FBI Missing Firearms, Computers

ByABC News
July 17, 2001, 6:09 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, July 17 -- Justice Department officials are investigating the disappearance of 449 firearms and 184 laptop computers at least one containing classified information from the FBI.

One weapon was stolen from an FBI agent's car in Alabama and later used in a shooting in Detroit, an FBI official said.

The problem of missing weapons extends beyond the FBI. In March, an audit of the Immigration and Naturalization Service found that 539 weapons were unaccounted for.

Attorney General John Ashcroft today orderedJustice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine to conduct a sweeping review that will include all Justice Department law enforcement agencies.

"Your review should focus on those items which if not properly controlled, might result in danger to the public or might compromise national security or investigations," Ashcroft wrote in a memo to the inspector general.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an oversighthearing on the FBI on Wednesday, and questions about the missing equipment are expected to be raised.

Back to Basics

The disclosure was the latest piece of bad news for the FBI. Already this year, the nation's top law enforcement agency has dealt with a spy in its ranks and problems with its Oklahoma City bombing investigation.

The FBI made the discovery during a top-to-bottom inventory as part of its "Back to Basics" review.

Officials started with an inventory of guns and laptops. The FBI does periodic reviews, but this was the first ever comprehensive review of every single weapon in its inventory. The review, conducted over the past four weeks, counted weapons and laptops missing over the past 11 to 12 years.

FBI Acting Director Tom Ickard submitted the preliminary conclusions of the review to Ashcroft today.

As part of the review, all supervisors must conduct a full-field search for the missing firearms by Sept. 30 and must open criminal investigations where the weapons missing belonged to fired or retired agents.