- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2005

The counterterrorism task forces and advisory councils created or expanded by the Justice Department in the wake of the September 11 attacks function as intended and “contribute significantly” to the department’s goal of preventing terrorism, said a report released yesterday.

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, in an extensive evaluation of the operations of the five counterterrorism task forces and advisory councils, said they have contributed to information-sharing, created law-enforcement partnerships and resulted in more efficient investigative strategy.

“The terrorism task forces and councils have made substantial improvement to the department’s counterterrorism efforts,” said Mr. Fine, although he recommended “a series of steps the task forces and councils could make to further enhance the department’s counterterrorism capabilities.”

He recommended the implementation of national training plans and a standard orientation program for new task force members; an increase in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s task force membership; the development of strategies to provide counterterrorism information to law enforcement and first responders in remote areas; and the creation of performance measures to assess the task forces.

The inspector general’s office evaluated the operations of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, the National Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Councils, the National Security Coordination Council and the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force. Only the Joint Terrorism Task Forces existed before September 11, 2001. The report says:

• The Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which expanded significantly after September 11, are led by FBI field offices, with participation by other Justice Department, federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies. They focus primarily on preventing terrorist incidents, investigating terrorism threats and responding to terrorism leads.

• The National Joint Terrorism Task Force, also led by the FBI, provides administrative, logistical and training support and enhanced communication among law-enforcement agencies for intelligence-sharing.

• The Anti-Terrorism Advisory Councils are led by the U.S. attorney’s office and encourage the exchange of terrorism-related information among federal, state and local organizations in the public and private sectors, conduct counterterrorism training and coordinate investigative strategies.

• The National Security Coordination Council is led by the deputy attorney general and is composed of other senior Justice Department officials who define and coordinate the department’s counterterrorism strategy and resolve national security issues.

• The Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force is led by the FBI and provides data to the task forces and government agencies to prevent terrorists from entering the United States.

Despite the critical link between drug trafficking and terrorism, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has “minimal membership” on the counterterrorism task forces.

He said that although the DEA assigned liaisons to the task forces, they did not serve on the task forces as active members to provide immediate, on-site investigative assistance to terrorism cases.

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