Friday, October 05, 2007

Can We Count on Overseas Interdiction? Maybe Not So Much

Just a brief note on a new GAO statement on the effectiveness of U.S. law enforcement agencies' work with foreign governments to prevent terrorism. The report focuses on federal agencies such as DHS, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, etc.

Generally it finds that, in spite of some recent successes, the effort is not organized as well as it could be:

Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) have increased efforts to help foreign nations identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists. However, we found that because most LEAs, with the exception of the FBI, have not been given clear guidance, they lacked clearly defined roles and responsibilities on helping foreign nations identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists. In one country we visited, the lack of clear roles and responsibilities between two U.S. LEAs may have compromised several joint operations intended to identify and disrupt potential terrorist activities, according to the U.S. and foreign nation LEAs. In addition, we found LEAs generally lacked guidance on using resources to assist foreign nations in addressing terrorist vulnerabilities and generally lacked performance monitoring systems and formal structures for sharing information and collaborating.
It's not like they haven't been doing anything; they have, especially the FBI. It's just not coordinated. One result has been a lack of information sharing that is especially disheartening:
In three of the four embassies we visited, we found that the embassies generally retained pre-9/11 structures for information sharing among LEAs. Although embassies generally use law enforcement working groups to share information, we found they were not focused on joint investigative or operational efforts to identify and disrupt terrorist acts. For example, in one country we visited with an extremely high terrorist threat, an FBI official told us that the law enforcement working group had never been asked to try to identify or disrupt any of the terrorists on the most wanted lists of the departments of State or Defense, or of the foreign nation itself.
Of course, for local officials this doesn't really change anything. Local officials need to be vigilant. But it would be better to hear that overseas efforts - to stop them "over there" - are better organized.

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