Semiannual Report to Congress

April 1, 2010 – September 30, 2010
Office of the Inspector General

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Photo of FBI buildingThe FBI seeks to protect the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, enforces the criminal laws of the United States, and provides criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners. FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., coordinates activities of more than 33,900 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 Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups

In September 2010, the OIG issued a report examining the FBI’s investigative activity relating to five advocacy groups and one individual. The OIG initiated this review in response to congressional inquiries that raised concerns over whether the FBI had improperly targeted domestic advocacy groups for investigation based upon their exercise of First Amendment rights. The OIG review examined FBI investigative activity between 2001 and 2006 related to:  (1) the Thomas Merton Center (a “peace and social justice center” in Pittsburgh); (2) PETA (3) Greenpeace USA; (4) The Catholic Worker (a pacifist organization with numerous local chapters); and (5) Glen Milner, an individual described as a Quaker peace activist.

The OIG review did not find that the FBI had targeted any of the groups for investigation on the basis of their First Amendment activities. However, the OIG concluded that the factual basis for opening some of the investigations of individuals affiliated with the groups was factually weak, and in several cases there was little indication of any possible federal crimes as opposed to state crimes. In some cases, the FBI extended the duration of investigations involving advocacy groups or their members without adequate basis, and in a few instances the FBI improperly retained information about the groups in its files. The FBI also classified some investigations relating to nonviolent civil disobedience under its “Acts of Terrorism” classification, which resulted in the watchlisting of subjects during the investigation.

In addition, in the course of our investigation, the OIG found that, because of inaccurate information provided to FBI Director Robert Mueller regarding the circumstances of the FBI’s surveillance of an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh in 2002, the Director unintentionally provided inaccurate testimony to Congress in May 2006. The Director, in reliance on the information provided to him by FBI personnel, testified that certain persons of interest in international terrorism matters were expected to be present at the rally, when in fact this was not the case.

The OIG’s specific findings relating to the individual advocacy groups are summarized below.

The OIG report contains six recommendations, including that the FBI should specify the potential violation of a specific federal criminal statute as part of documenting the basis for opening a preliminary or full investigation in cases involving investigation of advocacy groups or their members for activities connected to the exercise of their First Amendment rights, and that the Department and the FBI should provide further guidance on when cases involving First Amendment issues should be classified as Acts of Terrorism matters and when they should not. The FBI concurred with these recommendations.

Allegations of Cheating on the FBI’s Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide Exam

The OIG examined allegations that FBI employees cheated when taking a mandatory exam designed to test their knowledge of the FBI’s DIOG. The DIOG, which took effect in December 2008 and describes the procedures FBI employees must follow when conducting domestic investigations, replaced several older sets of guidelines that separately addressed criminal investigations, national security investigations, and foreign intelligence collection. The new DIOG was designed to standardize policy so that all investigations would be conducted legally and consistently.

In order to ensure that FBI employees understood and observed the requirements of the DIOG, the FBI ordered almost all of its employees to take 16.5 hours of training, followed by a 50-question computerized exam that had to be passed with a score of 80 percent or higher. The exam was open book and employees could use their notes to help answer questions, but employees were explicitly forbidden to consult with others while taking the exam. Over 20,000 employees took the training and the subsequent exam.

During our review, we interviewed employees in four field offices and investigated three complaints of alleged cheating. In our limited investigation, we found that a significant number of FBI employees had engaged in some form of cheating or improper conduct on the DIOG exam. We found that employees in some FBI offices used and distributed answer sheets for the DOIG exam. Employees in another office used so-called “study guides” that served a similar purpose as answer sheets. In addition, we determined that most of the employees who told us they used the answer sheets and study guides falsely certified at the end of the exam that they had not “consulted” with others during the exam. A few exploited a programming flaw to reveal the answers to the exam on their computers. In addition, we found that several employees had spoken to others while taking the exam, despite specific instructions that employees were not allowed to “consult” with others during the exam.

During our investigation, we interviewed a total of 76 employees about their conduct in taking the exam. Of those, we found that 22 had cheated in one way or another on the DIOG exam. We believe the extent of the cheating related to this test was significantly greater than the cases we detailed in our report.

In addition to cheating by rank-and-file employees, the OIG also found cheating and inappropriate behavior among supervisors, including a legal advisor, two assistant special agents in charge, two supervisory special agents, and a supervisory senior resident agent.

Our report recommended that the FBI take appropriate disciplinary action against those employees identified by the OIG who cheated or engaged in inappropriate conduct related to the DIOG exam. In addition, we recommended that the FBI take appropriate steps to determine if other employees cheated or engaged in inappropriate conduct and, if so, take appropriate action. Finally, our report recommended that the FBI should conduct a new exam on the DIOG. The FBI has not yet responded to these recommendations.

