- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2001

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday demanded that Attorney General John Ashcroft turn over records and information concerning the FBI's recent announcement that it cannot find 449 weapons and 184 laptop computers.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, said in a letter the missing weapons and computers all of which were reported lost, stolen or unaccounted for "may involve a serious breakdown in FBI management."
The chairman, whose committee has oversight responsibility for the Justice Department and the FBI, gave Mr. Ashcroft until 6 p.m. Tuesday to produce the documents.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ashcroft yesterday said the Justice Department has awarded a contract to Arthur Andersen LLP for a management study of the FBI, as part of a review he ordered last month by the Department of Justice's Strategic Management Council.
"This study by a firm of Andersen's caliber will provide valuable information to enhance the institutional integrity and performance of the FBI," he said in a statement. "By addressing the many challenges facing the bureau and finding the appropriate solutions, we will reinforce the FBI's effectiveness as the premier law-enforcement organization in the world."
The Andersen firm has been asked to evaluate the FBI's organizational structure and mission, and will review the bureau's policies, practices and procedures in several other areas, including its records and data management. It also will review how the bureau reacts to crises, the effectiveness of its communication structure, its decision making and command authority, and the relation of headquarters to its field offices.
Mr. Sensenbrenner is a key player among a growing number of congressional members demanding answers to questions on why the FBI and other federal law-enforcement agencies are unable to account for the weapons and computers.
Several members of Congress this week urged an audit of every federal law enforcement agency to determine if any more weapons or computers are missing, with Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, describing the loss of the equipment by the FBI "an outrage."
Mr. Sensenbrenner, according to the letter, wants the attorney general to turn over all records concerning "any lost, stolen, missing or unaccounted for" firearms, firearms-related equipment, computers and computer equipment, including laptops, hard drives and diskettes.
In addition, he asked Mr. Ashcroft to explain when he learned the equipment was missing, who told him, and how and when the disappearance of the weapons and computers was originally discovered.
Mr. Sensenbrenner also wants to know if any of the computers contained classified information or other sensitive law enforcement data.
At least one of the FBI laptops is believed to contain classified information. The missing weapons included mainly handguns, but also shotguns and semi-automatic rifles. Seventy of the handguns were reported missing by agents shortly before they retired.
Mr. Sensenbrenner also asked for information on who at the FBI was responsible for the inventory of firearms and computers, and for a list of the offices from which the firearms and computers turned up missing.
He also wants Mr. Ashcroft to describe the FBI's asset-management systems and explain whether they are integrated with the FBI's financial-management systems. He said he wants to know if the systems used for accounting for seized firearms are distinct from the systems used for accounting for FBI firearms.
The FBI's admission came Tuesday, on the eve of Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearings on recent public mistakes and blunders by the FBI, including its failure to turn over thousands of documents in the Timothy McVeigh investigation as ordered by a court, the arrest of veteran FBI Agent Robert P. Hanssen as a Russian spy, and the botched investigation of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee.
Mr. Ashcroft has ordered the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General to conduct a department-wide review of inventory controls and an accounting of individually issued law enforcement equipment issued to employees and agents.
"In order for law enforcement organizations to be effective, they must have the public's confidence in their ability to perform not only the most complex duties, but also the most basic responsibilities," he said.
In March, the Inspector General's Office audited the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service property inventory and found 539 unaccounted-for weapons. The INS has since undertaken measures to address the issue and, according to Mr. Ashcroft, "is making progress."

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