|The FBI is responsible for counterterrorism, foreign counterintelligence, and for addressing other national security threats. The FBI also investigates cyber crimes, public corruption, civil rights violations, organized crime, violent crimes, and other violations of federal law. FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., coordinates the activities of more than 30,000 employees in 56 domestic field offices, approximately 400 satellite offices, and 61 foreign liaison posts overseas that are responsible for the wide range of national security, criminal, and other matters within the FBI’s jurisdiction.|
The OIG’s Oversight and Review Division examined the FBI’s involvement in and observations of detainee interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq. We reviewed whether FBI agents participated in any detainee abuse, witnessed incidents of detainee abuse in the military zones, or reported abuse to their superiors or others. We also assessed how FBI reports of abuse were handled within the FBI and the Department and the adequacy of the policies, guidance, and training the FBI provided to the agents it deployed to the military zones.
The OIG report described concerns raised by FBI agents who were involved in the early interrogations of two high-value detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Muhammad Al-Qahtani. FBI agents assisting with the Zubaydah interrogations at an overseas facility observed Central Intelligence Agency interrogators using harsh techniques. Around August 2002, FBI Director Robert Mueller decided that the FBI would not participate in joint interrogations of detainees with other agencies in which techniques not allowed under FBI policy would be employed. Later in 2002, FBI agents at Guantanamo became concerned when the military used increasingly harsh and demeaning techniques on Al-Qahtani and others. Several FBI agents raised concerns with the DOD and FBI Headquarters about these techniques, and some of their concerns were communicated to senior officials in the Department’s Criminal Division and ultimately to the Attorney General. However, we found no evidence that the FBI’s concerns influenced DOD interrogation policies.
The OIG report also examined guidance and training that the FBI provided to its agents. We found that the FBI did not issue specific guidance to its agents relating to the joint interrogation of detainees until after the Abu Ghraib disclosures in April 2004, and that the policy that the FBI issued in May 2004 did not adequately address agent concerns regarding such matters as defining when FBI agents should report abuse or mistreatment by other agencies’ interrogators.
In our investigation, we surveyed over 1,000 FBI employees who served at Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and more than 300 said they saw or heard about military interrogators using a variety of harsh interrogation techniques on detainees. The most commonly reported techniques included sleep deprivation or disruption (sometimes involving loud music or bright lights), short-shackling, stress positions, prolonged isolation, and hooding or blindfolding. Although some FBI agents made reports of these matters to their supervisors, others said they did not make such reports because they understood that these techniques were approved for other agencies’ interrogators.
We did not find support for allegations that FBI agents participated in abuse of detainees in the military zones. In a few instances, FBI agents used techniques that would not normally be permitted in the United States or participated in interrogations in which such techniques were used by others. However, these incidents were infrequent and were sometimes related to the unfamiliar circumstances agents encountered in the military zones. The incidents in no way resembled the incidents of detainee mistreatment that occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The OIG concluded that the vast majority of the FBI agents deployed in the military zones separated themselves from interrogators using non-FBI techniques and continued to adhere to FBI policies. We believe that while the FBI could have provided clearer guidance earlier and pressed harder for resolution of concerns about detainee treatment by other agencies, the FBI should be credited for its conduct and professionalism in detainee interrogations in the military zones in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq and in generally avoiding participation in detainee abuse.
The OIG’s Audit Division examined the FBI’s security check procedures for immigration and naturalization applicants. Immigration authorities and the FBI have come under criticism for the backlog in processing these applications, which are required for applicants to receive citizenship, a green card, or other immigration benefits.
The OIG examined the FBI’s National Name Check Program and its Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). Both programs provide federal agencies, state and local law enforcement agencies, and approved non-governmental institutions with criminal history and identification services from the FBI’s vast repositories of investigative records. The FBI’s largest name check and fingerprint identification customer is the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which administers immigration and naturalization benefits and relies upon information from the FBI’s name check and fingerprint identification services to adjudicate immigration applications and petitions. In FY 2007, the National Name Check Program received more than 4 million name check requests, including more than 2 million from USCIS. In addition, the FBI processes about 21 million fingerprint requests annually, including more than 3.2 million from USCIS.
