- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

The FBI rejected as “inaccurate” a report by a research organization that said federal prosecutors turned down the vast majority of the international terrorism cases brought by the bureau during the first nine months of fiscal 2006.

The report, by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), raised what it called “troubling questions” about the FBI’s investigation of criminal matters involving persons the government has identified as international terrorists.

The TRAC report said the percentage of FBI referrals involving suspected terrorists that were rejected by Justice Department lawyers in the past few years has been generally increasing and reached a peak of 87 percent in fiscal 2006, which ended Sept. 30.

As a result of decisions by prosecutors to turn down international terrorism referrals, especially in the past few years, the report said the annual number of terrorism prosecutions was down from 118 in fiscal 2002 to “only 19 in the first nine months” of fiscal 2006 based on the latest FBI data available.

“It is astonishing that TRAC continues to present statistics that demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the basic principles on how federal investigations and prosecutions work,” the FBI said in a statement.

“This report contains inaccurate figures, relies on a faulty assumption that every referral from an investigative agency should result in a criminal prosecution and ignores the reality of how the war on terrorism is being conducted, particularly the value of early disruption of potential terrorist acts with proactive investigation and prosecution,” it said.

The FBI said that while the TRAC report specifically questions the number of international terrorism referrals from the FBI that were not prosecuted, “the reality is that a referral does not mean that criminal charges should be filed.”

“Often, matters are referred to prosecutors to assist in further investigation through the use of criminal investigative tools that require legal process such as a subpoena or surveillance order,” the FBI said.

The TRAC report said that prior to September 11, Justice Department lawyers prosecuted two out of three referrals for international terrorism but that in the 12 months immediately following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the prosecutions surged sharply higher than in the previous year but has since significantly declined.

The bureau also said there were a number of factual reporting errors in the TRAC report.

“Specifically, TRAC is not clear what its declination rate refers to, but the actual matter declination rate for international terrorism cases is 67 percent,” the FBI said. “Instead of referring to the actual 36 defendants charged with international terrorism offenses in FY 06 (up to June; 40 during the full year), TRAC mysteriously comes up with 19.

“In addition, 20 defendants were charged with terrorist hoaxes in FY 06,” the FBI said.

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