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IG: Counterterrorism remains Justice Department's top challenge

Nov. 15, 2010 - 11:48AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Inspector General Glenn Fine's office also found that "department-level critical incident response policies and plans had not been fully implemented, were not in compliance with national policies, were outdated and did not specifically address the appropriate response to a WMD attack."
Inspector General Glenn Fine's office also found that "department-level critical incident response policies and plans had not been fully implemented, were not in compliance with national policies, were outdated and did not specifically address the appropriate response to a WMD attack." (Jeff Franko / Gannett News Service)

Nine years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Justice Department is still not fully prepared for an attack with weapons of mass destruction, according to a new inspector general's report that again ranks counterterrorism as the department's top management challenge.

Despite the creation of a national security division and other changes, the department's "management of plans for responding to a WMD attack was uncoordinated and fragmented, with no entity or individual assigned responsibility for central oversight of WMD response activities throughout the department," the report says.

Inspector General Glenn Fine's office also found that "department-level critical incident response policies and plans had not been fully implemented, were not in compliance with national policies, were outdated and did not specifically address the appropriate response to a WMD attack."

To remedy those lapses, the Justice Department has created a committee to develop policy, training and strategy for responding to a WMD incident and has also assigned the associate deputy attorney general for national security to coordinate all departmental policies in that arena, the report says.

Counterterrorism has occupied the top spot on the IG's list of the 10 top departmental challenges every year since 2001. This year's runner-up was also the same as last year's: Restoring public confidence in the department following allegations of cronyism and other problems under the Bush administration. In three reports released in 2008 and 2009, the IG and the department's Office of Professional Responsibility verified allegations of improper politicization in hiring for the Civil Rights Division and other jobs, while a separate report found that partisan political factors played into the removal of U.S. attorneys in 2006.

Although department officials have taken steps to correct those problems, they have not fully addressed one recommendation to "clarify the circumstances under which political or ideological considerations may be considered when assessing career candidates for details" to high-level positions, the report says.

And following accusations of misconduct in the prosecution of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and other cases, the department has bolstered oversight and training of federal prosecutors. But it could be more open about how it determines whether prosecutorial misconduct has occurred, the report says.

In order, the remaining eight challenges for 2010 are:

Law enforcement issues along the Southwest border.

Civil rights and civil liberties.

Information technology systems planning, implementation and security.

Violent and organized crime.

Financial crimes and cyber crimes.

Detention and incarceration.

Grant management.

Financial management.

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