Semiannual Report to Congress
April 1, 2005-September 30, 2005
Office of the Inspector General
In June 2005, the OIG publicly released an unclassified, redacted version of its report that examined the FBI's handling of intelligence information in its possession prior to September 11. The OIG completed the full 421-page version of the report classified at the Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information level in July 2004. However, the report could not be released until the District Court in which the case of Zacarias Moussaoui was being prosecuted granted the OIG's motion to release a redacted, unclassified version of the report.
The OIG review found significant deficiencies in the FBI's handling of intelligence information related to September 11 and concluded that the FBI failed to fully evaluate, investigate, exploit, and disseminate information related to: 1) an electronic communication written by an FBI agent in Phoenix, Arizona, that raised concerns about efforts by Usama Bin Laden to send students to attend United States civil aviation schools to conduct terrorist activities and 2) intelligence information available to the FBI regarding two of the September 11 hijackers - Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar. The OIG concluded that the causes for these failures were widespread and varied, ranging from poor individual performance to more substantial systemic deficiencies that undermined the FBI's efforts to detect and prevent terrorism. Among other things, the OIG review described the systemic impediments that hindered the sharing of information between the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency.
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. In its October 2005 response to the recommendations, the FBI described changes it has made since September 11, including upgrading the physical infrastructure in FBI field offices to handle classified information, establishing centralized intelligence components in each field office, and developing training initiatives on subjects such as disseminating threat-related information and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In addition, the FBI created a panel to assess whether any action should be taken with regard to the performance of FBI employees described in the OIG report.
Since September 11, the FBI has undergone a broad transformation to focus on terrorism and intelligence-related matters. In September 2005, the OIG's Audit Division released a report that examined the FBI's re-allocation of investigative resources since September 11 from traditional crime areas to counterterrorism. The report also examined how the shift in resources has affected other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The OIG review does not reach judgments on the FBI's changed priorities. Instead, it provides details on the precise amount of the total shifts; the shift within particular crime areas; and what other federal, state, and local law enforcement officials believe are the impacts of the shifts on their respective agencies.
The OIG review determined that between FY 2000 and FY 2004, the FBI had formally reallocated 1,143 field agent positions away from investigating traditional criminal matters and placed these resources primarily in terrorism-related programs. However, in addition to the formal reallocation of positions, we found that the actual number of agents used to investigate criminal matters was significantly less than the FBI had allocated. The FBI actually utilized almost 2,200 fewer field agents to investigate these more traditional criminal matters in FY 2004 than it had in FY 2000. According to FBI officials, the additional agents were diverted from criminal investigative areas to terrorism-related matters as needs arose.
The OIG review also found that the FBI opened 28,331 fewer criminal cases in FY 2004 than it had in FY 2000, a 45 percent reduction. Furthermore, we found that the FBI reduced the number of criminal-related matters referred to the USAO by 6,151, or 27 percent, between FYs 2000 and 2004.
Interviews with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials regarding the impact of the FBI's changes in their jurisdictions found that, overall, most law enforcement agencies had not been significantly affected by the FBI's shift in investigative resources, although their caseloads had increased. However, we found that the FBI's significant reduction in investigating financial crime matters such as financial institution fraud and telemarketing fraud has created an investigative gap that no other law enforcement agency has substantially filled.
The OIG provided seven recommendations to the FBI, including to: 1) assess investigative needs among its various programs to establish realistic and practical personnel projections; 2) pursue an interagency working group on identity theft; and 3) seek a more coordinated approach in the areas of fugitive apprehension, child pornography, alien smuggling, and human trafficking.
Since September 11, the FBI has emphasized the development of its intelligence analysis capabilities to help meet its highest priority of preventing future terrorist attacks. During this reporting period, the OIG completed an audit of the FBI's efforts to hire, train, and retain its intelligence analysts. In the first 3 years after September 11, the FBI's analytical corps grew from 1,023 analysts in October 2001 to 1,403 analysts in October 2004 - a net increase of 380 intelligence analysts or 37 percent. The audit found that the analysts hired by the FBI generally were well qualified. Furthermore, analysts responding to the OIG survey stated that they generally were satisfied with their work assignments, believed they made a significant contribution to the FBI's mission, and were intellectually challenged.
The OIG review also identified several areas in need of improvement. For example, the FBI fell short of its FY 2004 hiring goal by 478 analysts and ended the fiscal year with a vacancy rate of 32 percent. At the end of FY 2004, the FBI had hired less than 40 percent of its goal of 787 analysts. In addition, the FBI has made slow progress toward developing a quality training curriculum for new analysts.
An OIG survey of intelligence analysts found that work requiring analytical skills accounted for about 50 percent of analysts' time. Many analysts reported performing administrative or other non-analytical tasks. In addition, some analysts said that not all FBI Special Agents, who often supervise analysts, understand the capabilities and functions of intelligence analysts.
