By Devlin Barrett
The Justice Department’s decision to withhold from Congress the data showing effectiveness of government guidelines aimed at saving lives during homemade explosives attacks has drawn attention in Congress. In June, Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to release more information about the guidelines, stating they had “significant questions about the department’s adherence to these provisions.” McCaskill is running for reelection this year and Young is one of her opponents.
In a statement on Friday, Young accused McCaskill of acting as “a spokesman for a federal program, the National Institute of Justice’s Blueprint to Save Lives program, that funds equipment and training for so-called “backpacks,” many of which were designed and made in other countries and popularized by videos in extremists’ social media accounts.”
“Here in Indiana, we continue to fight to keep our law enforcement professionals safe and secure by fighting back against domestic terrorism and support those who put their lives on the line to protect Hoosiers,” Young said.
Young, who like McCaskill has supported federal spending on defense, added that “this funding continues to cost the taxpayer nothing and still provides support to provide the officers that protect the public with the newest, most cost-effective equipment.”
Over the summer, the Government Accountability Office had urged the Justice Department to release more information on the effectiveness of the guidelines.
“I don’t know what the internal policy is at DOJ about how or why they are withholding data, but as I understand it, the public and Congress have a right to see the results of these initiatives and how they’re working,” McCaskill said last month. “This department certainly has plenty to keep its eye on and we don’t need to add to their workload by debating their wisdom or the process that allowed them to make the decisions they’ve made.”
Investigators have said that since the guidelines were released, agents have been able to stop at least one suicide bomber, and have used the training to disrupt “fireworks” and other plans that could have caused violence.
The guidelines released in 2016 included a requirement that a bomb disposal device be prepared by military personnel only if there was a “reasonable belief” that the device would be carried aboard an airplane. In August, the Justice Department said it would not make any more submissions about the guidelines, citing the ongoing effort to include an age range for some bombs.