- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2004

The U.S. Marshals Service is “deficient” in its ability to assess potential threats against members of the federal judiciary, including judges who preside over high-profile terrorism cases, a report said yesterday.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General questioned the Marshals Service’s ability since September 11 to assess threats and determine appropriate measures to provide necessary protection for the nation’s federal courts and court personnel.

Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said while the agency had placed greater emphasis on security by hiring 106 court inspectors and increasing courthouse security, it was deficient in protecting the federal judiciary during high-threat trials and while personnel are away from the courthouse.

“The Marshals Service should take immediate steps to enhance its ability to assess threats and provide protection for the federal judiciary,” Mr. Fine said. “Despite its efforts to improve judicial security since September 11, our review found clear deficiencies that need improvement.”

In a written response, the Marshals Service noted that in its 215-year history, only four judges had been assassinated and none since 1989, and that since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the agency has hired more than 800 deputy marshals — its largest recruitment in 40 years.

“While a single assault or assassination is unacceptable, the full picture actually supports, rather than questions, the [Marshals Services] capabilities,” the agency said, adding it had brought prisoners before judges more than 1 million times since September 11 without a single injury to a judge.

While the protection of the federal judiciary is a prime responsibility, the Marshals Service also tracks fugitives, transports prisoners, protects federal witnesses and oversees and manages assets seized from criminal enterprises.

The Inspector Generals’ report, however, said threat assessments by the agency were “often untimely and of questionable validity,” and that it had “limited capability to collect and share intelligence on potential threats” from its districts, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and other sources.

It said the agency failed in 73 percent of the cases to meet its own internal standard that requires threats against judges to be assessed within a specific time period. Also, the report said the agency failed to improve the timeliness of its threat assessments despite a 30 percent decrease in the number of reported threats since fiscal 2000.

Mr. Fine said agency databases used to assess threats had not been updated since 1996, and they contained no information on more than 4,900 threats made since then — including threats related to terrorism cases since September 11.

He also said the agency had no central program to collect, assess and share intelligence on threats to the judges, noting that a centralized intelligence collection and assessment program was eliminated as part of a 1994 reorganization.

Mr. Fine called the agency’s intelligence collection outdated, saying it had not been revised to use new authority to collect and share intelligence on terrorism and other threats under the Patriot Act. He said the agency did not fully participate in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, assigning only 29 deputy marshals to the 56 task force field offices.

In two high-threat trials, Mr. Fine said the agency’s limited capability to collect and share intelligence affected its efforts to protect the federal judiciary. In one trial of people accused of providing financial aid to terrorists, he said the agency was unable to receive critical classified task force intelligence because the district’s task force representative did not have a Top Secret security clearance.

He recommended the agency ensure that threats are assessed within established time frames; that threat databases be undated or a new system developed; that full-time representatives be assigned to all 56 task force offices; and that a centralized capability to identify, collect, analyze and share intelligence with the agency’s districts be established.

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