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Disagreements over definition of 'terrorist' complicating US prosecutions: study

[JURIST] Only about one out of every four individuals charged with terrorist activities has been prosecuted because federal agencies do not agree on what constitutes a terrorist, according to a study [text; press release] released Sunday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) [official website] at Syracuse University. The study looked at thousands of records from the Administrative Office of the US Courts (AOUSC), the National Security Division (NSD), and the Executive Office for US Attorneys (EOUSA) [official websites], each of which keep independent records on terrorism cases. The TRAC report, which covered cases from the last five-and-a-half years, demonstrated an apparent disconnect between the agencies' definition of a terrorist because the various lists had few names in common. The report also showed that US attorneys had declined to indict approximately 67 percent of cases that had been recommended for prosecution over that time period, that rate being as high as 73 percent in 2008. A spokesperson for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], of which the NSD and EOUSA are part, disagreed [AP report] with the findings, saying the report uses different information than the DOJ.

Terrorism investigations are still a main concern of the federal government. Earlier this month FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] addressed [JURIST report] the FBI's role in leading the new specialized interrogation group to question top terrorist suspects as well as many other topics in a wide ranging oversight hearing [materials; recorded video] before the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website]. Mueller said that the new interrogation panel [JURIST report] will be a "joint effort" between the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website]. In August, the New York Times reported [text; JURIST report] that eight years after 9/11 [JURIST news archive], counterterrorism efforts continue to dominate the operations and budget of the FBI. The report said that since the attacks, the bureau has doubled the number of agents it assigns to counterterrorism efforts and has created specialized "threat squads" to investigate possible threats.

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