FBI, ICE rivalry may hurt terror investigations: DHS report

[JURIST] Disagreements and rivalries between the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have hampered terror investigations, according to a report [PDF text] released Monday by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) [official website]. The report, compiled by the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security [official website], found that the agencies have not effectively implemented a memorandum of agreement (MOA) intended to enable a "seamless, coordinated campaign against sources of terrorist financing" and that ICE agents may have intentionally decided not to pursue leads or a "terrorism aspect" of a case to avoid having to transfer a case to the FBI. In addition, differences between the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) [FBI backgrounder], the leading agency tasked with combating terrorism and terrorist financing, and ICE contributed to a break down of communication between the agencies; ICE agents assigned to the JTTF by a regional ICE field office were removed and subsequently instructed "not to assist with any JTTF financial investigations." The report says:

ICE agents have misperceptions of the MOA and its procedures, and some resent the MOA and the FBI. As a result, ICE agents and headquarters officials reported some ICE agents fail to pursue leads and cases that might develop a nexus to terrorism. Further, agents may not be sending potential terrorism related leads and cases to the JVU or to the JTTFs. The failure to pursue or report terrorism related cases would violate the terms of the MOA and would be detrimental to national security. However, none of the ICE agents we interviewed provided specific instances of violations and agents spoke of the matter in more broad terms. We have no direct evidence that any ICE agent has actually been derelict.

Nine agents from three field offices and ICE headquarters told us that they or other agents drop leads that appear to have a terrorism nexus, or choose to ignore a terrorism nexus and select violations unrelated to terrorism, in order to continue the case without FBI involvement.
Grassley urged [press release] the two agencies "to work together in order to do everything possible to protect Americans in the war on terror," adding that "I hate to think how much our law enforcement agencies could be missing because of petty turf battles" and that "institutional vanity should have been history on September 12, 2001." AP has more.


 

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