The Department of Justice's
Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers
Report No. 02-31
Office of the Inspector General
Audits at the five components revealed substantial losses of weapons and laptop computers. During the time periods covered by our reviews, the components collectively reported losses of at least 775 weapons and 400 laptop computers.18 However, these numbers do not reflect 211 additional weapon losses that the FBI identified as a result of an inventory that it concluded on March 31, 2002. These additional missing weapons were reported outside the scope of our audit period; in some cases many years ago. The number of FBI weapon losses we tested and report was smaller than the total losses of FBI weapons (212 rather than 423), because our audit was based on items reported missing from October 1, 1999 through January 31, 2002.
At a minimum, 18 of the weapons lost by the components were recovered by law enforcement officials in connection with their investigation of illegal activity. It is impossible to determine if the lost laptop computers contained national security or investigative information because the components generally did not record the sensitivity of information stored on the machines.
The size of the components and their inventories vary widely. The table below displays component data related to size, inventory, and reported losses.
COMPONENT EMPLOYEES, SENSITIVE PROPERTY, and LOSSES19
|AGENCY||TOTAL STAFF||AGENTS OR OFFICERS20||TOTAL LAPTOPS||LAPTOP LOSSES||TOTAL WEAPONS||WEAPON LOSSES|
The components' inventories include various types of weapons, such as revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, shotguns, rifles, sub-machine guns, and gas grenade launchers. In addition, each component's inventory contains training weapons, many of which are non-lethal.
The following graph depicts the total number of weapons and laptop computers per employee for the components and the overall average. The FBI displayed the highest weapons-to-agent/officer ratio - almost 4.5 weapons - while the component average is about 2. However, the component average is distorted by the fact that 97 percent of BOP staff is authorized to use weapons in an emergency, resulting in a weapons-to-agent/officer ratio of .63 for the agency. The average weapons-to-agent/officer ratio, excluding the BOP, is 3.11.
NUMBER OF WEAPONS AND LAPTOP COMPUTERS PER EMPLOYEE25
In total, the components reported losses of 775 weapons and 400 laptop computers.26 The following graph displays loss ratios by component.
RATIO OF WEAPON AND LAPTOP COMPUTER LOSSES PER 1,000 EMPLOYEES
These losses indicate a lack of accountability for sensitive property. We reviewed the circumstances surrounding the losses and, in our judgment, a significant number were avoidable through tighter controls and physical security. The circumstances of each loss are summarized in the individual reports. Our recommendations for tighter controls appear in Part V (OIG Conclusions and Recommendations).
It is important to note that our results reflect different periods in time, as noted in Appendix I. The FBI's loss of 212 weapons includes all functional weapons reported as lost, missing, or stolen between October 1, 1999, and January 31, 2002. Our review of these losses disclosed that many of these weapons were actually lost many years ago, but not reported until recently (see section entitled "Initial Written Reports" on page 18) because the FBI had not completed a physical inventory of property since before 1993. Similarly, the losses shown for the INS represent property lost over an extended period.
Potential Physical Harm to the Public
At least 18 DEA, FBI, and INS weapons have been recovered by law enforcement personnel in connection with their investigation of illegal activity. These incidents are summarized below:
DEA - Four DEA weapons that were reported as lost, missing, or stolen were recovered by law enforcement agencies. Below is a summary of the circumstances of the recovery of three of the weapons; the details of the remaining firearm were unavailable.
FBI - We identified five weapons27 that were recovered by law enforcement personnel.
INS - Our audit at the INS revealed that seven missing or stolen weapons were subsequently recovered by law enforcement agencies.
The 18 weapons noted above represent those that had been recovered at the time of our audits. However, it is conceivable that more lost weapons could be recovered during future investigation of criminal activity.
Potential Disclosure of Sensitive Information
Our audits also revealed that the BOP, FBI, and USMS lost a total of 400 laptop computers. As previously noted, DEA was unable to determine its laptop computer losses due to the unreliability of its inventory records. Further, our audit at the INS did not include tests specific to laptop computers.
We were unable to identify the types of information contained in the lost laptop computers. However, due to the nature of the law enforcement work conducted by each of the components, it is possible that the laptop computers would have been used to process and store national security or sensitive law enforcement information that, if divulged, could harm the public.
The Department's Security and Emergency Planning Staff (SEPS), an office within the Justice Management Division, maintains records of the number of laptop computers each Department component had authorized for processing classified information.28 According to SEPS, the components had the following numbers of functioning laptop computers authorized for classified processing:
NUMBER OF CLASSIFIED LAPTOPS AT THE COMPONENTS
It is important to note that classified information is not the only information that needs to be protected from unauthorized disclosure. The law enforcement nature of the components requires them to routinely have access to sensitive information that, if divulged, could adversely affect the ability of the components to accomplish their missions. Examples of sensitive information include the names of people under investigation, the identity of undercover agents, or information obtained during the conduct of an investigation. While not directly affecting the national security of the United States, unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information can endanger people and hamper investigations.
Officials from the BOP, DEA, FBI, and USMS told the OIG that laptop computers are used to process sensitive information. 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. Further, the USMS did not require employees to record any information about the data stored on lost laptop computers.
This raises significant concerns over laptop computer losses and the possible loss of sensitive data. The Department must improve the control of laptop computers and the safeguarding of information stored on these machines. Further, if machines are lost, it is imperative that the components make a determined attempt to document their contents, including the data and related classifications.