Semiannual Report to Congress
April 1, 2004September 30, 2004
Office of the Inspector General
The Handling of Intelligence Information Prior to the September 11 Attacks
On July 2, 2004, the OIG issued a 421-page report classified at the Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information level describing the results of a review that examined the FBI's handling of certain intelligence information prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The OIG initiated the review at the FBI Director's request. Among the issues we reviewed were the FBI's handling of an electronic communication written by its Phoenix Division in July 2001 regarding extremists attending civil aviation schools in Arizona, the FBI's handling of the Zacarias Moussaoui investigation, and the FBI's handling of information related to September 11 terrorists Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar.
During the course of the investigation, the OIG reviewed and analyzed thousands of pages of documents and conducted over 200 interviews. In our final report, we made 16 recommendations for improving the FBI's intelligence handling and counterterrorism efforts, including recommendations targeted towards the FBI's analytical program.
Five recommendations in the OIG's final report addressed information sharing between the FBI and the intelligence community. In response to these recommendations, the FBI provided information about specific steps it has taken to: 1) improve the management of FBI employees detailed to other agencies, 2) ensure that FBI employees who interact with other intelligence agencies better understand those agencies' intelligence reporting processes, and 3) improve its technological capabilities as they relate to information sharing. The FBI also reported that it has begun developing intelligence collection and reporting guidance for field agents and has developed a training course dedicated to reporting and disseminating raw intelligence.
In addition to the FBI, we provided copies of the classified final report to congressional committees and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. The National Commission used the OIG report in its final report. We are currently working with the Department and the intelligence community to produce an unclassified version of our report.
Audit of the FBI's Foreign Language Program - Translation of Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence Foreign Language Material
Critical to the FBI's success in protecting national security is its ability to prioritize, translate, and understand in a timely fashion the information to which it has access.
Our audit found that the FBI did not translate all the foreign language counterterrorism and counterintelligence material that it collected. Despite the infusion of more than 620 additional linguists since September 11, 2001, the FBI's collection of material requiring translation outpaced its translation capabilities. Using available foreign language program data, we compiled statistics by language and found that as of the first quarter of FY 2004, the FBI has collected over 123,000 hours of audio in counterterrorism languages and over 370,000 hours of audio in counterintelligence languages that had not been reviewed. We attributed the FBI's backlog of unreviewed material to its difficulty hiring a sufficient number of linguists and limitations in the FBI's translation information technology (IT) systems.
The FBI's difficulty hiring linguists stems from two factors - competition with other intelligence community agencies that are responding to similar threats, and its contract linguist security and language proficiency vetting process that eliminates over 90 percent of the applicants processed for hiring. Regarding IT limitations, we found that the FBI's digital collection systems have limited storage capacity. Consequently, audio sessions are sometimes deleted through an automatic file procedure to make room for incoming audio sessions. Although sessions are automatically deleted in a set order, we found that unreviewed sessions are sometimes deleted, especially in offices with a high volume of audio to review. It is important to note, however, that deleted sessions are archived.
Because the FBI did not have the ability to translate all of its foreign language material, the manner in which the FBI prioritizes its translation workload is critically important. According to the Language Services Section, it coordinates the threat-based priority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) coverage with operational division officials to ensure that it directs foreign language program resources toward those investigations considered to be the highest priority. Nonetheless, we found that the FBI was not providing sufficient operational information to the Language Services Section to enable it to effectively prioritize its translation workload. In addition, we found that as of June 2004, the FBI's Foreign Language Program had not prioritized its workload nationwide to ensure a zero backlog in the FBI's highest priority cases - counterterrorism cases and, in particular, Al Qaeda cases.
Because inaccurate translations can have dire consequences to the FBI's intelligence gathering and investigative efforts, the FBI instituted a national Quality Control Program in January 2003. Our review of the Quality Control Program at four FBI offices found that the new-hire and annual review requirements generally were not met in FY 2003.
Our audit report contained 18 recommendations to help improve the FBI's Foreign Language Program, such as: 1) ensuring that each office's digital collection system storage capabilities are sufficient so that unreviewed audio material for critical cases is not automatically deleted, 2) implementing appropriate controls to ensure that the forwarding of audio is accomplished reliably and timely, 3) providing adequate information to the Foreign Language Program regarding the relative priority of individual counterterrorism and counterintelligence cases, and 4) strengthening quality control procedures to ensure the accuracy of translations and that all pertinent material is translated.
Audit of the Internal Effects of the FBI's Reprioritization
In response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the FBI Director established a new set of priorities and formally shifted a significant number of agents from traditional criminal investigative work to counterterrorism and counterintelligence matters. According to the FBI Director, each of the changes was designed to reshape the FBI into an organization more capable of combating the imminent threat of terrorism and preventing another large-scale terrorist attack against the United States.
