Audit: DEA intelligence analysts lacking security clearances

WASHINGTON -- Twelve percent of the DEA's intelligence analysts last year did not have the security clearances necessary or were otherwise unauthorized to do their jobs, a new Justice Department audit concludes.

The audit released Monday says the Drug Enforcement Administration was slow to complete and share its intelligence reports with other government agencies, despite producing work that generally was praised as useful and effective.

The audit by the Justice Department's inspector general raised concerns about staffing levels at the newest member of the 16 spy agencies that make up the government's intelligence community.

It found that 19 of 699 DEA intelligence analysts surveyed had only low-level security clearances needed to review intelligence, while another 62 had not been reauthorized to keep their top secret clearances, as required every five years. One additional analyst had no security clearance at all as of last September, the audit found.

All DEA analysts are required to have top secret clearance in order to fully do their jobs.

"Because our testing showed approximately 12 percent of DEA's intelligence analysts' security clearances did not meet the DEA's security requirements, we are concerned that similar deficiencies may exist in the approximately 19,300 clearances that we did not review," the audit noted.

An estimated 20,000 employees and contractors work for the DEA.

The DEA collects intelligence and other information about drug smugglers and shares it with other spy and law enforcement agencies. It was formally included in the government's intelligence community in February 2006.

Other intelligence agencies, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department, praised the information gleaned from DEA analysts.

"We also assessed the quality, usefulness and effectiveness of intelligence analysts' work, the audit noted. "Our surveys and interviews indicated that both internal and external users generally were satisfied with DEA intelligence analysts' work."

However, a survey of 16 DEA intelligence reports found they took an average of 21 months to be completed and published.

One unnamed CIA official told auditors that the DEA information was "invaluable" but added that "that there is a consistent, significant delay in receiving information from the DEA, and as a result some CIA operations have been negatively impacted."

In a response to the audit, DEA Deputy Chief Inspector Gary Oetjen said the agency agrees with its conclusions and pledged to correct the gaps.

As of March 30, DEA officials were in the process of making sure all intelligence analysts were reauthorized to have top secret security clearances, said spokesman Garrison Courtney.

Courtney also said that any intelligence the DEA receives about terrorist activity is immediately given to other spy agencies.

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