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The Federal Bureau of Investigation's
Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers

Report No. 02-27
August 2002
Office of the Inspector General



In this section of the report, we examine the FBI’s actions taken on lost and stolen items.  Our discussion focuses on the following topics:  Items Reported; Reports and Investigations of Losses; and Indications of Public Harm.

Items Reported

As of August 2001, the FBI reported that it had approximately 50,000 weapons and 15,000 laptop computers.  However, significant numbers of both items were known to be missing. 

The following table displays the numbers of missing items as of four dates mentioned in this report: July 11, 2001; January 31, 2002; March 31, 2002; and the period from October 1, 1999 through January 31, 2002.

Lost or Stolen Items
  FBI Data As Of OIG
  07/11/01 01/31/02 03/31/02 10/01/99-
Weapons 351 399 423 212
"Red Handles" 94 161 158 142
Laptop Computers 184 366 310 317

The figures for July 11, 2001, were untested data provided to us by the FBI early in our audit.  The figures for January 31, 2002, and March 31, 2002, resulted from a physical inventory conducted by the FBI in stages.

We focused our audit initially on the period from October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2001, for conformity with our audits of the USMS, DEA, and BOP.  However, we expanded the review period through

January 31, 2002, so that we could utilize the results of the FBI inventory concluded on that date of property charged to its various divisions.

We determined that the FBI reported the loss or theft of 212 functional weapons, 142 "red handle" training weapons, and 317 laptop computers between October 1, 1999, and January 31, 2002.  We made this determination by reconciling data provided to us by the FBI as of July 11, 2001, and January 31, 2002, and eliminating losses or thefts that occurred outside our review period.18

We estimate the replacement cost of these lost and stolen items would be $68,649 for the functional weapons, $3,834 for the "red handles," and $1,008,302 for the laptop computers. 

The 212 missing functional weapons equate to less than one-half of one percent of the inventory of approximately 50,000 weapons, while the 317 missing laptop computers represent 2 percent of the approximately 15,000 in inventory.  Nevertheless, the potential harm resulting from the loss of weapons or laptop computers makes these losses significant.

The following table provides a more detailed breakdown of the missing items that we reviewed.  It is based on lists of missing property reported by the FBI as of July 11, 2001, and January 31, 2002.

10/01/99 – 01/31/02
WEAPONS 107 105 21219
"RED HANDLES" 142 0 14220
TOTAL 549 122 671
Source:  FBI Finance Division, Property Procurement and Management Section

We reviewed the circumstances surrounding these losses and the actions taken by the FBI to document and follow up on each, including compliance with Department and internal regulations.  In addition, we looked for indications that the losses resulted in physical harm to the public.

Lost or Stolen Weapons

The following table summarizes the circumstances surrounding the 212 weapons reported lost or stolen between October 1, 1999 and January 31, 2002. 

Summary of Missing Weapons
Stolen from FBI Vehicle 40
Stolen from Employee Residence 18
Stolen from POV22 12
Miscellaneous Thefts23 35
Stolen 105
Unexplained Losses 76
Presumed Destroyed 9
Miscellaneous Losses24 22
Lost 107
Total 212
Source: OIG Analysis of FBI Reports of Lost/Stolen Weapons

As shown above, 70 of the 212 losses (33 percent) involved thefts from FBI vehicles, private vehicles, or employee residences.  Although our review of FBI files found instances where such thefts occurred despite reasonable precautions by the FBI employee, we also found numerous losses of weapons that resulted from carelessness or failure to adhere to FBI policy. 

The following are some of the egregious examples identified from the universe of lost or stolen weapons.25

Avoidable Losses of Weapons

FBI Policy Regarding Storage of Weapons

The losses described above could have been avoided if the employees in question had adhered more closely to FBI policies.  The MIOG states FBI policy for the storage of weapons in FBI offices, at employee residences, and in motor vehicles.

In FBI Space

At Residences

In Vehicles

The MIOG also states,

We believe the FBI can minimize the risk of future losses of weapons by strengthening its current policy.

