DOJ OIG Releases Report on the FBI’s Efforts to Identify Homegrown Violent Extremists Through Counter-terrorism Assessments

Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today the release of a report examining the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) efforts to identify homegrown violent extremists (HVE) through counter-terrorism assessments from October 2012 to September 2018.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today the release of a report examining the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) efforts to identify homegrown violent extremists (HVE) through counter-terrorism assessments from October 2012 to September 2018. The FBI defines HVEs as global jihad-inspired individuals who are in the United States, have been radicalized primarily in the United States, and are not receiving individualized direction from a foreign terrorist organization.

Since September 11, 2001, HVEs have carried out over 20 attacks in the United States, some of which occurred after the FBI closed a counter-terrorism assessment or investigation on the individual.

The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that the FBI had not taken a comprehensive approach to resolving deficiencies in its counter-terrorism assessment process. The specific findings in today’s review include:

Weaknesses existed in the FBI’s counter-terrorism assessment process. Following attacks by individuals previously assessed or investigated by the FBI, the FBI conducted reviews to identify weaknesses and areas for improvement in the FBI’s process for assessing potential HVEs. However, the FBI did not ensure that all field offices and headquarters implemented recommended improvements and subsequent policy requirements. As a result, FBI field offices continued to conduct some counter-terrorism assessments that did not meet FBI requirements or standards.

The FBI did not adequately execute an enterprise-wide review of closed counter-terrorism assessments. In 2017, the FBI conducted an internal review of closed counter-terrorism assessments to ensure that the investigative effort and oversight of these assessments were thoroughly conducted in order to identify potential threats to national security and mitigate risks to public safety.

Through this effort, the FBI identified that 6 percent of the closed assessments it reviewed did not adequately assess the potential threat, and warranted additional investigative action. However, nearly 40 percent of these counter-terrorism assessments went unaddressed for 18 months after deficiencies were known to the FBI. As of February 2019, the FBI reported to the OIG that necessary investigative measures have now been taken on these assessments.

The FBI should identify and address inconsistencies in its reevaluation of closed assessments. We found inconsistencies in the scope of database checks that were being conducted by some field offices when reviewing closed assessments that may implicate legal, policy, and civil liberties issues associated with these reevaluations. As a result, the FBI must determine if some field offices missed opportunities to identify current and accurate information about potential HVEs, or if actions taken by other offices could have implicated the civil liberties of subjects of previously closed assessments.

The FBI must address emerging challenges to assess potential HVEs. Another challenge facing the FBI arises from the increased the number of tips and leads being sent to FBI offices. We found that the FBI has decided to integrate criminal threat matters into its system for assessing counter-terrorism threats and it is in the process of updating its protocols related to this change. However, we found the FBI has not developed an effective approach in dealing with the prevalence of assessments associated with individuals with an identified mental health issue and determining whether these individuals pose an actual threat to national security or public safety.

Today’s report makes seven recommendations to assist the FBI its efforts to identify HVEs through counter-terrorism assessments.

The FBI agreed with all seven recommendations.

Report: Today’s report can be found on the OIG’s website under “Recent Reports” at the following link:

Video: To accompany today’s report, the OIG has released a 2-minute video featuring the Inspector General discussing the report’s findings. The video and a downloadable transcript are available at the following link:

In addition to this report, in June 2018 the OIG issued to the FBI a Management Advisory Memorandum detailing the OIG’s concern about inadequate actions taken by the FBI to mitigate a particular national security threat. (March, 2020) DOJ OIG Releases Report on the FBI’s Efforts to Identify Homegrown Violent Extremists Through Counterterrorism Assessments

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2019 Internet Crime Report Released

Internet-enabled crimes and scams show no signs of letting up, according to data released by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) in its 2019 Internet Crime Report.

