The Bureau of Prisons failed to adequately monitor thousands of communications from more than 500 inmates with ties to terrorism, according to a Justice Department inspector general report released Wednesday.
In the nearly 70-page report, Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz wrote that the Bureau of Prisons did not take appropriate steps to review the mail, email, phone calls, video sessions and cellblock conversations of domestic and international terrorist inmates.
For example, the bureau failed to flag a letter that a high-risk inmate received from his wife detailing her intent to compromise a staff member at his prison.
The BOP also missed a threatening letter sent to a television talk show host from an inmate pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and threatening violence.
Investigators searched inmates’ emails for 32 terms that might indicate a threat. That search turned up more than 7,000 emails, according to the report.
However, a random sampling of 100 emails turned up only eight communications that the inspector general thought warranted further review.
“We found that the BOP had not monitored or only partially monitored thousands of communications of high-risk inmates … did not review thousands of inmate emails, some of which contained potentially concerning language; and permitted terrorist inmates to communicate with unknown or un-vetted contacts,” Mr. Horowitz wrote.
The monitoring failures were not just limited to written communication, he said.
Staff at a federal prison in New York did not monitor terrorists’ conversations with visitors because poor sound quality left guards unable to hear what was said, according to the report.
As Mr. Horowitz sees it, some of the blame falls on law enforcement agencies.
In some cases, the BOP did not classify 28 inmates as terrorists because law enforcement did not provide the bureau with enough background information.
As a result, their communications were not monitored, Mr. Horowitz wrote.
The inspector general issued almost 20 recommendations including improving the sound quality in visiting rooms, upgrading the telephone monitoring equipment, establishing consistent standards to review communications, and working with the Justice Department to more accurately identify terrorists.
Mr. Horowitz also dinged the Deputy Attorney General’s Office, writing that it needs to develop a better system to notify the BOP of all terrorists in its custody, including those whose convictions are under seal.
BOP officials said the bureau agrees with the inspector general’s recommendations and will improve its review of inmate communications.