We found that the FBI’s name check processes rely on outdated and inefficient technology, personnel who have limited training, overburdened supervisors, and inadequate quality assurance measures. As a result, the name check process is backlogged and provides little assurance that necessary information is retrieved and transmitted to customer agencies. We found that the National Name Check Program processes about 86 percent of the name check requests it receives within 60 days. However, name check requests for the remaining 14 percent can take anywhere from several months to over a year to complete, with some name checks pending for as long as 3 years. As of March 2008, the FBI had more than 327,000 pending USCIS name check requests.
Our audit found that while the FBI has explored some electronic tools to assist in the name check search process, it has not conducted a technical assessment of its outdated and potentially ineffective phonetic name-matching algorithm – perhaps the key component in the name matching system – which matches submitted names to the FBI’s index of names in its investigative files. We also found that the FBI addressed the USCIS name check backlog primarily by increasing the number of personnel performing name checks. However, the FBI had limited training, supervision, and quality control measures to handle this large influx of new employees, which increased the potential for name-matching errors. In addition, while the FBI said it lacked adequate funding to implement technological improvements in its name check process, it had not raised its name check fees in 17 years, and thus lost opportunities to enhance its antiquated automated systems and until recently increase staffing levels.
In contrast to our findings on the FBI’s name check program, we determined that IAFIS is generally able to process millions of fingerprint submissions in an accurate and timely manner because of the fingerprint system’s enhanced technology, well-trained personnel, and efficient tracking mechanisms. We found that USCIS requested 3.2 million fingerprint identifications from the FBI in FY 2007, most of which were processed within 24 hours.
Our report contain ed 21 recommendations related to improvements in the name check phonetic search capabilities and other technological upgrades; implementation of a formal training curriculum for name check analysts and quality assurance measures in the name check process; and the reassessment of fees every 2 years to ensure proper recovery of costs for name checks.
The FBI agreed with our recommendations and is implementing actions to address them.
The FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) includes a national information repository that permits the storing and searching of DNA specimen information to facilitate the exchange of DNA information by 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) requirements. Additionally, we evaluated whether the laboratories’ DNA profiles in CODIS databases were complete, accurate, and allowable. Below are examples of our audit findings.
The Illinois State Police Forensic Science Center in Chicago, Illinois, was in compliance with the standards governing CODIS activities with the following exceptions: the Laboratory’s CODIS server, while located within a secured building, was not located in an area secure from laboratory personnel who were not authorized, as required by NDIS operational procedures; the Laboratory uploaded three unallowable profiles and one incomplete profile to NDIS; and the Laboratory did not submit its 2006 annual audit to the FBI within 30 days after the Laboratory received it, as required by NDIS operational procedures. Laboratory officials have since taken corrective action to address these deficiencies. We made three recommendations, and the FBI agreed with them.
The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences Huntsville Laboratory was in compliance with the standards governing CODIS activities with two exceptions. For one of seven forensic-candidate NDIS matches we reviewed, the Laboratory did not document timely initiation of the confirmation process and did not complete its match resolution process in a timely manner. However, we considered the single late match to be an isolated case and made no recommendation. The other exception concerned Laboratory staff making errors while manually entering specimen numbers and profiles into CODIS. Incorrect specimen numbers in CODIS could result in delays in the match confirmation process. During a review of files in preparation for our audit, the Laboratory identified the improperly uploaded profiles and took steps to remove them. Although one specimen number was deleted and given the correct number, it was not re-uploaded. We made one recommendation to the Laboratory’s current procedures to ensure that correct specimen numbers are entered into CODIS. The FBI concurred, and corrective action has been completed.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 1,507 complaints involving the FBI. The most common allegations made against FBI employees were Intelligence Oversight Board violations, job performance failure, waste, and misuse of government property. The OIG opened 10 cases and referred other allegations to the FBI’s Inspection Division for its review.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 35 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, job performance failure, and false statements. The following are examples of cases involving the FBI that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
An investigation by the OIG’s Denver Field Office led to the arrest of an FBI special agent pursuant to an 18-count indictment on charges of wire fraud, making a false statement, and witness tampering. OIG investigators determined that the special agent concealed from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies his improper sexual relationship from 2002 through 2005 with the wife of a man he investigated in two separate matters. During that same timeframe, the special agent used his position to negotiate two favorable plea agreements with the local District Attorney’s Office for the husband. The special agent later improperly used an FBI confidential witness in an attempt to locate a homicide suspect to secure a favorable plea agreement for the woman’s son after he was arrested for an armed robbery along with her husband. When the improper sexual relationship was revealed to the OIG and the FBI, the special agent asked two key witnesses to lie to federal investigators and contacted other witnesses in an attempt to influence their testimony. The special agent also provided a false statement in an FBI report concerning his unauthorized disclosure of the confidential informant’s true identity to the woman. A jury trial is pending.
