- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2001

Members of Congress are demanding an audit of every federal law enforcement agency to determine if any more weapons or computers are missing in the wake of the FBI's admission that it cannot account for hundreds of weapons and laptop computers.
"The FBI admitted it cannot find 449 of its guns, and that at least one, and possibly more, was used to kill someone. That is an outrage, and I intend to get to the bottom of this gross negligence," said Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, in asking for a General Accounting Office audit of other agencies for missing weapons.
"For the FBI to lose its own firearms is inexcusable," he said. "If our premier law-enforcement agency, the FBI, is so lax in keeping track of its guns, I shudder to think about what other abuses may exist at other federal agencies,"
Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has asked the Treasury Department to find out if its law enforcement agencies, including the Secret Service and the Customs Service, can account for their weapons and computers.
"To have laptops missing that could have national-security information on them would be atrocious," Mr. Grassley said, calling the loss of the equipment another indication of the need for fundamental reform within the FBI.
"For the FBI to have lost firearms and failed to account for them is inexcusable. We need to know if proper procedures for sensitive inventory have been enforced by the FBI," he said, expanding the request to include the Treasury Department agencies.
Another Judiciary Committee member, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, decried the FBI's mismanagement, calling the discovery of the missing weapons and computers "most likely the result of failed inventory controls."
Mr. Durbin, who has proposed the creation of an independent inspector general to oversee the FBI, said "significant changes" are necessary at the FBI if it is to maintain its status as the world's premier law enforcement agency.
"The FBI isn't starving for resources it's starving for leadership," he said, adding that a growing list of high-level mistakes and failures point to the need for a full-time office to "keep tabs" on the agency.
The FBI admission of missing weapons and computers is not the first time a federal agency has been unable to account for equipment.
In April, the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General found the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service was unable to account for 539 weapons and 12,000 laptop, desktop and notebook computers, some of which could have contained sensitive information.
The Inspector General's Office said in a report that among the missing weapons was a gas-grenade launcher and 39 automatic rifles or machine guns. The report said six of the weapons had later been linked to crimes.
INS officials have said the agency is now requiring updated record-keeping procedures and that employee training had increased significantly.
The new search requests follow by a day a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing during which the FBI was subjected to bitter bipartisan criticism for what Democrats and Republicans described as "serious management" problems at the bureau, including the loss of the weapons and computers.
Committee members demanded accountability by the FBI's top executives, entertaining the suggestion that a blue-ribbon watchdog panel be named to investigate the FBI.
On Tuesday, the FBI acknowledged that 449 weapons including handguns, shotguns and semiautomatic rifles, and 184 laptop computers, including at least one with classified information, had been stolen or lost over the past decade.
Attorney General John Ashcroft also has ordered a Justice Department inquiry into the missing weapons and computers. He described the situation as "serious" and asked Inspector General Glenn A. Fine to inventory the Justice Department's stock of firearms, laptops and other items with the potential of compromising public safety, national security or investigations.
The FBI has come under fire in recent months for failing to turn over thousands of documents in the Timothy McVeigh case, over its mishandling of the investigation of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, and in the arrest of veteran FBI Agent Robert P. Hanssen as a Russian spy.
There are at least five investigation of the FBI currently under way.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide