Schumer: Ashcroft & Fbi Falling Way Short In War On Terrorism; Failed To Take Adequate Corrective Action Even After 9/11
Schumer Says Major FBI Overhaul is Needed, Only Question is Whether New Agency Should Be Inside or Outside FBIFBI Progress Much Too Slow; Problems That Plagued Department of Justice Before 9/11 Still Not Fixed TodayUS Senator Charles E. Schumer today blasted Attorney General John Ashcroft and the FBI for failing to fix flaws in our national security network exposed by the a
In the war on terrorism, John Ashcroft has frequently gone overboard when dealing with liberties, but hasnt even gotten the ship out of port when it comes to administration, coordination, technology, and funding, Schumer said. Thirtyone months after 9/11, the FBIs computer system is still an unmitigated disaster, were woefully short on appropriately trained analysts and translators, and the Administration steadfastly refuses to adequately fund the war on terror.
Its simply indefensible that the FBIs computer system still wont be up and running by the third anniversary of 9/11. And amazingly, lone wolf terrorist legislation that Attorney General Ashcroft claims to support, is still languishing in the House nearly a year after it overwhelmingly passed the Senate, Schumer added. Attorney General Ashcroft is quick to criticize others for handcuffing intelligence gathering, but he hasnt lifted a finger to help pass a law that, if it had been in place before 9/11, might have helped unravel the terrorists plot.
The only way we get to real security is by drastically overhauling the FBI. The only question is whether we create a new organization within the FBI or outside of it, Schumer said.
Schumer specifically noted five areas where the Administration has not closed gaps in the homeland defense system.
FBI Computers: On 9/11, the FBI was using a rudimentary computer system that prevented agents from sharing crucial intelligence. Had Colleen Rowley, upon the arrest of Zaccharias Moussaoui, been able to do a basic computer search for Islamic militants and flight schools she would have found the Phoenix memo and it is possible that the 9/11 dots would have been connected. Today, thirtyone months later, the FBI still has not upgraded its computer system. The Virtual Case File (VCF), a feature that would give agents access to a vast terrorism electronic database containing about 40 million documents was supposed to be up and running by December 13, 2003. As of today, it is still not functional and is now not expected to be on line until the end of the year, over three years after 9/11. Even when the VCF is up and running, it will take months to train FBI agents to use it. Had Attorney General Ashcroft brought in, for example IBM, and told them to get the job done as fast as possible and at any cost, there is little doubt the FBIs computers would be fully functional today.
FISA Lone Wolf Legislation: New evidence revealed in the 9/11 Commission staffs interim report yesterday showed that after the arrest of Zaccharias Moussaoui, the FBI asked British Intelligence for any information it had on him. Not until after 9/11 did British Intelligence inform the FBI that Moussaoui had trained at al Qaeda camps. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) limits the FBI to obtaining warrants against terrorists it can tie to foreign nations or foreign terrorist groups. Because the FBI did not believe it could tie Moussaoui to either, a FISA warrant was not sought. Last May, the Senate passed by a 904 vote legislation introduced by Schumer and Sen. John Kyl (RAZ) that would allow the FBI to obtain a FISA warrant against lone wolf terrorists.
Had such power been available at the time of Moussaouis arrest, a FISA warrant could have been issued and the evidence in Moussaouis laptop computer may have been enough to unravel the 9/11 plot. Attorney General Ashcroft has put no pressure on the House of Representatives to pass the SchumerKyl bill and the FBI still remains powerless to obtain FISA warrants against lone wolf terrorists.
FBI Domestic Intelligence Capability: The FBI remains woefully deficient in its ability to collect and analyze strategic intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks here in the US. New agents spend just 12% of their training time on counterterrorism. Over 90% of SpecialAgentsinCharge, the top officials in FBI field offices, lack the national security experience to promote an intelligence rather than law enforcement approach to terrorism cases. Most importantly, the FBI has not set a budget, timetable, or personnel benchmarks including the number of translators and analysts it needs for establishing its intelligence capability. The FBI also continues to ignore fundamental best practices of intelligence, vetting only three to four percent of its human assets to determine their credibility. This means most of the intelligence that FBI agents collect is of unknown value. Similarly, its ability to analyze intelligence is suspect, with 66% of FBI analysts described as unqualified by an internal bureau study. According to one senior state law enforcement official, the FBI is still being led by individuals who have a criminal law mindset. Finally, according to a recent report by the Department of Justice Inspector General, the FBI shortages of linguists have resulted in thousands of hours of audiotapes and pages of written material not being reviewed or translated in a timely manner.
According to a 9/11 Commission staff report, At every office we visited, we heard that there were not enough surveillance personnel to cover the requests to conduct live physical surveillance of identified terrorist suspects. We spoke with analysts who were discouraged by the pace of reform. Indeed, we heard from many analysts who complain that they are able to do little actual analysis because they continue to be assigned menial tasks, including covering the phones at the reception desk and emptying the office trash bins. As a consequence, many of the agents have very low expectations about the type of assistance they can get from analysts. Furthermore, there appears to be no process for evaluating and reassigning unqualified analysts.
Terrorist Threat Integration Center: As part of the legislation that established the Department of Homeland Security, a Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) was created to analyze integrated intelligence from the CIA and FBI. The import of such a center has been highlighted by evidence before the 9/11 Commission showing that the CIA knew that 9/11 hijackers Alhazmi and Almidhar were known to have close al Qaeda ties and known to be in the United States, but did not share that information with the FBI until days before 9/11. When that intelligence was shared, the matter was assigned to a rookie FBI agent who did not understand its import. The TTIC remains drastically understaffed and is not functioning at anywhere near the level it must. The center employs 150 people, of whom eight are FBI analysts (just over 5%); the TTIC will not be fully operational until it is staffed by 300 professionals, 65 of whom, or 22%, are from the FBI.
Terrorist Financing: In April, the Administration tried to eliminate a $12 million request by the Internal Revenue Service to increase by 50% the number of criminal financial investigators to crackdown on terrorist financing. Stopping terrorist financing remains one of the gaping holes in our national security network. DOJ and the FBI must be able to call on the IRS and the Treasury Department to investigate and crack down on those who fund terrorist activities.
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