The FBI has been reviewing the handling of thousands of terrorism-related tips and leads from the past three years to make sure they were properly investigated and no obvious red flags were missed, the AP has learned. The review follows attacks by people who were once on the FBI's radar but who have been accused in the past 12 months of massacring innocents in an Orlando nightclub, injuring people on the streets of New York, and gunning down travelers in a Florida airport. In each case, the suspects had been determined not to warrant continued law enforcement scrutiny months and sometimes years before the attacks. A senior federal law enforcement official described the review as an effort to "err on the side of caution."
The audit is essentially a review of records to ensure proper FBI procedures were followed. It's an acknowledgment of the challenge the FBI has faced, particularly in recent years, in predicting which of the tens of thousands of tips the bureau receives annually might materialize one day into a viable threat. Though there's no indication of significant flaws in how terrorism inquiries are opened and closed, the review is a way for the FBI to "refine and adapt to the threat, and part of that is always making sure you cover your bases," said the law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name. The review covers inquiries the FBI internally classifies as "assessments"—the lowest level, least intrusive, and most elementary stage of a terror-related inquiry. (Read more FBI stories.)