- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

The top challenge facing the Justice Department continues to be its ongoing response to the threat of terrorist attacks against new targets in this country, according to a report released yesterday.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, in its annual report on pending management challenges, described the prevention, detection and deterrence of future attacks as key to a governmentwide effort to address the challenge of terrorism.

“Within the department, the focus on counterterrorism has been clearly articulated and consistently stressed,” said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. “The department’s strategic plan for 2001-2006 makes clear this is the top priority and notes the challenges facing the department as it seeks to effectively manage its counterterrorism programs while coordinating with other intelligence agencies and law enforcement entities, both federal and local.

“In addition, the infusion of billions of dollars to help fund the department’s expanded counterterrorism efforts require managers to ensure that these funds are spent in an effective manner,” Mr. Fine said.

While the department appropriately has focused “significant efforts and resources” to prevent acts of terrorism, the report said Justice also needed to prepare to respond to terrorist acts and other critical incidents should they occur.

“The reprioritization of the department’s counterterrorism priority has resulted in significantly increased department funding for counterterrorism efforts,” the report said. “A challenge for the department is to ensure that the increased funding is used economically, effectively and for its intended purposes.”

The report listed what it described as a “somewhat different but related challenge” for the department in responding to the heightened terrorism threat by using law enforcement and intelligence-gathering authorities without “inappropriately affecting the civil rights and civil liberties of individuals.”

The USA Patriot Act, passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, gives Mr. Fine the responsibility of reviewing accusations of civil rights and civil liberties abuses. In June, he said there were “significant problems” in the way the department handled September 11 detainees, and made 21 recommendations, including the development of uniform arrest and detainee-classification policies, improved information sharing among federal agencies on detainees and an upgrade of the FBI clearance process.

Other identified management challenges included the increased sharing of intelligence and law enforcement information; the development and upgrade of information technology systems; heightened computer systems security; improved financial and grant management; the development of performance-based management to ensure that programs are achieving their intended purposes; an improvement in hiring, training and the retention of personnel; and programs to reduce the supply of and demand for illicit drugs.

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