Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Critical Incident Response - US Attorneys

When one thinks of a national-level critical incident such as the Ruby Ridge or Branch Dividian standoffs, the World Trade Center or Oklahoma City bombings, or the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC on September 11, 2001, one does not think of United States Attorneys as being first responders.

They are. "Each of 93 United States Attorneys (U.S. Attorneys) is the chief federal law enforcement officer within his or her particular jurisdiction and serves as the principal litigator under the direction of the Attorney General."

Critical incidents include acts of terrorism, hostage situations, and natural disasters. Typically, these events involve one or more of the following factors (although the presence of one factor by itself does not automatically mean that an incident is critical):

  • Involves threats or acts of violence against government or social institutions.
  • Involves significant loss of life, significant injuries, or significant damage to property.
  • Demands use of substantial resources.
  • Attracts close public scrutiny through the media.
  • Requires coordination among federal law enforcement agencies (more so than usual), state or local law enforcement agencies, local or state prosecutors, emergency relief services, or emergency response services.
  • Requires ongoing communication with upper-level personnel at the Department.

In the event of a critical incident the U.S. Attorney is the on-scene legal decision maker and is responsible for managing the Department’s response by, among other things:

  • Facilitating coordination and communication with federal, state, and local officials and prosecutors;
  • Preparing and securing search warrants;
  • Assisting law enforcement personnel in interviewing witnesses;
  • Making legal decisions, such as granting immunity;
  • Appearing before grand juries; and
  • Advising law enforcement personnel when necessary on collecting and preserving evidence.

To meet their responsibilities for critical incident reponses, each of the 93 US Attorneys was required to develop a critical incident response plan. The plans were coordinated by the Crisis Management Coordinator program under the guidance of the Justice Department's Counterterrorism Section and the Executive Office for United States Attorneys.

The program's effectiveness is periodically evaluated by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General. The most recent evaluation was the January 2007 Follow-up Review of the Critical Incident Response Plans of the United States Attorneys’ Offices - Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2007-001.