Combating Terrorism: Law Enforcement Agencies Lack Directives to Assist Foreign Nations to Identify, Disrupt, and Prosecute Terrorists

GAO-07-697 Published: May 25, 2007. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 2007.
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Highlights

Three U.S. national strategies, developed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, directed U.S. law enforcement agencies (LEA) to focus on the prevention of terrorist attacks. The strategies called for LEAs to intensify their efforts to help foreign nations identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists. GAO was asked to assess (1) the guidance for LEAs to assist foreign nations to identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists and (2) the extent to which LEAs have implemented this guidance.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security The U.S. Attorney General and the Secretaries of Homeland Security and the Department of State (State) should issue clear guidance to their respective component agencies and bureaus on how those agencies and bureaus should implement the national security strategies' goal of using the full capabilities of LEAs to assist foreign nations to identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists.
Closed – Not Implemented
DHS officials were unaware of any additional guidance that specifically addresses how each DHS component should implement the national security strategies' goal of using the full capabilities of LEAs to assist foreign nations to identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists.
Office of the Attorney General The U.S. Attorney General and the Secretaries of Homeland Security and the Department of State (State) should issue clear guidance to their respective component agencies and bureaus on how those agencies and bureaus should implement the national security strategies' goal of using the full capabilities of LEAs to assist foreign nations to identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists.
Closed – Not Implemented
DOJ officials were unaware of any additional guidance that specifically addresses how each DHS component should implement the national security strategies' goal of using the full capabilities of LEAs to assist foreign nations to identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists.
Department of State The U.S. Attorney General and the Secretaries of Homeland Security and the Department of State (State) should issue clear guidance to their respective component agencies and bureaus on how those agencies and bureaus should implement the national security strategies' goal of using the full capabilities of LEAs to assist foreign nations to identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists.
Closed – Implemented
State's Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT) serves as the focal point for U.S. efforts to combat terrorism overseas, including those of law enforcement agencies. S/CT's Bureau Strategic and Resource Plan for Fiscal Year 2013 contains the most recent guidance from the Department of State (which funds many of the U.S. government's counterterrorism efforts overseas) to its component bureaus on how they should implement the national security strategies' goal of using the full capabilities of law enforcement agencies to assist foreign nations to address terrorism. It acknowledges the unique capabilities and programs of each of the relevant State bureaus and indicates how they should utilize those programs to enhance foreign partners' capacity.
Department of Homeland Security The U.S. Attorney General and the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State should establish a monitoring system that provides the respective department and Congress with accurate reporting on that department's accomplishments, impediments, and planned improvements in their LEAs' efforts to help foreign nations combat terrorism.
Closed – Implemented
The National Counterterrorism Center is responsible for overseeing U.S. government-wide efforts to combat terrorism. As such, it monitors the efforts of agencies?including law enforcement agencies?to help foreign nations combat terrorism. To fulfill this responsibility, NCTC undertakes a variety of efforts to monitor agencies' accomplishments, impediments, and planned improvements. One key part of NCTC's activities is developing matrices for key counterterrorism objectives. Such matrices identify the key efforts contributing to achievement of the objective, the agency serving as the leader of the effort, the status, and remaining obstacles. The Department of Homeland Security provides this information to NCTC for efforts in which it is involved. Using this information, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center provides Congress with information on the U.S. government's efforts to combat terrorism in his "Annual Threat Assessment" testimony.
Office of the Attorney General The U.S. Attorney General and the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State should establish a monitoring system that provides the respective department and Congress with accurate reporting on that department's accomplishments, impediments, and planned improvements in their LEAs' efforts to help foreign nations combat terrorism.
Closed – Implemented
The National Counterterrorism Center is responsible for overseeing U.S. government-wide efforts to combat terrorism. As such, it monitors the efforts of agencies?including law enforcement agencies?to help foreign nations combat terrorism. To fulfill this responsibility, NCTC undertakes a variety of efforts to monitor agencies' accomplishments, impediments, and planned improvements. One key part of NCTC's activities is developing matrices for key counterterrorism objectives. Such matrices identify the key efforts contributing to achievement of the objective, the agency serving as the leader of the effort, the status, and remaining obstacles. The Department of Homeland Security provides this information to NCTC for efforts in which it is involved. Using this information, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center provides Congress with information on the U.S. government's efforts to combat terrorism in his "Annual Threat Assessment" testimony.
Department of State The U.S. Attorney General and the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State should establish a monitoring system that provides the respective department and Congress with accurate reporting on that department's accomplishments, impediments, and planned improvements in their LEAs' efforts to help foreign nations combat terrorism.
Closed – Implemented
