- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Justice Department watchdog on Tuesday chastised the FBI for its response to a threat posed by a homegrown violent extremist, saying the bureau needs to do more to track potential dangers when someone is held by another agency.

The warning came after Inspector General Michael Horowitz said he learned last year of an extremist being held by another department, whose activities posed “a national security threat.”

Mr. Horowitz, in an unclassified summary of his findings, didn’t name the extremist, nor did he identify which other department had custody of the person at the time of his threatening activities. But sources familiar with FBI protocol said it was likely a military prison.

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The inspector general said the FBI learned of a potential threat back in 2013 and “intermittently” stepped in over the next four years, but Mr. Horowitz said that wasn’t good enough.

“We found that these efforts did not adequately mitigate the threat,” he wrote.

He said a similar risk may exist with other homegrown violent extremists, or HVEs in government-speak, who are housed in facilities that are not managed by the Justice Department. The Justice Department oversees most federal facilities through the Federal Bureau of Prisons with the exception of military facilities.

“Therefore, the OIG recommends that the FBI evaluate and determine appropriate actions, in coordination with appropriate other entities, to mitigate the potential national security threats that could arise from HVEs held in facilities outside the DOJ’s authority,” Mr. Horowitz wrote.

The inspector general offered five recommendations to the FBI in a classified version of the report. Mr. Horowitz said the FBI agreed with its recommendations, but noted some disagreements with the inspector general’s analysis.

The FBI has taken heat in the past for its response to HVEs. A 2011 Senate report faulted the FBI for not doing enough to prevent the November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood that left 13 people dead.

In a report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the FBI was criticized for failing to tell the Army about the extremist views of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the gunman who executed the mass shooting. A bureau task force had learned of Hasan’s repeated interactions with a radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, but did not report it to the Army, according to the Senate committee.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who chaired the committee in 2011, said at the time that the FBI had “compelling evidence” of Hasan’s embrace of violent Islamist extremism that could have prevented the shooting.

The bureau has about 1,000 investigations into HVEs, not counting those linked to a terror group or domestic extremist groups like white supremacists, FBI Director Christopher Wray told a Senate subcommittee last month.

Mr. Wray called HVEs, the bureau’s highest counterterrorism priority at the moment, lamenting the difficulty in catching these individuals.

“And what makes it so hard is that there are not many dots to connect with some of these people,” he said in testimony before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee. “They pick soft targets, they use easy to use weapons, you know, IEDs, cars, knives, guns. And they can make decisions on the spur of the moment. We’re trying to get better at looking for red flags, as to when people who are getting radicalized sort of make that switch into potentially mobilizing.”

The key to stopping HVEs is a lot of community outreach and partnership with state and local law enforcement officials, Mr. Wray said.

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