Over the past three years, the FBI has substantially improved our ability to analyze foreign language terrorist intercepts. Americans are safer as a result, and we continue to strengthen our capabilities every day.
Reports that the FBI has 123,000 hours of counterterrorism audio recordings waiting for review are not accurate. In the highest priority counterterrorism investigations there is no backlog, and all intercepts are reviewed within 24 hours. While we do have a backlog in certain lower priority counterterrorism matters, that backlog is only 2,800 hours - less than 1 percent of the total number of hours of audio collected in the FBI's counterterrorism investigations.
In arriving at the 123,000-hour figure, the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General looked at the gross number of audio hours collected by the FBI in counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations in certain languages and subtracted the gross number of audio hours reviewed during the period from October 1, 2001 through January 1, 2004. The numbers reported did not distinguish between terrorism investigations and the other investigations, so the resulting statistics include cases that have nothing to do with terrorism.
There are also reports that imply that foreign language recordings have been erased and lost. This is also inaccurate. What was erased from certain databases were digital copies of recordings. All foreign language materials collected by the FBI are automatically archived and can be retrieved at any time.
Today, new technologies and management improvements are helping us prioritize assignments and track our response time. We have also instituted strict quality controls.
Most importantly, we have hired more than 700 linguists since September 11, 2001, and we will continue to hire qualified linguists to meet our future needs. Like all Intelligence Community organizations, we have difficulty finding speakers of low density languages. To overcome these difficulties, we have a dynamic recruiting campaign underway to identify, attract and hire qualified linguists who speak those languages. We offer hiring bonuses, training, a clear path to promotion, and an opportunity to work closely with investigators and analysts as part of the FBI's Directorate of Intelligence. Also, because FBI linguists can work from any of our field offices around the country, candidates do not have to relocate to serve their country in the war on terrorism.