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United States General Accounting Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

October 21, 2002: 

The Honorable Max Baucus: 
The Honorable Charles E. Grassley: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on Finance: 
United States Senate: 

Subject: IRS and Terrorist-Related Information Sharing: 

Events preceding and following the attacks of September 11, 2001, 
spotlighted ineffective information sharing, particularly related to 
intelligence and law enforcement activities, as a serious weakness. 
Poor information sharing hinders effectively identifying 
vulnerabilities and coordinating efforts to detect attacks. 

As agreed with your offices, as part of our response to your request to 
monitor the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) efforts to enhance the 
security of the tax filing process,[Footnote 1] we studied how 
terrorist-related threat information is shared with IRS. More
specifically, one of this report’s objectives is to describe the 
process the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uses to share this 
kind of information with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax 
Administration (TIGTA) and the process TIGTA uses to share information 
with IRS. Another objective is to describe TIGTA and IRS officials’ 
views on the procedures for sharing information. 

We included the FBI in our work because it is responsible for ensuring 
a coordinated and vigorous response to terrorist acts and needs to 
share information to carry out its responsibility. We included TIGTA 
because even though it is separate from IRS, it is responsible for 
investigating threats against IRS facilities and employees and is the
conduit to IRS for FBI information related to IRS. 

Results in Brief: 

The FBI uses task forces and electronic means to share terrorist-
related threat information with TIGTA. More specifically, it shares 
information through its involvement with TIGTA and others in Joint 
Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) and through electronic arrangements such 
as the National Threat Warning System. For its part, TIGTA uses formal 
communications to disseminate threat information to IRS. 

TIGTA and IRS officials were satisfied with the FBI’s and TIGTA’s 
information-sharing procedures, respectively. We are making no 

After reviewing a draft of this report, the FBI had no comments, and 
TIGTA and IRS agreed with our findings. However, TIGTA noted that 
receiving no additional funding for its enhanced participation in JTTFs 
made TIGTA’s information-sharing efforts especially challenging, and 
that, in this context, continuing its efforts to improve the process 
raised concerns about endangering other program initiatives. 

How the FBI Shares Information with TIGTA: 

According to FBI officials, the FBI shares information with TIGTA and 
many other agencies through FBI-chaired JTTFs. Composed of various 
federal, state, and local agencies, JTTFs aim to prevent, preempt, 
deter, and investigate terrorism and related activities affecting the 
United States and to apprehend terrorists. According to an FBI 
official, the FBI had a JTTF in each of its 56 field offices by July 
2002, and a TIGTA official said that TIGTA would be involved in a full-
time, part-time, or liaison capacity in almost all the JTTFs. According 
to FBI officials, full-time JTTF members share information by working 
side by side in the same space every day, and JTTF meetings include 
discussions of casework, intelligence information, administrative 
matters, available training, and other JTTF-related issues. According 
to a TIGTA official, when TIGTA works with a JTTF in a liaison or part-
time capacity, the FBI agrees to notify TIGTA of anything of interest 
to TIGTA that arises in a TIGTA representative’s absence. Another TIGTA 
official cautioned, however, that TIGTA’s absence means that the FBI 
has to recognize a risk to IRS that TIGTA would otherwise recognize. 
FBI officials told us that in a liaison capacity, JTTF members 
participate through regular meetings, conferences, and telephone calls. 
At a different level, TIGTA also participates in a national JTTF, which 
allows for information sharing on a national basis among federal, 
state, and local groups, and it was trying to hire someone to
participate full-time. 

Because the FBI requires that a memorandum of understanding be executed 
with all agencies participating full-time in the JTTFs, it finalized 
one with TIGTA in September 2001. Lasting until TIGTA withdraws from 
JTTFs, the memorandum governs how TIGTA employees are detailed or 
otherwise assigned to work at the FBI as part of JTTFs. According to a 
TIGTA official, TIGTA’s role with the JTTFs evolved from an earlier 
FBI/TIGTA relationship. 

In addition to sharing information through JTTFs, the FBI shares 
information with TIGTA electronically. TIGTA receives FBI information 
through the National Threat Warning System over secure teletype; the 
National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, which provides for 
interagency exchange of unclassified criminal justice information; and 
the National Infrastructure Protection Center, which is the national 
focal point for information on threats to critical infrastructures, 
such as telecommunications and banking and finance systems. Similarly, 
TIGTA has access to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center 
database, which has a terrorism subfile. The purpose of this database 
is to share biographical information on people of interest to the FBI 
who should be treated with caution. 

How TIGTA and IRS Share Information: 

According to TIGTA officials, TIGTA is the primary conduit through 
which terrorist-related threat information flows both ways between the 
FBI and IRS. When IRS reports a threat to TIGTA, TIGTA determines its 
validity and passes it on to the FBI, if warranted. 

Similarly, through its involvement in individual JTTFs, according to 
TIGTA officials, TIGTA becomes aware of information, such as militia or 
antitax activity, and decides whether it should be passed on to IRS. In 
May 2001, TIGTA formed its own counterterrorism group, which is the 
centralized point where threat information related to IRS, including 
information received from TIGTA representatives on the JTTFs, is 
analyzed. The group is charged with coordinating TIGTA’s investigations 
of terrorism threats directed against IRS or its employees. 

TIGTA formally disseminates some terrorist-related threat information 
to IRS’s Agencywide Shared Services through threat advisories. 
[Footnote 2] The purpose of the advisories is to advise TIGTA and IRS 
management of significant anti-government activity that may affect the 
safety of IRS personnel and facilities. According to a TIGTA official, 
the decision to disseminate advisories is a collaborative effort using
years of law enforcement experience to assess threats. 

The information in the advisories we examined came from many sources, 
including the FBI, other federal agencies, and the media. Many of the 
advisories warned TIGTA agents of developments relating to fighting 
terrorism, but others warned IRS of situations threatening federal 
agencies and others in general. Very seldom did an advisory mention 
anything specific to IRS or the federal tax system. 

TIGTA and IRS Officials Are Satisfied with Information-Sharing 

The TIGTA and IRS officials we interviewed were satisfied with the 
procedures used for sharing information. A TIGTA Assistant Special 
Agent-in-Charge told us that the FBI shared terrorist-related threat 
information with TIGTA in a way that was timely and responsive to IRS’s 
needs. Similarly, IRS officials responsible for security policymaking 
and implementation told us that they were satisfied with the job TIGTA
was doing. According to the Director of the Office of IRS-Wide 
Security, TIGTA represented IRS’s interests well, explaining to others 
why IRS had to have certain knowledge. According to officials in IRS’s 
Agencywide Shared Services responsible for distributing threat 
information throughout IRS, TIGTA shared information alerts as they 
occurred, and IRS received everything it needed to complete its job. 

Agency Comments: 

We provided a draft of this report to the Attorney General, the Acting 
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and the Commissioner 
of Internal Revenue for comment. On October 8, 2002, the Department of 
Justice’s Audit Liaison Office orally told us that the FBI had no 
comments. Also in oral comments, the Director of the Office of IRS-Wide 
Security said on September 26, 2002, that IRS agreed with our findings. 

In providing written comments on our draft, TIGTA’s Deputy Inspector 
General for Investigations also agreed with our findings. He added that 
TIGTA’s not receiving any additional funding to support its enhanced 
participation in JTTFs made TIGTA’s information-sharing efforts 
especially challenging. In this context, he also expressed concern that 
TIGTA’s continued efforts to improve its process would imperil other
program initiatives. We did not address TIGTA’s funding in our report 
because it was beyond our scope. The full text of the Deputy Inspector 
General’s comments is reprinted in the enclosure. 

Scope and Methodology: 

To obtain information on processes used to share terrorist-related 
threat information and officials’ views of those processes, we reviewed 
our reports and testimonies [Footnote 3] and other materials on 
information-sharing procedures and coordination among federal agencies; 
interviewed FBI, TIGTA, and IRS officials responsible for 
counterterrorism, information dissemination, threat assessment, and IRS 
security policymaking and implementation; reviewed the memorandum of 
understanding between the FBI and TIGTA; and obtained information on 
TIGTA threat advisories issued from March 2001 through June 2002. We 
did not test the FBI’s or TIGTA‘s information-sharing procedures. We 
did our work in the Washington, D.C. area from February through July 
2002 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing 

As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly announce its contents 
earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days 
from the date of this report. At that time, we will send copies of this 
report to the Attorney General, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax 
Administration, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and other 
interested parties. We also will make copies available to others upon
request. In addition, the report will be available at no charge on the 
GAO Web site at [hyperlink,]. 

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please 
contact David Attianese or me on (202) 512-9110. Key contributors to 
this report were Chan My J. Battcher and Lawrence M. Korb. 

James R. White: 
Director, Tax Issues: 

[End of section] 


Department Of The Treasury: 
Inspector General for Tax Administration: 
Washington, D.C. 20220: 

October 10, 2002: 

James White: 
Director, Tax Issues: 
U.S. General Accounting Office: 

Dear Mr. White: 

We have reviewed the report regarding the most important topic of, IRS 
and Terrorist-Related information Sharing (GAO-03-50R) and appreciate 
the opportunity to comment on the audit and associated report. 

We appreciate the efforts of your staff and concur in the findings that 
TIGTA has been successful in establishing procedures that ensure 
effective information sharing between the FBI, IRS and TIGTA. Our 
primary vehicle for obtaining this information is through our 
participation in the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) throughout the 
nation and in interacting with the IRS to insure timely notification of 
critical information. We find this assignment especially challenging in 
light of the fact we have not received any additional funding from 
which to support our enhanced participation with the fifty-six JTTFs 
throughout the country. We will continue to refine our efforts to 
improve this process, but are concerned that it will ultimately come at 
the peril of other program initiatives. 

Again let me express my appreciation for you, Mr. Korb and his team for 
the work done in this area and the reaffirmation of the success of our 

Signed by: 

(for) Robert J. Cortesi: 
Deputy Inspector General for Investigations: 

[End of enclosure] 


[1] We issued interim and final “limited official use only” reports to 
you on IRS mail security in February and August 2002. 

[2] Agencywide Shared Services is the IRS organization responsible for 
distributing threat information throughout IRS. 

[3] For instance, U.S. General Accounting Office, FBI Reorganization: 
Initial Steps Encouraging but Broad Transformation Needed, GAO-02-865T 
(Washington, D.C.: June 21, 2002). In this testimony, we said that 
communication problems significantly hampered the FBI’s ability to 
share information internally and with other intelligence and law 
enforcement agencies. We also testified that the FBI’s recent steps 
toward greater information sharing, improving analytical capacity, and 
establishing a central unit to make sense of gathered information 
seemed to be rational ones. 

[End of section] 

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