is put. Beyond collection and dissemination, information in your custody must be carefully and expertly analyzed in order to assess its relevance and reliability in identifying threats and investigative leads. I hereby direct you to assess the intelligence analysis capacity of your component and, where deficient, to improve such capacity or, where warranted, institute procedures to ensure proper analysis by related components or agencies.6

In a November 13, 2001, memorandum to all U.S. Attorneys, the Attorney General informed them that the proposed FY 2002 budget included funding for 93 analysts, one for each USAO district.7 According to the Attorney General, the intelligence analyst positions were created because “[i]nformation must be appropriately analyzed before it can be used to its full potential.” The Attorney General directed all U.S. Attorneys to ensure that the intelligence analysts had access to the most recent and reliable information available through coordination with the USAO’s Chief Information Officer and Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee. The memorandum also stated that the intelligence analysts would act as a conduit of information from federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to local law enforcement.8 In December 2001, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) assigned an Attorney Advisor to coordinate the intelligence research specialist program from Washington, D.C.9

A New Position for the USAOs

Shortly after September 11, 2001, the Attorney General ordered all Department components to assess and improve their intelligence analysis capability. As part of that effort, EOUSA, in cooperation with USAOs, conceived, developed, and funded an intelligence research specialist position for each USAO. Unlike any other USAO position, the intelligence research specialists collect and disseminate intelligence outside of traditional prosecutorial efforts, and work beyond their district to share information with JTTFs and other federal, state, and local anti-terrorism partners nation-wide. In contrast, other USAO staff work primarily to support their district’s litigation or prosecutions, and USAs exercise considerable autonomy in directing their work. According to EOUSA, the unique nature of the intelligence research specialist position, combined with the difficult time period, made implementing the positions challenging for EOUSA and the USAOs.

The first Attorney Advisor told the OIG that the Department decided to establish the 93 intelligence research specialist positions at the USAOs for three reasons. First, the U.S. Attorney is the highest ranking federal law enforcement officer in the district, and many federal law enforcement officers rely on the USAO to prosecute their cases. As a result, the law enforcement community generally considers USAOs to be “turf neutral” because they do not represent the interests of any individual agency. Second, prosecuting cases requires federal law enforcement agencies to share information with USAO staff that they may not have shared with other agencies. One of the original roles envisioned for intelligence research specialists was to coordinate with intelligence analysts at other agencies to share case information. Developing an intelligence capability would also enable USAOs to better identify cases with terrorism connections. For example, a drug case involving money laundering could be identified as a terrorism case if the money was used to provide material support for a terrorist organization.

Third, adding an intelligence capacity at the USAOs would help identify duplication of effort or potential conflict between different federal law enforcement agencies that are independently investigating the same subject(s). For example, if the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) requested a search warrant from the USAO on a suspected drug trafficker, and the JTTF was investigating the same subject for links to terrorism, the intelligence research specialist would be able to alert the involved AUSAs of the potential conflict.

Memorandums From the Director of EOUSA Regarding the Role of Intelligence Research Specialists.

From September 2002 to May 2003, EOUSA sent three memorandums to all U.S. Attorneys to instruct USAOs on how intelligence research specialists should be used. On September 25, 2002, the Director of EOUSA sent all U.S. Attorneys a memorandum titled Intelligence Research Specialist “Best Practices.” The memorandum stated that the intelligence research specialists were primarily information "gatherers and sharers" in support of ATAC activities. The memorandum also reminded U.S. Attorneys that “Intelligence Research Specialist (IRS) positions are NOT to be used as investigative positions” and that “these positions should not take the place of, nor interfere with, the intelligence gathering activities of the investigative agencies.” Instead, according to the memorandum, the U.S. Attorney or ATAC Coordinator was to consider using intelligence research specialists to perform the functions summarized below:10

