Hundreds of FBI agents, including the head of the Washington field office and several supervisors, cheated on a mandatory test of new procedures employees must follow when conducting investigations of U.S. citizens — the Justice Department inspector general said in the second critical report handed down against the bureau in recent weeks.
The 35-page report issued Monday said that a limited review of allegations that agents improperly took the open-book test on the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide together or had access to an answer sheet has turned up “significant abuses and cheating.”
The inspector general’s report said a “significant number of FBI employees” engaged in some form of cheating or improper conduct on the guide exam, some in clear violation of FBI directives regarding the exam. Suspicions of cheating were raised when more than 200 employees passed the 90-minute exam in 20 minutes.
The report said that in Washington, two special agents in charge “had taken the exam together, in the same room, while discussing the questions and possible answers with a legal adviser, who was also present.” The report said the assistant director in charge, the head of the Washington field office, was present at the time.
“While the ADIC was also in the room at the time, he did not take the exam that day. Instead, the ADIC wrote down the answers and later used them to complete the exam another day,” the report said.
The report does not name him, but the assistant director in charge at the time was Joseph Persichini Jr. He retired in December in the midst of the investigation.
The new inspector general’s report comes on the heels of a report last week by the office on the FBI’s scrutiny of domestic activist groups, which found the bureau had given inaccurate information to Congress and the public when it claimed a possible terrorism link to justify monitoring an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh in 2002.
That report also criticized the factual basis for opening or continuing FBI domestic terrorism investigations of some other nonviolent left-leaning groups, including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Greenpeace USA.
In the latest report, regarding cheating on the guide exam, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine’s investigators looked at four FBI field offices and, according to the report, found enough troubling information to warrant a comprehensive review by the FBI.
Other test takers used or circulated materials that essentially provided the test answers, he said, adding that almost all of those who cheated “falsely certified” they did the work without the help of others.
He has called on the FBI to discipline the agents involved, throw out the test results and come up with new exams to determine whether FBI agents understand the rules allowing them to conduct surveillance and open files on Americans without evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
The FBI, in a statement, said an “uncompromising commitment to integrity remains the backbone of the FBI work force,” and the bureau “moved quickly” to investigate the matter when allegations of misconduct concerning the testing first appeared.
It said in cases where misconduct has been determined, “personnel actions were taken, and that process continues,” although the statement did not elaborate.
“The vast majority of FBI employees successfully completed the DIOG training and the open-book examination that followed, in accordance with the test-taking instructions,” the bureau said.