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Homeland Security: Justice Department's Project to Interview Aliens after September 11, 2001

GAO-03-459 Published: Apr 11, 2003. Publicly Released: May 09, 2003.
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As one response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated a project to interview aliens whose characteristics were similar to those responsible for the attacks. The purpose was to determine what knowledge the aliens might have of terrorists and terrorist activities. GAO was asked to (1) determine the criteria DOJ used in compiling the list of aliens to be questioned, (2) whether law enforcement complied with DOJ guidance for the project, (3) the interview project's status, and (4) what information resulted from it.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Justice Because there indications that the government's antiterrorism efforts will continue to rely, in part, on conducting interview projects with aliens who reside in this county, we believe that the interview projects affords an opportunity to build a knowledge base that could assist future efforts to collect interview data and monitor project status. Accordingly, the Attorney General, upon completion of the interview project, should initiate a formal review of the project and report on the lessons learned. The issues that such a review might address include methods for identifying and locating aliens, constructing effective interview questions, designing a database for maintaining the data collected, issuing guidance on interview methods and inputting data into the database, conducting the interviews, obtaining state and local support for the project, overseeing project status, and analyzing the data. The review should include input from participating law enforcement officials on what aspects of the project were effective and how the objectives of the project might have been better or more efficiently met.
Closed – Implemented
DOJ stated that it evaluated the results of the interview project, identified actions it should take in any similar future activity, and listed the lessons learned they determined would improve the results of a subject interview project. DOJ stated that it will consider these lessons learned in any future such interview projects it may conduct.

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Immigration statusCounterterrorismData collectionTerroristsHomeland securityImmigration information systemsLaw enforcementProgram evaluationTerrorismImmigration