Types of Missing Weapons

The missing weapons represented the full spectrum of firearms used by the FBI, including handguns, rifles, shotguns, and submachine guns.  However, pistols and revolvers accounted for 149 (70 percent) of the lost or stolen weapons.  The following table displays the numbers and types of missing weapons.

Pistols 85
Revolvers 64
Shotguns 42
Submachine Guns 10
Derringers 5
Rifles 4
Miscellaneous 1
Unable To Determine 1
TOTAL 21231
Source: OIG Analysis of FBI Data

Lost or Stolen "Red Handles"

A document prepared by the FTU states, "Historically many Agents did not consider 'training' weapons to be 'real' and, consequently, did not afford them the same levels of security they would live fire weapons."  A lack of concern about security for "red handles" could certainly result in an environment where those items can be easily misplaced.  We recognize that the loss of functional weapons poses a greater risk of harm to the public than the loss of "red handles."  Nevertheless, "red handles" are accountable items and could potentially be used in furtherance of a crime.

Our analysis of FBI records found that the 142 missing "red handles" included 109 revolvers, 11 paint guns, 10 semi-automatic pistols, 8 "blue grips," 3 shotguns, and 1 submachine gun.  (See Appendix VIII for additional details.)  The following photographs show what certain "red handles" look like.

"Red Handles"

photo of red automatic photo of red revolver
photo of red shot gun

Lost or Stolen Laptop Computers

We reviewed the circumstances surrounding the losses of laptop computers and the actions taken by the FBI to document and follow up on each, including compliance with Department and internal regulations.  In addition, we looked for indications that the losses resulted in the compromise of classified or sensitive information.  The following table summarizes the circumstances surrounding the 317 laptop computers lost or stolen between October 1, 1999, and January 31, 2002.

FBI Missing Laptop Computers Summary
Description Number
Unable to Locate 224
Located After Audit Period 27
Reported Lost/Stolen While Assigned to FBI Employee 31
Possible Undocumented Destruction 9
Possible Undocumented Transfer 21
No Documentation Provided 5
Source: OIG Analysis of FBI Data

As shown above, 224 laptop computers (71 percent) fell into the category "Unable to locate."  We find this particularly disturbing because it means that the FBI simply cannot determine where those laptop computers are, and whether they were lost or stolen.32 

We found numerous losses of laptop computers that resulted from carelessness or failure to observe FBI policy.  The following are some examples identified from the universe of lost or stolen laptop computers.  The FBI identified the security classification of all but one of the missing laptop computers as "unclassified."  The status of the laptop computer listed as item 297 in Appendix III was reported by the FBI as "unknown."

Losses of Laptop Computers

FBI Policy Regarding Safeguarding of Laptop Computers

We believe that the losses described above could have been avoided if the Special Agents in question had adhered more closely to FBI policies as articulated in the following citations.

Reports and Investigations of Losses of Weapons and Laptop Computers

We reviewed the documentation related to the property losses to determine if:  (1) appropriate action was taken by the responsible employee to submit the initial loss report; (2) firearms were promptly entered into NCIC; (3) the FBI’s OPR performed timely investigations to resolve the incidents; and (4) items were reported to the Department Security Officer.  Our results are detailed in Appendices IV and V and summarized below.

Initial Loss Reports


FBI policy states, "Reports of lost/stolen firearms-related Bureau property should be submitted to the Firearms Training Unit AND the Adjudication Unit, Office of Professional Responsibility [OPR], for replacement and possible administrative action."34  The FBI uses a "Report of Lost or Stolen Property" (Form FD-500) to report the loss or theft of property (see Appendix XII).  However, no time frames are specified for submission of these reports or for the FTU or the OPR to act on reports of missing weapons.

In addition, our review of the Form FD-500 identified shortcomings in the form itself. 

An August 2001 memorandum from the FTU disclosed "many weapons reported missing at the field office level as far back as the 1970s and 1980s which were not reported to FBIHQ until 2000."  The FTU document also stated, "Absent a rigidly enforced policy to immediately report the loss or theft of accountable property, individuals and field offices may not report missing firearms in the hope that the weapons would eventually be located."

We reviewed the reporting of lost or stolen weapons to FBI Headquarters and found significant deficiencies.

