Tuesday, February 13, 2007

FBI criticized over 320 missing weapons, laptops

FBI criticized over 320 missing weapons, laptops
By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The FBI had more than 300 weapons and laptops lost or stolen in just under four years, and some of the computers contained sensitive or classified information, the U.S. Justice Department inspector general said on Monday in a highly critical report.

Fewer had gone missing than before a 2002 report in which Inspector General Glenn Fine's office reported 354 FBI weapons and 317 laptops lost or stolen over the previous 28 months, but he said the bureau had done too little to address the problem.

"Our review determined that the FBI has made some progress in improving its controls over weapons and laptops," Fine said. "However, significant deficiencies remain, particularly with regard to the FBI's response to lost or stolen laptops that may contain sensitive information."

It was impossible for the FBI to determine the extent of the damage the losses might have had on its operations or national security, the report said.

The 160 missing weapons and 160 laptops disappeared during the 44 months that ended on September 30, 2005. At least 10 laptops contained sensitive or classified information, including one with personal identifying information on FBI personnel.

The FBI could not determine whether an additional 50 missing laptops contained sensitive or classified information. Seven of those were assigned to the counter-intelligence or counter-terrorism divisions, which handle sensitive national security information.

The FBI also submitted late and inaccurate reports to the Department of Justice about missing weapons and laptops, the report said.

After the 2002 report, the FBI established deadlines for reporting lost and stolen weapons and laptops, entering losses into a computerized criminal justice database and referring them for investigation.

The new review found the FBI has not consistently followed those procedures.

The FBI did an assessment in the case of only a few of the missing laptops to determine the possible damage to its operations and national security, the report said.

It found the bureau did not adequately document its disposal of excess laptops and hard drives to ensure that sensitive or classified information had been erased. The report also found that the FBI failed to consistently ensure departing employees returned weapons and laptops.

The FBI has agreed to most of the 13 recommendations made by the inspector general's office to improve its management controls over weapons and laptops, Fine said.