Justice Dept. gun-tracking program should share more info with other police agencies

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A Justice Department program to help reduce drug cartel violence along the U.S. border found 90 percent of guns smuggled into Mexico came from American suppliers but the program is doing little to share tips with other law enforcement agencies, according to a 152-page watchdog report.

Project Gunrunner was created in 2005 by the Justice Department to track gun smuggling and to coordinate intelligence with Mexican authorities. But the program is not sharing tips and leads with Mexican and U.S. partner agencies, the department’s inspector general said. Intelligence staff in the program “lack a common understanding of how to develop and screen intelligence accurately,” the watchdog report said.

Another criticism: the Justice Department project tends to focus on individual investigations, instead of targeting higher-level, trafficking rings that could have a greater impact in disrupting gun trafficking, the report said. The current gun-tracing system has produced limited information of value.

Project Gunrunner has also failed to work effectively with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The two organizations do not share gun-trafficking cases or coordinate investigations, the inspector general said.

According to the watchdog, the Justice Department “is unable to meet Mexican government’s needs for support under Project Gunrunner.”

FAST FACT: Project Gunrunner received $21.9 million in 2009 funding, including $10 million from the economic stimulus program, and $37.5 million for fiscal 2010 which just ended.

Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities. Congressional Research Service reports, which prepared for lawmakers but not made public, were provided by the Center for Democracy and Technology.

FINANCE

* The Joint Congressional Committee on Reduction of Non-Essential expenditures, defunct since 1974, is receiving new attention as a way to help cut federal spending (Congressional Research Service)

* U.S. companies operating abroad will face stronger scrutiny under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which aims to prevent and punish bribery of foreign officials by U.S. companies. (Congressional Research Service)

NATIONAL SECURITY

* The Homeland Security Dept. wants to create a National Bio- and Agro-Defense lab in Kansas to study dangerous foreign animal diseases, like the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease. But there is a 70 percent chance over the lab’s lifetime that it would inadvertently release foot-and-mouth disease, hurting the U.S. economy by as much as $50 billion. (National Research Council)

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