Foiling terrorism in U.S. remains critical challenge
Detecting and disrupting possible terrorism acts against U.S. targets remain “critical challenges” facing the Justice Department today — six years after adopting counterterrorism as its highest priority.
A report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said that although the department continues to enhance its counterterrorism capabilities, the threat of new attacks in this country “requires continual attention and improvement.”
“The department’s counterterrorism efforts remain a work in progress,” said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, noting that reviews by his office of the counterterrorism challenge show that the department, in general, and the FBI, in particular, are taking a series of positive steps.
But while Mr. Fine said the FBI has continued its transformation into “a more proactive, intelligence-driven agency,” it continues to be affected by frequent rotations and turnover within its senior management.
He noted that the FBI has made progress in improving its use of intelligence analysts, and is using threat- and risk-based criteria to determine the number of analysts needed and developing succession and retention plans for analysts.
Improvement, however, is needed in the time required to hire analysts, he said. In addition, the FBI has struggled to design a satisfactory training program for its counterterrorism agents and analysts, and many agents still do not fully understand or appreciate the role of analysts.
“A significant number of OIG reviews have found that the FBI’s counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering effor ts have been hampered because of outdated information-technology systems,” Mr. Fine said. “The FBI recently has made progress in improving its management of its IT upgrades, but the FBI will not benefit from a fully functional case-management system for at least two more years.”
Mr. Fine also said it is critical to ensure that the FBI pursues its counterterrorism responsibilities while adequately protecting civil liberties. He said a review in March identified serious failures of accountability in the FBI’s misuse of national security letter authorities, noting that the bureau did not provide adequate guidance, controls or training on the use of the letters and the FBI’s oversight of them was inconsistent and insufficient.
“To achieve success in its counterterrorism efforts while respecting civil liberties, the department must maintain a strong focus on ensuring accountability in its activities,” he said.