  • Information sharing. Serve as a conduit of information by discovering and bridging gaps in information sharing, assisting with community outreach efforts, filtering bulletins and alerts for distribution, and assisting in implementing procedures to better facilitate intelligence sharing. Liaison with intelligence research specialists from other agencies, as well as personnel from regional intelligence centers, to facilitate information sharing, develop personal relationships, and gather strategic intelligence information.
  • Intelligence analysis. Ensure that information is properly analyzed and possible links are established and referred to appropriate investigating agencies. Assist with strategic intelligence. Collect, analyze, and recognize threat indicators unique to the district.
  • Case support and review. Prepare flow and event charts regarding possible terrorism activities for use in pending investigative matters and later as court exhibits. Review declined case files to ensure the individual has been checked against the proper databases for possible terrorism connections or other current wants or warrants. Attend intake briefings, post summaries, and review case files in an effort to establish possible links between investigations and cases. Research local organizations that may have information on terrorism and draft white papers.
  • JTTF and ATAC activities. Participate in appropriate JTTF and ATAC meetings. Provide leads discovered by analyzing or mining data to the JTTF or other appropriate law enforcement agency for a follow-up investigation.

On February 14, 2003, the Director of EOUSA sent a second memorandum titled Designation of AUSAs Pursuant to the Attorney General’s March 6, 2002 Intelligence Sharing Procedures. In this memorandum, the Director described the procedures to be followed in the sharing of information on FBI intelligence investigations with intelligence research specialists:

Intelligence research specialists are entitled to receive information from an FBI intelligence investigation pursuant to March 2002 Procedures if they are assigned to work on a particular matter by the USA or a designated AUSA and are properly cleared and trained. In this regard, the IRSs will be treated like other non-lawyer support staff; such staff do not need to be designated by the USA but instead are entitled to receive information derivatively by virtue of their working with a designated USA or AUSA.

On May 7, 2003, the EOUSA Director sent a third memorandum titled Integration of USAO Intelligence Research Specialists. In the memorandum, the Director emphasized the importance of involving intelligence research specialists with the JTTFs:

The leadership of the Department... has asked me to reiterate the importance of having the intelligence research specialist actively involved with the JTTFs.... The purpose of the involvement is three-fold. First, the intelligence research specialists will be able to provide the JTTFs with intelligence information that is being generated by ATTF members who may not be members of the JTTF, as well as intelligence obtained by the USAO from other non-terrorism prosecutions and investigations. Second, the JTTFs will benefit from the part-time assistance of an additional Intelligence Analyst, many of whom will have graduated from the FBI Academy ’s College of Analytical Studies. Third, the active participation of your intelligence research specialists will help ensure that information from those task forces is shared in a more timely and fulsome manner with appropriately cleared members of your own offices.

These three memorandums represent the main operational guidance from EOUSA to USAOs regarding the intelligence research specialist position. EOUSA also sent additional memorandums on the administrative aspects of the intelligence research specialist position.

Implementation of the Intelligence Research Specialist Position

Role of EOUSA

EOUSA provides the 93 U.S. Attorneys with general executive assistance and direction, policy development, administrative management direction and oversight, operational support, and coordination with other components of the Department and other federal agencies (Appendix II). Among EOUSA’s responsibilities, four are relevant to its management of the intelligence research specialist positions. First, EOUSA promotes, facilitates, and monitors programs within the USAOs designated by the Attorney General as priorities of the Department. Because anti-terrorism activities have been designated as the top priority of the Department, and the intelligence research specialists play a key role in the USAOs’ anti-terrorism activities, it is EOUSA’s responsibility to promote, facilitate, and monitor the program. Second, EOUSA evaluates the performance of the USAOs, making appropriate reports and taking corrective action where necessary. Third, EOUSA publishes and maintains a U.S. Attorneys' Manual and bulletin for the internal guidance of the USAOs and other organizational units of the Department. Fourth, EOUSA supervises the operation of the Office of Legal Education, which develops, conducts, and assists in the training of Department legal personnel and other federal legal personnel, which would include the intelligence research specialists.