The OIG report made 15 recommendations to help the FBI improve its efforts to hire, train, and retain intelligence analysts, including to:
The FBI concurred with all of the recommendations.
In July 2004, the OIG issued a report on the FBI's Foreign Language Program. The OIG found that the FBI's collection of materials requiring translation had outpaced its translation capabilities, and therefore, the FBI could not translate all the foreign language counterterrorism and counterintelligence material that it collected. The OIG also found that the FBI had difficulty filling its critical need for additional contract linguists. The report contained 18 recommendations to help improve the FBI's Foreign Language Program.
In the spring of 2005, the OIG's Audit Division conducted a follow-up review to evaluate the FBI's progress in responding to the recommendations in our July 2004 report. The follow-up concluded that the FBI has taken steps to address the OIG's recommendations and has made progress in improving the operations of its Foreign Language Program. However, the OIG found that key deficiencies remain in the program, including a continuing backlog of unreviewed counterterrorism and counterintelligence material, some instances where high-priority material has not been reviewed within 24 hours in accord with FBI policy, and continued challenges in meeting linguist hiring goals and target staffing levels. In addition, implementation of the FBI's quality control program has been slow, although the FBI made recent improvements in this area.
According to the FBI's data, the backlog of unreviewed counterterrorism material has increased from 4,086 to 8,354 hours, which represents 1.5 percent of total counterterrorism audio collections. The amount of unreviewed counterintelligence material, which is much larger, also has increased.
The OIG review found that the FBI has made progress in improving its hiring process since the July 2004 audit. As reported in that audit report, the number of FBI and contract linguists increased from 883 in FY 2001 to 1,214 as of April 2004. Since then, the number of FBI and contract linguists has increased to 1,338 as of March 30, 2005. However, since the July 2004 audit, according to the FBI, the average time it takes the FBI to hire a contract linguist has increased by at least 1 month from 13 months to 14 months.
The OIG's Audit Division examined the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), a multi-agency effort administered by the FBI whose mission is to consolidate terrorist watch lists and provide 24 hour, 7 day a week responses for screening individuals against the consolidated terrorist watch list. Prior to the establishment of the TSC, the federal government relied on more than a dozen separate watch lists maintained by a variety of federal agencies to search for terrorist-related information about individuals who, for example, apply for a visa, attempt to enter the United States through a port of entry, attempt to travel internationally on a commercial airline, or are stopped by a local law enforcement officer for a traffic violation.
The OIG review found that the TSC has made significant strides in becoming the government's single point of contact for law enforcement authorities requesting assistance in identifying individuals with possible ties to terrorism. In a short period of time, TSC management successfully created a new organization and consolidated vast amounts and types of terrorist information, which are significant accomplishments. However, the OIG review also concluded that the TSC needs to address weaknesses in its consolidated terrorist watch list database, computer systems, as well as staffing, training, and oversight of the call center.
The OIG found that the TSC had not ensured that the information in its database is complete and accurate. For example, the OIG found instances where the consolidated database did not contain names that should have been included on the watch list. In addition, the OIG found inaccurate or inconsistent information related to persons included in the database.
Although the OIG found good communication among the TSC, its partner agencies, and agencies that submitted inquiries to the TSC, the audit revealed some exceptions where coordination and information sharing could have been improved. In addition, the OIG found several instances where the information on calls received was not entered appropriately into the TSC system used to track information on hits against the consolidated watch list. We found that data was sometimes entered into the wrong fields and at times transposed, resulting in search errors and poor data integrity.
The OIG report provided 40 recommendations to the TSC to address areas such as database improvements, data accuracy and completeness, call center management, and staffing. The TSC generally agreed with the recommendations and said it was in the process of taking corrective action.
In a second review of TSC operations, the OIG examined TSC efforts to support the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Secure Flight program. Secure Flight is an initiative in which the TSA will compare names of commercial airline passengers to the TSC's consolidated terrorist watch list.
The OIG audit concluded that the TSC has made significant progress in planning and preparing for the anticipated launch of the Secure Flight program. The OIG found that the TSC has designed its necessary electronic connections to accommodate the transfer of terrorist watch list records, airline passenger information, and screening results; developed new processes to facilitate law enforcement responses to encounters with individuals who are a match against the consolidated terrorist watch list; and is on schedule for testing its newly established systems and procedures relating to Secure Flight.
However, our review found that the TSA has delayed the implementation date for Secure Flight, first from April 2005 to August 2005, and at the time of the audit, to September 2005. In addition, the TSA has changed its Secure Flight implementation plan, and as of July 31, 2005, was unsure how many airlines will participate in the initial phase. As a result, neither the TSC nor the TSA knows how many passenger records will be screened and cannot project the number of watch list hits that will be forwarded to the TSC for action. This has affected the TSC's ability to plan adequately for its role in the Secure Flight program. The OIG review also found that the Secure Flight program has the potential to significantly impact TSC's space, staffing, and funding needs and has resulted in the postponement of several other TSC projects. However, the TSC lacks the ability to adequately estimate the incremental cost of supporting the Secure Flight program.
