The US Justice Department has increasingly refused to prosecute FBI cases targeting suspected terrorists over the past five years, according to private researchers who reviewed the department's records. The government says the findings are inaccurate and "intellectually dishonest."
The report released yesterday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University raises questions about the quality of the FBI's investigations.
Prosecutors declined to bring charges in 131 of 150, or 87 percent, of international terrorist case referrals from the FBI between October last year and this past June, the report said. The study was based on the most recent data available from the Justice Department.
That number marks the peak of generally steady increases from the 2001 budget year, when prosecutors rejected 33 percent of such cases, the report said.
The data "raise troubling questions about the bureau's investigation of criminal matters involving individuals the government has identified as international terrorists," the report said.
It noted that prosecutions in traditional FBI investigations since 2001 -- including drug cases, white collar crimes and organized crimes -- have decreased while the number of agents and other employees has risen.
"So with more special agents, many more intelligence analysts, and many fewer prosecutions the question must be asked: What is the FBI doing?" the report said.
A department spokesman disputed the data highlighted by the Syracuse researchers, noting that terrorist hoax cases that were quickly dismissed may have been included in the government data.
Spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said prosecutors rejected 67 percent of FBI international terrorist cases in the six-month period -- not 87 percent.
FBI Assistant Director John Miller said the low number of cases prosecuted reflects changes in how investigations have been conducted.