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Justice Department: FBI has not assessed terror threat

From Terry Frieden (CNN)

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI has failed to develop a comprehensive assessment of the risk of a terrorist threat facing the United States despite a promise to do so, according to a U.S. Justice Department review of the FBI counterterrorism programs released Tuesday.

The Office of the Inspector General criticized the FBI for not yet incorporating the likely risks of terrorism into its strategic plan.

"Because the FBI has not completed a systematic written assessment of the most likely terrorism scenarios ... it may not have fully identified the specific nature of the threat so that it could focus its attention and resources to prepare adequately and respond effectively given the assessed risk," the report said.

The conclusions of Inspector General Glen Fine are contained in an unclassified 13-page executive summary made available at the Justice Department. The full 131-page audit report classified "secret" was provided only to top officials at the Justice Department and in Congress.

The Inspector General initiated the review of the FBI's management of its counterterrorism resources after Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced early this year the prevention of future terrorist attacks is now the paramount mission of the Justice Department and the FBI.

In reviewing the FBI's effort in recent years, the report says the FBI had developed a draft of a Terrorist Threat Report by September 2001 as promised following a critical 1999 GAO report.

Although that draft described terrorist organizations and State sponsors, it did not assess the threat and risk of an attack, the report says.

"Among the report's many omissions are assessments of the training, skill level, resources, sophistication, specific capabilities, intent, likelihood of attack, and potential targets of terrorist groups," the report says. "Further the draft report does not discuss the methods that terrorists might use," the review added.

The FBI disagreed with some of the report's conclusions, and that negative response was included in the report.

"The FBI's Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence disagreed that the FBI has not adequately assessed the threat and risk of terrorism," the report says. "While he acknowledged that the FBI had not conducted a formal written threat assessment...he stated that the FBI knows the risks and threats of terrorism facing the United States. He believed he was fully aware of the threats, both before and after September 11, 2001," the report says.

FBI officials Tuesday were writing a further response, and said it would be made public shortly.

The FBI official referred to in the report, Dale Watson, retired from the FBI this month to accept a job in the private sector.

Long-time FBI critic Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the new report underscores the importance of aggressive congressional oversight of the FBI's counterterrorism effort.

"Even documented pledges by FBI bureaucrats to write threat assessments were never kept, and no one was held accountable," Grassley said in a written statement.

"Director Mueller has clearly stated that he wants to turn the FBI around. This new report from the inspector general makes it very clear that he's going to need new, forward-thinking leaders at the FBI to make this happen," Grassley said.

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