Data Reflects an Evolving Threat and the Importance of Reporting

Internet-enabled crimes and scams show no signs of letting up, according to data released by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) in its 2019 Internet Crime Report. The last calendar year saw both the highest number of complaints and the highest dollar losses reported since the center was established in May 2000.

IC3 received 467,361 complaints in 2019—an average of nearly 1,300 every day—and recorded more than $3.5 billion in losses to individual and business victims. The most frequently reported complaints were phishing and similar ploys, non-payment/non-delivery scams, and extortion. The most financially costly complaints involved business email compromiseromance or confidence fraud, and spoofing, or mimicking the account of a person or vendor known to the victim to gather personal or financial information.

Donna Gregory, the chief of IC3, said that in 2019 the center didn’t see an uptick in new types of fraud but rather saw criminals deploying new tactics and techniques to carry out existing scams.

“Criminals are getting so sophisticated,” Gregory said. “It is getting harder and harder for victims to spot the red flags and tell real from fake.”

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While email is still a common entry point, frauds are also beginning on text messages—a crime called smishing—or even fake websites—a tactic called pharming.

“You may get a text message that appears to be your bank asking you to verify information on your account,” said Gregory. “Or you may even search a service online and inadvertently end up on a fraudulent site that gathers your bank or credit card information.”

Individuals need to be extremely skeptical and double check everything, Gregory emphasized. “In the same way your bank and online accounts have started to require two-factor authentication—apply that to your life,” she said. “Verify requests in person or by phone, double check web and email addresses, and don’t follow the links provided in any messages.”

Shifts in Business Email Compromise

Business email compromise (BEC), or email account compromise, has been a major concern for years. In 2019, IC3 recorded 23,775 complaints about BEC, which resulted in more than $1.7 billion in losses.

These scams typically involve a criminal spoofing or mimicking a legitimate email address. For example, an individual will receive a message that appears to be from an executive within their company or a business with which an individual has a relationship. The email will request a payment, wire transfer, or gift card purchase that seems legitimate but actually funnels money directly to a criminal.

In the last year, IC3 reported seeing an increase in the number of BEC complaints related to the diversion of payroll funds. “In this type of scheme, a company’s human resources or payroll department receives an email appearing to be from an employee requesting to update their direct deposit information for the current pay period,” the report said. The change instead routes an employee’s paycheck to a criminal.

The Importance of Reporting

“Information reported to the IC3 plays a vital role in the FBI’s ability to understand our cyber adversaries and their motives, which, in turn, helps us to impose risks and consequences on those who break our laws and threaten our national security,” said Matt Gorham, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division. “It is through these efforts we hope to build a safer and more secure cyber landscape.” Gorham encourages everyone to use IC3 and reach out to their local field office to report malicious activity. 

Rapid reporting can help law enforcement stop fraudulent transactions before a victim loses the money for good. The FBI’s Recovery Asset Team was created to streamline communication with financial institutions and FBI field offices and is continuing to build on its success. The team successfully recovered more than $300 million for victims in 2019.

Besides stressing vigilance on the part of every connected citizen, the IC3’s Donna Gregory also stressed the importance of victims providing as much information as possible when they come to IC3. Victims should include every piece of information they have—any email addresses, account information they were given, phone numbers scammers called from, and other details. The more information IC3 can gather, the more it helps combat the criminals.

In 2019, the Recovery Asset Team was paired with the Money Mule Team under the IC3’s Recovery and Investigative Development Team. This effort brings together law enforcement and financial institutions to use the data provided in IC3 complaints to gain a better view of the networks and methods of cyber fraudsters and identify the perpetrators.

The new effort allowed IC3 to aggregate more than three years of reports to help build a case against an active group of criminals who were responsible for damaging crimes that ranged from cryptocurrency theft to online extortion. The ensuing investigation by the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office resulted in the arrest of three people.

Read the full 2019 Internet Crime Report.

To stay up to date on common online scams and frauds or report a crime, visit (February, 2020) 2019 Internet Crime Report Released