Monday, February 12, 2007

Of the 160 laptop computers reported by the FBI as lost or stolen in the past 44 months, 10 contained sensitive or classified information, including one with personal identification details on bureau personnel, a Justice Department report said yesterday.

But, according to the department’s Office of the Inspector General, the FBI did not know whether 51 other lost or stolen laptops contained sensitive or classified information, seven of which were assigned to the bureau’s counterintelligence or counterterrorism divisions.

Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said that without knowing the content of the missing laptops, it was “impossible for the FBI to determine the extent of the damage” to its operations or to national security.

“This is a significant deficiency because some of these laptops may have contained classified or sensitive information such as personally identifiable information or investigative case files,” Mr. Fine said.

The FBI also reported the loss or theft of 160 weapons during that period, the report stated.

FBI Assistant Director John Miller said the report notes that the bureau has made “significant progress” in reducing the loss of weapons and laptops. He also said the report counted as lost a number of weapons that were reported missing before the audit period.

“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,” Mr. Miller said.

But Sen. Charles E. Grassley, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that “making progress” in reducing the number of lost weapons and computers was “unacceptable.”

“Tracking these deadly weapons and computers may seem like it’s not worth the time to some in law enforcement, but it’s critical to public safety, national security and the credibility of the FBI and the other agencies that are losing personal information on Americans,” he said.

According to the report, 63 laptops were stolen from or lost by officials assigned to FBI headquarters in Washington. Most of the lost or stolen weapons were reported in New York — 13. The report stated that although the FBI had taken steps to address weaknesses in physical inventories and tracking of lost or stolen weapons and laptops since a 2002 audit, significant deficiencies remain.

In 2002, the FBI reported that 354 weapons and 317 laptops were lost or stolen over 28 months.

Mr. Fine said that since the 2002 audit, the FBI established deadlines for reporting lost and stolen weapons and laptops, entering those losses into the National Crime Information Center and referring them for investigation.

But, he said, the FBI did not consistently follow its own established procedures.

“When some of the lost or stolen laptops were identified as containing sensitive or classified information, the FBI examined few of these losses to determine the damage that these losses may have had on the FBI’s operations and national security,” he said.

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