Laptop Computers

Prior to March 9, 2001, FBI policy did not require the routine reporting of lost or stolen laptop computers to OPR.  We determined that the loss or theft of only ten laptop computers had been reviewed by OPR.

On March 9, 2001, the Director of the FBI issued a Memorandum to All Employees entitled "Portable Microcomputer Security Policy."  This document reiterated various provisions of the MIOG and added a requirement to report all losses of laptop computers to OPR "without exception" because "the loss of a laptop with classified or sensitive information could be potentially more damaging to the FBI than a lost weapon."

NCIC Report

The NCIC system is generally regarded by law enforcement agencies as the primary nationwide method for tracking stolen or recovered firearms.  Therefore, data regarding lost or stolen weapons should be promptly entered into NCIC.

The FBI’s policy on entering data into NCIC states,

In our judgment a deadline of "immediately" is open to interpretation.  The FBI should define specific deadlines, such as "within two working days," for reporting lost or stolen weapons and for making NCIC entries.

We queried NCIC on the status of 276 missing weapons36 to determine whether they had been entered into the database and identified 14 weapons for which NCIC had no record.  We made this determination after querying both the active and purged NCIC records and failing to locate a record of the weapons in question.  Four of the 14 weapons had serial numbers that were found in NCIC; however, the make and model were different from the weapons we were testing.  Also, 6 of the 14 "weapons" were "red handles" (noted # in the table below).

1 F0176217 Walther PPK/S Stolen
2 F0452224 S&W 10-8# Lost
3 F0429494 Colt OP# Lost
4 F0281940 Raven Arms MP25# Lost
5 F1091534 S&W 13 Stolen
6 F0482991 S&W 13 Stolen
7 F0795966 Sig Sauer P228 Auto# Lost
8 F0019853 S&W MP# Lost
9 F0019784 S&W MP# Lost
10 F1224330 Glock 22 Auto Stolen
11 F0862511 Glock 22 Auto Stolen
12 F0280565 Sig Sauer P226 Auto Lost
13 00305195 Remington 870 Stolen
14 F0760593 S&W 1076 Auto Stolen
Source: OIG query of NCIC active and purged records.

Office of Professional Responsibility

Departmental policy allows the Bureaus to establish a Board of Survey or to employ "alternative investigative mechanisms, such as a review by the Office of the Inspector General, Office of Professional Responsibility or internal review" to investigate "the loss, theft, damage, destruction, or other circumstances adversely affecting personal property."  Reviews by Boards of Survey or alternative mechanisms must extend to "a comprehensive review and a specific finding of responsibility or no responsibility and may be used as the basis to relieve personal accountability, assess pecuniary liability, and/or disciplinary action referral, as appropriate."37

We determined the FBI had not employed Boards of Survey to carry out the responsibilities mentioned above.  Instead, the FBI’s OPR was assigned the responsibility to investigate and adjudicate matters involving loss or theft of accountable property.  However, OPR advised us that prior to 1997 the Special Agents in Charge handled most missing property cases locally.  Consequently, the OPR database of missing property cases relates principally to losses or thefts that occurred since 1997.

Our audit found evidence that only 71 of the 212 losses of weapons (34 percent) were reported to OPR.  OPR could not provide us documentation of the remaining 141 losses, so we are unable to determine whether they were, in fact, ever referred to OPR.38 (See Appendix IV.)

As a result of the 71 referrals, the FBI took the following actions:

In addition, nine referrals were still pending when we completed our fieldwork.  In 31 instances, OPR determined the employee in question took reasonable precautions to secure the weapons and no disciplinary action was warranted.

Department Semiannual Report

Department regulations require all components to submit semiannual reports (due January 31 and July 31) to the Department Security Officer "summarizing thefts that have occurred within their respective organizations during the preceding six months.  The report shall include the results of investigations, corrective measures that were instituted to prevent repetition and any special security problems that should be brought to the attention of the Department Security Officer."39

The Departmental order applies to any theft of government property and does not differentiate by types of property.  However, the order also states, "in addition to the semiannual report, whenever a loss or theft occurs of consequence, that in the opinion of the [component’s] Security Programs Manager can have serious ramifications, the Department Security Officer shall be immediately notified telephonically, and followed up by a written report."

