More than 120,000 hours of potentially valuable terrorism-related recordings have not yet been translated by linguists at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and computer problems may have led the bureau to systematically erase some Qaeda recordings, according to a declassified summary of a Justice Department investigation that was released on Monday.
The problems, unsurprisingly, are managerial:
The F.B.I. “has not prioritized its workload nationwide to ensure a zero backlog in the F.B.I.’s highest priority cases – counterterrorism cases and, in particular, Al Qaeda cases,” the report found.
The 9/11 Commission report found flaws with the “lead office” system that the FBI has, where the office where a case originates gets all the credit. I wonder if that plays in here?
Audio recordings that relate to Qaeda investigations are supposed to be reviewed within 12 hours of interception under F.B.I. policy. But the report found that deadline was missed in 36 percent of nearly 900 cases that the inspector general reviewed. In 50 Qaeda cases, it took at least a month for the F.B.I. to translate material.
Heads ought to be rolling at this point.
Overall, it doesn’t make much difference that the Army kicked out nine linguists for being gay. That’s less than 1% of the workforce at the FBI. But it does indicate that our national priorities remain somewhat skewed.
Maybe if we stopped insisting that security and liberty are always opposed, and started talking about how liberty and security can complement each other, we’d be doing better?