According to a new report by the Office of the Inspector General, two and three laptops each month are lost or stolen from the bureau—and the FBI cannot determine in many cases whether the computers contained classified data.
"We recognize that in an organization the size of the FBI, some weapons and laptops will inevitably be stolen or go missing," the report said. "However, it is important the FBI take appropriate steps to minimize these losses."
The findings are a drastic improvement from 2002, when an OIG report found the FBI either had lost, misplaced or reported stolen 317 laptops during a 28-month review period. The most recent review took place over 44 months and found 160 weapons and 160 laptops were stolen or missing. In 2002, 212 working weapons and 142 inoperable training weapons were lost, stolen or reported missing during a 28-month span, the OIG report said.
FBI Assistant Director John Miller stressed the positive, pointing out that the report showed a 349 percent reduction in the average number of weapons lost or stolen in a given month and a 312 percent reduction in the loss or theft of laptop computers when compared to the 2002 review.
"It is notable that the Inspector General has concluded the FBI has made significant progress in decreasing the rate of loss for weapons and laptops," he said in a statement. "Nonetheless, we acknowledge more needs to be done to ensure the proper handling of the loss and theft of weapons and laptops, and the information maintained on them."
The latest OIG report accused the FBI of not doing enough to address the issue of lost or stolen equipment and called for tighter internal controls and better reporting when items are lost or stolen. The FBI does not use tracking technologies such as GPS or RFID (radio-frequency identification) to keep tabs on computers, according to Paul Bresson, an FBI press office spokesperson, in Washington. "In fact, we require that all transmitters (cellular, Bluetooth, etc.) be disabled on FBI Laptops," Bresson said.
The FBI took issue with the inclusion of 43 weapons included in the 160-weapon tally because the 43 were reported stolen or missing prior to the 44-month review period. In the report, the authors state that the weapons were included, among other reasons, because these weapons were not characterized as losses in the FBIs official property management system until after the review period began. In addition, since the weapons were not included in the 2002 audit, excluding the weapons would make it seem as though they had never been lost, the report said.
"While the Inspector General acknowledged that the loss of certain resources is inevitable in an organization the size of the FBI, we nevertheless stand committed to increasing institutional and personal accountability to further increase the progress we have made in minimizing the loss of firearms and information technology components," Miller said.
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