Justice Department investigators cite retaliation, conflicts at organized crime center

McClatchy Washington BureauMarch 26, 2014 


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Justice Department investigators identify “troubling” problems with alleged retaliation and stonewalling at the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Fusion Center, in a new report.

The 63-page report made public Wednesday by Justice’s Office of Inspector General raises a litany of concerns. The investigators identified a “strained working relationship” between the center’s leadership and the FBI employees detailed to it, as well as “deficiencies” in production.

In particular, investigators concluded FBI employees detailed to the center had been retaliated against for discussing problems. Moreover, the investigators said “management took actions that created difficulties for us in obtaining information from OFC employees and in ensuring that interview responses were candid and complete.”

“Given this troubling conduct,” the investigators stated, “we cannot be sure we obtained complete information from or about the OFC or that other OFC employees may not have been deterred from coming forward and speaking candidly with us.”

The center’s leadership rejected the claim.

“The OCDETF Executive Office disagrees with the assertion that OFC management created difficulties for the OlG review team to obtain information from OFC employees,” the leadership stated in its formal response, which also denied claims of strained relations.

The Justice Department added in a statement Wednesday:

“The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces cooperated fully with the OIG’s audit. We are pleased that the OIG adopted many of our own recommendations regarding the improvement of the OCDETF Fusion Center’s processes, and we have already begun to implement those changes. We, however, take exception to the report’s references to pending investigations.”

The center can be busy. In 2012, it received 4,683 requests for various information products. It has a budget of about $29 million a year and about 195 staffers.

Investigators said the center’s leadership created a “very closed” and “adversarial tone” for the review. The investigators further noted that “there were reasonable grounds to believe that personnel actions were taken against (FBI) employees in reprisal for their protected disclosures.”

The OIG team said it referred its findings to the “appropriate authorities for adjudication and resolution under applicable law.”

In their response, the center’s leadership concurred with some recommendations but “disagrees with the inclusion of references to the two whistleblower investigations in this Review Report because the adjudication process for these investigations has not yet been completed.”

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