The National Counterterrorism Center is responsible for overseeing U.S. government-wide efforts to combat terrorism. As such, it monitors the efforts of agencies?including law enforcement agencies?to help foreign nations combat terrorism. To fulfill this responsibility, NCTC undertakes a variety of efforts to monitor agencies' accomplishments, impediments, and planned improvements. One key part of NCTC's activities is developing matrices for key counterterrorism objectives. Such matrices identify the key efforts contributing to achievement of the objective, the agency serving as the leader of the effort, the status, and remaining obstacles. The Department of Homeland Security provides this information to NCTC for efforts in which it is involved. Using this information, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center provides Congress with information on the U.S. government's efforts to combat terrorism in his "Annual Threat Assessment" testimony.
Department of State The Secretary of State, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security should explore the creation of new structures at U.S. embassies to improve information sharing and coordination among U.S. LEAs for assisting foreign nations combat terrorism.
Closed – Implemented
According to the Special Assistant to the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, State discussed whether to create new mechanisms to enhance coordination and information sharing among law enforcement agencies at embassies. However, it was determined that the existing law enforcement working groups were the most appropriate forum for such activities. However, he acknowledged that, consistent with GAO's work, additional steps were needed to improve coordination of U.S. efforts to enhance foreign partners' capacity building needs. As a result, State's Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism has begun working within the existing law enforcement working groups to coordinate agencies' efforts to perform needs assessments, especially when conducting site visits. Ensuring, to the extent practical, that all key agencies are represented during needs assessments can avoid duplication of effort and ensure that the most appropriate U.S. programs are utilized.
Other The Director of the NCTC, in consultation with the NSC, should ensure that the implementing guidance for the NCTC plan for combating terrorism articulates a clear strategy to implement the national security goal of using the combined capabilities of LEAs to help foreign nations identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists.
Closed – Implemented
The National and Homeland Security Presidential Directive on United States Policy and Strategy in the War on Terror (NSPD-46/HSPD-15, signed March 6, 2006), directed the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to prepare a National Implementation Plan for the War on Terror (NIP). The first version of the NIP was approved by President George W. Bush in June 2006 and an updated version in September 2008. The 2008 NIP provides strategic guidance on the use of law enforcement agencies to help foreign nations identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists.
Other The Director of the NCTC, in consultation with the NSC, should ensure that the implementing guidance for the NCTC plan for combating terrorism clarifies the roles and responsibilities of each LEA for (1) helping enhance the capabilities of foreign police, prosecutors, and judges for combating terrorism; and (2) working more closely with foreign nations on operational efforts to identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists.
Closed – Implemented
The National and Homeland Security Presidential Directive on United States Policy and Strategy in the War on Terror (NSPD-46/HSPD-15, signed March 6, 2006), directed the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to prepare a National Implementation Plan for the War on Terror (NIP). The first version of the NIP was approved by President George W. Bush in June 2006 and an updated version in September 2008. The 2008 NIP provides strategic guidance on the use of law enforcement agencies to help foreign nations identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists. In addition, NCTC undertakes a variety of efforts to monitor agencies' accomplishments, impediments, and planned improvements. One key part of NCTC's activities is developing matrices for key counterterrorism objectives. These matrices identify the key efforts contributing to achievement of the objective such as enhancing the capacity of foreign law enforcement agencies and working more closely with foreign partners. Each matrix identifies the lead agency for the effort as well as the specific responsibilities of the lead agency.
Other The Director of the NCTC, in consultation with the NSC, should ensure that the implementing guidance for the NCTC plan for combating terrorism includes a mechanism for comprehensively (1) assessing the needs of foreign nations for identifying, disrupting, and prosecuting terrorists; (2) deciding which needs U.S. LEAs should help address; (3) determining which U.S. LEA programs or activities are best suited to address those needs; and (4) ensuring that U.S. LEAs are provided guidance on setting funding priorities and providing resources to address those needs.
Closed – Not Implemented
While NCTC has made progress in identifying the various roles and responsibilities of LEAs in counterterrorism, it has not issued implementing guidance that ensures comprehensive efforts to (1) assess the needs of foreign nations for identifying, disrupting, and prosecuting terrorists; (2) decide which needs U.S. LEAs should help address; (3) determine which U.S. LEA programs or activities are best suited to address those needs; and (4) ensure that U.S. LEAs are provided guidance on setting funding priorities and providing resources to address those needs.
Other The Director of the NCTC, in consultation with the NSC, should ensure that the implementing guidance for the NCTC plan for combating terrorism requires a monitoring system that provides the executive departments, LEAs, and Congress accurate reporting on accomplishments, impediments, and planned improvements for LEAs assisting foreign nations to identify, disrupt, and prosecute terrorists.
Closed – Implemented
The National and Homeland Security Presidential Directive on United States Policy and Strategy in the War on Terror (NSPD-46/HSPD-15, signed March 6, 2006), directed the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to prepare a National Implementation Plan for the War on Terror (NIP). The first version of the NIP was approved by President George W. Bush in June 2006 and an updated version in September 2008. The 2008 NIP provides guidance how agencies should monitor and report progress regarding the implementation of the NIP.

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