Federal prisons aren't properly monitoring terrorist inmates, report says

According to the Justice Department inspector general, the volume of inmate email was found to be especially challenging.

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By Pete Williams

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Bureau of Prisons is not adequately keeping tabs on inmates with terrorism connections, and wasn't even aware of more than two dozen of them in its own facilities, according to an audit report released Wednesday.

The Justice Department inspector general, Michael Horowitz, said his team identified 28 inmates who met the federal definition of an international or domestic terrorist who were not on prison lists as requiring special monitoring. The report said in most of those cases, courts or law enforcement agencies didn't provide sufficient information about them.

In other cases, prison officials do not use the FBI's terrorist definition, Horowitz said, and for that reason were not monitoring most of the 462 inmates considered "sovereign citizens." The FBI considers members of that movement to be domestic terrorists and defines them as "anti-government extremists" who believe they are not subject to any government authority and sometimes target police and other officials for violent attacks.

Even though Bureau of Prison policies require monitoring of the mail, phone and other electronic communications of terrorist inmates, the report said prisons were only partly meeting that goal. The volume of inmate email was found to be especially challenging.

Even the small subset of inmates considered especially dangerous and subject to more careful supervision was not subject to 100 percent live communication monitoring as required "because of the technological limitations" of prison capabilities.

Horowitz said the policy of monitoring high-risk inmates is intended "to prevent radicalization of inmates within the BOP system and individuals outside of BOP with whom those inmates may be in contact."

The Bureau of Prisons said it agreed with the audit report's recommendations and will work with the Justice Department to make certain that its list of terrorist inmates is accurate and that monitoring is improved.