The FBI’s submissions to the Department during our 2-year audit period are detailed in the following table.

June 1 to November 30, 1999 January 31, 2000 January 21, 2000
December 1 to May 31, 2000 July 31, 2000 September 25, 2000
June 1 to November 30, 2000 January 31, 2001 February 6, 2001
December 1 to May 31, 2001 July 31, 2001 November 14, 2001
June 1 to November 30, 2001 January 31, 2002 March 12, 2002
Source: Department Security Officer

Although the FBI submitted semiannual theft reports, we found that the reports 2000 and 2001 were submitted 56, 6, 106, and 40 days late, respectively.

More important, the FBI’s reports were substantially inaccurate.  We reviewed the lost items identified in the semiannual reports for 1999, 2000, and 2001 and compared them to the FBI’s inventory records of lost and stolen weapons and laptop computers.  According to the FBI’s inventory records, 359 weapons (232 functional and 127 "red handles") were lost or stolen between June 1, 1999 and November 30, 2001; however, only 9 appeared on the semiannual reports.  The FBI was unable to explain why the other 350 items were not listed on the semiannual reports.

According to the FBI’s inventory records, 152 laptop computers were lost or stolen between June 1, 1999 and November 30, 2001; however, only 26 appeared on the semiannual reports.  Once again, the FBI was unable to explain why the other 126 items were not listed on the semiannual reports.

Indications of Public Harm

We conducted certain tests to determine if the FBI’s losses of weapons and laptop computers resulted in harm to the public through loss of classified or sensitive information or physical injury. 


We queried NCIC and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) National Tracing Center database regarding 276 lost or stolen FBI weapons.40  Our purpose was to determine whether any law enforcement personnel recovered lost or stolen FBI weapons through investigation of subsequent illegal activity.  When our queries identified weapons recovered by local police, we reviewed police department records to determine the circumstances of the recovery and the extent, if any, of harm to the public.41  Our query of the National Tracing Center database found that some lost FBI weapons were, in fact, used in the commission of crimes.

Two Weapons Stolen from a Special Agent’s Residence

In September 1995, two firearms were stolen from the residence of a Special Agent in Baltimore, MD.  One weapon had been left on the top shelf of a closet, partially covered by several sweaters, so that it would be accessible to the Special Agent in case of an emergency; the other was in a briefcase on the floor of the closet.  (The briefcase also contained two extra fully loaded magazines, a loaded speed loader, and the cases for the magazines and speed loader.)

The theft occurred while the Special Agent was absent from the residence and his daughter was entertaining friends.  When the daughter left the house briefly, her friends stole the weapons.

One weapon was recovered soon after the theft.  In August 1996, Baltimore police retrieved the second firearm, a Smith and Wesson revolver, during the arrest of a felon in possession of a firearm.  The subject had a long record of violent and criminal activity, including charges of murder, assault with intent to murder, handgun use in committing a felony, and possession and distribution of drugs.

An FBI report dated December 22, 1995, stated that the Special Agent "had taken reasonable care, in his absence, to secure these weapons in his home . . ..  It is reasonable to conclude that . . . the weapons would not have been discovered in his home without an intrusive and extensive search by the subjects."  As a result the Special Agent received counseling on the secure storage of weapons in his residence. 

In our judgment, the FBI’s response to the theft of these weapons was questionable.  We do not agree that it was reasonable to store a weapon on a closet shelf with only a sweater to conceal it.

Stolen Revolver Recovered with 18 Bags of Marijuana

A Smith & Wesson revolver was lost or stolen under circumstances that are unclear.  In March 1994, the New York field office reported the theft of the weapon in September 1993, shortly before the employee in question retired.  Although we found indications that the weapon was stolen from an FBI vehicle, the FBI could not provide us with adequate details about the theft. 

The FTU’s index card for the weapon contained a notation dated January 27, 1994 stating the employee had retired and "did not return [the weapon] to Quantico.  HQ notified."  By itself, this notation could give the impression that the employee retained the weapon after retiring.  However, as noted above, loss of this weapon occurred before the Special Agent’s retirement.