An investigation by the OIG’s Denver Field Office determined that an FBI special agent falsely claimed $6,832 in lodging expenses from the FBI on three separate travel vouchers when those expenses had already been paid for by the Department’s Civil Rights Division via direct billing. The FBI terminated the special agent from his position as a result of this investigation.
An investigation by the OIG’s Miami Field Office determined that an FBI supervisory special agent directed his subordinates to falsify their time-keeping forms to reflect that they were conducting cyber-intrusion investigations even though they were working on other matters. In an OIG interview, the supervisory special agent admitted that he had his agents falsify the documents to avoid negative inspection reviews for him and the division he worked for. The FBI suspended the supervisory special agent for 29 days.
In our March 2008 Semiannual Report To Congress, we reported on an investigation conducted by the OIG’s Chicago Field Office that led to the arrest of an FBI financial manager on charges of embezzlement of government funds. The investigation determined that the financial manager stole funds totaling $22,425 that were designated for undercover operations. She falsified receipts to make it appear that invoices were paid, but instead deposited the money into her own bank accounts. During this reporting period, the financial manager pled guilty and was sentenced to 6 months’ home confinement and 36 months’ supervised release. She also was ordered to pay restitution to the FBI in the amount of $86,025. The financial manager resigned from her position as a result of our investigation.
As a follow-up to our reviews of the FBI’s use of national security letters (NSL), the OIG is investigating the FBI’s use of exigent letters and other improper requests to obtain telephone records. In our first report on NSLs, issued in March 2007, we reported on a practice by which the FBI used over 700 exigent letters rather than NSLs to obtain telephone toll billing records. We determined that by issuing exigent letters rather than NSLs, the FBI circumvented the NSL statutes and violated the Attorney General’s Guidelines and internal FBI policy. Our investigation is examining in greater detail the FBI’s use of exigent letters and its issuance of “blanket” NSLs used to “cover” or validate the information obtained from exigent letters and other improper requests.
The FBI’s Watchlist Nomination Practices
As a follow-up to our audit of the Department’s watchlist nomination processes, we are examining the FBI’s practices for nominating individuals to the consolidated terrorist watchlist. Our review includes determining if the FBI appropriately places or removes individuals on the watchlist in a timely manner and if records are updated with new information.
The OIG is examining the FBI’s efforts to address various crimes against children, such as cyber-based child pornography, child abductions, and non-cyber sexual exploitation of children.
The FBI’s Foreign Language Translation Services
As a follow-up to our July 2004 audit, the OIG is assessing the FBI’s ability to translate critical foreign language material. We are examining the FBI’s efforts in meeting linguist hiring goals, and whether the FBI ensures the appropriate prioritization of translation work, accurate and timely translations of pertinent information, and adequate pre- and post-hire security screening of linguists. We also are examining the extent of any translation backlogs and the efforts taken by the FBI to address them.
The FBI’s Guardian Threat Tracking System
FBI guidance requires that terrorist threats and suspicious incidents be reported to its National Threat Center Section, which records them in the FBI’s Guardian database. Guardian enables users to enter, assign, and manage the FBI’s response to terrorism threats and suspicious activities while simultaneously allowing field offices and Joint Terrorism Task Force members to view the information. The OIG is examining the process and guidance for recording, resolving, and sharing information on terrorism threats in Guardian; the FBI’s compliance with the proper recording and resolution of threats; and the status of the FBI’s IT tools for tracking the resolution of such threats.
The FBI’s Management and Support of its WMD Coordinator Program
This audit is evaluating the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program in its field divisions and assessing how the FBI supports its WMD coordinators.
The OIG is reviewing the FBI’s system for reporting and investigating allegations of employee misconduct and for disciplining employees who are found to have committed misconduct. This is the fifth in a series of reviews of Department component disciplinary systems.
A Review of the Status of the FBI’s Sentinel Case Management System
The OIG’s fourth audit on Sentinel is assessing the status of the Sentinel project to upgrade the FBI’s Case Management System.