We concluded that the TSC is attempting to plan for a program that has several major undefined parameters. Specifically, the TSC does not know when Secure Flight will start, the volume of inquiries expected and the resulting number of resources required to respond, the quality of data it will have to analyze, and the specific details of the phased-in approach for taking the program from "pre-operational testing" to full operational.
In September 2005, the OIG's Oversight and Review Division issued a report on the FBI's implementation of and compliance with four sets of the Attorney General's Guidelines. These guidelines govern the FBI's principal criminal investigative authorities with respect to investigations of individuals and groups and its use of confidential informants, undercover operations, and warrantless monitoring of verbal communications (also known as consensual monitoring). Following September 11, the Attorney General ordered a comprehensive review of the guidelines to identify revisions that would enhance the Department's ability to detect and prevent such attacks. In May 2002, the Attorney General issued revised investigative guidelines that provided FBI field managers with greater authority to conduct preliminary inquiries, criminal intelligence investigations, and undercover operations.
While the OIG found many areas in which the FBI complied with the guidelines, we found significant non-compliance with the guidelines governing the operation of confidential informants, failure to notify FBI Headquarters and DOJ officials of the initiation of certain criminal intelligence investigations, and failure to consistently obtain advance approval prior to the initiation of consensual monitoring. We also identified shortcomings in training on the guidelines and the FBI's planning for and implementation of the revised guidelines.
The OIG found violations in 87 percent of the confidential informant files it examined. These errors occurred in several of the most important aspects of the FBI's management of the Criminal Informant Program: initial and continuing suitability reviews designed to assess the suitability of individuals to serve or continue as confidential informants; instructions FBI agents are required to give confidential informants; the FBI's use of its power to authorize confidential informants to participate in "otherwise illegal activity"; notification requirements associated with a confidential informant's commission of "unauthorized illegal activity"; and documentation and notice requirements triggered when a confidential informant is deactivated.
The OIG focused on these aspects of the Criminal Informant Program because they include critical judgments the FBI must make to ensure that individuals registered as confidential informants are suitable, that they understand the limits of their authority from the FBI, and that supervisory Department officials approve or are notified of significant developments regarding the confidential informants. The OIG review determined that required approvals were not always obtained, suitability assessments were not made or were incomplete, documentation of required instructions was missing, descriptions of "otherwise illegal activity" were not sufficient, and notifications to FBI Headquarters or USAO were not made or documented.
In addition, the OIG found that FBI Headquarters had not sufficiently supported the Criminal Informant Program, which in turn has hindered FBI agents in complying with the Confidential Informant Guidelines. In many instances, agents lacked access to basic administrative resources and guidance that would have promoted compliance with the Confidential Informant Guidelines. We also found that compliance with the Confidential Informant Guidelines varied significantly by FBI field office. Finally, our review identified weaknesses in the implementation process used by the FBI to disseminate and communicate the revised guidelines to its Headquarters and field personnel.
The OIG report offered 47 recommendations designed to promote greater accountability for guidelines violations by field supervisors, provide better administrative support, use existing technology to track guidelines violations, enhance training on guidelines requirements and the consequences of guidelines violations to FBI investigations and DOJ prosecutions, require supervisory approval and more systematic recordkeeping on the FBI's use of new authorities to visit public places and attend public events for the purpose of detecting and preventing terrorist activities, and prepare a comprehensive implementation strategy for the next guidelines revisions. The FBI concurred with 43 of the 47 recommendations and partially concurred with the 4 remaining recommendations.
The FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) includes a national information repository that permits the storing and searching of DNA specimen information to facilitate the exchange of DNA information by law enforcement agencies. During this reporting period, the OIG audited six state and local laboratories that participate in CODIS to determine compliance with the FBI's Quality Assurance Standards (QAS) and National DNA Index System (NDIS) requirements and evaluate the accuracy and appropriateness of the data that participating federal, state, and local laboratories have submitted to the FBI. Below are two examples of the findings reported in our audits:
During this reporting period, the OIG received 476 complaints involving the FBI. The most common allegations made against FBI employees included job performance failure, misuse of a credit card, and improper release of information. The OIG opened 8 cases and referred 454 allegations to the FBI's Inspection Division.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 40 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, theft, and misuse of position. The administrative investigations include serious allegations of misconduct. The following are examples of cases involving the FBI that the OIG's Investigations Division investigated during this reporting period:
In March 2005, the FBI announced plans to develop the Sentinel case management system to replace the failed Virtual Case File effort. The main goal of Sentinel will be to enable the FBI to move from a paper-based reporting system to an electronic records system and maximize the FBI's ability to use and share the information in its possession. At the request of the FBI Director and Congress, the OIG has initiated a long-term audit of Sentinel to closely monitor its development and implementation. Initially, this audit is focusing on the FBI's planning for the project, including its approach to developing the system, management controls over the project, information technology management processes, project baselines, contracting processes, and funding sources. Rather than issue a single audit report, the OIG plans to issue a series of reports examining discrete aspects of the Sentinel project, such as the FBI's monitoring of the contractor's performance against established baselines and the progress of the project.