Since the creation of the intelligence research specialist positions, EOUSA has assigned two different Attorney Advisors to coordinate the implementation of the intelligence research specialist program. The first Attorney Advisor contacted the DEA and the FBI to determine how they used intelligence research specialists and also attended a conference for First Assistant U.S. Attorneys where he obtained input from them regarding the role of the intelligence research specialists. The Attorney Advisor also attended the annual conference for U.S. Attorneys where he presented the information he had collected and obtained input from the U.S. Attorneys.

From August 2003 to October 2003, and September 2004 to September 2005, the Deputy Counsel to the Director of EOUSA served as the point of contact and coordinator for intelligence research specialists. In September 2005, EOUSA detailed an intelligence research specialist from the field to serve as the national coordinator. Unlike other programs, such as the Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee, neither the Deputy Counsel nor the detailed national coordinator have a staff to maintain liaison with intelligence research specialists; monitor and assist in evaluating intelligence research specialist activity; provide technical assistance; or work with numerous national criminal justice and intelligence organizations on intelligence research specialist matters.

Funding for Intelligence Research Specialists

In FY 2002, Congress appropriated supplemental funding of $56,370,000 to increase USAO staffing levels. Of the 468 positions funded for anti-terrorism investigative and prosecutorial needs, 93 positions were for intelligence research specialists.11 Although the supplemental funded each intelligence research specialist position at the General Schedule (GS) 12 grade level, U.S. Attorneys could fill the position at a different grade level if the district had extra funds to defray the cost. In FY 2003, intelligence research specialist salaries and ancillary costs (such as training, travel, and supplies) were annualized into the general salaries and expenses account. As a result, neither salaries nor ancillary costs for intelligence research specialists have appeared as a separate line item in subsequent budgets.

Hiring and Personnel

EOUSA and the USAOs jointly selected the staff for the intelligence research specialist positions. EOUSA, the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, and the Administrative Officers’ Working Group developed the position descriptions and recruitment documents for intelligence research specialists. EOUSA established the recruitment process, but each USAO district conducted its own interviews for the intelligence research specialist position. EOUSA approved all final selections for the permanent position made by the districts. The following chart depicts the intelligence research specialists staffing levels for each calendar year.

Chart 1: Intelligence Research Specialist Staffing Levels

Year/Number of intelligence research specialists: 2001/6; 2002/44; 2003/67; 2004/79.
Source: EOUSA.


Role of the United States Attorneys’ Offices

The U.S. Attorneys serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General.12 Each U.S. Attorney is the chief federal law enforcement officer of the United States within the judicial district. The U.S. Attorneys have three statutory responsibilities: the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the U.S. government, prosecution and defense of civil cases in which the United States is a party, and collection of debts owed the U.S. government which are administratively uncollectible.

The workload of each district includes a variety of cases. Each U.S. Attorney exercises discretion in the use of his or her resources to further the district’s priorities and the needs of the local communities. Within each USAO, the intelligence research specialist works to address the needs identified by the U.S. Attorney. In many districts, the ATAC Coordinator supervises and evaluates the intelligence research specialist. Intelligence research specialists may work at the main office where the U.S. Attorney is located or may be located at a branch office in the district. According to EOUSA, each U.S. Attorney is ultimately responsible for the intelligence research specialist employed within that office.

Professional Background, Experience, and General Schedule (GS) Levels

The intelligence research specialists working at the USAOs come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Of the 79 specialists employed as of March 2005, the majority worked previously in the military or law enforcement. However, USAOs have also hired specialists with other government, private sector, and foreign intelligence experience.

On average, the specialists we interviewed had 14 years of intelligence experience. Half stated that they had 15 or more years of intelligence experience, with 9 individuals responding that they had 30 or more years of intelligence experience. However, 15 intelligence research specialists stated that they did not have any intelligence experience prior to coming to the USAOs. Most of these individuals came from a law enforcement background. All but one individual was hired at the GS-12 or GS-13 grade level.