The next notation on the FTU index card, dated August 3, 2000, stated "FD-500 submitted," indicating that a "Report of Lost or Stolen Property" was submitted more than six years after the theft occurred. 

This was also six months after New York police recovered the weapon (in February 2000) from a defendant in a drug case.  The defendant was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of 18 bags of marijuana.

The FBI retrieved the weapon from the local police in February 2002.

Handgun Stolen from FBI Vehicle

This weapon was stolen from a Special Agent’s assigned vehicle in December 1993.  The Special Agent had left the weapon in the front locked console of the vehicle, which was parked in the driveway at the Special Agent’s residence in Macon, GA.  Someone broke the small window in the left side rear door of the vehicle, gained entry, and removed the weapon and three ammunition magazines.  In September 1995, local police in Memphis, TN recovered the firearm when they arrested an individual for unlawful possession of a weapon.

In January 1994 the Special Agent received a Letter of Censure based on the loss of this firearm.  The Letter stated in part, "Your failure to adequately safeguard this property is unacceptable.  You should take precautions, to include properly safeguarding your property within your residence, to ensure there is no recurrence of loss by theft of government owned property."

The FBI’s record relating to this firearm was inadequate.  The index card maintained by the FTU contained a notation dated December 3, 1993, documenting issuance of the weapon to the Special Agent.  The next entry was dated April 26, 2001, and read, "weapon reported stolen per FD-500 submitted from Atlanta dated 4/5/01."  There was no explanation why a theft that occurred in December 1993 was not reported to the FTU by the field office until April 2001.  We were also unable to determine why the FBI was unaware that local police recovered the weapon in September 1995.  We learned of the recovery during our audit through a query of the FBI’s own CJIS database.

FBI Weapon Found on Homicide Victim

A Glock handgun was stolen from the residence of a Special Agent in New Orleans, LA in September 2000.  The available record shows that the burglar(s) gained entry to the residence by forcing open a side door that had been secured with a pad lock, a deadbolt lock, and a security chain.  This suggests that the Special Agent had taken reasonable precautions to secure his residence; however, the record does not document how or where the weapon was stored within the residence.  The FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that loss of the weapon did not result from negligence on the part of the Special Agent.

In September 2001, the weapon was recovered by New Orleans police officers from the pocket of a murder victim.  We were unable to determine whether the victim or anyone else had ever used it to commit a crime.

Laptop Computers

The loss of classified or even sensitive information can result from the loss or theft of the FBI’s laptop computers.  To determine the risk of losing such information, it is necessary to consider the security environment within which the FBI’s laptop computers operate.  The MIOG outlines policy regarding laptop computers, including a provision that all FBI laptop computers are "authorized to process classified information up to and including Secret/Collateral within the U.S. and its territories and can be connected to the FBI Secure Network (FBINET)."

After completing the final phase of its recent inventory on March 31, 2002, the FBI reported to us that 310 laptop computers were missing, of which 218 (70 percent) had an "unknown" security level and 92 (30 percent) were "unclassified."  Since this information came to us after we completed our fieldwork, we did not test its validity.  However, we are concerned by the FBI’s determination that the security level of 70 percent of the missing laptop computers was unknown.

We cannot state with certainty whether sensitive or classified information was actually compromised by any of the thefts or losses of laptop computers, but we believe the potential certainly exists.  There are no records documenting the data stored on those computers and, since they are missing, we have no way to determine what information they contained.

Although we cannot state with certainty that no Top Secret information was lost, we note that according to the FBI only five laptop computers were authorized in writing to process Top Secret information, and those computers were not among the ones lost or stolen.


During our audit review period of October 1, 1999 through January 31, 2002, the FBI reported the loss or theft of 212 functional weapons, 142 "red handle" training weapons, and 317 laptop computers.  The circumstances surrounding these losses and thefts often included carelessness or failure to adhere to FBI policy, which indicates a need for the FBI to take forceful corrective action. 

The FBI must improve its management of weapons and laptop computers.  In particular, the FBI must foster an environment where the protection of sensitive assets, such as weapons and laptop computers, is given due emphasis by all employees.

