Legislators hone in on FBI weaknesses

The FBI came under fire at a Tuesday hearing for some of its approaches to combating terrorism while attempting to maintain Americans' civil liberties and for shoddy progress on upgrading its information technology infrastructure.

Senate Judiciary Committee top Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont emphasized the FBI's participation in domestic spying at the expense of the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. citizens.

A recent report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine revealed that several FBI agents tapped the wrong telephones, accessed the wrong e-mails or continued to listen to conversations a year after warrants had expired. "All of this should concern all who value privacy rights and the free exchange of ideas in our society," Leahy said.

The Office of the Inspector General currently is reviewing allegations of civil rights and civil liberties abuses by the FBI, including possible intelligence violations forwarded to the president's Intelligence Oversight Board and the FBI's use of special secret subpoenas.

"To assist in these challenges, the OIG will continue to attempt to conduct vigorous oversight of FBI programs and provide recommendations for improvement," Fine said.

Though agency officials lauded the FBI for addressing its weaknesses, all agreed that much more work is necessary to keep America secure while safeguarding civil rights.

FBI Director Robert Mueller commended senators for producing a balanced law this year that reauthorized the 2001 anti-terrorism law known as the USA PATRIOT Act. "The FBI has changed dramatically since the terrorist attacks, and we will continue to evolve to meet the emerging threats to our country," he said.

Mueller also said the FBI is attempting to modernize its IT program, including the development of the Sentinel project under contract with Lockheed Martin. The program calls for commercial technologies to produce an integrated system that supports processing, storage and management of paper-based FBI records.

The modernization also includes the development of a mechanism to measure contract performance so that all, or portions, of the Sentinel contract can be terminated if poor performance is identified.

Sentinel is intended to replace the now-defunct Virtual Case File, which was to be the FBI's case-management system but was officially abandoned in March 2005. The FBI spent about $170 million on that system, which was part of the Trilogy program to modernize computer systems.

Linda Calbom, director of financial management and assurance at the Government Accountability Office, identified the FBI's inability to confirm receipt of billed goods and services. Calbom highlighted the FBI's failure to maintain accountability over equipment purchased for Trilogy, resulting in the payment of millions of dollars in questionable contractor costs.

"It is imperative that the FBI correct these weaknesses in order to avoid similar outcomes for its Sentinel and other information technology projects," Calbom said.

Fine said that although the FBI has made progress in streamlining its operations, there is room for improvement. He defined the challenges as the ineffectiveness of IT systems and the agency's difficulties in pursuing law enforcement and intelligence-gathering missions while protecting civil rights.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.