FBI is sole Justice agency prepared for terror attack, report says

Glenn Fine assailed most Justice Department agencies.
Glenn Fine assailed most Justice Department agencies. (Melina Mara/twp)
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By Jeff Stein
Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The FBI appears to be ready for a chemical, biological or radiological terrorist attack, but the rest of the Justice Department "is not prepared," according to a blistering audit released Tuesday.

The report by Glenn A. Fine, Justice's inspector general, singled out the department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for particular scorn, suggesting that the bureau was only dimly aware that it had been designated Justice's "lead coordinator" in responding to an attack with weapons of mass destruction.

The rationale for giving ATF, and not the FBI, the lead role was not explained in the report.

Other Justice Department components did not escape the inspector general's wrath.

"[W]e found that no Department law enforcement component, other than the FBI, has specific WMD operational response plans. ATF, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS) each have groups that manage all-hazards responses, but these groups do not include specific preparations for WMD incidents," the inspector general said.

Those agencies weren't even curious about what the FBI was up to, the report said.

"When we asked if they were familiar with the FBI's WMD response plan, officials from ATF, the DEA, and the USMS said they were not familiar with the plan and had not asked to see it," the report said.

"Our review concluded that only the FBI has taken adequate steps to prepare to respond to a potential WMD attack" including in the Washington area, it said.

The Justice Department took its medicine without complaint.

"We concur in all five recommendations and will implement" them, Associate Deputy Attorney General James A. Baker said in a written response.

The DEA, however, protested, saying that it did participate in drills, citing one every year between 2005 and 2008. But auditors said they were not the same kind of exercises under discussion in their report.

The ATF and Marshals Service did not offer a formal defense of their bad grades.

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