Semiannual Report to Congress

April 1, 2009-September 30, 2009
Office of the Inspector General

Federal Bureau of Investigation
FBI logo The FBI protects and defends the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, upholds and enforces the criminal laws of the United States, and provides leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners. FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., coordinates activities of more than 30,000 employees in 56 field offices located in major cities throughout the United States, more than 400 resident agencies in smaller cities and towns across the nation, and more than 60 international offices, called “Legal Attaches,” in U.S. embassies worldwide.

Reports Issued

The FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist Nomination Process

The OIG’s Audit Division examined the FBI’s practices for nominating known or suspected terrorists to the consolidated terrorist watchlist and determined that the FBI failed to nominate many subjects, did not nominate others in a timely fashion, and did not update or remove certain watchlist records as required.

This audit was a follow-up to our March 2008 report, which examined the Department’s processes for nominating known or suspected terrorists to the consolidated terrorist watchlist. In this follow-up audit, we found that 15 percent of the FBI terrorism investigations we reviewed failed to nominate terrorism subjects to the consolidated terrorist watchlist. In addition, 78 percent of the watchlist nominations we reviewed were not processed within the FBI’s time standards, typically up to 20 calendar days. Instead, the FBI’s nominations took an average of 42 days to process. The FBI also failed to modify the nomination records to include identifying information it obtained after the initial nomination was processed.

Because the consolidated terrorist watchlist is used by government frontline screening personnel to determine how to respond when a known or suspected terrorist requests entry into the United States, the failure either to place appropriate individuals on the watchlist or place them on the watchlist in a timely manner increases the risk that these individuals can enter and move freely within the United States. In fact, we determined that 12 of the terrorism subjects we reviewed who either were not watchlisted or were watchlisted in an untimely manner may have traveled into or out of the United States during the time period they were not watchlisted.

Despite FBI policy that generally requires agents to remove subjects’ watchlist records when the FBI investigation is closed, we found that the FBI failed to remove 7 subjects and did not timely remove another 61 subjects in the 85 closed terrorism investigations we reviewed. Failure to remove or timely remove individuals could lead to the denial of a passport or visa, boarding a flight, or entry into the United States or cause the individual to be unnecessarily questioned.

Another finding related to the FBI’s nomination activities, performed on behalf of the DOD, of more than 64,000 individuals detained by the U.S. military or individuals considered by foreign governments as known or suspected terrorists since 2001. We determined that these nominations were made outside of established FBI practices that are designed to ensure that FBI-nominated watchlist records are complete and accurate. Many of these records were supported by limited information linking the individual to terrorism. Following our inquiries, in October 2008 the FBI halted the practice of handling DOD watchlist nominations.

We also found that 35 percent of the approximately 68,000 identities sourced to the FBI in the consolidated terrorist watchlist were related to old or non-terrorism FBI investigation classifications. The OIG analyzed a sample of 164 of the watchlisted individuals related to these identities and found that 94 of them either should have been removed from the watchlist previously or the FBI could no longer support their inclusion. A further analysis of 59 of these individuals found that they had been improperly maintained on the watchlist by the FBI for an average of 1,112 days.

The OIG made 16 recommendations to the FBI regarding nominations to, modifications of, and removal of identities from the consolidated terrorist watchlist. The FBI agreed with our recommendations and has begun taking corrective actions.

Review of the FBI’s Disciplinary System

The OIG’s Evaluation and Inspections Division examined the FBI’s employee disciplinary system to assess whether the FBI imposed consistent, reasonable, and timely discipline. The OIG previously conducted similar reviews of disciplinary systems in four other Department components. Our review found that while aspects of the FBI’s system work well, there are deficiencies in the disciplinary system that hamper the FBI’s ability to ensure reasonable and consistent discipline for its employees.

In our review, we assessed each phase of the FBI’s disciplinary process:  the reporting and investigation of employee misconduct, the adjudication of misconduct by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), the handling of disciplinary appeals, and whether the imposed discipline ultimately was served. We also examined concerns about a double standard of discipline for higher-ranking and lower-ranking FBI employees.

