Known Terrorists Under Witness Protection Roaming The Country Pretty Much Unattended

from the natsec-above-all-else,-except-when-it-comes-to-paperwork dept

The FBI loves its counterterrorism work. Loves it so much, it's pretty much abandoned all pretense of being a law enforcement agency. It acts as though it's somewhere between the NSA and the ATF: interested mostly in picking through surveillance dragnets and running sting operations that turn people who have trouble with basic skills like holding down jobs into national security threats.

But it can't score anti-terrorism goals on unguarded nets without a crew of informants. It works with immigration authorities to coerce visiting foreigners into providing the agency with intel. It goes further than that, though. It also operates a witness protection program for informants/witnesses actually involved in actual terrorist activity.

Considering the danger inherent to letting these informants run on a long leash, you'd think the FBI would keep close tabs on some of its more dangerous helpers. But that isn't the case. The DOJ's Inspector General has released a heavily-redacted report [PDF] on the government's use of known suspected terrorists (KSTs) as temporary allies in the greater War on Terrorism. These are handled by the US Marshals Service, with the FBI acting as an intermediary. More government agencies are involved as well -- or at least should be. But one of the many problems the OIG found was a lack of communication.

We found several deficiencies in the process OEO [the DOJ's Office of Enforcement Operations] followed in analyzing these case files and in sharing information with the FBI. Specifically, we believe, and the FBI agrees, that OEO should have shared the information with national security stakeholders for all [redacted] individuals identified by the USMS, rather than conducting its own secondary review. If OEO had passed along all of the case file information that the USMS identified from its case file review, the FBI's counterterrorism experts - not just OEO - would have had the opportunity to evaluate whether any of the [redacted] individuals were KSTs. Under the process used, that did not happen for a majority of the individuals. We also found that neither OEO nor the FBI was able to provide evidence of a consistent application of the criteria each used for its reviews, and both lacked adequate support for their respective determinations.

In addition, OEO's sharing of information with the FBI was often marked by delay and the FBI's assessments of that information were inadequately documented. Of particular concern, we found that although the USMS began identifying to OEO individuals it believed had a potential nexus to terrorism in November 2013, OEO did not begin sending that information to the FBI for possible watchlisting until March 2014, and we found delays of weeks or months in OEO's handling of many of the individuals the USMS identified in late 2013 and early 2014.

This lack of info sharing combined with the agencies' inadequate documentation to create some horrifying problems. Known suspected terrorists were allowed to board planes on multiple occasions. Some continued to commit criminal acts. And in some cases, no one had any clue where their KST informants had vanished to.

As of November 2016, counting those KSTs identified during our May 2013 report, the FBI, OEO, and USMS have identified [redacted] KSTs who were previously admitted into the WITSEC Program. As of November 2016, the FBI had located [redacted] of these [redacted] KSTs, and were in the process of verifying the location of the remaining [redacted] individuals.

In one case, two KSTs were already watchlisted by the National Joint Terrorism Task Force. Nonetheless, they continued to engage in criminal activities for five months before they were arrested. They weren't the only ones. Other KSTs engaged in criminal activity without being terminated from the WITSEC program.

[D]espite four termination requests in 9 months from the USMS, OEO delayed the termination of a WITSEC Program participant who had allegedly sexually assaulted five individuals in an 8­ year period, including three minors.

Other WITSEC participants used the system's lack of oversight and flawed interagency communications to their own advantage. One KST used both his real identity, along with the new one provided to him in the WITSEC program, to game the system. Once terminated from the program, the KST was asked to return the new-name documents. Apparently, he never did. And no one followed up until the OIG got involved

By retaining these documents, KST 70 was able to use both identities for years. For example, KST 70 was receiving [redacted] benefits in KST 70's new name while receiving [redacted] retirement benefits in KST 70's true name. [...] We also found that KST 70 was able to use KST 70's new name, including a [redacted] driver's license. In fact, KST 70 checked into a hotel the night before the [redacted] with that [redacted] driver's license. We find it very concerning that KST 70 was allowed to use both identities for so long.

