The OIG’s Oversight and Review Division investigated allegations that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales mishandled classified documents while serving as the Attorney General. The allegations concerned Attorney General Gonzales’s mishandling of classified notes that he drafted to memorialize a meeting with congressional leaders about the intelligence program generally referred to as the NSA surveillance program. Attorney General Gonzales, who was the White House Counsel at the time, said President Bush directed him to memorialize the meeting. The notes contained Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) about the program.
Our investigation concluded that Attorney General Gonzales took the classified notes about the NSA program with him from the White House to the Department on February 3, 2005, the day he was sworn in as Attorney General. When Attorney General Gonzales arrived at the Department, he received a briefing from the Department’s Security and Emergency Planning Staff on the proper handling of Top Secret/SCI information. The briefers informed him that Top Secret/SCI information must be kept in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), and that the Department’s Command Center was available to store such information after hours. Despite this briefing, the Attorney General took the notes home with him in his briefcase that evening and did not store them in a safe at his residence. Our investigation found that he kept the notes at his residence for an indeterminate period of time before returning them to the Department.
During our investigation, Attorney General Gonzales said he did not remember whether he took the notes home or how he stored them if he did bring them home. He also said he did not know the notes contained classified information. However, we found that he wrote “AG – EYES ONLY – TOP SECRET” on the outside of an envelope containing the notes, and we concluded that he knew or should have known that the notes contained classified information. The evidence showed that he did, in fact, take the classified notes home. Attorney General Gonzales admitted to a Department official and to White House attorneys that he may not always have maintained the notes in a safe and may have taken the notes to his residence. Our investigation also determined that, although Attorney General Gonzales had a safe at his home, he did not use it because he did not remember its combination. In addition, the safe was not authorized to hold SCI documents.
We also found that even when Attorney General Gonzales returned the notes to the Department, he mishandled them by keeping them in a safe outside his office rather than in a SCIF, as required by Department regulations. Several members of his staff who were not cleared to see documents related to the NSA surveillance program had regular access to the safe. Moreover, we found evidence that at least two employees conducted a search of Attorney General Gonzales’s safe in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The two employees were instructed to search the safe “document by document,” including any classified materials, and one employee said they “looked through every single thing in the safe.”
During the course of the OIG investigation, we also learned of other classified documents that Attorney General Gonzales mishandled. We determined that he did not store at least 17 other SCI documents in a SCIF, as required by Department regulations. Instead, he stored these documents in the safe outside his office where several employees without the appropriate clearances had access to the documents. Most of these additional SCI documents also related to the NSA surveillance program, while others pertained to a classified detainee interrogation program. Attorney General Gonzales’s handling of these classified documents also violated Department regulations and procedures governing the proper handling of classified material.
In light of Attorney General Gonzales’s mishandling of SCI documents, and in particular the notes that he improperly brought to his residence, we provided our report to the Department’s National Security Division for its review. After reviewing the matter, the National Security Division declined prosecution. We also provided our report to the Department’s Security and Emergency Planning Staff and to the NSA for their review and any actions related to our findings that these entities consider appropriate.
U.S. Attorneys serve as the federal government’s principal criminal and civil litigators and conduct most of the trial work in which the United States is a party. Under the direction of the Attorney General, 93 U.S. Attorneys are stationed throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Northern Mariana Islands. More than 11,200 employees work in those offices and in the EOUSA.
Review of USAOs’ Resource Management
The OIG is examining the allocation of resources to and within the 94 USAOs. In particular, we are examining the allocation and utilization of federal prosecutors within USAOs, as well as assessing the process by which personnel resources are allocated among USAOs, the accuracy and completeness of USAO utilization of resource and case data, and the changes in USAO cases from FY 2003 through FY 2007.
Under the Department’s Forfeiture Program, state and local law enforcement agencies receive equitable sharing assets when participating directly with the Department’s law enforcement components in joint investigations that lead to the seizure or forfeiture of cash and property. To be eligible to receive equitable sharing proceeds, law enforcement agencies must submit a sharing request within 60 days of an asset seizure.
During this reporting period, the OIG’s Audit Division audited the Detroit, Michigan, Police Department’s use of equitable sharing revenues and the Virginia State Police’s use of equitable sharing cash and property.
