U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
September 25, 2009
(Publicly released October 26, 2009)
Honorable Glenn A. Fine
Office of the Inspector General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Mr. Fine:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) appreciates the opportunity to review and respond to your audit entitled, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Foreign Language Translation Program” (hereinafter, “Report”).
We are pleased that the Report documents the significant improvements the FBI has made in the past four years in its Foreign Language Translation Program In particular, the FBI is heartened that this Report reflects an overall reduction by over 40 percent in the FBI’s counterterrorism audio backlog, from 8,354 hours as of March 2005 to approximately 4,770 hours as of September 30, 2008 (see Report at xi). The Language Services Section should take justifiable pride in accomplishing this very substantial reduction in the translation of some of the FBI’s most important collected audio.
We are hopeful that readers of the Report will not erroneously conclude that the FBI’s audio backlog has increased based on the discussion in the Report of “unreviewed” audio. As you know, the OIG derives the number of “unreviewed” hours by subtracting the number of “reviewed” hours from the number of hours that are shown in FBI systems as having been “collected.” However, as the OIG acknowledges (see, e.g., p. vii), the product substantially overstates the number of actual unreviewed hours because the first number in the calculation (the number of hours collected) includes hours that are duplicated when audio files are transferred between offices and when audio that was previously reviewed and removed from the online system is re-loaded. Using that unrefined number, the OIG reports that the FBI has accumulated 47,000 hours of “unreviewed” audio in counterterrorism cases when the actual count, as acknowledged by the OIG, is about one-tenth of that, or approximately 4,770 hours. The FBI recognizes that this potential misunderstanding would be obviated if our collection systems were able to provide accurate statistics without manual intervention.
We are similarly hopeful that readers will not misunderstand the discussion in the Report of “unreviewed” electronic files and conclude that the FBI has millions of electronic files that it should have translated but has not. It would be an unnecessary waste of funds for the FBI to attempt to systematically review and translate every electronic file it collects. Instead, the FBI handles electronic files analytically. The FBI uses advanced technology to assist in the identification and prioritization of the electronic files that are most relevant to the FBI’s mission.
Finally, the Report states that an FBI field office “collected…calls on lines on which a FISA court judge ordered it to cease collecting material.” The FBI has provided the OIG with documentation demonstrating that the calls to which the OIG refers were not “collected” from “lines” the FBI was monitoring. Instead, the calls at issue were placed to the FBI’s telephone lines. Such lines are used to deliver to the FBI calls the FBI has authority to intercept; such lines are, however, assigned telephone numbers by the provider and can actually be called. It is not uncommon for these lines to “receive” calls from telemarketers and others who use auto-dialers and other automated call technology to place calls. In short, this was not a potential “overrun,” nor did the field office at issue ignore the direction of the FISA court not to collect on particular lines.
We are pleased that the OIG Report recognizes many of the other areas in which the FBI’s Foreign Language Translation Program has improved. For example, the Report reflects that the FBI reviewed all of its foreign language collections in its highest priority counterterrorism and counterintelligence cases in 2008, and 100 percent of the text pages it collected over the past three years. The Report also recognizes significant improvements in the overall management of the Foreign Language Program, including the establishment of the Foreign Language Program’s Quality Control Standards Unit to ensure full compliance with linguist quality control standards and the development of a two-week introductory training course for all linguists.
In conclusion, based upon a review of the Report, the FBI concurs with all 24 recommendations directed to the FBI and has already implemented measures to resolve all of the identified issues. The FBI appreciates the professionalism exhibited by your staff in working jointly with our representatives to complete this Report. Enclosed herein are the FBI’s responses to the recommendations. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions.
John S. Pistole
- FBI Response to OIG Audit of the FBI's Foreign Language Translation Program
- Deputy Director Responds to OIG Audit of the FBI's Foreign Language Translation Program