Security Clearances

Prior to entrance on duty, EOUSA required that each intelligence research specialist have a completed and adjudicated Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI).13

Developments That Will Affect the Intelligence Research Specialists

Department restructuring

On June 29, 2005, the President directed the Attorney General to restructure the intelligence operations of the Department, including the FBI.14 The restructuring resulted from two recommendations contained in the report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (March 31, 2005).15 Those recommendations were:

To ensure that the FBI's intelligence elements are responsive to the Director of National Intelligence [DNI], and to capitalize on the FBI's progress, we recommend the creation of a new National Security Service within the FBI under a single Executive Assistant Director. This service would include the Bureau's Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence Divisions and the Directorate of Intelligence. The service would be subject to the coordination and budget authorities of the DNI as well as the same Attorney General authorities that apply to other Bureau divisions.

The Department of Justice's primary national security elements - the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, and the Counterterrorism and Counterespionage sections - should be placed under a new Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

In a June 29, 2005 message to Department employees, the Attorney General confirmed that the reorganization will consolidate the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) and the Criminal Division’s Counterterrorism and Counterespionage Sections into a new National Security Division. A new Assistant Attorney General will lead the National Security Division.

In addition, the message stated that at the FBI, a new senior position directly under the Deputy Director will oversee the FBI’s intelligence, counterterrorism, and counterintelligence components, which will be combined to form a National Security Service

State intelligence fusion centers

Another development that may affect the operations of the intelligence research specialists is the establishment of state intelligence fusion centers. At least 13 states have established fusion centers to integrate and analyze information from disparate sources and identify patterns indicative of criminal or terrorist activity. During our research, two intelligence research specialists told us that they were involved extensively in the development of intelligence fusion centers in their states. They both said that they worked to garner support for the centers, develop standard operating procedures, and determine what role they would perform as a member of the center.



Footnotes

  1. Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2001-2006, U.S. Department of Justice, pp. 18-22.
  2. Ibid.
  3. ATACs were originally called Anti-Terrorism Task Forces (ATTFs). There are approximately 11,000 members in the 93 ATACs across the country.
  4. Anti-Terrorism Plan Memorandum for All U.S. Attorneys, Attorney General John Ashcroft, U.S. Department of Justice, September 17, 2001.
  5. ATAC members include federal, state, and local law enforcement officers; first responders; private industry security personnel; and individuals from any other relevant organization that has a need for terrorism-related threat information.
  6. Prevention of Acts Threatening Public Safety and National Security, Attorney General John Ashcroft, U.S. Department of Justice, November 8, 2001.
  7. There are 94 USAO districts, but only 93 U.S. Attorneys. One U.S. Attorney is assigned to each of the districts, with the exception of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, where a single U.S. Attorney serves both districts. For the purposes of this report, we refer to 93 USAOs.
  8. Cooperation with State and Local Officials in the Fight Against Terrorism, Attorney General John Ashcroft, U.S. Department of Justice, November 13, 2001.
  9. The first Attorney Advisor served from December 2001 to August 2003, and the second served from October 2003 to October 2004.
  10. Appendix I provides additional information on the functions performed by intelligence research specialists on a regular basis.
  11. Allocation of Personnel Resources Funded Through the Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 Department of Defense Appropriation, EOUSA Director, February 24, 2002.
  12. U.S. Attorneys Mission Statement. Online: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao, accessed September 2005.
  13. EOUSA waived the requirement for an adjudicated background investigation for some of the specialists. On October 4, 2002, the EOUSA Director informed all U.S. Attorneys that “intelligence research specialists with nearly completed background investigations who are current or former federal government employees may qualify to be waived on board.” As of March 2005, 49 of the 79 intelligence research specialists (62 percent) received their final security clearance an average of 99 days after they entered on duty.
  14. Strengthening the Ability of the Department of Justice to Meet Challenges to the Security of the Nation, President George W. Bush, June 29, 2005.
  15. Online: http://www.wmd.gov/report, accessed September 2005.



Previous Page Back to Table of Contents Next Page