In our almost 500-page report, we reviewed the specific changes in the FBI's field agent allocations for FYs 2000 through 2003. We determined that the FBI generally shifted its allocation to reflect its new priorities. Specifically, we found that the FBI allocated more than 560 additional field agent positions to terrorism-related matters in FY 2003. During the same period, positions allotted for matters not related to terrorism were reduced. For example, the Organized Crime/Drug Program had 758 of its field agent positions transferred during our review period.
Our report contains a comprehensive, data-driven analysis of the changes in the FBI's use of resources as a result of its shift in priorities and reallocation of staff. We believe this type of analysis can be useful to FBI executive management and program directors for evaluating progress in meeting goals and obtaining a data-based view of the status of FBI operations. We recommended that the FBI conduct similar analyses on a regular basis. In a follow-up review, we intend to examine how the FBI's shift in priorities and operations has affected other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
Allegations Raised By Contract Linguist
In June 2004, the OIG completed a review of the FBI's actions in connection with allegations raised by former FBI contract linguist Sibel Edmonds. During the investigation, the OIG reviewed thousands of pages of documents and conducted over 50 interviews. The review culminated in a 100-page OIG report classified by the FBI at the Secret level.
The OIG provided copies of the classified final report to the Department, the FBI, and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. We are currently working with the Department in an attempt to produce an unclassified version of the report that can be publicly released.
The OIG completed a 192-page report in May 2004 examining the protocols and practices in the FBI's DNA Laboratory. The FBI Laboratory uses DNA obtained at crime scenes to produce profiles that can be linked to a particular individual. The DNA Laboratory's written protocols and procedures prescribe its testing techniques and ensure that its results are scientifically valid.
The OIG initiated a review of the DNA Laboratory after the FBI discovered that a former biologist in one of the Laboratory's DNA units intentionally bypassed an important step in the DNA testing process and produced dozens of DNA profiles that were scientifically invalid and unusable in court. Specifically, the biologist consistently failed to process control samples that would have identified whether contamination, rather than the DNA evidence, was the source of her testing results. In addition, the biologist falsified her laboratory documentation to indicate that she was generating contamination-free testing results. As a result of an OIG investigation into her actions, the former biologist pled guilty in federal court to a misdemeanor charge of providing false statements in her laboratory reports.
The FBI's retesting of evidence in the former biologist's cases to date indicates that, while she did not properly conduct the testing process, the DNA profiles she generated were accurate and did not result in incorrect matches. However, the biologist's misconduct raised concerns about potential weaknesses in the FBI DNA Laboratory's protocols and practices. The OIG's review examined the vulnerability of the protocols and practices in the Laboratory unit where the biologist worked - the DNA Analysis Unit I (DNA Unit 1). We also examined several areas of concern regarding management's response to the biologist's misconduct. To facilitate our review of the Laboratory's protocols, we recruited three scientists from the national DNA community to consult with the OIG's assessment team.
The OIG's review concluded that certain DNA Unit 1 protocols and practices were vulnerable to undetected, inadvertent, or willful noncompliance by staff members. Specifically, we found that certain protocols lacked sufficient detail, failed to ensure the precision of note taking, were outdated, and failed to adequately describe the decision criteria Laboratory staff should use when required to exercise judgment during the testing process. While in most instances the work practices of Unit staff members diminished the risks, we concluded that the Unit would remain subject to an increased risk of employee error or inadvertent protocol noncompliance unless the protocols were revised.
In our report, we made 35 recommendations to address the protocol vulnerabilities that we identified and issues of concern regarding the management response of the FBI and the Department to the biologist's misconduct. Those recommendations included: 1) replacing vague sections of the protocols with comprehensive guidance and descriptions of the "best practices" currently in use, 2) adding workflow and decision aides to protocols to assist staff members in exercising proper judgment during the DNA testing process, 3) providing staff members with guidance sufficient to ensure that case documentation and case file reviews meet management expectations, and 4) updating protocols to reflect current methods within DNA Unit 1. We also recommended that the Laboratory develop a comprehensive, written training curriculum and complete implementation of an information management system to improve efficiency and evidence tracking capabilities.
In September 2004, the FBI Laboratory advised the OIG that it is amending its protocols to address the vulnerabilities identified in our report. Also in response to recommendations in the report, the Laboratory agreed to improve its training program and enhance its communications with staff by disseminating protocol-related information more consistently.
Audit of Controls Over Accountable Property at the Baltimore Field Division
On July 7, 2003, a former FBI employee at the Baltimore Field Division was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay restitution after pleading guilty to the theft and sale of FBI photography equipment valued at over $167,000. The former employee stated that his thefts were easy due to the lack of checks and balances in the office's property control process. In response to these events, the OIG initiated an audit to assess the overall effectiveness of the property controls at the Baltimore Field Division.
