In light of multiple recent attacks by terrorists who, after being investigated, dropped off the agency's radar, the FBI is reviewing the process by which it keeps tabs on those suspected of terrorism and taking a closer look at its existing data as well.
In recent months, several terrorist attacks have occurred on US soil, ostensibly perpetrated by suspects who were formerly on the FBI terrorism watchlist, but were dropped following a period of inactivity.
Among the tragedies in the past year perpetrated by former FBI suspects dropped from the agency watchlist are the shooting massacre at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub; a series of bombings in New York City and New Jersey; and, also in Florida, a shooting in an airport, according to the Associated Press.
Now the FBI, in conducting an internal audit, is carefully reviewing its data from the past three years to make sure that they have not missed any more red flags about another possible terrorist action on US soil.
The agency receives tens of thousands of tips annually, and one official likened the search for actionable information to looking for a needle in a haystack. By ascertaining that proper procedures have been followed over the past several years, the FBI internal audit is seeking to, in the words of a senior federal law enforcement official, "err on the side of caution," as reported by AP.
The internal audit will cover what the agency identifies as "assessments," defined as the lowest level of interest in a specific person or group. Assessments are the result of a tip that has been followed up on, whether due to online commentary, allegiance to a particular group, unusual activity on a person's property, employment with a foreign nation regarded as hostile to the US, or a person with a history of criminal violence, among many indicators that could trigger the agency's interest.
The FBI's myriad tips result in the opening of some 10,000 new assessments annually. Guidelines covering the assessment process require that these investigations not be open-ended and be "relatively short." A supervisor must agree to any extension.
Assessments that do not meet the criteria of a threat to national security or criminal intent are normally closed within a few days or weeks.