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Semiannual Report to Congress

October 1, 2001–March 31, 2002
Office of the Inspector General


The Office of Oversight and Review (O&R) is composed of attorneys, special agents, program analysts, and administrative personnel. O&R investigates sensitive allegations involving Department employees, often at the request of the Attorney General, senior Department managers, or Congress. O&R also conducts systemic reviews of Department programs.


On May 8, 2001, one week before Timothy McVeigh's scheduled execution date for bombing the Oklahoma City federal building, the Department and the FBI revealed to attorneys for McVeigh and Terry Nichols that more than 700 investigative documents had not been disclosed to them before their trials. The documents had been discovered in FBI field office files during a routine archival process. The prosecutors acknowledged that the documents should have been disclosed prior to the defendants' trials in 1997 and that the failure to disclose them timely violated the parties' discovery agreement. The belated disclosure led to widespread media attention and allegations that the government had intentionally failed to provide exculpatory material to the defendants.

The Attorney General stayed McVeigh's execution for one month and subsequently asked the OIG to investigate the circumstances surrounding the belated production of the documents. The OIG investigative team, which consisted of attorneys, special agents, auditors, and support personnel, conducted more than 200 interviews of current and former FBI and Department employees during this review. On March 19, 2002, the OIG released a 192-page report detailing the results of our investigation.

The OIG found that widespread failures by the FBI led to the belated disclosure of more than 1,000 documents in the OKBOMB case. We traced the failures to a variety of causes, including individual mistakes by FBI employees, the FBI's cumbersome and complex document-handling procedures, agents' failures to follow FBI policies and directives, inconsistent interpretation of policies and procedures, agents' lack of understanding of the unusual discovery agreement in this case, and the tremendous volume of material being processed within a short period of time. The failures were not confined to either the FBI field offices or the OKBOMB Task Force; both share responsibility. However, the OIG did not find that any FBI employees intentionally withheld from the defense any documents they knew to be discoverable.

The OIG report criticizes several senior FBI managers for how they responded when they became aware of the belated documents problem. The issue was first discovered in January 2001 by two employees in the FBI's Oklahoma City field office as part of a routine archiving process. In materials sent to Oklahoma City by FBI field offices, these employees found documents that had not been turned over to defense attorneys. Yet, the OIG found that the senior managers to whom they reported the problem failed to adequately manage the document review process and failed to set any deadlines for completing the project. Most troubling, the managers failed to notify FBI Headquarters or the prosecutors in the case until the beginning of May, one week before McVeigh's scheduled execution. The OIG recommended that the FBI consider discipline for these managers' failure to resolve and disclose the problem in a timely way.

In addition, the OIG found that the FBI failed to effectively address the document problems even after they were discovered. Instructions issued by FBI headquarters to the field were confusing, contradictory, and incomplete. The OIG also found that many field offices failed to provide information and documents in a timely or accurate manner in response to several requests in 2001. The OIG also found that some Oklahoma City documents were destroyed as part of the archival process before the problem of the belated production of documents was discovered and that the court handling the McVeigh's Motion for Stay of Execution had not been notified of the destruction.

The OIG concluded that the FBI's antiquated information management systems could have a continuing negative impact on its ability to handle or retrieve documents in an efficient, useful, or comprehensive way. Our report offers a series of recommendations to help address the FBI's systemic weaknesses, including improved planning for complex, document intensive cases; computer system enhancements; increased automation training; and improvement and simplification of FBI record-keeping systems.

On March 21, 2002, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to explore the issues raised by the OIG report, and committee members expressed concern about the FBI's information management systems. The FBI accepted the OIG's findings and stated that it would address each of the OIG's recommendations. The FBI also reported that it was in the process of overhauling the FBI's document handling systems and substantially upgrading its information technology.

Six months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, an aviation school in Florida received notices that the INS had approved student visa applications for two of the terrorists, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. Public disclosure of this incident led to widespread criticism of the INS, and the President called for an investigation. The Attorney General requested that the OIG conduct a review. The OIG has assembled a team of attorneys, special agents, and inspectors to examine the handling of Atta's and Alshehhi's student visa applications and to review and assess the INS's foreign student program.