We found weaknesses in the FBI's definition of accountable property, which omits certain property from inclusion in the Property Management Application - the FBI's primary system for tracking the location and history of specific property items. We also found that property excluded from the Property Management Application is less likely to be located, even if it is tracked separately by a property custodian, and credit card purchases can be delivered directly to the cardholder - thus bypassing the supply technician who would identify and record accountable property in the Property Management Application. The audit report made five recommendations for improvement, which the FBI agreed to implement.
Combined DNA Index System Laboratory Audits
During this reporting period, we audited laboratories that participate in the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). CODIS includes a national information repository maintained by the FBI that permits the storing and searching of DNA specimen information to facilitate the exchange of DNA information by law enforcement agencies. Participating federal, state, and local laboratories submit DNA information to the FBI. Our laboratory audits were conducted to determine compliance with the FBI's Quality Assurance Standards and National DNA Index System (NDIS) requirements and to evaluate the accuracy and appropriateness of the data that laboratories have submitted to the FBI. Below are two examples of the findings reported in our audits of laboratories:
During this reporting period, the OIG received 402 complaints involving the FBI. The most common allegations made against FBI employees included job performance failure, waste and misuse of government property, and improper release of information. The OIG opened 16 cases and referred 11 allegations to the FBI's Inspections Division for investigation.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 47 open cases of alleged misconduct against FBI employees. The criminal investigations cover a wide range of offenses, including the improper release of law enforcement information and theft. The administrative investigations include serious allegations of misconduct, such as allegations against high-level employees. The following are examples of cases investigated during this reporting period:
The FBI's Terrorist Screening Center
On September 16, 2003, the President established the Terrorist Screening Center for the purpose of consolidating terrorist watch lists and providing constant operational support for thousands of federal screeners across the country and around the world. The FBI was assigned the responsibility of administering the Terrorist Screening Center. The OIG is examining the operations of the Terrorist Screening Center to determine whether it has implemented a viable strategy for accomplishing its mission, has effectively coordinated with participating agencies, and has appropriately managed terrorist-related information in its attempt to ensure that a complete, accurate, and current watch list is developed and maintained.
The FBI's Management of the Trilogy Project
Upgrading IT to successfully perform the counterterrorism mission is among the FBI's highest priorities. The Trilogy project is intended to upgrade the FBI's hardware and software, communications network, and five most important investigative applications. We are currently auditing Trilogy to determine the progress made toward achieving the project's cost, schedule, technical, and performance baselines and the extent to which Trilogy will meet the FBI's overall current and longer-term IT requirements.
Implementation of the Attorney General's Guidelines for Key Investigative Programs
The OIG is reviewing the FBI's implementation of four sets of guidelines issued by the Attorney General on May 30, 2002: the Attorney General's Guidelines Regarding the Use of Confidential Informants; the Attorney General's Guidelines on FBI Undercover Operations; the Attorney General's Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise, and Terrorism Enterprise Investigations; and the Revised Department of Justice Procedures for Lawful, Warrantless Monitoring of Verbal Communications. The objectives of the OIG review are to determine what steps the FBI has taken to implement the guidelines, to examine the effectiveness of those steps, and to assess the FBI's compliance with key provisions of the guidelines.
The FBI's Hiring of Intelligence Analysts
The OIG is auditing the FBI's efforts to hire, train, and retain intelligence analysts. As part of the audit, we are reviewing: 1) analyst hiring requirements and qualifications, 2) progress made toward meeting analyst hiring goals and retention of analysts, 3) progress made toward establishing a comprehensive training program and meeting the training goals, and 4) analyst staffing and utilization to support the FBI's mission.
The FBI's Chinese Counterintelligence Program
At the request of the FBI Director, the OIG is reviewing the FBI's performance in connection with the handling of Katrina Leung, who provided information to the FBI's Chinese counterintelligence program. Allegedly, Leung also had a long-term intimate relationship with her FBI handler, special agent James J. Smith. The OIG's review will examine a variety of performance and management issues related to the FBI's handling of Leung and the FBI's counterintelligence program.
The FBI's Handling of the Brandon Mayfield Matter
The OIG is reviewing the FBI's conduct in connection with the erroneous identification of a latent fingerprint found on evidence from the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombing as belonging to Brandon Mayfield, an attorney in Portland, Oregon. As a result of the identification, the FBI commenced an investigation of Mayfield, resulting in his arrest as a "material witness" and his detention for approximately two weeks in May 2004. Mayfield was released when the Spanish National Police identified the fingerprint and other prints found on the evidence as belonging to an Algerian national. The OIG will examine the cause of the erroneous identification and the FBI's handling of this case.
The FBI's Preparations for Integrated IDENT/IAFIS Workstations
The OIG is reviewing the preparations the Department and the FBI are making to support the Department of Homeland Security's expedited deployment of workstations that integrate the Department of Homeland Security's Automated Biometric Identification System and the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). These systems provide automated fingerprint examination services for the identification of suspects and for other law enforcement purposes. The OIG also is reviewing the FBI's plans to develop and deploy the next phase of IAFIS, which will be required to complete the integration project.