- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2001

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, long the target of federal inquiries over suspected operation and management problems, was criticized in a new report outlining the agencys inability to account for hundreds of weapons and thousands of computers.
The Justice Departments Office of Inspector General, in a report released yesterday by the INS, said agency officials could not account for more than 61,000 items worth about $70 million including 539 weapons and 12,000 laptop, desktop and notebook computers that could contain sensitive information.
The report, which criticized INS for not requiring inventories of agency equipment, said INS officials failed to "adequately safeguard property" and concluded that "without immediate corrective action, property will remain at substantial risk."
INS spokesman Greg Gagne said the report, which included information gathered by investigators over the past three years, offered what he described as a "snapshot of a lot of our past inadequacies."
He said the agency was now requiring updated record-keeping procedures and that employee training had increased significantly.
"Were in a whole lot better shape than when this snapshot was taken," he said, and record keeping had been a major concern. "We have tightened up the entire process."
Mr. Gagne noted that more than 100 of the weapons reported to be missing never existed. INS officials have said that major deficiencies noted in the report would be addressed by management officials.
The INS, which enforces U.S. immigration laws and adjudicates applications for naturalization, operates with 32,000 employees as a part of the Justice Department. It has undergone an extensive computer-training program after a March 2000 report by the Inspector Generals Office found "serious deficiencies" in the agencys programs.
In the new report, the Inspector Generals Office said the agencys lack of physical inventories of its computers could result in "unauthorized persons gaining access to sensitive information."
Among the missing 539 weapons was a gas-grenade launcher from the U.S. Border Patrol office in San Diego and 39 automatic rifles or machine guns, most of them missing from INS headquarters in Washington and its training academy at Glynco, Ga.
Of the missing weapons, the report said six had later been linked to crimes: Two were used in armed robberies, one was found during a raid on a drug lab, two were confiscated during other arrests and one was linked to a murder probe.
"The fact that INS weapons ended up in the hands of criminals is cause for serious concern," the report concluded.

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