The FBI Laboratory’s Forensic DNA Backlog

The OIG’s Audit Division examined the FBI Laboratory’s examination of forensic DNA cases, which involves DNA analysis of forensic samples from crime scenes or evidentiary items such as envelopes, clothing, and drinking glasses. Our review focused on the Laboratory’s efforts to reduce its forensic DNA case backlog. We examined the size of the FBI’s forensic case analysis backlog and the amount of time contributors waited to receive DNA test results for forensic DNA cases.

Our review found that the FBI Laboratory had a large and growing backlog of forensic DNA cases. As of March 2010, the FBI Laboratory had a backlog of over 3,200 forensic DNA cases. Of these backlogged cases, over 2,700 cases were in the FBI Laboratory’s Nuclear DNA Unit, which primarily examines biological fluid stains, such as blood and semen. Almost 500 backlogged cases were in the Mitochondrial DNA unit, which analyzes evidence that is not suitable for nuclear DNA testing, such as naturally shed hairs, hair fragments, bones, and teeth. The following graphic depicts the quarterly increase in the backlog for nuclear DNA (nDNA) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from FY 2009 through the second quarter in FY 2010.

Number of Cases in Backlog by Unit for FY 2009-2010

nDNA/mtDNA: Fiscal Year 2009 Quarter 1-1965/213; Fiscal Year 09 Quarter 2-2107/254; Fiscal Year 09 Quarter 3-2264/287; Fiscal Year 09 Quarter 4-2560/344; Fiscal Year 10 Quarter 1-2624/450; Fiscal Year 10 Quarter 2-2722/489.

We found that from FY 2009 through the second quarter of FY 2010, the backlog of cases in the nDNA Unit increased by almost 40 percent (757 cases), and in the mtDNA Unit the backlog of cases grew by almost 130 percent (276 cases). 

This backlog can have significant effects, such as delaying legal proceedings that are waiting on the results of DNA analysis, preventing the timely capture of criminals, prolonging the incarceration of innocent people who could be exonerated by DNA evidence, and adversely affecting families of missing persons waiting for positive identification of remains. 

As a result of the backlog, the amount of time that contributors wait for FBI DNA analysis was lengthy. For example, the FBI Laboratory’s strategic initiative seeks to reduce the turnaround time for DNA analysis to 60 days in each unit. We determined that the length of time for contributors to receive results from the FBI Laboratory after submission of evidence varied from an average of approximately 150 days to over 600 days depending on the type of submission.

The FBI Laboratory’s forensic DNA backlog included 391 cases from the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), which examines improvised explosive devices sent from warzones worldwide. Our review determined that for TEDAC cases the FBI Laboratory on average took 268 days to complete in the nDNA Unit and 167 days in the mtDNA Unit. The untimely analysis of TEDAC submissions could affect the prevention of future terrorist attacks by delaying efforts to identify the maker of the improvised explosive device or the source of its components. 

We also determined that the FBI Laboratory did not have a modern laboratory information management system, thereby making the determination of backlog statistics and tracking of cases difficult. Since September 2003, the FBI has spent over $10 million on developing a laboratory information management system. Yet, over 6 years later, this system is still under development, and the FBI Laboratory is not able to generate an electronic chain-of-custody document, track laboratory-wide evidence workflows, and produce laboratory-wide statistical reports to identify problems and delays.

As part of the FBI’s efforts to reduce the forensic DNA case backlog and minimize workflow bottlenecks, the FBI Laboratory is pursuing various strategies, such as laboratory information management system implementation, strategic management, human resources, and outsourcing. These strategies were ongoing at the time of our review, but they had not yet reduced the forensic DNA case backlog at the FBI Laboratory. For example, according to the FBI, it was seeking additional resources for DNA analysis and was in the process of bringing on board 17 additional forensic examiners. However, hiring and training the new personnel could take significant time (12 to 18 months for training personnel new to DNA examination) and, therefore, would not have a significant impact on the current backlog for almost 2 years.

Our report made five recommendations to the FBI to help improve Laboratory DNA operations, such as standardizing FBI Laboratory-wide definitions for calculating backlog, ensuring FBI Laboratory users have access to a laboratory information management system, and examining the effect of outsourcing agreements on the overall backlog and the time contributors wait for test results. The FBI concurred with these recommendations, and stated that it is in the process of standardizing FBI Laboratory-wide definitions for calculating backlog, reviewing its laboratory information management system needs, and developing plans for monitoring the effects of outsourcing agreements.

FBI Personnel Resource Management and Casework

This OIG audit examined the FBI’s allocation and utilization of personnel resources and the numbers and types of cases investigated over the past 5 years. This report was the fourth in a series of OIG reviews analyzing the changes in the FBI’s allocation and utilization of personnel resources and casework by specific investigative areas. 

Our review assessed in detail the allocation and actual use of FBI personnel resources by priority area. In our previous reviews, we determined that the FBI used significantly more field agent resources than it had allocated for counterterrorism matters, and used significantly fewer field agent resources than it had allocated for non-terrorism matters. In this review, we determined that the FBI used field agents in line with the number it had allocated to its highest national priorities, including counterterrorism, counterintelligence, cyber crime, and civil rights. However, the FBI used fewer field agents than it had allocated to its lowest national priorities, including gangs and criminal enterprises, white collar crime, and violent crime. The following chart portrays the breakdown of the FBI’s “burn rates” among its national priority areas between FYs 2005 through 2009.1

FBI Field Agent Burn Rates by National
Investigative Priorities
Fiscal Years 2005 Through 2009

Chart portraying the breakdown of the FBI’s burn rates among its national priority areas between FYs 2005 through 2009.

