The U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General today released a scathing report on DOJ's systemic mismanagement in the handling of known or suspected terrorists admitted into the federal Witness Security Program. The IG report found that the number of known or suspected terrorists admitted to the Witness Security Program is unknown, that DOJ has lost track of two suspected terrorists in the program, and that critical national security information is not being shared with other agencies.
Specifically, the IG report found that the Office of Enforcement Operations and the U.S. Marshals Service -- the two agencies responsible for managing the Witness Protection Program -- did not involve national security stakeholders when admitting and monitoring known or suspected terrorists into the program. After the suspected or known terrorists received a new name and necessary identity-related documents, their new names were not placed on the Transportation Security Administration's No Fly list -- even though their previous names had been listed. As a result, several known or suspected terrorists have been able to board commercial airplanes in the United States. This is especially problematic since the IG report found that terrorists admitted to the program include persons who have been trained in aviation and explosives and individuals who have been involved in bombing attacks. The report also found that crucial information pertaining to national security was not shared with the FBI.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released the following statement on the IG report:
"This is gross mismanagement -- pure and simple -- that jeopardizes American lives and cannot be tolerated. Today's IG report shows that the Justice Department continues to repeat the same mistakes that were made prior to 9/11. While the Department has used the Witness Security Program as a prosecutorial tool in terrorism cases, it has failed to share critical information with the FBI and TSA's No Fly list when suspected or known terrorists have participated in the program. As a result, terrorists have been able to board planes in the U.S. under their new names even though they are prohibited from doing so. This lack of interagency information sharing appears to be systemic. We witnessed similar interagency sharing problems leading up to last month's bombings in Boston.
"The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on this outrageous problem within DOJ in the near future. We cannot afford for history to repeat itself again. The Administration needs to better facilitate interagency information sharing so that we can better thwart future terrorist attacks. The terror threat has not diminished since 9/11--it is ever-present and evolving. "
Background: Created in 1971, the Witness Security Program is designed to protect witnesses and their dependents that are in danger as a result of their agreement to testify for the government in a variety of cases, such as organized crime, drug trafficking, violent gang, and terrorism cases. Participants in this program are relocated to an area believed to be safe from those who may want to harm them; provided a new identity, and afforded financial subsistence, occupational training, and other means necessary from them to acclimate to their new location.