Justice Department Working to Resolve FBI, ATF Conflicts
By Ryan J. Reilly | February 25, 2010 9:50 am

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine told members of Congress Wednesday that the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were not coordinating efforts with the agencies’ explosives investigators racing to the scene of an incident in the hopes of calling dibs on a case. As some agents acknowledged to Fine, they believed “possession is nine-tenths of the law.”

Inspector General Glenn Fine, Margaret Gulotta of the FBI and Jennifer Shasky Calvery of the DAG's Office at a hearing on Wednesday (photo by Ryan J. Reilly).

The Inspector General audit report issued in October found that the FBI and the ATF management of their coordinated efforts was ineffective.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Fine reported that conflicts over which agency should lead investigations continue to occur even though the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was transferred from the Treasury Department in 2003.

According to the report, 33 percent of ATF specialists and 40 percent of FBI bomb technicians who responded to the Inspector General’s survey reported having disputes with their counterparts at explosives incidents in fiscal years 2007 and 2008.

Jennifer Shasky Calvery, senior counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, told the committee that the Justice Department had already implemented several of Fine’s recommendations and had formed working groups to resolve the issues raised in the report.

Fine and other DOJ officials also testified on a separate Inspector General report, also issued in October, on the FBI’s foreign language translation program.

Jennifer Shasky Calvery, senior counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, testifies before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on Wednesday (photo by Ryan J. Reilly).

That report found that the FBI lacks a consolidated, accurate collection and statistical reporting evaluation system for the foreign language material it collects. It also found that the FBI continues to have significant amounts of unreviewed audio and electronic files it collected for its counterterrorism, counterintelligence and criminal investigations between fiscal year 2006 and 2008.

Margaret Gulotta , section chief of the Language Services Section of the FBI, said that the FBI continues to struggle to find qualified staff for the section.

The audit found that the number of linguists performing translations for the FBI has decreased from 1,388 in March 2005 to 1,298 in Sept. 2008, and that the FBI had not reached its hiring goals.

The audit found that it took the FBI approximately 19 months to hire a contract linguist, an increase from the 16 month period it took in 2005. Fine said that one of the reasons that it was so difficult for the FBI to add staff was because it is currently taking 14 months to complete a background investigation.

“You don’t think terrorists would be willing to wait fourteen months if they know we’ve got this problem?” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), ranking member of the subcommittee. “They don’t wait fourteen months, they take advantage of our weaknesses.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.)  said the panel would discuss the Inspector General report regarding the FBI’s use of informal requests for phone records at an upcoming hearing.

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