Our review found that all phases of the FBI’s disciplinary process had generally improved in timeliness during the past several years. However, we determined that potential misconduct was not consistently reported to FBI headquarters or to the OIG, as required by FBI policy. We  found that disciplinary decisions generally were reasonable, but some of the decisions on which penalties to impose contained inconsistencies that could not be explained by the record in the case files. In addition, we found a lack of clear guidance about the appropriate standard of review that appellate officials should apply when reviewing penalties imposed by FBI OPR.

With regard to the issue of a double standard of discipline, 33 percent of the FBI employees who responded to our survey agreed with the statement that a double standard of discipline exists in the FBI, 11 percent disagreed, and the rest either had a neutral opinion or responded that they did not know.

Our review of disciplinary outcomes from FY 2005 through the 3rd quarter of FY 2008 showed that misconduct allegations against senior executive service (SES) employees were more likely to be unsubstantiated (49 percent) than those against non-SES employees (22 percent). More significantly, penalties imposed on SES employees for misconduct were mitigated on appeal much more frequently than for non-SES employees. We found that 5 of the 6 cases (83 percent) appealed by SES employees during our review period resulted in mitigation of the discipline originally imposed by FBI OPR, while 44 of 247 cases (18 percent) appealed by non-SES employees during the same time period resulted in mitigation. We determined that FBI appellate officials unreasonably mitigated discipline in four of the six SES cases we reviewed.

Specifically, our review of the SES cases found that appellate officials often substituted their judgment for FBI OPR’s decisions, even on findings of fact. We also concluded that the reasons for overturning the findings in these cases, and for mitigating punishment, were often unpersuasive and unreasonable. Although the number of appealed SES cases during our entire review period was small, we believe the evidence indicates that SES employees were treated more leniently on appeal than non-SES employees, and that this more lenient treatment was not justified.

With respect to implementation of discipline, we found that the FBI did not ensure that employees who were suspended for misconduct actually served their suspensions. We found examples of FBI employees whose imposed suspensions were not served at all or were served for the incorrect length of time. We also found that the FBI practice of beginning all suspensions at the close of business on Fridays, which is unlike any other Department law enforcement component, resulted in FBI employees effectively serving fewer days and receiving less time off without pay than employees in other Department components serving for the same discipline.

We made 16 recommendations to help the FBI improve its disciplinary system, including reminding FBI employees to report misconduct to FBI headquarters or the OIG, requiring FBI OPR to better document in the case files the information it considers when making decisions, considering the appointment of a permanent appeals decision maker or board, ensuring that FBI policies are applied consistently to all levels of employees at all stages of the disciplinary process, and reviewing the files of all employees suspended since October 2004 to ensure that they served their suspensions. The FBI concurred with our recommendations and is taking steps to implement them.

The FBI’s WMD Coordinator Program

The OIG’s Audit Division examined the FBI’s WMD Coordinator Program. The FBI established a WMD Directorate at FBI headquarters in 2006 to provide national-level WMD intelligence support to FBI field divisions and to the larger U.S. Intelligence Community.  At the field office level, the FBI primarily relies on a designated Special Agent in each field division, referred to as the WMD Coordinator, to implement a significant portion of the FBI’s WMD-related activities.  WMD Coordinators work to identify WMD threats, investigate WMD crimes, and prevent WMD attacks.

This OIG audit found that many FBI WMD Coordinators could not identify the top specific WMD threats and vulnerabilities that faced their particular field division. The audit also found that the FBI has not established specific qualifications that WMD Coordinators need so they can perform their critical functions. Additionally, the FBI has not formulated training plans to ensure that WMD Coordinators and WMD-assigned Intelligence Analysts acquire the skills necessary for the position.

