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From: Otis Willie
Subject: FBI referrals of international terrorism cases for prosecution up six-fold sinc
Organization: The American War Library
NNTP-Posting-Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2002 15:23:45 EDT
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2002 19:23:45 GMT
FBI referrals of international terrorism cases for prosecution up
six-fold since Sept. 11
(EXCERPT) Sun Jun 16, 1:41 PM ET, by DAVID PACE, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The FBI ( news - web sites) has been seeking prosecution
of international terrorism cases at six times the rate it did before
Sept. 11, but more than half of those cases considered, By federal
prosecutors never made it to court, Justice Department ( news - web
sites) records show.
In the year before the attacks on New York and Washington, FBI agents
sent 10 international terrorism cases a month to U.S. attorneys for
prosecution, according to the records obtained by Syracuse
University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC. In
the first six months after the attacks, they sent 59 a month.
The records reflect the intense FBI focus on anti-terrorism
investigations after Sept. 11, but they also show prosecutors declined
to file charges in 60 of the 98 FBI anti-terrorism cases they
considered from last October through March.
In half the cases not prosecuted, U.S. attorneys said there was a
"lack of evidence of criminal intent" or no evidence a federal crime
had been committed.
Senate Judiciary Committee ( news - web sites) Chairman Patrick Leahy,
a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley say they are troubled
by both the high rate of declined prosecutions and the reasons
prosecutors cite for not pursuing the cases.
The lawmakers asked Attorney General John Ashcroft ( news - web sites)
and FBI Director Robert Mueller in a letter Friday to explain why so
many FBI terrorism referrals are not being prosecuted.
FBI officials say the referral of a case to a U.S. attorney is not the
equivalent of an FBI recommendation for prosecution. In anti-terrorism
cases in particular, the officials said, much of the effort to prevent
terrorist attacks does not result in prosecutions.
FBI spokesman Bill Carter said the exhaustive investigative effort to
unravel the Sept. 11 plot may have contributed to the large number of
international terrorism referrals that federal prosecutors chose not
"Did we open cases that went down blind holes? Probably," Carter said
in an interview. "But I don't have any direct knowledge of that."
The Sept. 11 investigation caused the overall number of crimes
referred for prosecution by the FBI to drop by 23 percent during the
first three months after the attacks. But by the end of March, the
number of FBI referrals had climbed back to pre-Sept. 11 levels.
Despite assertions by Ashcroft and Mueller that the FBI was focusing
more on terrorism prevention, the records show that bank robberies,
drug violations and bank frauds accounted for more than a third of all
FBI referrals in the first six months after Sept. 11. That's roughly
the same level as in the previous five years.
Leahy and Grassley said in their letter that the FBI's continuing
focus on bank robberies, drug violations and bank fraud raises
"troubling questions about whether the FBI and Department of Justice (
news - web sites) are devoting sufficient resources to
They asked the FBI and Justice Department to provide a detailed
breakdown of their bank robbery and drug enforcement cases since Sept.
"Director Mueller has to put more agents on the trail of al-Qaida and
other terrorists and leave the Bonnie and Clyde investigations to
local authorities," Grassley said in a separate statement.
Carter said the bureau never stopped working other criminal
investigations even as it began focusing more on terrorism prevention.
He said many recent referrals for bank robberies and other crimes
resulted from investigations that began long before Sept. 11.
"Cases don't just happen overnight," he said. "Many are long term and
very complex investigations.... The cases referred by us to U.S.
attorneys are usually not those opened the day before."
TRAC obtained the records after winning a two-court battle with the
Justice Department over the Freedom of Information Act. The records
come from internal administrative data the department maintains on all
criminal and civil cases.
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