In our judgment, the FBI must establish and adhere to firm deadlines for reporting of every lost weapon and laptop computer; investigation of these losses and thefts by OPR; and entry of required data into NCIC.  The absence of such deadlines is a serious omission from FBI policy that undermines the requirement to report losses.


We recommend that the Director of the FBI:

  1. Consider revising FBI policies to establish and enforce criteria by which employees will be disciplined when the employee’s negligence results in the loss or theft of a weapon or laptop. This policy should also consider and set forth any circumstances under which employees will be held personally liable for the cost of the item.

  2. Strengthen FBI policy regarding the proper storage of FBI property outside the office, in particular as it pertains to storing property at an employee’s residence or in vehicles.

  3. Establish and adhere to firm deadlines for:  (a) employees to report the loss or theft of FBI property to their supervisors; (b) supervisors to report losses or thefts to Headquarters units, including the FTU, the OPR, and the Property Management Unit; (c) OPR to initiate and complete investigations; and d) designated employees to enter losses into NCIC (when appropriate).

  4. Revise the Form FD-500 to include the date of loss/theft; the date the property was entered into NCIC and the resulting NCIC number; and the individual responsible for pooled property, such as unassigned weapons maintained in the armory.

  5. Submit complete, accurate, and timely Department Semiannual Reports to the SEPS.


  1. See Appendix IX for our computation of these figures.
  2. After the conclusion of our fieldwork, the FBI reported to us that five lost and three stolen weapons had been found.
  3. After the conclusion of our fieldwork, the FBI reported to us that nine missing “red handles” had been found.
  4. FBI data show 27 of the 317 laptop computers were located, including 26 located after the audit review period.
  5. Privately owned vehicle.
  6. These weapons were stolen under a variety of circumstances.  For example, one weapon was stolen from a rental car.  Another was stolen from a Special Agent’s checked luggage on an aircraft.
  7. These weapons were lost under a variety of circumstances.  For example, a weapon assigned to a Special Agent who was killed in the line of duty could not be located.
  8. Some of these losses occurred outside the audit period.
  9. MIOG, Part 2, Section 12-6, paragraphs (4) and (6).
  10. MIOG, Part 2, Section 12-6.1, paragraph (2).
  11. MIOG, Part 2, Section 12-6.1, paragraph (3).
  12. MIOG, Part 2, Section 12-6.1, paragraph (4).
  13. MIOG, Part 2, Section 12-6.2, paragraphs (1), (2), (5), (6), (7), and (9).
  14. After the conclusion of our fieldwork, the FBI reported to us that three pistols, three revolvers, one shotgun, and one submachine gun had been found.
  15. In this report, we are treating these laptop computers as lost because we found no evidence that they were stolen.  However, we cannot rule out the possibility that at least some were actually stolen.
  16. MIOG, Part 2, Section 35-9.4.6, paragraphs (1), (3), (4), and (6)(b).
  17. MIOG, Part 2, Section 12-6.2 (9).
  18. MAOP, Part 2, Section 6-7.5 (1).
  19. We judgmentally selected 276 weapons from a list of 445 that the FBI identified as missing prior to initiating an inventory of its accountable property in June 2001.  The 276 weapons were all the weapons the FBI identified as having a "disposition date" after September 30, 1999.  The FBI defines "disposition date" as the date when property is removed from its "accountability records." 
  20. DOJ Order 2400.3, Justice Property Management Regulations, dated August 6, 1998, subparts 128-51.101 (b) and 128-51.102 (a).
  21. The initial reports (Forms FD-500) for all 212 losses were filed between October 1, 1999, and January 31, 2002.  However, the actual dates when the losses occurred may have been before October 1, 1999.  Appendix IV details the number of days between the loss of each weapon and the filing date of the Form FD-500.
  22. DOJ Order 2630.2A, Protecting and Controlling Federally Controlled Property and Loss/Theft Reporting Procedures, dated October 4, 1977, paragraph 11.c.
  23. See footnote 45.
  24. The records in question identified additional weapons recovered by local police at crime scenes.  After confirming that an FBI weapon was recovered, the FBI removed the weapon from the list of missing items.  The weapons discussed in this section of the report had a "disposition date" after September 30, 1999.
  25. FBINET is also authorized to process information up to the level of Secret.