In addition, in September 2008 the FBI began requiring that its field divisions conduct an initial WMD assessment to help each division identify and prioritize WMD threats and vulnerabilities in each district. Yet, our audit found that even though WMD Coordinators serve as the field divisions’ WMD subject matter expert, they were not participating directly in these WMD threat assessments. Instead, Intelligence Analysts from the field office’s Field Intelligence Groups worked with special units at FBI headquarters to complete these assessments. Therefore, the one agent at each field office charged with preventing and responding to WMD attacks – the WMD Coordinator – had no direct input in the WMD threat assessment. As a result, the OIG concluded that the FBI’s WMD threat assessments may not be complete.

Furthermore, the audit found that the FBI does not require its Field Intelligence Groups to designate specific Intelligence Analysts to work with WMD Coordinators.  Therefore, WMD Coordinators had limited or inconsistent interaction with their Field Intelligence Groups, which has hindered the WMD Coordinators from fully identifying specific WMD threats facing their field division. As a result, FBI field offices have not been able to uniformly identify and target the most significant WMD threats in their region.

The audit also found that despite initial efforts, the FBI was not uniformly tracking the activities that WMD Coordinators performed to mitigate specific WMD threats. In addition, the FBI was not ensuring that its WMD Coordinators conducted adequate outreach and training with private industry and local law enforcement necessary to mitigate the most serious WMD threats facing their field office’s area of responsibility.

The OIG made 13 recommendations to improve the FBI’s WMD Coordinator Program. The FBI agreed with the recommendations and has begun developing procedures that, among other things, will ensure that WMD Coordinators are involved in compiling threat assessments, share information with their field intelligence groups, and receive the training necessary to perform their important duties.

CODIS Audits

The FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is a national information repository that stores DNA specimen information to facilitate its exchange by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. During this reporting period, the OIG audited several state and local laboratories that participate in CODIS to determine if they comply with the FBI’s Quality Assurance Standards and National DNA Index System (NDIS) participation requirements. Additionally, we evaluated whether the laboratories’ DNA profiles in CODIS databases were complete, accurate, and allowable for inclusion in NDIS. Below are examples of our audit findings:


During this reporting period, the OIG received 962 complaints involving the FBI. The most common allegations made against FBI employees were violations of intelligence-gathering standards, job performance failure, waste, and misuse of government property. The OIG opened 19 cases. The majority of the complaints received this period were considered management issues and were forwarded to FBI management for its review and any appropriate action.

At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 48 open criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct related to FBI employees. The criminal investigations covered a wide range of offenses, including release of information, false statements, and job performance failure. The administrative investigations involved serious allegations of misconduct. The following are examples of cases involving the FBI that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:

Ongoing Work

The FBI’s Use of Exigent Letters and Other Informal Requests for Telephone Records

As a follow-up to our reviews of the FBI’s use of national security letters, the OIG is examining the FBI’s use of exigent letters and other informal requests to obtain telephone records. We are in the process of completing our report, which describes in detail these improper uses and assesses the accountability of FBI supervisors and employees.

The FBI’s Efforts to Combat National Security Cyber Threats

The OIG is examining the FBI’s efforts to combat cyber intrusions that threaten national security. The review assesses the development and operation of the National Cyber Investigative Task Force as well as the capabilities of FBI field offices to investigate national security cyber cases.

The FBI’s Foreign Language Translation Services

We are assessing the FBI’s ability to translate critical foreign language material and the extent of any backlogs in unreviewed material. We also are examining the FBI’s efforts to ensure the appropriate prioritization of translation work, accurate and timely translations of pertinent information, and the FBI’s progress in meeting its linguist hiring goals.

Sentinel V:  Status of the FBI’s Case Management System

This audit is evaluating implementation of Phase 2 of the development of Sentinel, the FBI’s new case management system.

Follow-up Audit of the FBI’s Casework and Human Resource Allocation

This review is the fourth in a series of reviews since FY 2003 examining the FBI’s management of personnel resources and its reprioritization of these resources. The purpose of this review is to determine whether the FBI has improved its processes for assessing, allocating, and utilizing personnel resources, as well as detailing how the FBI has used its personnel resources between FYs 2005 and mid-2009.


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