The Department of Justice's
Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers
Summary Report

Report No. 02-31
August 2002
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.


BOP 33,859 32,79021 2,690 27 20,594 2
DEA 9,209 4,529 6,134 Unknown22 14,921 16
FBI 26,748 11,193 15,077 317 49,69623 21223
INS 34,844 19,600 Unknown24 Unknown24 50,306 539
USMS 7,561 6,261 1,450 56 14,361 6
TOTAL 112,221 74,373 25,351 400 149,878 775

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 & laptops per employee. BOP weapons=0.63, BOP laptops=0.08, DEA weapons=3.29, DEA laptops=0.67, FBI weapons=4.44, FBI laptops=0.56, INS weapons=2.57, INS laptops=No data, USMS weapons=2.29, USMS laptops=0.19, Average weapons=2.02, Average laptops=0.22.

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 & laptop losses per 1,000 employees. BOP weapons=0.06, BOP laptops=0.80, DEA weapons=3.53, DEA laptops=No data, FBI weapons=18.94, FBI laptops=11.85, INS weapons=27.5, INS laptops=No data, USMS weapons=0.96, USMS laptops=7.41.

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:


BOP 0 1 1
DEA 0 0 0
FBI 5 8,000 8,005
INS 0 10 10
USMS 0 0 0
TOTALS 5 8,011 8,016

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.


  1. The circumstances surrounding these losses appear in the components' individual reports.
  2. The data in this table and the ensuing discussion were obtained from records provided by the components. The time periods covered by the data vary; see Appendix I for more information.
  3. These numbers refer to all personnel authorized to use weapons, whether categorized as a "special agent" or another title.
  4. According to the BOP, in the event of an emergency at a facility, all employees who have completed firearms training (32,790) are required to respond.
  5. Due to the unreliability of its data, DEA was unable to provide us with the number of laptop computer losses it had incurred.
  6. The FBI's inventory includes 3,039 training weapons and the 212 reported losses exclude 142 training weapons. According to the FBI's Firearms Training Unit, it is possible to restore some to live-fire capability. However, this would require the services of a skilled gunsmith and the acquisition of parts available only from the manufacturer or a licensed gun dealer.
  7. As discussed previously, our audit of INS property management did not include specific tests of laptop computers.
  8. The number of laptop computers per employee is computed using the total staff. The numbers for weapons per employee referred to on pages 6 and 7 are computed using only the number of staff authorized to utilize weapons. With respect to the USMS, the number of employees and weapons used to compute the ratio include the 3,443 contract court security officers and the USMS-owned weapons provided for their use.
  9. These figures represent data provided to us by the components; we did not verify their accuracy.
  10. The recovery of two additional FBI weapons is discussed in the "Return of Equipment from Separated Employees" section on page 23.
  11. Classified National Security Information (NSI) is information that has been determined pursuant to Executive Order 12958 or any predecessor order to require protection against unauthorized disclosure because its disclosure could cause harm to the national security or foreign relations of the United States. There are three classification levels of classified NSI and, when in documentary form, the information is to be marked to indicate its classified status. Each level is a measurement of the content of the information, and the damage it could cause to the United States national security if disclosed. The only levels authorized for classified NSI are: