Review of the Office of International Affairs' Role
in the International Extradition of Fugitives
Report Number I-2002-008
International extradition is the formal process by which a fugitive found in one country is surrendered to another country for trial or punishment. The process is regulated by treaty and conducted between the U.S. government and a foreign government. As of February 2001, the United States had extradition treaties with 109 countries, with some treaties dating back over 100 years.
The Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs (OIA), established in 1979, is the central point of contact within the Department of Justice (Department) for U.S. prosecutors and foreign governments seeking to extradite fugitives. OIA's role is to facilitate an extradition by providing advice and assistance to U.S. and foreign prosecutors regarding legal, procedural, and other aspects of the extradition process and to process extradition requests for fugitives wanted in the United States and foreign countries. Even though OIA attorneys do not direct the investigation and prosecution related to an extradition, OIA has significant responsibility in the extradition process that affects the overall progression of, and law enforcement decisions relating to, the extradition. OIA is responsible for managing the information it receives pertaining to specific extradition requests, intelligence regarding a fugitive's activities and location, law enforcement initiatives occurring in a country, and diplomatic communications.
Each year since 1990, OIA has opened between 670 to 950 cases for the extradition of fugitives based on requests from U.S. prosecutors and foreign governments. During the same time period, OIA closed between 380 to 960 cases per year. OIA's rate of case closure has not kept pace with the number of new cases, resulting in a pending caseload that has increased over 100 percent since 1990. As of November 2000, OIA had 3,636 extradition cases pending -- approximately 1,100 cases where fugitives wanted by foreign governments were believed to be in the United States and approximately 2,500 cases where fugitives wanted by the United States were believed to be in foreign countries. Included in these cases are requests that were presented to the appropriate governments up to 27 years ago.
The Evaluation and Inspections Division, Office of the Inspector General (OIG), assessed whether OIA managed the extradition process effectively and whether OIA appropriately carried out its responsibilities for the international extradition of fugitives. OIA does not have written policies and procedures that describe the office's responsibilities in processing extradition requests within OIA. Consequently, we examined case files, interviewed OIA managers and staff, other Department officials, and reviewed statistical information contained in OIA's case tracking system in an effort to understand OIA's work processes. We selected a sample of 70 extradition case files from the total pending cases and cases closed during fiscal year 2000. Of the 70 cases, 39 cases were closed and 31 were open. Of the 70 cases, OIA did not produce 12 case files before we concluded our review. 1
Our review of the 58 case files disclosed that OIA's effectiveness in processing and managing an extradition request was inconsistent, depending upon its stage in the extradition process and the status of any pending actions. We found that in most of these cases OIA was effective during the initial review of an extradition request when it ensured the extradition request met treaty requirements and satisfied other legal and diplomatic requirements. OIA also provided support during the extradition procedures once a fugitive was apprehended. For the cases we reviewed, we found that OIA met extradition deadlines, such as submitting extradition documents after a provisional arrest. OIA's attention to an extradition request diminished, however, after it had taken these actions. With few exceptions, we found that OIA did not review cases to determine whether follow-up action was needed, to ensure that OIA had taken all action it should on the cases, or to close cases in a timely manner.
Although it is reasonable for extradition cases to remain open for many years because of legal, diplomatic, or law enforcement issues, we found that many cases remained open due to inattention. We found various reasons for OIA's inattention to pending cases. According to OIA staff, they did not follow up on cases because of the steady receipt of new extradition cases that required immediate attention, the large volume of cases assigned to each attorney made follow-up not feasible, and a view that it was not OIA's responsibility to initiate follow-up on pending cases. According to OIA officials, U.S. and foreign investigators, prosecutors, and officials are responsible for monitoring their extradition cases and for initiating any follow-up action needed to further the extradition. However, we found that OIA missed opportunities to provide information that could have advanced the extradition effort.
For 34 of the 58 extradition cases we reviewed, we found that OIA could have taken additional action if it had reviewed the cases regularly and followed up with foreign and U.S. prosecutors. The types of actions that OIA could have taken included closing cases in a more timely fashion, determining the status of requests for additional information from USAOs and foreign officials pertaining to an extradition, and determining the status of case actions and providing the information to appropriate prosecutors and law enforcement agencies.
We also found that OIA's case files were not complete and not maintained in an organized manner. To effectively provide advice and assistance in extradition cases, OIA staff must have access to organized and complete information regarding actions on extradition cases. Additionally, as a result of attorney turnover and absences from the office, OIA staff attorneys must often assume responsibility for other attorneys' extradition cases and quickly familiarize themselves with the case details. Therefore, case files should contain all case-related information so an attorney unfamiliar with the case can easily discern its status and history. In 31 of the 58 extradition case files we reviewed, either documents were not in any discernible order or key documents and information were missing.
The Extradition Tracking System (ETS) - OIA's centralized automated case tracking system - is designed to track case information and correspondence, identify and monitor the status of extradition cases, and generate statistics about the extradition process such as the number of pending extradition cases. Of the 14 staff members we interviewed, 10 (6 attorneys and 4 paralegals) said that they generally do not use ETS to determine case status. They said that ETS is unreliable or not user friendly. Many staff members said they use ETS to determine basic case identifying information, such as the OIA attorney assigned, but if they want to determine case actions or status, they refer to the case file. Instead of using ETS to monitor case activities, staff have devised their own methods for tracking cases. For instance, some country team attorneys and paralegals track deadlines and cases by handwriting provisional arrest request dates on their desk calendars, maintaining a mental list of open cases, and attaching notes to case files. Thus, OIA has not integrated its automated system into its case management responsibilities.
We concluded that OIA did not manage individual extradition cases or its overall caseload as effectively as it could because OIA has not developed adequate case management procedures. Cases are not prioritized for follow-up and OIA staff and supervisors do not systematically review pending matters. Unless prompted by outside entities, OIA does not usually follow up with U.S. or foreign officials. This failure to fully manage the extradition process and individual extradition cases occurred primarily because OIA has not established clear objectives for case management, has not developed procedures for systematically reviewing cases, has not developed standards for case file maintenance, and has not incorporated its automated case tracking system in the case management process. Without these basic management procedures, OIA cannot ensure that it has taken sufficient actions on each extradition case.
We made five recommendations to help OIA improve its management of the extradition process and accomplish its responsibilities for the international extradition of fugitives: (1) develop extradition case management policies and procedures that require periodic review of cases by OIA attorneys and their supervisors to ensure legal sufficiency, timeliness, and completeness of actions; (2) coordinate with the Department's law enforcement components to develop strategies for law enforcement officials to identify individuals who are the subjects of extradition requests; (3) develop standards for maintaining complete and organized extradition case files and accounting for the physical location of each file; (4) incorporate into the extradition process an automated case tracking system that provides reliable and complete data; and (5) develop performance measures for processing extradition requests and for monitoring OIA's progress in meeting its goals.