DOJ unprepared for WMD attack: report

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] has failed to formulate a coordinated response to an attack involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD), according a report [text, PDF] released Tuesday by DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine [official profile]. Fine lauded the preparations of the FBI in developing response plans, but stated in the report that all other agencies that manage WMD attack responses have developed no specific preparations, possess little or no training, and rarely participate in WMD exercises. Fine chided the DOJ for not providing adequate leadership and organization of the preparations, saying it failed to set up a Crisis Management Committee or name a senior official to coordinate the department's efforts:

As a result, the Department is not fully prepared to provide a coordinated response to a WMD incident. For example, the Department does not assign one entity or individual with the responsibility for the central oversight or management of WMD incident response. The Department has not updated its policies to reflect recent national policies, and the Department's operational response policies and plans have not been fully implemented. Moreover, no components other than the FBI have specific WMD operational response plans or provide training on responding to a WMD incident...We found that no Department law enforcement component, other than the FBI, has specific WMD operational response plans. [The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)], the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS) each have groups that manage all-hazards responses, but these groups do not include specific preparations for WMD incidents.
The report specifically targeted ATF [official website], which was designated as the lead agency to implement the National Response Framework's ESF-13 [text, PDF] requirement. The framework was designed to ensure public safety and security in the event a WMD incident overwhelms state and local law enforcement. In the report, Fine stated that ATF has not made all the necessary personnel assignments to manage ESF-13 activities and has provided minimal training on the implementation of responsibilities in an incident threatening public safety and security. As a result, ATF was not prepared to coordinate federal law enforcement activities to ensure public safety and security in accordance with ESF-13.

While the inspector general's report was overwhelmingly critical of the DOJ, Fine held that the FBI has taken "appropriate steps" in creating a plan of action for its designated WMD attack responsibilities. The FBI's primary mission is to prevent WMD incidents and investigate WMD threats, and it is also responsible for creating a response plan in the event of an attack. Fine stated that the FBI, which also operates under the DOJ, has created plans, handbooks and other resources to educate agents on its response plan and regularly provides its staff with training specific to WMD incidents. The FBI also provides specialized training to new agents during their initial academy training. The report listed only one critique for the FBI, stating that "we found that the preparation of after action reports to document deficiencies identified during WMD response exercises is inconsistent, which hinders the FBI's ability to identify and address those deficiencies." The DOJ responded to the report stating that it concurred with the findings and will work to implement Fine's suggestions. The ATF has not yet provided a formal response.

 

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