FBI Behind on Translating Intelligence

8 years after 9/11, the FBI is still behind when it comes to translating intelligence information.

According to a report issued by the US Justice Department’s inspector general, the FBI has lost approximately 3 percent of its linguists since 2005. Plus, they are taking longer than ever to hire new contract linguists.

There is a lot of work to be done. According to Reuters, between 2006 and 2008, the FBI collected 4.8 million foreign language documents and intercepts in terrorism and criminal cases and 46 million electronic files. To date, 31 percent of the electronic files have not been examined. Between 2003 and 2005, the FBI collected 4.8 million audio hours worth of material via surveillance campaigns-25% of that material hasn’t been reviewed, either.

Part of the problem seems to stem from the length of time it takes to do the necessary background checks and other reconnaissance on potential translators. Apparently, it takes 14 months to do the necessary reviews and investigations to make sure that the applicants aren’t terrorists themselves.

According to Reuters’ Front Row Washington blog, some of that un-translated material was pertinent to a case against two Chicago men who planned to attack a newspaper in Denmark. Affidavits in the case state that:

“While translators have attempted to transcribe the foreign language conversations accurately, to the extent that quotations from these communications are included, these are preliminary, not final translations.”

So, what would it take to get the FBI caught up? 100 linguists working 40 hours a week for seven years, according to the inspector general’s report.

So, if you’re looking for a recession-proof job and you think you can pass an extremely detailed background check, here is my suggestion: Start learning Arabic!

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