Friday, May 8, 2009

FBI = Faulted in Backlog Imbroglio

The U.S. Department of Justice has released an Inspector General report on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's terrorist watchlist practices. The watchlist is a consolidated product that was created in 2004 by merging separate watchlists that were maintained by various USG agencies that need to conduct investigations or screen people at U.S. points of entry. Now the FBI has exclusive management of the watchlist through it's Terrorist Screening Center, and has to provide a service to the greater Federal community.

How are they doing at that? Not so well, it seems. That finding will not surprise many Feds, who are accustomed to the fact that the FBI does not work well with other agencies.

Here are two items from the conclusion of the OIG report:

The FBI failed to nominate known or suspected terrorists in 15 percent of the cases we reviewed. Although the FBI has instituted policies and procedures intended to ensure that eligible subjects are appropriately nominated in a timely fashion, our testing of a sample of 216 cases in three FBI field offices suggests weakness in the implementation of these policies.

We found that 78 percent of the FBI terrorist watchlist nominations we reviewed were completed in an untimely manner.

78 percent of watchlist nominations were late in coming, and others never came at all? What's the problem? Basically, as I read the report, the typical FBI agent doesn't see any benefit accruing to the Bureau from maintaining a terrorist watchlist, and may even see a detriment to the Bureau. The report quotes agents who feared that, if they posted current info on the watchlist, some other agencies might open their own cases on the listed terrorists (and we can't have that), and quotes others expressing frustration when a listed terrorist was denied re-entry to the U.S. thereby prematurely ending their investigation (and also thereby protecting the U.S., but never mind).

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