- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog said Friday that the FBI has improved in recent years how it tracks and handles terrorism threats.

But Inspector General Glenn A. Fine’s office also found room for further improvement with the bureau’s Guardian Threat Tracking System, which stores tips and assigns agents to investigate and record the outcome of terrorist threats.

Guardian was developed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as the FBI shifted its focus to counterterrorism.

The system takes in a massive amount of information. From July 2004 to November 2007, there were 108,000 terrorism-related threats, reports of suspicious incidents and terrorist-watchlist hits, according to a report from the Inspector General (IG).

While the overwhelming majority of those tips didn’t pan out, the IG found that 600 criminal and terrorism investigations came from information reported to Guardian from 2006 to 2007.

Improvements made in 2006 increased the usefulness of the system, making threat information immediately available to agents and allowing users to search for trends and patterns, according to the IG report.

State, local and tribal police have access to an unclassified version of the information included in Guardian through the FBI Law Enforcement Online network, though the IG said the implementation of that program was delayed a year because the FBI changed the contractor developing the system.

But the IG also found that the FBI needed to improve the timeliness, accuracy and completeness of the information entered into Guardian.

FBI Assistant Director of Public Affairs John Miller said the bureau had already taken steps to resolve those issues and agreed with all seven recommendations included in the report.

“The FBI will always strive for continued improvement in the conduct of the FBI’s investigation and intelligence operation policies and procedures,” Mr. Miller said. “We remain committed to working with the Department of Justice to increase coordination and to find best practices aimed at providing service and safety for our nation.”

Recommendations from the IG included forwarding to the agency in a “timely manner” threats and suspicious incidents entered into Guardian.

That suggestion came after the IG found that 60 routine threats, or 28 percent of the 218 cases analyzed, sat for more than 30 days without receiving any investigative activity.

Other recommendations included making a schedule to end the delays in implementing technical patches to improve the system. The IG also called for FBI supervisors to review all threats entered into Guardian; the report found that supervisors did not review 12 percent of the 218 cases analyzed.

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