- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2002

The FBI never performed a comprehensive written assessment of potential terrorist threats facing the United States and failed to assess the likelihood of future strikes or would-be terrorist targets after September 11, an audit said yesterday.
A declassified summary of a secret, 131-page audit by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General also said the FBI criticized for its intelligence failures before September 11 had not developed a full assessment of the threat of a terrorist attack with chemical and biological materials or with other weapons of mass destruction.
"While the FBI has taken significant steps to revamp its counterterrorism program, we believe it needs to develop a comprehensive, written assessment of the terrorist threat facing the United States," said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, who released the summary.
"Our audit concluded that such an assessment would aid the FBI as it changes its priorities and seeks to prevent, deter and disrupt terrorist acts," he said.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the audit shows that Congress needs to do "a much better job" of overseeing the FBI.
"Even after the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, agents at FBI headquarters in Washington acted like they knew better than agents in the field," he said.
"At the same time, Congress kept pouring more money into the FBI to use against terrorism and did little if anything to make sure it was used in an effective way," he said, adding that "no one was held accountable" for the FBI's failed promise to write a terrorism threat assessment.
In response to the 13-page summary, the FBI denied it had not adequately assessed the threat and risk of terrorism, although bureau officials acknowledged they had not conducted a formal written threat assessment. The FBI is expected to issue a further response to the audit shortly.
The summary said a top counterterrorism specialist told IG investigators "the FBI knows the risks and threats of terrorism facing the United States" and he was "fully aware of the threats, both before and after September 11, 2001, based on the breadth of the FBI's counterterrorism cases and his frequent discussions with FBI employees."
The official told the investigators he did not believe a formal, written threat assessment would have improved the FBI's ability to understand or address terrorist threats. That official, Dale L. Watson, the FBI's executive assistant director, retired last month.
"Our findings are not intended to criticize the expertise of FBI employees and managers who work on counterterrorism matters or the extensive knowledge they have developed through their casework and regular discussions within the FBI and the intelligence community," Mr. Fine said.
"Yet, we believe the professional judgment of FBI officials is not a substitute for a formal and comprehensive written strategic assessment of the threat and risk of terrorist attacks in the United States. We believe a comprehensive written assessment would provide a better mechanism to analyze and assess the threats facing the United States," he said.
The summary said a written assessment of pending terrorist threats "would be useful not only to define the nature, likelihood and severity of the threat but also to identify intelligence gaps that needed to be addressed."
The FBI, in response to a September 1999 General Accounting Office report, agreed to conduct a risk assessment of pending terrorist threats. Two years later, the summary said, the FBI had developed a threat assessment draft that described terrorist groups and state sponsors but did not assess the threat and risk of an attack on the United States.
Investigators said the draft omitted any assessments of the training, skill levels, resources, sophistication, specific capabilities, intent, likelihood of attack and potential targets of terrorists, and did not include information on the methods they might use. There also was no analysis of terrorists' progress in acquiring chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons, they said.
"The lack of recommendations in the terrorist threat report underscores the fact that the report is, as one FBI assistant director described, 'a primer and not a risk assessment'" the summary said.
The summary noted that after September 11, the FBI identified as a critical weakness its ability to analyze intelligence and undertook steps to improve its capabilities. It said the bureau refocused its traditional orientation of investigating criminal acts for prosecution to place the highest priority on preventing terrorism.
But, the summary said, the FBI's strategic planning process lacked management controls to ensure that resources were allocated consistent with the new priority.

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