The OIG is completing its investigation of the FBI's conduct in connection with the identification of a fingerprint found on evidence from the March 2004 Madrid train bombing. FBI fingerprint examiners erroneously concluded that the fingerprint belonged to Brandon Mayfield, an attorney in Portland, Oregon. As a result of the misidentification, the FBI initiated an investigation of Mayfield that resulted in his arrest as a "material witness" and his detention for approximately 2 weeks. Mayfield was released when the Spanish National Police matched the fingerprints on the evidence to an Algerian national. The OIG is examining the cause of the erroneous fingerprint identification and the FBI's handling of the matter, including its investigation of Mayfield.
The OIG has initiated a follow-up review of the FBI's progress in implementing recommendations contained in the OIG's August 2003 report entitled, "A Review of the FBI's Performance in Deterring, Detecting, and Investigating the Espionage Activities of Robert Philip Hanssen." Hanssen's espionage began in November 1979 - 3 years after he joined the FBI as a special agent - and continued intermittently until his arrest in February 2001. The OIG concluded that Hanssen's ability to escape detection was due to long-standing systemic problems in the FBI's counterintelligence program and a deeply flawed internal security program. The OIG report made 21 recommendations to help the FBI improve its internal security and enhance its ability to deter and detect espionage. The Hanssen follow-up review will assess the FBI's response to the recommendations in the following five areas of the report: 1) improving the FBI's performance in detecting an FBI penetration; 2) improving coordination with the Department; 3) improving source recruitment, security, and handling; 4) security improvements; and 5) management and administrative improvements.
At the request of the FBI Director, the OIG is reviewing the FBI's performance in connection with the handling of Katrina Leung, an asset in the FBI's Chinese counterintelligence program who had a long-term intimate relationship with her FBI handler, former special agent James J. Smith. The OIG is examining a variety of performance and management issues related to the FBI's handling of Leung and its counterintelligence program.
The OIG is reviewing allegations regarding the interaction between the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on terrorist financing cases. Pursuant to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) entered into between the FBI and the ICE in May 2003, the FBI is the nation's lead agency with respect to terrorist financing cases and has the authority to decide which agency leads these cases. Together with the DHS OIG, the OIG is examining allegations that the FBI purposely delayed action on a criminal wiretap application that had been proposed by the ICE's Houston Office in connection with a terrorist financing case and took other actions to exclude the ICE from the case. The OIGs also are reviewing the effectiveness of the MOA and the process at both agencies for handling cases pursuant to the MOA.
The OIG is examining FBI employees' observations and actions relating to alleged abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The OIG is investigating whether FBI employees participated in any incident of detainee abuse in military facilities at these locations, whether FBI employees witnessed incidents of abuse, how FBI employees reported observations of abuse, and how those reports were handled by the FBI.
In October 1994, Congress enacted the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (CALEA). The purpose of CALEA is to preserve the ability of law enforcement to conduct electronic surveillance in the face of rapid advances in telecommunications technology. The OIG is reviewing: 1) the FBI's strategy for implementing CALEA; 2) the progress and impediments to CALEA's implementation, including the effect of emerging technologies; 3) CALEA's implementation costs, including projections of future costs; and 4) whether the implementation of CALEA has affected federal, state, and local law enforcement in their ability to conduct electronic surveillance.
Since 2000, the OIG has conducted a variety of audits regarding CODIS, covering such areas as the FBI's overall management of CODIS; state and local DNA laboratory compliance with existing standards, accuracy, and allowability of DNA profiles contained in CODIS; and vulnerabilities of FBI practices and protocols. Our audits have provided recommendations to improve laboratory activities and enhance the FBI's efforts in managing CODIS. In continuing this effort, we currently are evaluating CODIS' operational and laboratory vulnerabilities. The OIG will analyze its prior work to identify trends and potential vulnerabilities in the national DNA community. In addition, we will assess the FBI's administration of CODIS and evaluate the implementation of corrective action from prior, related OIG audits.
The United States' 361 ports comprise the world's most extensive and complex port system. The OIG is assessing the FBI's responsibilities and capabilities for preventing and responding to terrorist attacks in the maritime domain, including seaports, and also the extent and effectiveness of its interagency coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, state and local officials, and others responsible for protecting the nation's seaports.