The OIG has a long list of recommendations to fix the ongoing KST/WITSEC issues. Unfortunately, you won't be reading them. They're 100% redacted. But we can assume it means a lot of changes in a system of utmost importance -- as is the case with anything national security-related -- that's treated like an afterthought by its many participants.


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Oct 2017 @ 4:07pm

    Wait...

    ...A Known Terrorist Suspect is put into witness protection in order to get information, then leaves the program and isn't arrested for their known terrorist activities? I guess the FBI doesn't even want to do it's anti-terror made up profile job well unless there are bogus stings included. And, as we all know, they screw those up as well.

    The only scenario I can think of is that they agreed to witness protection for absolution if information is given. Information is given, the absolution blessed, witness leaves the program without consequences. Did the FBI get all the information the witness knew? Did the FBI act on the information given? What the hell is the FBI doing giving absolution to terrorist suspects?

    Again, has the FBI forgotten all of their investigative techniques? Are they unable to do their jobs without someone else doing it for them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2017 @ 4:46pm

      Re: Wait...

      Did the FBI get all the information the witness knew?

      Probably not.

      Did the FBI act on the information given?

      Probably not.

      What the hell is the FBI doing giving absolution to terrorist suspects?

      Again, has the FBI forgotten all of their investigative techniques? Are they unable to do their jobs without someone else doing it for them?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2017 @ 4:47pm

      Re: Wait...

      Did the FBI get all the information the witness knew?

      Probably not.

      Did the FBI act on the information given?

      Probably not.

      What the hell is the FBI doing giving absolution to terrorist suspects?

      God only knows.

      Again, has the FBI forgotten all of their investigative techniques?

      Yes.

      Are they unable to do their jobs without someone else doing it for them?

      Yes!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 12:20pm

      Re: Wait...

      ...A Known Terrorist Suspect is put into witness protection in order to get information, then leaves the program and isn't arrested for their known terrorist activities?

      What "known terrorist activities"? The post title says "known terrorists" but the text says "known suspected terrorists", which is an oxymoron: if the FBI knew, the person wouldn't be a "suspect", they'd be in prison. Maybe these people did nothing, or maybe they didn't run far enough or fast enough from one of those famous FBI fake-terrorist entrapment setups.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2017 @ 6:45pm

    People better wake up. Its a brave new world. They are not looking out for your best interest..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PartTimeZombie (profile), 3 Oct 2017 @ 7:28pm

    Unsure

    The people involved are "Known Suspected Terrorists" which makes me wonder if they are "known" or "suspected" because those two things are not the same.
    After reading the linked techdirt piece about the FBI fitting some poor, dope smoking sap up to get their own War on Terror stats looking good, I'm not convinced that any of these KST people are anything other than the usual suspects.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 5:31am

      Re: Unsure

      After reading the linked techdirt piece about the FBI fitting some poor, dope smoking sap up to get their own War on Terror stats looking good, I'm not convinced that any of these KST people are anything other than the usual suspects.

      Actually I disagree. YOur supposition violates teh Principle of Maximum Incompetence.

      If the FBI is failing to prosecute someone to the maximum extent of the law then that is pretty much evidence of their guilt. Its only the innocent that getdone over.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2017 @ 7:48pm

    I have to wonder...

    How many of the people in the program were "known terrorist suspects" before entry, and how many became KTS's simply because they were IN the program? Wave a paycheck, and "sure, I can play a terrorist on the internet for you!"

    And once in the program, they become suspects...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 8:27pm

    And.. I have it on the HIGHEST AUTHORITY that the new world order one world government will NEVER work and tHEY were all about destruction in the end.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 9:50pm

    Airlines are flying over refugees from where? Good question and many are unvetted, undocumented. They arrive at night when fewer citizens are in the airports to witness the exodus. Many are receiving new identities having not been identitified. Do a search on youtube for this. Thank obama.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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