FBI Loses 317 Laptops

August 5, 2002. The Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audited and released a series of reports on the control of laptop computers and weapons at five DOJ components. It found a total of 400 missing laptops, and 775 missing weapons. For the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it reported 317 missing laptops and 212 missing weapons. Moreover, the OIG found that the FBI does not know if sensitive data has been lost. See, Executive Summary [43 pages in PDF].

The OIG audited and reported on the FBI, Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).

The OIG report concluded that "We were unable to determine the types of information contained in the 400 lost laptop computers because the components generally did not record the sensitivity of the information stored on the lost laptops. For example, the classification level of at least 218 lost, missing, or stolen FBI laptop computers was unknown. Due to the nature of the intelligence and law enforcement work conducted by the components, however, it is possible that the missing laptop computers would have been used to process and store national security or sensitive law enforcement information that, if divulged, could harm the public."

Moreover, the OIG found that "Our review of records related to the lost laptop computers revealed that for the majority of the losses, the components could not determine if sensitive data had been lost because the written loss reports did not detail the contents of the lost machines. The FBI reported to us that the classification level of at least 218 of the lost, missing, and stolen laptop computers was unknown."

The OIG further reported that "With respect to laptop computers, the DEA could not provide us with the number of losses due to the unreliability of its data. The FBI reported 317 of its more than 15,000 laptop computers as missing while the USMS reported 56 of its 1,450 laptops as missing."

The OIG stated that this constitutes a "lack of accountability for sensitive Department property", and called for the DOJ "to increase its oversight role" and "to tighten controls that are currently weak, inadequate, or not fully implemented."

Finally, the report found that at the FBI the average time between the discovery of the loss of a laptop and the initial written report of that loss was 225 days.

The OIG audited or reported on the loss of laptop computers by only five of the DOJ's components. It did not audit and report on other DOJ components, such as the Antitrust Division (which collects large quantities of confidential business information in its merger reviews, investigations, and evaluations), the Tax Division, the Criminal Division, or any of the U.S. Attorneys Offices.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the DOJ, stated in a release that "It's no surprise that hundreds of computers and guns are missing from the Justice Department, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow. This problem has real consequences, in criminal acts and danger to national security."

See also, hyperlinks to the various OIG reports: The Department of Justice's Control Over Weapons & Laptop Computers (Report No. 02-31), The Drug Enforcement Administration's Control Over Weapons & Laptop Computers (Report No. 02-28), The Federal Bureau Of Investigation's Control Over Weapons And Laptop Computers (Report No. 02-27), The Federal Bureau of Prisons' Control Over Weapons & Laptop Computers (Report No. 02-30), and The U.S. Marshals Service's Control Over Weapons & Laptop Computers (Report No. 02-29).