Specifically, we found that in FY 2009 the FBI used 26 percent of its field agents to address counterterrorism matters, while using 51 percent to address criminal matters. This is a significant change from FY 2001 when the FBI used 13 percent of its field agents on counterterrorism matters and 72 percent on criminal matters.

We also examined the number of active FBI cases related to various investigative priorities. Overall, between FY 2005 and FY 2009 the number of FBI active cases related to violent crime, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and white collar crime decreased. During that same time period, the number of active cases relating to cyber crime, pubic corruption, civil rights, gangs, and criminal enterprises increased.

We determined that the FBI continued to experience substantial gaps between the number of intelligence analyst positions allocated and utilized between FYs 2005 and 2009. FBI officials stated the rate of attrition and time it takes to hire applicants affected the FBI’s ability to fill vacant intelligence analyst positions.

Our audit also determined that the FBI has improved its ability to monitor and evaluate its allocation and utilization of personnel resources by establishing a Resource Planning Office and by developing an extensive management information system. In addition, the FBI has established various resource management initiatives to oversee the allocation and utilization of personnel resources.

However, the FBI has not formalized all of the policies and procedures related to its resource management initiatives and did not fully integrate them into FBI operational practices. This contributed to inconsistent execution of some initiatives by FBI operational divisions and field offices.

The OIG report provided 10 recommendations to assist the FBI in its resource planning and allocation decisions, including a recommendation that the FBI require operational divisions to regularly examine resource utilization associated with division-specific priorities for all investigative programs and a recommendation that the FBI establish policies and procedures to formalize its new resource management initiatives. The FBI agreed with the OIG recommendations, and stated it is taking action in response. For example, the FBI stated that it is in the process of developing resource-utilization and casework reports associated with division-specific priorities within its management information system, and that it drafted a policy on its risk-based resource allocation and assessment model, which is undergoing management review.

CODIS Audits

DNA illustrationThe 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 state and local laboratories that participate in CODIS to determine the laboratories’ compliance with the FBI’s Quality Assurance Standards (QAS) 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 1,484 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 majority of the complaints received this period were considered management issues and were provided to FBI management for its review and appropriate action.

At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 42 open criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct related to FBI employees. The criminal investigations covered a wide range of offenses, including job performance failure and waste, misuse of government property. 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 Implementation of the Sentinel Project

The OIG is continuing to evaluate the FBI’s ongoing development and implementation of the Sentinel information technology project, which is intended to upgrade the FBI’s electronic case management system and provide the FBI with an automated workflow process.

The FBI’s Management of Terrorist Watchlist Nominations and Encounters with Watchlisted Subjects

The OIG is examining changes to the FBI’s watchlist nominations process to ensure the accuracy, timeliness, and completeness of the FBI’s watchlisting practices.

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 Joint Task Force, as well as the capabilities of FBI field offices to investigate national security cyber cases.

The FBI’s Integrity and Compliance Program

The OIG is reviewing the FBI’s Integrity and Compliance Program, which was established following a 2007 OIG report on the FBI’s use of National Security Letters (NSL). This review will evaluate how the FBI’s Program:  (1) identifies risks of non-compliance with both the letter and spirit of applicable laws, regulations, rules, and policies; (2) ranks identified risks; (3) analyzes highly ranked risks; (4) mitigates risks with adequate corrective actions; (5) monitors the implementation of the corrective actions to ensure that mitigation is effective; and (6) promotes a culture of integrity and ethical compliance throughout the FBI.

The FBI’s Activities Under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008

Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (Act)authorizes targeting non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information. As required by the Act, the OIG is examining the number of disseminated FBI intelligence reports containing a reference to a U.S. person identity, the number of U.S. person identities subsequently disseminated in response to requests for identities not referred to by name or title in the original reporting, the number of targets later determined to be located in the United States, and whether communications of such targets were reviewed. In addition, the OIG is examining the FBI’s compliance with the targeting and minimization procedures required under the Act.

The FBI’s Use of National Security Letters and Section 215 Orders from 2007 through 2009

The OIG is again examining the FBI’s use of NSLs and Section 215 orders for business records. Among other issues, our review is assessing the FBI’s progress in responding to the OIG’s recommendations in prior OIG reports that examined the FBI’s use of these authorities. In addition, the review is examining the FBI’s use of its pen register and its trap and trace authority under the Act.


  1. The FBI uses the term “burn rate” to refer to the difference between allocated resources (Funded Staffing Level) and actual resources used (as reflected in its time utilization database). An “overburn” occurs when more resources are used than allocated. In contrast, the FBI defines “underburn” as using fewer resources used than allocated.


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