Hundreds of weapons, laptops missing from Justice Department

Five Justice Department agencies, including the FBI, have reported hundreds of lost or stolen weapons and computers over the last few years, according to a new report from the department's inspector general. The FBI, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Marshals Service reported that 775 weapons and 400 laptop computers were missing. The FBI and INS reported the largest number of lost or stolen weapons: 212 and 539, respectively. The FBI also accounted for the bulk of missing laptops: 317. The other agencies included in the audit did not report more than 16 missing weapons or 56 missing laptops. The FBI said that it did not know the classification level of at least 218 of the missing laptops. The FBI reported an additional 211 lost or stolen weapons outside the time frame of the audit, which was completed in January. The IG's audit for the Bureau of Prisons, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Marshal's Service covered weapons and laptops reported lost or stolen between October 1999 and August 2001, while the FBI audit reflected property reported missing between October 1999 and January 2002. The departmentwide audit of the law enforcement agencies was conducted after a March 2001 audit of the Immigration and Naturalization Service revealed the agency could not account for more than 500 weapons, including lethal and nonlethal firearms. The IG's audit released Monday incorporated the INS data from last year into its report. The five agencies have a total inventory of about 150,000 weapons and 25,000 laptops. The figure for the laptops does not include the INS because the March 2001 audit did not include that information. The June report, which was released Monday, criticized the Justice Department for failing to take an "active role in the management of property" within its agencies. "Instead, it has established and promulgated broad guidelines and delegated responsibility to the component heads," the report said. "As a result, the department has been unaware of significant losses of sensitive property and related control concerns." Although the Justice Department requires each of its agencies to conduct an inventory of controlled property, including weapons and computers, every two years, the FBI has not completed an inventory in nearly a decade. "It is simply not acceptable for the FBI to have failed to complete a physical inventory of controlled personal property in almost 10 years and for the department to be unaware of this weakness," the report said. The DEA also has had difficulty completing inventories, according to the audit, while the Bureau of Prisons had the strongest physical inventory policy, requiring an inventory of all controlled personal property every year. "Tracking deadly weapons and computers with sensitive information may seem like housekeeping to some in law enforcement, but it's critical to public safety, national security and the credibility of these agencies," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in a statement. Grassley has long called for management reform at the FBI. Some agencies, including the FBI and Bureau of Prisons, did not set deadlines for employees to report property losses, the report said. "Consequently, losses of a significant number of FBI weapons were not documented timely and initial loss reports ranged from the same day to 23 years after discovery of the loss," according to the audit. Although the prisons bureau did not have a time requirement, the audit did not find any significant delays in its reporting of missing weapons or laptops. The IG recommended that the Justice Department review the ratio of weapons to employees in each of its agencies; integrate agencies' accounting and property systems to keep better track of weapons and laptops overall; require agencies to conduct annual inventories of their weapons; and enforce reporting standards for lost and stolen weapons and laptops. In general, the agencies agreed with the IG's recommendations and provided plans for improvement. The FBI, for example, hopes to implement a five-day deadline for reporting lost or stolen property in the next two months.

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