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F.B.I Is Slow to Translate Intelligence

Published on: NYTimes

The F.B.I.’s collection of wiretapped phone calls and intercepted e-mail has been soaring in recent years, but the bureau is failing to review “significant amounts” of such material partly for lack of translators, according to a Justice Department report released Monday. “Not reviewing such material increases the risk that the F.B.I. will not detect information in its possession that may be important to its counterterrorism and counterintelligence efforts,” said the report, which was issued by the office of the department’s inspector general, Glenn A. Fine.In a statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that it was working to reduce its backlog of unreviewed audio recordings and electronic documents, and that it continued seeking to hire or contract with more linguists.“The F.B.I. remains committed to reviewing all foreign language material in a timely manner and setting priorities to ensure that the most important material receives the most immediate attention,” the agency said in a statement.The government’s ability to review and translate materials quickly has been a subject of concern since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Two previous inspector general reports also faulted the bureau for significant backlogs in reviewing information in other languages. Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has pressed the F.B.I. to improve its translation abilities, praised the bureau for its recent arrest of several terrorism suspects inside the United States but said that its linguist department remained “a big hole.”“Today’s report appears to point to more of the same by the F.B.I. with its translation department,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement. “The F.B.I. needs their feet held to the fire in order to make substantive changes in the translation area.”

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