The Detroit Police Department was awarded $1.3 million in equitable sharing revenues from July 1, 2004, through October 30, 2007, to support law enforcement operations. Our audit identified weaknesses in the Detroit Police Department’s Federal Annual Certification Reports, its tracking and reconciliation of sharing requests, and its use of equitable sharing revenues. Specifically, the Detroit Police Department did not comply with equitable sharing guidelines recommending the use of federal equitable sharing funds within a 2-year period. As a result, it accumulated but did not spend $5,168,636 over the past 10 years. In addition, we found that the Federal Annual Certification Reports for FYs 2005 through 2007 contained reporting errors. In accordance with our recommendations, the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section will be assisting the Detroit Police Department with its spending plan to ensure that it is in compliance with equitable sharing guidelines and regulations.
The Virginia State Police received more than $3 million in equitable sharing cash and property to support law enforcement operations from FYs 2005 to 2007. Our audit found that the Virginia State Police generally complied with equitable sharing guidelines with respect to accounting for equitable sharing receipts, use of equitably shared property, interest earned on equitable sharing funds, and supplanting. However, we found weaknesses related to the tracking of sharing requests and the use of equitable sharing revenues resulting in over $80,000 in unallowable equitable sharing fund expenditures. We recommended that the Criminal Division ensure that the Virginia State Police update its electronic tracking log to record the share amount requested and the corresponding amount received, ensure that the Virginia State Police develop and implement procedures that prevent using equitable sharing funds to pay for current personnel salaries, and remedy $80,000 in questioned costs due to unallowable salary payments. The Criminal Division agreed with the recommendations and is working with the Virginia State Police to address them.
The following is an example of a case that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
A joint investigation by the OIG’s Dallas Field Office and the Texas Rangers led to the arrest of the chief of police in Troy, Texas, on state theft charges. According to the investigation, the police department received almost $43,000 in equitable sharing funds derived from a $537,030 DEA drug investigation currency seizure. The police chief misused approximately $12,000 of these funds to purchase items for personal use, including a motorcycle and related accessories for his wife, an insurance policy, five cellular telephones, MP-3 players, an embroidery machine, and a family vacation. The police chief was fired by the city for these unauthorized expenditures. Judicial proceedings continue.
During this reporting period, the OIG audited various grants awarded by COPS. The purpose of our audits is to determine whether the costs reimbursed under the grants were allowable; supported; and in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and the terms and conditions of the grant. The following is an example of findings from OIG audits issued during this reporting period:
- COPS awarded the Benton Harbor (Michigan) Police Department a total of $1 million to hire eight new, full-time police officers for 3 years starting September 2004. We found Benton Harbor to be in material non-compliance with COPS’ grant requirements for each of the grant conditions, including budgeting for local officer positions, hiring of additional officers, sourcing of local match requirements, requesting reimbursements, retaining officer positions, and community policing strategies. For example, the Police Department was below the target level for on-board officers for 22 of the 39 months during the period of September 2004 through November 2007, resulting in $107,134 in questioned costs. Because of this and other deficiencies, we questioned a total of $743,701 in reimbursements received by the Benton Harbor Police Department. COPS agreed with our recommendations.
The following is an example of a case that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
A joint investigation by the OIG’s Denver Field Office, the FBI, and the IRS resulted in the arrest of the former president of the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe pursuant to an indictment charging her with making false statements, theft of public money, theft from an Indian tribal organization, theft from an Indian tribal government receiving federal funds, and money laundering. The investigators developed evidence that the tribal president obtained a COPS grant totaling $224,997 to hire three police officers. However, she failed to hire the police officers and instead converted $174,997 of the federal funds for her own use and made false representations to the COPS program regarding the hiring of the police officers. The tribal president also converted for her own use approximately $579,412 of a COPS grant during 2005. Judicial proceedings continue.
COPS’ Grant Program Management
The OIG is evaluating the effectiveness of COPS’ grant program management. Specifically, we are assessing the effectiveness of COPS’ controls over awarding grants, grant recipient monitoring, and efforts to ensure the success of grant programs.
Coordination with Interpol
The OIG is evaluating the level of cooperation between the U.S. National Central Bureau (USNCB) and INTERPOL, as well as the USNCB’s efforts to ensure participation and information sharing among federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. We also are reviewing the USNCB’s processes and whether requests for assistance and information are handled in an appropriate and timely manner.